Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Being Quietly Pagan and Openly Christian

At times, it's difficult.

Because I sing in a church choir, it's rather obvious that there's a strongly Christian influence on my spirituality. It's something that, until I joined that choir, I hadn't acknowledged very often—even to myself—in a very long time. So I felt very relieved when I finally became familiar with the usual Sunday routine; a few weeks after I'd joined my church choir I felt like I'd been there for years, it was that comfortable.

I've always been very quietly Pagan. At first, it was out of necessity; not only would it have been frowned upon by my teachers and most of my classmates at the very Catholic high school I attended at the time of my conversion, but when it became clear that I was getting interested in non-Christian spiritual ideas and various New Age things, my father told me very clearly that he'd better not ever hear that I'd become a Wiccan "or any of that other bullshit" or he'd never speak to me again. And while I was tempted to come out as just that—although I was as visibly calm as I usually am, inside I was absolutely furious at his lack of support or willingness to accept my personal choices—I held off, because even at my least mature I recognized that my spirituality shouldn't be used by me or by my father as yet another thing for us to argue about. (And believe me, my extremely conservative, homophobic and racist-though-he-denies-it father and I still have a lot of things to argue about, which is why we usually stay away from political or religious topics when we talk and we watch a funny movie together once a week to keep the peace.) Later on, when I was in university and my parents had permanently separated, I still hid my spiritual inclinations as much out of habit as anything else. The few times I actually did mention them to anybody, it was only with people I'd become comfortable with, and (in one case) because one of the people I worked with on an English project recognized my screen name on Witchvox (where I sometimes used to post responses to the "Question of the Week" when they were still asking them, as well as commenting on articles highlighted on Wren's Nest News) as part of my main e-mail address at the time. For the most part, though, I kept quiet. My spiritual beliefs were—and still are, despite the nature of this blog—something that I consider to be highly personal and therefore not for (frequent) public discussion. I have no doubt that my long-standing dislike of proselytizers is a big part of this; if it annoys me to hear people talk about how great their own religion is and how everybody else should think it's great too or they'll be flung into the deepest, darkest, most torture-filled pits of Hell when they die, then it would certainly annoy other people to hear about my spiritual convictions.

There are times when, besides my now-usual Sunday morning activities, I also do night-time rituals that appeal to my Pagan side—not just observing the eight days that have become known as the parts of the "Wheel of the Year", but sometimes the full moon (infrequently, largely because I am not a perfect Pagan and often tend to not notice when the moon is full), some "just-because-I-feel-like-it" rituals (much more frequently) and even occasionally some ritual magic(k)* (highly infrequently). I also sometimes do a ritual of remembrance (of sorts) on days that have some personal significance to me for one reason or another—these days are usually the anniversary of something so wonderful or horrible that it had a lasting effect on my psyche.

Honestly, sometimes it feels like I'm living a spiritual double life. It's not that I don't love what I'm doing—I wouldn't do it, otherwise—but it can be very awkward. As I've said before, I know that theologically speaking, I'm on very shaky ground; my belief that all the Goddesses and Gods are all faces of a sort of "God behind the Gods" is why I'm able to make the statement of faith that I do every Sunday morning, why I pray to a Goddess as well as a God on my own time, and why the details that matter the most to me are ideas like justice, kindness and compassion, not whether the figure I keep in my mind when I pray is called "Jesus" or "Rhiannon". But because Christo-Pagans are often looked on with suspicion by Christian and Pagan alike, and because so many say that we are impossible, I do sometimes feel a bit insecure. Objectively, I know that if it feels right for me at this time, then it probably is right for me at this time. But still, I'm not totally immune to doubt, and sometimes because I'm still much more quiet about the Pagan side of my spirituality than the Christian side, I feel almost like I'm letting other Pagans down, coasting on the privilege that open Christianity gives me.

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*I never liked the convention of adding a "k" onto the end of the word "magic" in order to distinguish it from the magic of fantasy novels or stage magicians. I always feel like I should be pronouncing both the "c" and the "k", making it sound something like "magic-ick", which I suspect is not the most positive way to think of the act of focusing my will with the intent to use it to effect some kind of change in the world.

1 comment:

  1. I feel the same way. To say one is Christo-Pagan is inviting others to ask "Oh, what's that?". So one better have prepared their 30-second "Elevator Speech" definition? I'm working on mine this week. I imagine it'll be changing. I do think it's important to be out - if possible - to some folks. Christo-Pagans have a big job bridging the gap between two groups which have despised and persecuted each other in different times?