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I was a Jesus Freak, a passionate theologian, and a Southern Baptist minister. I worked hard to convert pagans. The pagans won.

Discovering magic as a witch with an intimate knowledge of western christianity I explore the juxtaposition of these two faiths. Christianity and paganism alike are undergoing dramatic changes with parallel trends, conflicting challenges, and a growing concern for interfaith dialogue.

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Rebelling against Christianity?

I have met several young adults who became witches as an act of rebellion against Christianity. I am not one of them. In fact, I would have become a pagan years earlier if it hadn't met so many pagans who hated Christianity. I have no interest in a religion that exists primarily as a negation of another.

I didn't rebel against Christianity. I discovered paganism as a wholesome religion, on its own terms. The draw to paganism has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I used to interpret it as a calling to bring Christ to the pagans, i.e. the light to the darkness. But looking back now I know that the richness of mythology and the magic of nature has always beckoned to my spirit.

 

I loved Jesus with all of my heart and saw his creative force in every budding sunflower and flicker of flame.  When I was 19 I had his name tattooed on my foot. I was certain that I would never turn from that love, that I would never break our relationship. And yet I was tempted to walk away in anger and bitterness and turn my back on Christianity. But I couldn't do it. Despite the abuse I endured, I had also experienced too much love and too many wonders in the name of Jesus.

I was caught in limbo for years, not wanting to rebel against Christianity, not able to be a Christian, and desperately dissatisfied with trying to live a nonspiritual life. I suppose I could have stayed in what Kahlil describes as

the seasonless world where you

shall laugh, but not all of your laughter,

and weep, but not all of your tears.

Instead I started working in the office of a Christian church, terrified of facing judgment and afraid of encountering spiritual abuse, once again. Instead I was met with love and acceptance and a work environment more positive than I could have imagined. Old wounds began to heal and I regained trust. I discovered the Jesus of old, not the condemning judge with his oppressive father, but the rebel who loved when religion insisted he shouldn't. I let go of bitterness and reconciled with Christianity.

It was a year ago at Pentecost that we gathered around a fire on a cold May morning before  processing into the church. As I rose and sang with the congregation, I felt myself shifting in and out of worship, feeling connected and then estranged and then connected again. I paid close attention to the shifts and saw a pattern emerge. Every time we focused on the elements, the fire, the water of anointing, the earth, the breath of the spirit, I felt connected in worship. Whenever we talked about distinctly Christian elements, I felt like a stranger in the wrong place.

This patterns was disturbing to me. I wanted to be a Christian with a strong appreciation for the earth. I wanted to stay with the faith in which I was raised and fought to suppress the experience of being an imposter. A few weeks later I went to participate in my first pagan sabbat, the summer solstice. Although I didn't know a single person there, I felt an overwhelming sense of having come home. Surrounded by strangers and not understanding many parts of the ritual I felt as if I had always belonged here.

I had often heard Christian friends talk of how they felt at home in their churches, but somehow I always felt like the odd one out. I thought this was my destiny and after years of trying to make various churches home I thought there must be something wrong with me. I was always going to be the freak. But over the past year of walking a pagan path I have become more connected to this new community than I had ever thought possible.

And yet I love my church. I really, really love my church! I enjoy my work and I deeply appreciate the community. And miraculously they love me back. They know that I identify as pagan. Of course they do, I request the solstices off and show up to the office with camping gear on the full moon.

I have had long conversations with my co-workers. They have seen me heal and reconcile and come back to life. They know I hold no grudges and am not acting out of rebellion. But even though I am following my true calling, I sometimes feel guilty, wondering if I am betraying the church. I told my co-worker about these feelings and he nodded knowingly and smiled and then spoke with the wisdom of a new generation of Christians:

"Honey, you don't owe us anything. You come here and get healed, so what, if you end up finding God on a different path? We consider that a total success. That's the love of God, that's grace."

Last modified on
Born and raised an evangelical Christian in Germany, I joined the Jesus Freak movement as a teenager and became a passionate evangelist and worship leader. No one was surprised when I went to the US at age 19 and came back a tattooed and pierced fundamentalist Christian, betrothed to a "Chrispie" (a Christian hippie, that is). I was a virgin the day we married. Five years later I graduated bible college with highest honors and post traumatic stress disorder. I deepened both my theology and trauma on the road by traveling the country in a big yellow school bus. For three years I lived as a nomad, playing music and leading bible studies, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. I learned that Christianity in America encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices, from Amish groups casting demons out of school busses to Roman Catholic priests breaking into government buildings. I saw Jesus in the oddest places. And then everything changed and I ended up a polyamorous Witch in a Pagan community in California.

Comments

  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. Thursday, 09 May 2013

    Thanks - Solid !

  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. Friday, 10 May 2013

    p.s.
    you maybe very interested in seeing the movie; "Agora" Starring Rachel Weisz and Max Minghella (2010). true story about a pagan Greek Neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria (4th century). her and the christians of the day are depicted - the scene later in the film with Orestes (pagan) and Synesius (christian) is wonderful and powerful. the movie is of course a dramatic re-telling, which i thought should have had some good examples of christian leaders of the day not just putting up front the bad ones. so not a perfect movie but worth a viewing if not for the one scene than i mentioned.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypatia

  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy Sunday, 12 May 2013

    I should note that, at the period of Hypatia's life dramatized in Agora, she was roughly sixty years of age, and I think a few other elements were fictionalised, as well. Yes, it's generally true, but it's still clearly not history "by the book".

  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. Sunday, 12 May 2013

    hi Ruadhan

    there is some question of her birth date; anywhere from 350–370 AD. so she could have been 45 or 65 at the time of death (8 March 415).

    yes, the movie is of course a dramatic re-telling to highlight certain aspects of the characters and forces at work. yup! - the movie is NOT a documentary!

  • terra gazelle
    terra gazelle Sunday, 12 May 2013

    Her father was still alive...she was still teaching so I doubt she was too old. But no matter how old she was, she was an amazing woman.
    Of course it is not history by the book, it was a movie.
    But here is some history...
    http://cosmopolis.com/people/hypatia.html
    http://www.cosmopolis.com/alexandria/hypatia-bio-socrates.html

  • terra gazelle
    terra gazelle Sunday, 12 May 2013

    Her father was still alive...she was still teaching so I doubt she was too old. But no matter how old she was, she was an amazing woman.
    Of course it is not history by the book, it was a movie.
    But here is some history...
    http://cosmopolis.com/people/hypatia.html
    http://www.cosmopolis.com/alexandria/hypatia-bio-socrates.html

  • terra gazelle
    terra gazelle Saturday, 11 May 2013

    I have seen the movie Agora...I studied about Hypatia and the destruction of the Library of Alexandria in school. The Christians put civilization back 1000 years with that. What they did to Hypatia was savage...

    The best thing that any Christian did was drug Hypatia before they cut her head off and peeled her skin with clam shells and cut her up. I guess the Drug saved her horrifying pain.

    I respect the Religion of Christianity..but not some Christians.

  • Anu
    Anu Saturday, 11 May 2013

    So many colorful threads woven into a beautiful tapestry! Unity

  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. Sunday, 12 May 2013

    PPS-
    Book; The Path of a Christian Witch
    by Adelina St. Clair (July 8, 2010)

  • terra gazelle
    terra gazelle Sunday, 12 May 2013

    Why not Mystical Christian? I am a Witch..the Christian book says I should not live...
    Do Christian Witches worship as polytheistic? Do they just add jesus to the pot and forget about the rules that govern their religion?

    It would be like me calling myself Wiccan and ignoring The Rede. I have taught a Christian pastor...he calls himself a Mystical Christian. He uses magick, the herbalism and candle making that he learned from his classes..as well as Candle Magick and other magicks. He is not a Witch...
    But he's a good man who is a dear friend.

  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. Sunday, 12 May 2013

    hi terra gazelle

    re: "Why not Mystical Christian?"

    i appreciate your comments here-

    if it so happens to someone to make the transformation/change from one religious or spiritual tradition/path to another, this indeed can be a long road - and confusing. and so it has been for me. i was brought up catholic/christian and at the age of about 15 (thousands of years ago - ha ha) i took to the taoist way. there is also pagan elements/truth for me. as i say now, anything that warms the heart and gives peace of mind - a true sense of being or way to life. to be at peace with yourself is my heart of hearts path - and is really the only real thing that i can share with others. whether i am a christian or not, or a pagan, doesn't matter if i don't have any true peace with myself. that's what matters and what life has taught me.

    may i share what i think is a good poem?;

    Love After Love - by Derek Walcott

    The time will come
    when, with elation
    you will greet yourself arriving
    at your own door, in your own mirror
    and each will smile at the other's welcome,

    and say, sit here. Eat.
    You will love again the stranger who was your self.
    Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
    to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

    all your life, whom you ignored
    for another, who knows you by heart.
    Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

    the photographs, the desperate notes,
    peel your own image from the mirror.
    Sit. Feast on your life.

  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan Tuesday, 14 May 2013

    Thanks so much for this awesome conversation!

    The discussion around syncretism - mixing Christianity and paganism - is a lively one in many pagan circles. At this point I was merely highlighting my position that paganism is a religion that stands on its own, not an antithesis to Christianity. Also, when I share about my path, the false assumption is often made that I am being reactionary. I am not alone in facing these kinds of prejudices and am glad to add my voice to the chorus of those setting the record straight.

    But this does bring up the question of syncretism and I am looking forward to further exploring this issue.

  • terra gazelle
    terra gazelle Monday, 13 May 2013

    Yes Gary, the Tao is said to be the Pagan part of Buddhism. I have a member of my group that also has a taoist world view. Taoism fits with the Pagan view much better then Christianity does.

    I believe that all religion started out as Shamanistic in the long ago caves. The first religion was of nature...I do not think humanity gained with monotheism.

    I remember as a kid going to a Catholic Church..my dad was Catholic, though he was not a churchgoer..I guess you could say " A once a year Catholic" Midnight mass at Christmas. I loved the incense and candles, the ritual, the feeling of calm. Then the Priest would speak. That ended that.

    My Mother was Lutheran, I was baptized Methodist Episcopalian, I guess the parents wanted to hit all the boxes...I went to that church..summer bible school. bible studies...then I turned 11..I had been more into full moons and a small ritual I had been doing since I was 8 on those nights...at 11 I knew I was not getting , no matter how hard I tried what every one else was getting...Church just left me sad.I had also met someone that said I was not alone..there was a name for what I believed. What an Epiphany. When I was 13 I told Mom I was not going to church any more. She said I knew right from wrong and that if I was not getting what I needed then it was a waste of time for me. I next went into a church when I was married at the age of 18....by that time I had found teachers and knew I had to keep Pagan beliefs to myself.
    The next time I went to church was when my daughter was baptized into her church. Loved the music, I found it so Pagan...all about nature.

    I think that those dabbling with Witchcraft while remaining Christian are just playing. We used to have names for those folk..very unkind names..Playgans, Whoopie-Witches, Wanna Be's. Like I said unkind. But dabbling is all any one can do unless they walk the Path of the Gods....of the Lady and Her Lord. It is not the same path of the Christian God. Its too differentr paths that may lead to the same destination..but your journey teaches you different lessons.

    Taoist can walk the Pagan path and be comfortable...be intune..a person of the Book can not.

  • terra gazelle
    terra gazelle Sunday, 12 May 2013

    I did not make some transition from Christianity to being Wiccan..I was Wiccan, I was just raised as a Christian. I did not carry over Christianity into my Wiccan practice...it did not belong there. If I wanted to keep my Christian beliefs I would have stayed a Christian. I can say I do not understand the view that mixing faiths is pleasing to the Gods or makes either Religion stronger.

    Are you polytheist? How do you work that? I just do not understand.

    I have a poem for you..a very Witchy one...
    Ashes
    I rise,
    I soar,
    I bend,
    I sing,
    I fly on wings of destiny.
    I shape
    I braid,
    I tie the knots,
    I am the teller of things to come.

    Winds that whisper in the trees,
    Storms that pass away unseen
    I the Witch will gather from you
    The elements that will create and renew.
    I will walk upon this Earth
    Again the lines of death and rebirth.
    Fires that burned you sent to me
    I was ash in a muddy stream.
    Fire and water now tell what I should know...
    For I will reap what you have sown.
    Terra Gazelle © 2004

    Maybe its that I am not a seeker any longer..I never was since I knew that Christianity was not for me. I did not rebel...I am not anti Christian, I just happen to not be one.

  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. Sunday, 12 May 2013

    well said terra gazelle!

    yes, i do think it is better to be centered on one path and then if one wants to add or appreciate certain elements from other paths or from your own experience - that can be beneficial. let say if one is a christian and reads or sees a documentary on native americans - it can give the christian a new sense to nature and looking at the animal world.

    re: "I am not anti Christian, I just happen to not be one." - again, well said !

    re: "Are you polytheist? How do you work that? I just do not understand"

    as i mentioned i am taoist - i suppose it is a chinese pagan path in that there is a shamanistic quality to it along side its philosophical quality. i went from christian to taoist because my heart is liberated by it - the tao. i have learned and much appreciate from the catholic tradition and how it expresses the mysteries of the christian faith but it's the tao with its own generous and profound traditions and practices that are my way.

  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. Sunday, 12 May 2013

    hi again Annika

    you quoted Kahlil.

    may i share a poem that was a kind of resolution to that "seasonless world" for me?;

    Love After Love - by Derek Walcott

    The time will come
    when, with elation
    you will greet yourself arriving
    at your own door, in your own mirror
    and each will smile at the other's welcome,

    and say, sit here. Eat.
    You will love again the stranger who was your self.
    Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
    to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

    all your life, whom you ignored
    for another, who knows you by heart.
    Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

    the photographs, the desperate notes,
    peel your own image from the mirror.
    Sit. Feast on your life.

  • terra gazelle
    terra gazelle Sunday, 12 May 2013

    sorry about the double post.

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