Valley of the Shadow of Death

Valley of the Shadow of Death is a photograph by Roger Fenton, taken on April 23, 1855, during the Crimean War. It is one of the most well-known images of war.

Fenton observed, “in coming to a ravine called the valley of death, the sight passed all imagination: round shot and shell lay like a stream at the bottom of the hollow all the way down, you could not walk without treading upon them.”

Missionary societies and the west

I have been revisiting Ralph Winter’s old but influential article on “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission”. In it he observes how, down through the ages, there have often been two distinct structures operative within the Christian movement. An observation that has missional implications.
The first structure is what we typically call a church. Whether it takes the form of a diocese under a bishop or an independent congregation the function is pretty much the same. It is a structure that tends to be localised and open to everyone, irrespective of age, gender, education, etc.
The second structure is what we might call a parachurch ministry. Whether it takes the form of an apostolic team, a monastic or mendicant order, a charity or a missionary society, again the function is pretty much the same. It does what churches can’t do. It tends to require a higher commitment and is often less localised.
And it is interesting to observe the relationship between the two. In many parts of the world its the missionary societies, not churches, that take primary responsibility for sowing the seeds of the gospel in new contexts and planting new churches. For some reason however this model has not been followed in the west, nor been recovered as west has become more of a mission field. We leave church planting to existing churches and their regional denominational structures. Is this healthy? Is it time we consider the need for missionary societies that focus on the unreached people groups of the west?

Lies – No Excuse

It has not escaped my attention that some of the same kinds of Christians who accuse Muslims of lying in the cause of Islam are thoroughly accomodating towards lies and misinformation they see as advancing their own religio-political causes. Let’s not mince words. This is hypocritical and in direct violation of the Ten Commandements and the teachings of Jesus. There is no excuse. I am sure some will say, “But, but, look at them!” seeking to deflect attention and blame to their opponents. Even if true, that others are doing it, there is still no excuse. “But it I didn’t know that photo was doctored before I reposted it!” Still no excuse. Fact check before forwarding. You have an obligation to seek truth. I am especially outraged though when I hear Christians trying to theologically justify lying in the name of Christ. That is too immature for words.

Beyond human-centred faith

I find the biggest difference with deeper greener styles of Christianity is their post-anthropocentrism. That is, they are not so human centred. Instead of limiting their spiritual focus to the relationship of God to humanity, or even more myopically, of God to the individual, a more expansive awareness is embraced. So not only is the relationship of God to the human considered but so too is the relationship of God to the non-human, and of the human to the non-human. It’s not so one dimensional. It’s much more holistic. And this post-anthropomorphism flows into Christian ritual, experience, storytelling, symbolism, ethics, theology, social organisation, and more. It flows into the life of how we worship, how we pray, and how we read and interpret the gospel. It opens up aspects of the Christian tradition that have been long forgotten and neglected.
Embracing such styles of Christianity does however involve a lot of unlearning. It involves re-examining what we’ve been told are Christian teachings and testing how intrinsic to Christianity they actually are. Is the earth truly to be left behind? Do animals only have utility value?  Is the body irrelevant or even inimical to spiritual practice? Is the Spirit of God not to be found flowing in the earth as well as the sky, in the female as well as the male, in the body as well as the mind? Can we not, with the Psalmist, joyously call on sun and moon, mountains and trees to praise God with us, as fellow worshippers? How much of our inherited, human-centred view is intrinsic to Christianity and how much is merely the cultural accretion of the centuries? It can be surprising to learn what the scriptures and more ancient expressions of Christianity and Judaism actually say.

Christian Druid Resources

Since this Christian Druid path I’m on sparked some interest for some I thought I’d compile a list of resources I have found useful on my journey so far. It’s strictly a personal take on it and far from comprehensive but hopefully it will give you a taste of it.
As you’ll see it involves weaving together the strands of Celtic spiritually, Christian spirituality, and Aboriginal spirituality – the ancestors of my bloodline, inspiration, and land – in a way which emphasises Jesus, Nature, and Mystery in an Australian context.
CHRISTIAN DRUIDRY
The following articles and books relate specifically to Christian Druidry
OBOD. Christianity and Druidry by Barbara Erskine
There are many additional articles linking off this main article which together make this a great resource
Can you combine Christianity & Druidry? by Philip Carr-Gomm
A thoughtful article from the Chosen Chief of OBOD
OBOD. Reflections on Druidic Christology by Rev Alistair Bate
This article explores some of the theological issues. Alistair has some more articles at the following link as well.
The Path of the Blue Raven by Mark Townsend
Mark is probably the most well known Christian Druid
“Jesus Christ is my chief Druid”: meet the Anglican Priest who is also a pagan
An article about Rev. Shawn Sanford Beck
Some elements of Christo-Pagan Tradition by H.T. Elsecott

http://christo-pagan.blogspot.com.au/2008/01/some-elements-of-christo-paganism.html?m=1

CHRISTIANS IN DIALOGUE WITH DRUIDS
Most of these books come from people connected with Forest Church, a network that I’m involved with as well.
Celebrating Planet Earth, edited by Denise Cush
This book came out of an interfaith conference between Christians and Pagans, many of whom were associated with Druidry or Forest Church. Authors include Philip Carr-Gomm, Matt Arnold who is a very good friend of mine, and Alison Eve-Cudby who I consulted before participating in my first Druid ritual up in the mountains with Julie as she has done the Bardic Grad with OBOD in the UK. Both are instrumental in going deeper with Druidry.
The Shaken Path by Paul Cudby
Paul is Alison’s husband and a long term friend from the Pagan and Christian Moot, as with many of these authors. The Pagan and Christian Moot is an interfaith forum begun by Mike Stygal, former head of the Pagan Federation in the UK, who has a Christian wife.
Forest Church by Bruce Stanley
This book explores ways of spiritually connecting with deity through nature from within the Jesus tradition. It’s not focussed on interfaith engagement but the subject does come up, and the two proceeding books are some of the fruit of it.
CHRISTOPAGANISM & ESOTERIC CHRISTIANITY
These books relate to the wider world  of Christopaganism and Esoteric Christianity
Christian Animism by Shawn Stanford Beck
There is a Facebook forum of the same name that preceded this book.
Jesus and the Goddess: Living into a ChristoPagan theology
This book is specifically focussed on the Goddess in relation to Christopaganism
Meditations on the Tarot by Anonymous
Actually, its not that anonymous. You can find who wrote it with a Google search. It’s a treasure trove of insights and reflections from an esoteric Christian perspective in the form of a series of meditations on the major arcana.
ABORIGINAL CHRISTIANITY
These books have been particularly helpful for relating to the land that I live in
Rainbow Spirit Theology. By the Rainbow Spirit Elders.
This short book was a landmark in Australian theology and I’m still learning from it.
Jesus and the Dreaming by Frank Fletcher
I was given this book by a disciple of the author. Rich reflections but I’m still working through it.
Our Mob, God’s Story: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists Share Their Faith. Edited by Louise Sherman and Christobel Mattingley.
This is quite simply the best book on Aboriginal Christian art ever. And I say this as an avid collector. It won Australian Christian book of the year award in 2017.
GREEN, PACIFIST, CELTIC, OR MYSTIC CHRISTIANITY
There is far more on Green, Pacifist, and Mystic Christianity than I could easily include but here’s a few I have personally found valuable and find particularly pertinent for here.
Sounding the Seasons: Seventy sonnets for Christian year
Finding God in the Singing River
Water, Wind, Earth & Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements
The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church by Vladimir Lossky
The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder
A landmark book in Christian pacifism
Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology
The Carmina Gadelica by Alexander Carmicheal
A mixture of Celtic Christian and Pagan sources