by David Lindholm
“In the beginning God created heaven and earth” (Genesis 1:1)
Being a Christian myself I know full well that the above quote is not one that has enjoyed any greater degree of attention during the last millennia of Christian faith. This is very unfortunate and has created a tension that has estranged most of the modern western world from a natural life and a connection to the natural world and her cycles and rhythms.
I joined OBOD in the roaring 90’s (Imagining being able to say that!) and worked my way through to the Druid grade. It was a transforming journey and the diploma (don’t know if that is an accurate term, but it will do) hangs over my desk where I work daily. Druidry changed my outlook on life drastically and fundamentally in a way that was profound. How does this connect with the title above? Well I have been close to the Christian tradition all my life. My grandfather was a priest and later converted to the Catholic Church with his wife, my dear grandmother. At their knees I heard all about the lives of saints like St. Francis, George, Dominikus and more like them. But I also heard at the age of five the tales of Arthur and his knights from my grandfather, and when the tales were told and I asked for more, he wrote more stories for me to enjoy about these immortal heroes. These were magical and held within them a Christian message, but a bit different from what I later snapped up at the services. It was a Christianity that was filled with good men and women, very few priests and even fewer churches.
These tales stayed with me and I read even more as I grew older, and I learned to read English books at the age of 13 for this very reason. I continued to go to church now and then but felt estranged; all this talk of sin, the badness of the body and the general ugliness of things material rhymed very poorly with what my grandfather had told me. Then I discovered sexuality, and we do not need to go into the general church policy on that issue.
As I grew older I ventured through all kinds of spiritual paths, never feeling at home or being able to believe in what they said. It was all a bit too glib, if you understand my meaning. So by the time I got to Druidry I felt quite disillusioned with the whole idea of spirituality, no matter what flavour, to be frank – and ordinary churchgoing was not an option. But as I worked my way through the coursework I discovered several things. The most important thing for me in retrospect was that there had existed a different Christian tradition, one that was really the Good News, rather then the depressing and life denying rigmarole that you get served on Sundays. I also learned that the nature that I love, man and woman, and the whole Universe had been and could again be viewed in a totally different light.
I read about St. Patrick, Columba, Brendan, and the unjustly wronged Pelagius, the Celtic church and its venerable age and its efforts in spreading the Good News when the world grew darker and colder. This rekindled a hope in the possibility of finding again a Christianity that was indeed Good News to all, not just to a select and isolated few. I am a trained historian and archaeologist with the Middle Ages as my specialty so I know full well that the tradition as such is dead and gone. Or is it?
I went back to the original sources in the years after I completed the coursework. I read the desert fathers, gospel of Thomas, apocrypha, Gnostic works, orthodox works, the remains of the Celtic church in the form of missals and prayers. I read and read and read. Then I went again to the most important work of all, The Gospels themselves and actually tried to read what they said, not what I have been taught that they were supposed to mean. It was a rewarding read my friends. I then turned to those writers of today that are striving to if not resurrect but bring to life a faith that does somersaults of joy for life itself. Some are of a more Celtic vein, others like Matthew Fox more modern. I read Thomas Merton and Willfred Stinnissen, good Christians all with bright ideas.
A new birth is taking place, and it must be so. The old church is dying, literally, only the old are churchgoers today and the reason is that we feel in our hearts that what is preached from the pulpit is simply not true. The tragedy is that even if we want to believe in the Good News, the very institution of the Church kills that longing in the heart oh so quickly. And it was then that I thought again about Druidry. Christianity needs to be reinterpreted in the light of existence; I mean seriously, God himself in Genesis says that creation is GOOD! That he is pleased! How can the church go against that, after all is he not the Boss? Well they can’t and neither can they twist the Good News anymore if you do not let them.
There is a very important little secret that the church does not want you to know. Jesus said “Whenever two or more of you are gathered, I will be among you” and he also said “I will be with you until the end of time”. If you read the Good News and Acts it is quite plain that God is not asking for churches, altars, robes, chandeliers, crosses in gold, and churchgoing once a week. Our Lord is a stern taskmaster he asks for nothing less than your whole life. Period. But the catch is that you must live his words everyday in your daily life, Jesus has some very severe words for the hypocrites that visit him once a week and then act like demons out of hell the rest of the week.
The truth is that if you live his words, you do not need any church at all. Whenever we gather together it should be in joy and simplicity, very much like the early Celtic church. This is where Druidry comes in. There is a great interest in the early Christianity of the British isles and it is not possible to understand it without an understanding of its pagan roots. We need to find our way back to a veneration of God in all things, Panenthesim as Matthew Fox coined it. God is in all things, but things are not God and God is more than them. Druidry stands astride both traditions, Christianity and Paganism, and if Christianity is going to flourish again it must find its way back to the simple life and we must learn to learn from each other.
For too long Christianity has persecuted those who do not agree with them – there is not much love in that. “Do unto others as you want others to do unto you” the Lord said. Well if we Christians mean what we have done, we have a very long and unpleasant reckoning to expect. It is my belief that it is both possible and necessary to come together outside of the established churches. Let them wither as they will, and let us come together, Christian and Pagan as Good Friends that hope for the same things but choose to understand them differently. It is my belief that God in his love (I say his although I believe that God is neither man or woman, or maybe both. Who knows? I sure don’t!) does not really care so much about where we choose to worship, but that we are good men and women. We must become good brothers and sisters to each other, and then we will be doing the Lord’s bidding. To do this we must turn to the Mystical, to experiencing God personally, not settling for a second-hand account once a week. I can think of no better way than to conclude with a short prayer that is one of the most beautiful ever written.
Christ ever with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me
Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ to my right side, Christ to my left side
Christ in his breadth, Christ in his length, Christ in depth
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me
Christ in every eye that sees me
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Stockholm, Sweden April 2005