Moon Books, 2015
Reviewed by Ian Mowll
This book was inspired by a weekend gathering of Pagans and Christians in 2014. The introduction of the book states: …the hope was that the participants could explore their prejudices and preconceptions, learn more about each other, and find common ground in ‘Celebrating Planet Earth’.
The book is divided into 3 main sections: Addressing our fears and prejudices, Possibilities for cooperation and The role of ritual practice, myth, music and poetry in each tradition and in inter-faith encounter. Each section has a number of chapters written by various participants and speakers who were at the afore-mentioned weekend.
I often like books which have a collection of contributors – there is the opportunity for many different viewpoints and a great deal of experience to draw from. This book does not disappoint in this respect – the voice of each contributor shines through with historical perspectives, cultural insights and personal experiences – particularly from those who are aiming to bridge the divide – for instance, the Forest Church movement.
The first thing that struck me was how many incorrect myths there are in Christian and Pagan circles. For instance: Margaret Murray’s thesis that there was a continuous witch cult in Europe going back to pre-Christian religion held a lot of support, but has been roundly dismissed academically (see Hutton 1991). Contemporary paganism is now viewed by academics as a new religion. (page 23). I came away from the book with the feeling that no-one’s history is untainted and that forgiveness and understanding is needed on both sides.
The second thing is how different personality types are drawn to Christianity or Paganism. There is a useful list of attributes on page 40/41. For instance, those who are individualistic, celebrate the natural world and who discourage dominant leadership styles are drawn to Paganism and those who like authority in texts and hierarchies and who like to be respectable and communal are drawn to Christianity. This helps me to move away from ‘I am right and you are wrong’ to an understanding that people are different and we can celebrate our differences. As an aside, the book notes that Paganism is growing and maybe this is because, at least in part, it speaks to our time where there is good deal more freedom of expression.
There are many insights in the book but perhaps my favourite chapter was by Tess Ward who shared her personal journey through Christianity and Paganism – something I found touching and I can relate to.
For GreenSpirit readers, it is good to note that Teilhard de Chardin and Matthew Fox are quoted and the Universe Story is mentioned as one way of bridging the divide.
For anyone wanting to understand the growing connection between Christianity and Paganism, I can thoroughly recommend this book.