Ares and the Theological Imagination

In the age of iPhones, Internet, and inclusiveness, most folks seem to look at the concept of theology with a mix of vague amusement and contempt, much as if theology is some quaint relic of ages passed. Others may see it the activity of great minds in ivory towers, locked away from the rest of “mundane” society. However, if you’re like me, you see theology for what it really is: a conversation about gods.

So let’s talk about gods. Let’s talk about Ares. As a “secular” society, we’ve grown up with the notion that you shouldn’t talk about religion. Why not? Why should we avoid talking about some of the most important, intimate relationships we create, those between gods and worshippers, and those between worshippers. Ah but wait, those relationships are all nuanced and different. Difference creates conflict. Conflict is what Ares is all about.

I was having a conversation the other night with a friend about Ares. We have pretty different views about the god. I was a soldier fighting in a war. She is a housewife and mother. Needless to say, we both have very different perspectives on life, and yet, Ares is more than big enough to fulfil both our needs as worshippers. It’s easy to say this, of course. It is very different to actually act on it.

Because the polytheist community is so small, it’s very easy for our differences to chafe others. It’s not like we can easily transition between multiple established groups. If a Christian disagrees with the message of their church, they can just find a new one. We’re lucky if we can find one group to practice with at all! That’s why it is so very important we discuss these differences and make attempts to move past them.

It is especially important to how we move forward as a faith group. A major challenge we face is the integration of new converts and seekers into the fold. Young people exploring their spirituality are coming to Hellenismos by various roads, from a love of mythology to the popular Percy Jackson book (and now movie) franchise. Can we provide specific enough instruction without requiring a college degree to understand everything? Can we provide newbies with the resources they need while maintaining a friendly but firm atmosphere? More importantly, can we provide a united enough front to avoid confusing and scaring away the serious seeker?

I think it would be nice if we as a faith group took a lesson from modern militaries. We all bleed red, so quit bitching about your differences and work together. Ancient Greece was varied and nuanced, and so are we. Some Hellenes practice magic, others don’t. Some are more liberal in their outlook, others more conservative. Some of us are city dwellers and have no real connection to the pastoral cycles of the country, while others struggle to see value in the humdrum of the urban Hellene. The rites I need to perform as one who sheds others’ blood are different from the rites new mothers perform to bring their children into the world.  Yet, despite these differences, we have common ground. We have the gods, and we need to talk about them. Not just how our ancestors viewed and needed them, but how we need them today. If we can’t embrace theology and the conflict it brings, we’ll never reach harmony. Without at least talking about it, we may as well give up now.

2 comments on “Ares and the Theological Imagination

  1. Ben-el says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I’ve been meaning to comment. Very interesting blog post. Here’s my opinion: I think we (polytheists) could probably celebrate our differences more than many monotheists can. And I say this because although we have many different cults and many different gods, we can acknowledge one another’s spirituality as very real and interesting.

    As far as young people, I think it’s fairly safe to say that we have no more difficulty than adults do- for the most part anyway. Young people have always been a part of the rites of the deities since ancient times. With forums and communities, younger people can ask elders any questions without necessarily having to have a university degree in order to properly understand religion.

    When we look at India, we can see Vaishnavites, Shaivites, Shaktas, Smartas, Ganapatyas, Suryas, Skandas, and many others. These are individual sects and cults for various deities (most commonly Vishnu and his avatars, Shiva, Kali and Durga, Kartikeya, Ganesh, Surya, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and to a lesser extent Brahma). But they can acknowledge one another as Hindus. I think western polytheists are very similar in our approach. There is a lot of variation.

    Just some of my thoughts.

    – Ben-el

  2. morganarose says:

    I love this post, and completely agree with you. We all worship gods in a different way, but that doesn’t meant hat they aren’t all right. A cancer patient is fighting just as hard as a solider in war and both could use Ares’ strength.

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