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.