Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Have We Come To?

Several days ago a clergy colleague announced that he was “honored to be a part of” the annual “Winter SolstiCelebration” that takes place in Dallas each year.  When I first saw the post on Facebook, I was a little taken aback, because I was under the impression that the Winter Solstice was a pagan festival, but I thought that perhaps this was simply a secular name for a winter program.  When I investigated, I discovered that the “Winter SolstiCelebration” was indeed a celebration of a pagan festival.  So I want to ask this question: When did it become okay for a United Methodist Clergyperson to take part in a pagan worship celebration?

I find it deeply troubling that a United Methodist Clergyperson would think that this is appropriate.  The only possible reason to be involved would be as a Christian presence, but the two songs that he is singing have no references to God, much less Christ.  The song that is being sung at the “energy climax” of this pagan festival says “I can find peace within the very heart of a song.”  I thought that as Christians we found peace in Jesus – see John 14:27. 

The theme of the Winter SolstiCelebration this year is “Our Human Journey” and asks the following questions:
Can we guide our evolving humanity?

What are our choices for the future?

Are we doomed to endless war, social injustice and environmental degradation?

Or, is it our epic destiny to live in peace with prosperity for all?

Join the journey to the
future we choose
at Winter SolstiCelebration.

The Bible is pretty specific about the problems of choosing our own future and about what happens when we try to guide our lives without reference to God (and by God I mean the God we know in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit).  At the end of the book of Judges, the people of God are in a horrible mess.  They have been involved in murder, rape, and fratricide; they have degenerated to the point where they no longer resemble the image of the holy God of Israel.  And the reason?  As it says in the last verse of Judges  (Jdg 21:25) “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.”  The New Testament has something to say about that as well in Romans:
Romans 1:21-25, 28-32  “ . . . though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.  22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools;  23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.  24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves,  25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.  . . .  28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done.  29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips,  30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents,  31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  32 They know God's decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die-- yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.  

Far from solving the problems of war, social injustice and environmental degradation, this focus on making our own choices and guiding our own humanity, particularly in the context of “alternative spirituality” will lead to a further descent into misery.

In contrast, Jesus offers a vision of the reign of God that offers us hope and joy.  We learn from Jesus to pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”  We learn from Paul that the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  How can we improve on this by “guiding our evolving humanity?”
The Winter SolstiCelebration is clearly and unapologetically a spiritual event that includes pagan, Wiccan, and Shamanic traditions.  I might be uncomfortable with one of my parishioners participating in this festival, but I would accept it and engage them in conversation about how these traditions differed from Christianity.  However as United Methodist Clergy we have covenanted to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ as found in the Bible.  We do not have the freedom to engage in alternative religious practices, even as a musician.  We must be unapologetically and exclusively Christian and we can’t separate parts of our life.

I believe it is wrong for United Methodist Clergy to participate in pagan festivals.  I am writing this post because I think that silence implicitly condones such behavior.  I want to be clear that I do not and that I think we need to stand firm in our faith.  I call on other United Methodist Clergy to join me in saying no to alternative spirituality and to return to the gospel .  Paul said it well: “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.  2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 
 1 Corinthians 2:1-2

In Christ,


Check out the following links and decide for yourself if this is an appropriate venue for a UM Clergyperson.