I really didn’t know how else to title this blog other than this. There is a tendency among religious people to demonize every….little… thing. What I mean by this is that many Christian’s will tell others that they are not to associate themselves with anything that is not of God. I have had people tell me I shouldn’t have acupuncture (which helped me significantly) because there could be demons attached to it. In reality it is Chinese medicine. I have heard people say that you should only listen to Christian music, watch Christian movies and on and on. I have even had people tell me that because my ancestors were involved in pagan customs that I needed to pray for them for forgiveness and that is why I was having problems in my life. These people had me feeling so much anxiety that I was afraid to associate with anyone. But after much prayer and God’s wisdom, I see how wrong that teaching is and how ineffective it is for the great commission that Jesus gave us to go out and make disciples.
We Can’t Make Disciples if We Don’t meet Them Where They Are..No Matter How Scary It May Look
The problem with this “demonizing everything” ideology is that it is ineffective for the Kingdom of God. If we look at Paul’s interactions with the Greek Philosophers on Mars Hill it is clear that he is using their pagan God’s to point them to Christ.
Sermon on Mars Hill
22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;
Paul did not chastise them or ask them to give up these statues, but asked them to change their perspective and focus and think on the original giver of life who is not made by human hands. We could even say this to be true for the modern church today. How many worship the building more than they worship the true God? And if that is the case how are we any different then pagans?
St. Patrick was able to effectively evangelize to the pagan Celts by helping them to understand that in their worshipping trees, they needed to turn their worship toward the Creator of the trees and know that a sacrifice through Christ was done and no longer was it necessary for them to participate in their own ritualistic sacrifices. The Celtic cross symbolizes the unity between Christ and creation. Culture was not lost with belief in Jesus.
I am a huge fan of the Vikings television show. Maybe perhaps because I do have roots from Scandinavia. My favorite part of the show is the interaction between Althestan and Ragnar. Althestan is a priest from a monastery in Lindasfarne. He is taken as a slave during a raid by Ragnar, a Viking warrior. Ragnar keeps him in his home and becomes fond of the monk. As they story progresses, we see Ragnar trusting Althestan not because the monk is forcing his relics, religious icons and rituals on Ragnar, but because he built a relationship with him. The monk made himself a part of the culture and earned the trust of Ragnar and even struggled with his own faith at times (which in my opinion is human nature). Throughout the show you can see Ragnar being open to the idea of Christ because the monk was truly being Christ to him. The relationship is real, trusting and honest and this is how we need to interact with the world around us, not by demonizing what they do, not by not associating with the culture but being a light in that culture.
We make things so complicated. We put a label on everything as good or bad. But if we are mature Christians, strong in our faith then there is no fear of exposing ourselves to cultures or groups of people who are lost. They are lost, not demon possessed, not evil, just lost. Evil exists when we give attention to it and when we fear it. Jesus died for more than that. Let’s try to be the kind of Christians that don’t ask others to give up certain aspects of their culture. Let us encourage them to change their perspective, put Christ above all and all of those other things will work themselves out as the Holy Spirit works in them and we stand beside them as their friend.
Carving from a Stave Church
This detail from the left side of the door is the most iconographic element of the exterior, defining the distinctive Urnes style (which is equally influenced by Viking art and The Book of Kells). There are two interpretations of the image, the most popular of which is that the bottom figure is a lion, symbolizing Christ, fighting the evil serpent, which represents Satan. But some believe the original church was actually torn down because it featured scenes from Norse mythology. The 2003 book A World History of Architecture suggested that, “The intertwined snakes and dragons represent the end of the world according to the Norse legend of Ragnarök.”