On the Christian vs Neo-Pagan Debate
Gotta say, I really dig this article. It explains exactly what I've wanted to tell people for years, but couldn't because I didn't know how to phrase it: that elements of "pagan" culture from before were not appropriations nor a secret persistence of paganism beneath a Christian veneer, but a merging of local culture with the legacy of Christ's sacrifice where Christ was both accepted while local tradition was also integrated organically apart from a handful of heretical tidbits. Though it is worth pointing out that Estonia might be a singular exception where Christianity didn't succeed at taking off on a deeper level in Europe, due to historical reasons. (though I only started learning more about their history recently, so I could be wrong)
This also reveals (to me, anyway) something I didn't notice before: Iceland's increasing return to paganism. (though I guess you'd put paganism in quotes based on what you said about return) For awhile, I thought that maybe the Icelanders, being so far away from Rome, really were surface-level Christians. But as Jesus the Chieftain is substituted with Jesus the Shepherd once again, it seems to correlate with the rise of paganism in Iceland. Correlation doesn't always mean causation, of course, but it says a lot. Europe really does need a chieftain, even in these relatively more peaceful times. It explains why in Poland they built an enormous statue not of Jesus as shepherd, but Christ the King.
By the way, I'd love to share this on my Substack if it's all right with you. (I like to ask first: just weird like that, I guess)
I was expecting possible heresy here; absolutely none detected (except it doesn't talk about Orthodoxy but hey, I didn't write it.) Like the icons of the Philosophers in Churches in Greece, Christ blesses and saves the native culture, elevating the people so that they may attain union with God. Great essay!
"20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." --1 Cor 9
Thank you so much. I’ve been trying to put my finger on this for a while.
Easily your best essay yet. Well done mate.
Reading this I’m reminded of a podcast I was listening to before, where the hosts were talking about how people accuse Christianity of “appropriating” pagan festivals (Christmas appropriated Yuletide / Winter Solstice, etc.) but how the reality is that it was simply that the newly-converted peoples were free to still celebrate their own festivals - in other words, they still retained their parochial traditions as well as being Christians. Gradually over time the pagan elements fell into the background; but this proves that Christianity was, from its earliest moments in Europe, not opposed to different tribes still adhering to their traditions.
I’ve explained this terribly but I hope you get my point.
Great essay! It discusses something I feel Christians need to do more of, emphasize the Western European nature of Christianity rather than the Eastern Jewishness. The age of the Jews ended with the coming of Christ followed by the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. There is no need to revere them so much as their time has passed.
Excellent piece, although I do disagree with one point. I do not think we should abandon European cultural heroes and stories, but Christians ought to emphasize those found in the Old Testament because of the ancient Israelite’s covenant with God. It’s the Hebrew’s special relationship with God that makes those stories and figures important to study. That said, European cultural history definitely should not be ignored.
Great piece, it gives you a new View rather than the old "pagan-jewish" accusations
This is a great piece, it’s something I’ve felt for a while but never fully had the gumption to write, I was working my way towards it but didn’t have the time. This makes me feel like others are seeing the same point, really encouraging. Thank you for this.
When I was reading “Albion’s Seed” I noticed that before the Puritans many Europeans stuck to their naming customs and Hebrew OT names only really started showing up after. I was named after a Hebrew OT name and I like it, but my wife and give our kids traditional European “Pagan” names because as Catholics especially, we feel we are able to honor our pre-Christ ancestors without any qualms because of the exact points you’ve made, and will raise them understanding their heritage on the pre-and-post sides of Our Lord’s redemptive work. In fact, our catholic faith has given us a whole new window into a lot of our pre-Christian heritage as it’s survived in our Christian traditions in a really positive light... but I digress. Thanks again.
Audi alteram partem:
I would say myths are a product of a racial group isolated from other groups for thousands of years. These myths were consolidated over many decades or centuries and the gods would be a collection of traits for that race formed by real men and women. They formed because the people of that particular race were able to understand their nature and behave in ways in accordance with their nature. This was all done before humans began to objectify this world. Christianity separated spirit from the flesh and may be the ultimate truth but it's forcing humans into a dull, grey-brown sludge. Europeans are not going to live within their excellence.
Nice article. Thanks.
Think of Christ as a rebel to domination and he becomes more acceptable to everyone being oppressed.
I thought Jesus was a Jew.