April 2, 2018 Eric Blauer

The Re-Enchantment of Life: why cultural celebrations matter even if they have pagan roots

There’s an argument in some religious circles that hunting for brightly colored easter eggs, chasing fluffy bunnies and yellow baby chicks, gorging on chocolates or dressing up in fancy dresses and hats is sacrilegious in light of the resurrection of Jesus.

This view is usually derived from the real and/or supposed pagan roots of the dwellers of the ancient British Isles*. They warn that participation ends up putting those practices dangerously shoulder to shoulder with Jesus, the bible, sacred tradition and piety. There’s the concern that Jesus could be eclipsed by these celebrations or that one is somehow delving into paganism through participation and betraying their faith.

The theological sin of syncretism: “the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.” is a real issue in the world. My point in this post is not to minimize anyone’s sincere desire or conviction of conscience to be faithful to the Lord in what they do or don’t do, that is a right and privilege that the gospel grants all of us as worshippers.

Romans 14:1,5: Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong…some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.”

The point I would like to offer up is connected to the ultimate meaning of these attractions and the needs we are witnessing in our culture. There is a real desire for seasonal celebrations and communal practices that mark the known and unknown realities of human life. There’s almost an inward wiring for cyclical ritual, rite and rule of life connected to stories and shared practices.

In a world becoming more and more thin on meaning and values, maybe we should be less concerned about the roots of activities and more concerned about the de-enchantment of modern life. It could be that the disemboweling of life of mystery and magic and turning it into a sterile, intellectual, petri-dish enterprise has done more to create disconnect, disenfranchisement and disillusionment with people than any story about bunnies laying eggs!  

Instead of posturing our religious selves in a state of antagonism and defense against the idea that our true stories and practices might be similar somehow to other myths, we should be showing how all our stories are most fulfilled in the ultimate story found in the scriptures and most importantly Jesus Christ, the God-man.

We are well positioned to share that our longing for the natural to yield or make space for the supernatural, identifies a deep orientation that can lead us where we are supposed to go…back to our Creator.

While judging and condemning the fascinations, celebrations and practices of the those who are not Christians, we fail to see that our own sacred stories seem to the pagan mind very similar, full of mystery and wonder. The miraculous catches of fish, dead people coming back to life, wine and bread miracles, blind eyes seeing, paralyzed people walking, bodily ascensions, flames on heads, angels, devils, demoniacs and dragons all seem otherworldly. Maybe they are just as odd as chasing rabbits and consuming highly industrialized, food-coloring sprayed, just shy of styrofoam, spawns of evil called…Peeps!  

In some ways the pagan** is more akin to the pious than the mere secular, atheist materialist and far less the enemy from a metaphysical, worldview standpoint. We should be able to understand a people or culture whose practices, beliefs and reverence for seasonal changes arose because they directly connected with the sustainability and survival of life. There is an innate religious mind in all humans who bear the image of their Creator. It takes years of humanistic secularism grounded in postmodern materialism to detach the human heart and mind from affinity to the numinous.

Even within such cold and cranial communities we see that the love of story, wonder, mystery and magic are fascinations not easily eradicated. Our whole entertainment industry feeds us stories of myth, supernatural, goblins, wizards, superheroes and space explorations. From the viewpoint of the secular evolutionist, we appear to be philosophizing Apes with our heads and hearts in Olympus, Valhalla or Xanadu!

It appears we are…born to believe.

Acts 17:26-28: “From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’”

Our cultural practices and celebrations may be like ‘gropings’ but let’s never underestimate the power of story and play and their ability to open the heart and mind to truth. Maybe it’s time to get back down with the knee-biters and grope around the bushes and trees for some colored eggs, we just might discover more than we ever imagined!

Footnotes:

  1.  *see: ‘Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?’ https://bit.ly/22q8lQj)

 

  1. **I use the word pagan not as a dismissive or denigrating label but as a descriptive of a person connected to old ways, traditions and practices or disassociated with the Christian world view or culture.

 

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About the Author

Eric Blauer I am barbarian, sage, saint, bard, husband and father. Bow my knee to only One, serve all, ruled by none.

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