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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in conversion
Proselytizing and the Limits of Hospitality

 Q: What's the difference between a Jehovah's Witness and a Wiccan?

A: Three Watchtowers.

 

The Jehovah's Witness stood at the door, holding up a copy of The Watchtower. My mouth literally fell open when I saw the title.

 

Isis Is Still Being Worshiped.

In this very room, as a matter of fact, I thought.

“I don't have time to talk, and I can't give you any money,” I told her, “but I'll be happy to take a look at your literature if you leave it here.”

Turned out to be an anti-Catholic tirade. Boy, was I ever disappointed.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I'm sorry to hear that door-to-door religion-peddling isn't just an urban problem. Personally, I try to be as polite and as brief
  • Jenn
    Jenn says #
    I was stalked by JWs in my area for several months. We live very rurally, but they get out to us somehow. I handled it similarly t
  • beth steptoe
    beth steptoe says #
    i live deep in the 'bible belt' and they stop by every 8 to 12 months to make sure i'm still here i guess. They are never invited
  • Michele
    Michele says #
    I actually find them kind of creepy. They walk around in pairs, two young men in white shirts and black pants, nametags, and a bla
  • Holli Emore
    Holli Emore says #
    I agree with you, Anne. I took Steven's reference to be about Pagans who like to get into long arguments with, e.g., evangelical C

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
"The Bishop Had 17 Children"

In the year 981, the German missionary bishop Friedrich arrived in Iceland along with native guide and translator Thorvald Konradsson, an Icelander who had been converted while on the Continent.

Their mission failed because a skald (a word thought by some to be kin to the English word scold) composed a scurrilous little poem about the two of them which made them the laughing stock of Iceland. They were forced to leave the island in 986 because no one would take them seriously. You can't preach to people that are too busy laughing to listen.

Iceland officially accepted Christianity in the year 1000, largely because the Norwegian king held the sons of numerous prominent Icelandic families hostage: conversion by blackmail. Being Icelanders, of course, they added the parenthetical proviso: But if you want to keep offering to the Old Gods in private, well, that's your business.

But two lines of poetry had bought the Icelanders 14 years of freedom, and more than 1000 years later, we still remember them.

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How I became a Pagan #4 - Pentecost and Solstice Fires

 

The fog is thick and cold and I can smell the fire before I see it. Flames are lapping up tendrils of wet air. Robed figures stand solemnly around the fire. Then the ritual begins. A procession of the cross, red ribbons, and drums starts down the hill.

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  • sarel
    sarel says #
    I am inspired by your it's exactly what i am going through. I don't believe anyone has the truth as they say. In a process of beco
  • Joyce ORourke
    Joyce ORourke says #
    Sarel It is not having a truth as much as knowing what resonates with you. That is your truth which may be different from others.
  • Joyce ORourke
    Joyce ORourke says #
    I truly enjoyed your experience and the fact that you speak and write about them is owning to your personal truth. It is through y
  • Ilyssa Silfen
    Ilyssa Silfen says #
    Beautiful, beautiful post! My family is what we lovingly and jokingly call "Diet Jewish," so I was lucky enough not to be raised i
My first lesson in magic - The Elements Song

Recently I wrote about the role music played in how I became a Pagan. I ended my story with the summer solstice of 2012, which marks the beginning of my Pagan path. The feeling of having come home, so familiar to many Pagans, took me by surprise that night and has stayed with me ever since.

 

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  • Gwendolyn
    Gwendolyn says #
    This is a beautiful story, Annika! Congrats on having such an amazing experience!
  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan says #
    I'd have to have a recording first, but once I do, I'll post a link :-)
  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    I've had the pleasure to hear you sing this song around a fire. I'd love if there was a link you could post so others could hear i

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How I became a Pagan #2 - Music

The walls of the medieval castle flicker in the light of the torches as crowds mill across the courtyard. The smell of cooking fires and stew waft from the kitchen and another group of people in medieval clothes, some in chain-mail, pass me on their way to the tavern. I watch them descend the well-trodden stone stairs, then turn toward the tower, hoping to get a break from the crowd and a better look at this medieval market from above.

 

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  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan says #
    Rebecca, thank you so much for sharing your story. I can relate to so much of what you say. Transitioning faiths is so hard, but
  • Rebecca Kinney
    Rebecca Kinney says #
    I have been really enjoying your posts about becoming pagan, as I became a pagan just seven months ago. I too was a Christian, fu

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How I became a Pagan #1 - Signs

 

It's been a year and a half since I began my journey into Paganism and almost a full year (Imbolc) since I chose a tradition (Reclaiming). I was the model Jesus Freak, the one my Christian community was sure about, the one who would never leave the fold. So how did I end up choosing a Pagan path?

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  • sarel
    sarel says #
    Thanks for sharing your story didn't know there is so many pagans that comes from a pentecostal background.
  • Kevin Thomas
    Kevin Thomas says #
    I too came from a strong Pentecostal/Evangelical background, which is very common among African-Americans. Now, ordained metaphysi
  • Jeanine Byers
    Jeanine Byers says #
    That's great, Kevin! And LOL about embracing "everything you were taught to hate." I know what you mean!
  • Cynthia Savage
    Cynthia Savage says #
    So, really, you are still Christian....
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thanks for sharing your story. I am both a Reclaiming witch and a Christian minister (in the United Church of Christ a Progressiv

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
An Open Letter to Teo Bishop

Dear Teo, 

like so many other Pagans I was moved when I read your Disruptive and Inconvenient Realization. As a recent convert from Christianity to Paganism your honest confession stirred up emotions for me. 

Many Pagans are former Christians. Those of us who converted from Christianity generally have Christian friends and family praying that we will "repent" and "come back." We're seen as prodigals on the wrong path who will realize our error and return to the Christian church. Sometimes the pressure is tremendous, especially where family is involved. We find strength in our Pagan community. We sometimes deal with the pressure by feeding our own us-vs-them mentality. We tell each other how much better our new path is and how glad we are to be done with Christianity. And then one of our own leaves our ranks and does exactly what we vowed we'd never do: "coming back" to Christianity. 

You express concern that some will see journey as a betrayal. If Teo Bishop goes back to Jesus, does that mean I will some day return as well? Will I lose my community? Will I lose the freedom I have gained? What if my struggle and all of the work of rebuilding my life after my conversion was for nothing? What if "they" were right and everything I have come to treasure is the lie they keep saying it is?

Those are scary thoughts and most of us are no strangers to doubt and worry. I couldn't help but think some of those thoughts when I first read your blog. I remembered all of the bad times, the oppression, the abuse, and I pictured myself back in the midst of it all. But then I took a step back and disentangled your story from my own. 

Isn't it funny how easily we confuse someone else's journey with the stories woven by our own fears? You are returning to your roots and moving forward on your own path. Sometimes we need to focus on our roots so we can continue to grow. Returning to your roots for the purpose of growth is not going backwards. 

But you say you were never fully committed to your path with ADF. It makes me wonder, should we measure commitment by how we follow one particular path? Most Pagans are converts, clearly we were not overly committed to our previous religions. Instead we were committed to our values. Wanting to grow brought us to a different path. Wasn't it our commitment to integrity that gave us the strength to leave our former religion and explore Paganism?

Jason Mankey writes "There’s no betrayal when someone leaves the Pagan fold. We don’t renounce any gods before stepping onto the path and don’t pledge eternal loyalty to any gods when we step on it." Paganism is a pluralistic path. We don't bat an eye when  someone decides to follow a Greek pantheon instead of the Celtic Gods. So why would following Jesus and the Christian God be so different?

Maybe our problem is our narrow understanding of Christianity. The claim to exclusivity, absolute truth, and the condemnation of all other Gods certainly sets Evangelical Christianity at odds with Paganism. But you never signed up for the Christian Right. "I’ve come to recognize, even more so than I already believed, that there are many, many ways for people to live out a meaningful spiritual life." If more people like you join Christian churches, it's a win for us all. 

As a Pagan I value pluralism. I value diversity. I believe that divinity is expressed in many forms and that we all understand Spirit differently. We have hard polytheists, monists, pantheists, syncretists, and atheists in our midst. We have endless debates on who is a "real" Pagan and who isn't, and in the end we still find ourselves under the same umbrella. The Christo-Pagan debate has been getting old for a while now and yet the movement continues to grow. Are we really afraid of Christianity or are we worried about exclusivity? Are we so worried about exclusivity that we exclude Christians from the interfaith table because we fear they might be exclusive? Do we recognize irony when it slaps us in the face? 

Pluralism is one of the values that drew me to Paganism. I love my new path and I cannot see myself ever returning to Christianity. Then again, not too long ago I couldn't see myself ever becoming a Pagan. My commitment first and foremost is to live a life of honesty, integrity, love, compassion, and devotion to Deity. That commitment has taken me from one religion into another and as unlikely as it seems now, it could do that again.

Some have accused you for taking the easy route by returning to a majority religion. In my opinion you have chosen the hard road. Being a progressive Christian in the US is hard. Sure, there's a certain privilege that comes with Christianity, period. But being progressive and Christian means you are at odds with the loudest expression of Christianity and you'll be certain to have your path decried and profaned by others who call themselves Christians. And when non-Christian progressives hear you identify as Christian, you'll get written off as "one of those."

I tried to be a progressive Christian but being shot at from both sides while walking a tightrope was too difficult for me. Being a Pagan is easier; I feel like I fit and am no longer straddling the gap between two chairs. Honestly, I admire those who can walk the path of a progressive Christian. I admire those who have left and return to be met with suspicion by Christians and Pagans alike. And even more so, I admire those who do so publicly. 

I refuse to close with "I wish you well" sentiments because this is not a farewell. Your path might lead you into new communities and you might write on different platforms. But if I were forced to create circles of "us" and "them" I would not base them on religious labels. I would base them on values. And as much as you value integrity, honesty, compassion, and love for Deity, I can't help but think we'll be in the same tribe no matter what religious paths we travel. 
 

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  • Christopher Blackwell
    Christopher Blackwell says #
    I as a Wiccan and a Pagan see no way that I can follow my path and then condemn anyone for changing their path. After all I certai
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    I've seen a lot of reactions to the negative reactions to Mr Bishop's post . . . but I haven't actually read any negative reaction
  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan says #
    I have also been encouraged by how many positive reaction there have been.
  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer says #
    This is so beautiful and well-reasoned, Annika. I'm a former Christian minister (trained in theology--once, a practicing ordained
  • Jeanine Byers
    Jeanine Byers says #
    Beautiful letter!! I am a former Christian, too, who went from conservative Christian to progressive Christian to Unitarian to pag

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