Jesus Would Do Outreach

One of my personal rules as an Eclectic Witch is to examine different spiritual paths and to embrace whatever works best for me. I have been negatively and positively criticized because of this practice, and I have the feeling this post will produce more censure. 


The content of this post might increase the criticism because I’m planning to speak about Jesus. Yes, I mean Jesus Christ, the son of the Judeo-Christian God. I don’t only embrace what I like about Pagan traditions, but I also borrow bits and pieces from other belief systems. For instance, I have incorporated a few Judeo-Christian teachings into my personal eclectic beliefs vault. This post will shed some light on one of my favorite Christian beliefs: the belief that Jesus Would Do Outreach. 

I understand that those exact words cannot be found in any known copies of the Christian Bible, but they are clearly conveyed. One example is the fact that according to what I’ve read in the Bible, no one has ever provided a picture of the church where Jesus preached his sermons. If you have one, do send me a copy. But I must warn you, if I get a picture of a majestic palace, decorated with marble pillars and candelabras made of gold, then I’ll know your picture is a fake. I know in my heart that if Jesus had a church, it would be a humble structure, a nice spot in the middle of the forest, a corner in one of our city’s poorest neighborhoods… 

I believe that Jesus would be in the heart of need. He would be at the local soup kitchen multiplying the food pantry with his holy magic, near prostitutes handing out condoms in order to keep the public free from deadly diseases, urging drug addicts to stop polluting his temple with illicit substances that promote fake happiness… Jesus Would Do Outreach. He would do the required grunt work that would promote long, healthy, safe living, which would give people time to find themselves and be happy.

Am I too arrogant for pretending to know what Jesus would do if he was physically among us? Probably, but that doesn’t make my conclusions any less probable. Wasn’t Jesus the one who fed tons of hungry people with a few fishes and several loaves of bread? Didn’t he cleanse a leper when everybody else recoiled at the mere sight of the man’s infectious sores? And I’m sure that if illicit drugs had been as big of a problem during Jesus’s time as they are today, then he would be out there promoting harm reduction and helping people find happiness within their own sober souls.  

Are you wondering where I’m going with all this? I sure hope so, because I’m getting ready to tell you. I worked for a nonprofit organization that assisted individuals who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. This organization offered support services, prevention services and it educated the public, in an effort to prevent/reduce the spread of HIV. It did the same for other sexually transmitted diseases.

One of my really good Christian friends was interested in providing her church with information about the services offered by the agency where I worked. I accompanied her to a religious service and at the end she spoke to her preacher about the agency and about her intensions. When my friend finished telling her preacher what I did for a living, the man looked at me like I was the devil in a pink dress and brown boots. He told me that he led a decent congregation, and that the people I wanted to target weren’t church goers. He went further to point out that what I had to say was meant for the streets.

I stared at the man in disbelief. I almost lost my cool and nearly issued my entire Jesus Would Do Outreach spill. But I didn’t. I was composed enough to know that I was too upset to sound eloquent, so I thanked the preacher for his time, instead. I also told him that a bit of education had never hurt anyone. Then I left the church, wondering how a man with so many college degrees could be so immensely ignorant.

The encounter with my friend and the preacher happened years ago. I didn’t think about the incident in quite some time, but the event came to mind, after a conversation with another Christian friend. She told me she had read my first post, where I shared a story about my witchy roots. She then confessed that she had struggled with her own beliefs for a while. She spoke about feeling guilty because she didn’t go to church like it was required by the mandates of her Christian faith. My friend also told me that her sister had once told her that not going to church didn’t make her a bad Christian. Her sister said that “if Jesus was here he would probably be on the streets, doing something about drug dealers and taking care of the needy”, which describes some of the work my friend was involved in. 

I told my friend about my Jesus Would Do Outreach theory and she threw her head back and roared. After wiping away happy tears, my friend told me that she had another confession to make. She said that after reading my post, she had to research Paganism and Witchcraft. She was surprised by what she learned. Before visiting my blog, she thought that the lives of Pagans and Witches consisted on running “around at night killing chickens and doing evil.”

The initial idea behind this post was to illustrate my belief that if Jesus was physically here, he would probably be where he was most needed. Once I started writing, I noticed my focus shifting toward Eclecticism and the similarities between people who follow different spiritual paths. The writer in me screamed in outrage “fix it right this instant!” And I almost did, but changed my mind immediately. I decided to leave it as it was because the main message ended up being a lot more powerful than what I first intended.

My original thesis promoted a personal idea about Jesus, while the accidental one illustrates the basis of my eclectic beliefs: doing a bit of research and talking to others can reveal that most spiritual paths have something great to offer, also it can let the researcher see that people from different belief systems struggle with very similar spiritual dilemmas. 

What do you think about Eclectic Paganism? What about eclecticism spirituality in general? Have you struggled with a spiritual dilemma? And finally, do you think Jesus Would Do Outreach?

32 comments:

  1. I do the same thing--I read about other practices and incorporate what I like about them into my own path. I don't borrow too much from other religions, though, and if I do they come from Eastern religions (Taoism, mainly). I personally think that this is the healthiest way to be engaged in a religion. Generally, if you follow a single religion strictly it leads to more personal harm than good--individuals have more facets to them than any one religion can satisfy; so, only a religion tailored to a certain individual is best for that individual.

    My convictions about this particular belief was only strengthened when I took a religious studies class, in which we looked at religions critically and tried to understand why religions are needed and why people engage in them. I found myself rather invested in the ideas Erich Fromm put forth--essentially that the problem with every (official/chartered) religion is that they restrict the individual and the individual's creative soul. If you're interested I can tell you more about; just let me know.

    As for your Jesus Would Do Outreach idea; I think you'd be right. I personally don't deal much with Christianity anymore. It's more of a personal thing, really. I respect Christianity and Christians when they're respectful of me, but otherwise I'm happy with my clean break. Leave sleeping dragons lie, as my father says.

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  2. Emma-

    Picking and choosing what to use from different practices just seems the best way. I have been told that I'm confused and that I don't know what I really want, but that's wrong. I know EXACTLY what I want, which is why I CHOOSE only that part of a system.

    I agree with you in your thoughts about Eastern religions. I think they make more sense, especially when view critically. These gods seem 'real' and more approachable. There is a human-like feel to them...

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

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  3. I congratulate you, Magaly. I recall talking to a very good (Calvinist) friend of mine, discussing this very subject of "cherrypicking" beliefs and practices from around the world. He told me that it seems to lack discipline. I told him that I feel it is one of the greatest strengths in Eclectic Paganism, because it allows us to incorporate anything that will make us grow - spiritually, mentally, even physically - and leave out all that keeps us from growing. He conceded the point.

    I congratulate you on not being afraid to incorporate that which is good and valuable in Christianity into your own practice and belief. I am often surprised at the anger directed at Christians by Pagans. There is "good" and "bad" in all things; just because one has been hurt doesn't mean there is no value in that which has hurt you.

    I think exploring other religions makes a lot more available than just one. I believe it was Max Muller who said "He who knows one religion knows none." I follow that philosophy. I've found myself touched and enlightened by what I've read in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Jainism, and even Christianity. Thanks for this post.

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  4. Lasher-

    Max Muller's expression describes the reason why I'm eclectic. There is just so much to learn about religion that if one stays in just one and away from all others, one misses a lot. I took a philosophy of religion class a few years back and I was amazed to see the change in the students from beginning to end of the semester. At first everybody was a bit mean to each other, and had a 'my religion is better than yours' attitude. At the end, when people started to look at religions critically and not theologically (as weird as that might sound) everybody realized that we are not as different as we might think.

    There are times when I wish society could stop labeling itself and look deep within. I believe that most of us would really like what we see, don't you think?

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  5. I think your position on the question of Jesus and social outreach is on pretty stable grounds, particularly if one considers the Jesus portrayed in the Gospel of Luke, where concern for women, the poor, and the outcast runs deepest. In any event, I think it's the healthier variant of Christianity - A dynamic historical message which points us towards a brighter future based on basic charity towards one another, rather than a static theological and moral framework which begins to crack over time.

    I'm quite flexible in my own beliefs. Even when I was Catholic, I was definitely "cafeteria Catholic" material, and eventually it was the tension between what my heart said I should follow and what my mind knew to be church doctrine which drove me away from Catholicism. Elements of my upbringing still show up in my personal beliefs from time to time - More than other strains of Christianity, Catholicism has maintained much of its Pagan heritage, and I draw on those beliefs from time to time. I also think Jesus had a good message, just Christian churches today get so caught up with honoring the messenger they forget the message. But such are the foibles of theology.

    Blessed Be!

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  6. Amén to that Grey!

    There are times when I wish people could just sit back and listen to themselves talk and analyze their own actions. Preaching is not so difficult to do, if one has a decent voice, but following the meaning of the word--even the ones issue by the preacher himself is a lot harder.

    "Jesus had a good message..." a great one indeed, hopefully the image created by some of his followers will be put second to his message. One day...

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  7. Thank you for writing this Magaly!!! I grew up in a devout Catholic household, and while I became disenchanted with many practices of the Catholic church, I have never lost my admiration for Jesus and his message. Just like so many Christians, as Grey says, "get so caught up with honoring the messenger they forget the message" so do many pagans become so frustrated by hypocrisy and intolerance among Christians that they forget there are still valuable things to be gleaned from Christianity.
    Great article!

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  8. Lindsey,

    I'm so glad you liked this post. And I like knowing that we shared something in common: disappointment in the belief system of our childhood, but much love for its most amazing "messenger".

    Like you I also believe that spiritual blindness goes both ways. Some of us get so upset about the things a few members of a religious group preaches that we forget that they are nothing but "preachers", and that as much as they might want to they can not speak for the entire belief system. There is something beautiful or a good message to be learn from every religious path, and to miss that fact is to live an incomplete life.

    Thanks so much for your comment.

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  9. I just read your post on wvx and really thought about what you said. As for your questions at the end, I was raised methodist, attended catholic school for 3 years and always knew neither were right for me. I hate to admit it but a bit of fiction got me interested in witchcraft. It was a movie we have all seen called Practical magic. There is nothing wrong with some of the christian beliefs. I have a unitarian belief I like as well. No matter their name, culture, whatever they are the same diety.

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  10. Writer Amy-

    Thanks for stopping by after reading my essay on WitchVox. I think that most modern Pagans were raised under the teachings of other religions, and those lucky ones to born around Paganism, have probably heard the stories about their parents who were the one to experience it. Like you, I also believe that if we look deep enough, we'll find tons of similarities in different spiritual paths.

    And I LOVE Practical Magic! Don't feel for admitting, if you read my first post, you will see that I found Paganism via a mythology book--and trust me the stories were very fictitious :)

    Thanks so much for your words. And I hope to see you around!

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  11. Magaly, I found myself here following the comment you left on my blog recently, and I have to say that I'm very glad I did! It's refreshing to read something with so much optimism and sincerity, especially when it comes to a real acceptance of all religious and spiritual paths as potential ways of connecting with Spirit. So many Pagans pay lip-service to tolerance, while others are quite vocal in their anti-Christian sentiment. Sometimes there seems to be so much resentment, bitterness and fear, the ache of old wounds--that it fills me with hope to read someone who can move beyond these things to find value and meaning wherever it may be lurking. :)

    My own Catholic upbringing led me to explore the mystery and poetry of the Divine more deeply, and so in some ways it was because of my childhood Christianity that I find myself a practicing Pagan Druid today. I whole-heartedly agree that Jesus Would Do Outreach! In fact, it's a running joke with my father (himself a very sincere if somewhat lapsed Catholic) that, if Jesus were alive today, he'd probably be a Druid! ;)

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  12. Ali-

    I can definitely see Jesus as a Druid, for he was teacher, philosopher, poet... and when it came to intervening in disputes and ending chaos he knew exactly what to do.

    Happy Monday! (Yes, an oxymoron, I know ;)

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  13. I completely agree! The rules of the Church where made by humans not God and I feel that a few are really in need to be changed. Same goes for the bible..a person decided which were the best posts to include and that was it but most probnably a different story would emerge where we to read all the writings found. Yet i am still a chritian...i believe that i can pray alone at home, that if i preach love ie unconditional love and compassion i am doing more towards religion...Jesus tried to teach love but in most churches unfortunately there are conditions to access it

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  14. Equidae, “Jesus tried to teach love but in most churches unfortunately there are conditions to access it” these are very powerful words because they are loaded with truth. I hoping for the happy day when those conditions cease to exist.

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  15. Anonymous7/27/2009

    I know this is like way late but recently this article has really hit home. I have never been good at asking for help. As a matter of fact, until I recently fell flat on my face for attempting to impose my will on the universe, I had always been the generous one when others were in need. Now I have been knocked of my perch and I have to ask for assistance to dig myself out of the hole I created. It is still difficult for me and I thank God that there are so many people and organizations willing to help.

    This brings me to my point. I am impressed by some of the church organizations community service efforts that I have been able to access. It occurred to me that part of my demise has brought me into a world in which I have something valuable to learn and share as a pagan. I am seeing churches come together despite differences in dogma and organize under one umbrella. Some offer extensive training classes before putting you in a service position, just to make sure you are able to meet the needs of the community. I have offered my time in exchange for some of the assistance I have received. It is not that I feel obligated, I just know that there are others like me and I also want to help in any way that I can. We don't talk too much about religion and I don't try to impose my beliefs or judge anyone. I just appreciate that fact that the universe works in so many diverse ways.

    Thanks for your insight.

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  16. I do talk about the fact that I take snippets of many beliefs in my path... from pagan to Buddhist.. If it makes sense, I take it. I make up a ton of my own doctrines as well, I'm not a sit and watch kind of girl, more of a get up and do it kind of girl. My path has alot to do with a very strong presence of my shadow self... I couldn't expect anyone else to follow it.. they don't have the kind of energy that my shadow self provides.

    As for Jesus doing outreach...
    I was raised a seventh day adventist... and everything you said, is everything they teach. We did the soup kitchen thing, we sang at nursing homes every week, you name it- we did it.
    I think these altruistic endeavors molded who I became later in life. For two years I worked in a group home for the mentally handicapped. I worked through people punching me, kicking me, scratching me, pulling my hair- everything, all with love and compassion in my heart.
    In the end, I left that job due to the other cognitive humans that were employed there. I couldn't see people ignore our clients to watch the tv, or yell at them for things they couldn't help any longer.
    Jesus, if he was alive... would definitely do these things. I think any of our Gods would too.

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  17. My cousin is a member of your former path; she is actually in church today. She was raised Catholic, like me and the change has done her well. I think that it has to do with the type of energy she possesses, that church works for her.

    As for working with the mentally ill and having to hold your urges with you wanted to strangle the careless personnel, oh, I sooooo get you. I’ve worked with the mentally ill, HIV infected and the disfigured. There were times that I don’t even understand how I didn’t just slap other case managers on across the face. They would joke about the patients illnesses or grin at their shame. That is a tough to deal with those jerks when you have a soul.

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  18. My mother is a charge nurse at a mental hospital around here. I know that she constantly makes fun of the patients to me at least, and I doubt she holds back at work. She's a bit sadistic and I know she with-holds rights from the patients (cigarettes, tv time). It drives me crazy. I always ask her why she joined that career path when she has no compassion. She previously worked in a group home for the mentally handicapped near me... Luckily she left there, because I know she would have been awful to them.

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  19. You know, I had a coworker who literally hated our patients! I've always wondered the same thing. Then I started paying a bit more attention and realized that miserable people--the really low ones--need to cause pain in order to live with their awful selfs.

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  20. I love your thoughts on this, and I agree with you. It is interesting to me that there are so many churches claiming to be the "true" church, when all we know of Jesus tells us He spoke to the people on hillsides (Sermon on the Mount), while walking through the streets, or seated around a table with His friends. The synagogues were often nothing more than gathering places outside. He often spoke out against the splendor and extravagance of the temples. I think you are correct, Jesus would be out amongst the people, where He is needed most. I love your thoughts. Very nice website. :)

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  21. So glad you "love" my point of view. I have found very few who like my or understand my thoughts about Christ in relation to Christianity, but those who I have ran into are a gem.

    Welcome to Pagan Culture, Rob!

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  22. Equidae, “Jesus tried to teach love but in most churches unfortunately there are conditions to access it” these are very powerful words because they are loaded with truth. I hoping for the happy day when those conditions cease to exist.

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  23. I completely agree! The rules of the Church where made by humans not God and I feel that a few are really in need to be changed. Same goes for the bible..a person decided which were the best posts to include and that was it but most probnably a different story would emerge where we to read all the writings found. Yet i am still a chritian...i believe that i can pray alone at home, that if i preach love ie unconditional love and compassion i am doing more towards religion...Jesus tried to teach love but in most churches unfortunately there are conditions to access it

    ReplyDelete
  24. I just read your post on wvx and really thought about what you said. As for your questions at the end, I was raised methodist, attended catholic school for 3 years and always knew neither were right for me. I hate to admit it but a bit of fiction got me interested in witchcraft. It was a movie we have all seen called Practical magic. There is nothing wrong with some of the christian beliefs. I have a unitarian belief I like as well. No matter their name, culture, whatever they are the same diety.

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  25. Ali-

    I can definitely see Jesus as a Druid, for he was teacher, philosopher, poet... and when it came to intervening in disputes and ending chaos he knew exactly what to do.

    Happy Monday! (Yes, an oxymoron, I know ;)

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  26. Lindsey,

    I'm so glad you liked this post. And I like knowing that we shared something in common: disappointment in the belief system of our childhood, but much love for its most amazing "messenger".

    Like you I also believe that spiritual blindness goes both ways. Some of us get so upset about the things a few members of a religious group preaches that we forget that they are nothing but "preachers", and that as much as they might want to they can not speak for the entire belief system. There is something beautiful or a good message to be learn from every religious path, and to miss that fact is to live an incomplete life.

    Thanks so much for your comment.

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  27. Amén to that Grey!

    There are times when I wish people could just sit back and listen to themselves talk and analyze their own actions. Preaching is not so difficult to do, if one has a decent voice, but following the meaning of the word--even the ones issue by the preacher himself is a lot harder.

    "Jesus had a good message..." a great one indeed, hopefully the image created by some of his followers will be put second to his message. One day...

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  28. Thank you for writing this Magaly!!! I grew up in a devout Catholic household, and while I became disenchanted with many practices of the Catholic church, I have never lost my admiration for Jesus and his message. Just like so many Christians, as Grey says, "get so caught up with honoring the messenger they forget the message" so do many pagans become so frustrated by hypocrisy and intolerance among Christians that they forget there are still valuable things to be gleaned from Christianity.
    Great article!

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  29. If he really did exist - Jesus was indeed doing the "outreach" of his day.

    As to Eclectic Paganism - here is my theory:

    In my searching and seeking, I continually look to take the next step backward to understand where a belief found its roots. Ultimately, I've come to understand that all the various beliefs, religions and facets of spirituality had genesis in an Individual. The eventual synergy of the thoughts of Individuals is what organized religion or belief systems is all about.

    I am the Individual who has the power and the right to create my own belief system (read Path). I exercise and defend that power and that right vigorously.

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    1. I'm right with you, Eliora. Spirituality, in my mind, is not defined by a book, a place, or a lone symbol, but by a person. It is my issue with organized religions that dictate everything a person should or should not do. Nature gave me a brain, therefore I think with it.

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  30. Thank you for sharing this. I too, believe that if Jesus did indeed exsist, then from everything I've read about him, he would be exactly like you described. I think he would be horrified at some of the ways those who claim to worsip him treat the disinfranchised and the ill.

    Also, I alo look at my eclectic approach to spirituality as creating a beautiful mosaic, the pieces come from different places but, they create a beautiful picture.

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    1. The things people would see if they opened their hearts and eyes and chose to see. Maybe if we talk about it a bit more often and in different ways they'll eventually notice.

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