Wednesday, February 23, 2011

when others make you think: an end to Christian bashing

Kate? from WitchPlease wrote today about being part of some of the problems going on in the "general pagan discussion," namely Christian bashing and cultural theft. Both are ideas that I think we need to talk about more and address in relation to our path. Today her focus was on giving up Christian bashing and she intends to talk about cultural theft in another post (I'm not sure when).

A lot of what she articulated in her post on about Christian bashing is in accord with my own opinions on the subject. In fact, I could go on and on about this subject because it is one that I have struggled with on many levels.

I was raised in a Christian home. But when I say that don't start assuming that by that I mean a Bible thumping, cross wearing, proselyting home. Oh no. My mother is probably one of the most liberal Christians I know. Her only rules about religion were this: explore, find your own faith, it's all boils down to the same thing in the end, just don't even THINK about exploring Jehovah Witnesses and no Ouija boards in my house.

The ongoing religious conversation I grew up with went something like this:

Me: Mom, I'm interested in runes.
Mom: Runes? Ok. Have you tried the tarot? I have a book you can have. Here, let me get it for you.

Mom: I noticed that you're reading about cults. What exactly are you reading?
Me: About this cult called Brother 10.
Mom: Oh yeah, they were big around here a long time ago. There was a news report a few years ago about various cults in Canada. The Solar Temple in Quebec, Brother 10, etc. It was pretty interesting. They talked about the pros, the cons, the falling outs. etc. Communes vs cults, how Mormonism started as a cult. Technically most religions start out as cults and sort of emerge as a religion once they're validated. The big difference is in the idea of power and control, and...

Mom: The Satanic Bible,  what's that about?
Me: About Satanism.
Mom: As in worshipping Lucifer or ?
Me: Sort of, but not really. It's not about things like sacrificing cats or anything...
Mom: Well as long as you're not going to sacrifice that cat...

Me: Mom, I'm a witch
Mom: Well you've always been into the occult stuff.
Me: Well technically I'm a Wiccan
Mom: What's that?
Me: LONG uneccessary explanation

Mom: I'd like to ask you to be your baby brother's godmother (brother is significantly younger than me)
Me: But I'm not a Christian
Mom: No, but I know that you will always encourage to explore his spirituality and talk to him about these things. That's what's important to me. That you help him find his own faith. That's what a godmother should do.
Me: What about the whole renouncing Satan bit?
Mom: Well, think of it more as in renouncing evil or badness. Think of it as embracing the right path (whatever that is for you) and living a good life.

These are really recreated conversations that I've been having with my mother since I was 12. In chronological order, stopping at about 20 (cause you get the gist). Here's the thing. My mother is a lovely, compassionate woman of faith. She is open minded, logical, and loving. She gave me religious freedom, encouraged my spiritual growth always, tolerated all questions and answered them honestly and openly. She strives to live her life modelled on the teachings of what she believes Jesus embodied. She won't cast stones, she won't judge, she will strive to remember compassion and love. She's no saint. But she is a very damn good Christian. She holds her faith close to her heart. And I respect her immensely for the religious education and gifts she gave me in my life.

And then I moved out of the house and met other Christians. And I lost sight of the wonder than is my mother's faith. And I got angry and hurt by the rudeness that is out there. And my close Christian friends bore the brunt of my reaction. The bore my attacks and challenges. My unshaking refusal to accept a faith that says that there is only one way to God, even if you grew up in a region or time that had no access to the faith that would lead you to this god. My vehement nay-saying and intolerance towards what I perceived to be flawed and narrow minded beliefs. My frustrations over the fact that I felt like my mother had betrayed me into complacency towards a religion that was nothing like what she had raised me in.

And then I met my future in-laws. Who are almost as conservative Catholic as you can get. And I got angrier. And my poor husband bore the brunt of a fair amount of this. I could not conceive of being raised in a home where you just were Catholic but you NEVER questioned that faith. Or that you never experienced divinity. I couldn't make peace with the idea of going to church, going through the moments, because that is what faith is. And I'll be honest. I still struggle with it. And my husband is going through his own crisis of faith at the moment, ever since meeting me and hearing my questions. He believes, but his beliefs are being redefined. And I think my mother's faith is inspirational to him.

But here's the thing. Eventually I came to realize that the voices that are loudest do not represent the majority. They do not reflect all of Christianity. That there are silent Christians all around me, who like me, keep their faith on the down low because they don't want to deal with the persecution, the apologetics. There are an infinite amount of Christians out there who are like my mom. Who believe as deeply as she does, or I do. Whose faith guides them but doesn't limit them. Who are warm and loving, and even willing to listen, contemplate, and accept that your path is your own, regardless of what they hold to be true.

So I started to ask myself: who do I want to be? The loud mouth pagan who doesn't respect others' beliefs (the pagan version of the christians that drive me crazy) or my mom?

I think the answer is self-evident!

11 comments:

  1. great post. great thoughts. great self-evident solution.

    it is an easy thing to do -- the bashing -- but ultimately it boils down to: in the big picture it doesn't matter who had what symbolism first, who is a saint-goddess, who had which basic holiday first or best, or who came into existence first (which one needs to understand nearly every Xian out there right now is technically a neoXian as his/her path is vastly different than the ancient Xians -- the Vatican / Church has ok'd things that in the past was a no-no and followers have change the ethics, among other changes from the earlier followers to the modern ones)

    it is best NOT to be a Fundamental Pagan, since we do not like the Fundamental Xians.

    (note main reason why I use "Xian" is because I type so fast that when I do C-h-r-i-s-t -ian I usually end up with transposed letters too much of the time, & get tired of correcting & often re-correcting - so for practically I use the abbreviation based on the greek)

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  2. I was brought up in a very strict religous Christian home. The Bible was the absolute final word and there was no discussion. I've had to over come alot of my childhood upbringing in my adult life. It wasn't until September of 2009 that I came upon the Pagan path and as I have read and learned and am still learning. I feel like I've come Home. Seems like I've been walking right beside the path for a longtime. I'm going to participate in the pagan art journaling and I look forward to it.

    SageMoon/ Paulette
    havingwritten-rpl.blogspot.com

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  3. I'm pickin' up what you're puttin' down, really I am. I know some Christians who are of the "live and live" variety. I heart them to eternity and back. However, when I get on the bashing wagon, my swings are directed to the Right.......Right Wing that is. To the Christians who are not happy to "live and let live" but instead have made it their life's purpose to tell everyone else in the world it's their way or the highway. It's not just born agains, it's ANY group that proselytizes.

    Tolerance. You tolerate what I do and I'll tolerate what you do, just don't cram your crap down my throat or I'll throw it back up in your lap.

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  4. Your mom sounds awesome!

    Thank you for the link love. I'm always happy when some musing of mine starts dialogue.

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  5. I love your Mom! So often we say "Christian" when we mean one specific sect or denomination (and we do it to Muslims too) that we fail to acknowledge people who are following the actual teachings of the prophet Jesus rather than the doctrine of any modern church.

    I had an opposite upbringing to many Pagans,in that my parents weren't Christians in any practical sense of the word, and my mother had an adverse reaction to the Catholicism of her childhood, so I grew up with a distinctly negative bias towards Christianity. It's only in recent years that I've come to a more loving view of the Christians around me.

    But surely it's Brother 12, not Brother 10? It doesn't matter one bit, though, because you're the only one in years who's even mentioned him! Must be a BC thing!

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  6. Ok, here I go:

    @GreenWheel: I tend to use xtian, so I know where you're coming from. All in all, I really think that xtianity is a hodge podge stolen religion

    (... ducks head to avoid flaming crosses thrown her way... looks about, no? phew...)

    I don't think there's anything wrong with challening a religion, any religion, even paganism (especially if you are on the pagan path). And I think it's really important to know how a trad has evolved... So while I think bashing is bad, inquiry and critical analysis is not only good but necessary.

    @RPL: my husband comes from a very similar family, so I appreciate the struggle you went through to find your way here. I'm watching my husband do the same and honestly, it hurts me to watch him go through it and the pressures it creates for him in his family. It's not an easy road and I know that it fills him with anger and bitterness at times towards the Church community he was raised in.

    @Dark Mother: Tolerance. Absolutely! And trust me, I've done my share and will continue probably, of arguing until I'm blue in the face with people about tolerating one another. Welcome to my inlaws and the thorn in my side! I am not saying that it's right. Or that we have to accept what is being said or advocated. Just that we need to move on and find more productive ways of engaging in the discussion (or walking away if it can't be a discussion - cause let's face it, sometimes in can't be). And I think it's ok and perfectly natural to be angry over that. But that throwing mud back makes the problem worse, not better. Personally, I admit, I get a bit of malicious, self righteour joy in knowing that I am modeling Jesus' practices better than those out there flinging the shite around! (I'm working on the love here, really I am, but malicious glee just pops up, uninvited now and again, I can't help it...)

    @Kate: yay for dialogue. I think you made a good point

    @Wulf: OMG, how could I have messed that up? You're right it is Brother 12... Does that mean that I'm officially getting old? And I'm sure it's a BC thing, and a rare BC thing at that!

    And yes, when it comes to religion, faith, and spirituality, my Mom is awesome. It is really the greatest gift (or at least in the top 3) she's given me. Nothing but gratitude for having been raised with the gift of religious tolerance.

    Phew... thanks for the good comments! I loved reading them all.

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  7. Yeah, what Dark Mother said!

    I have a friend who is Catholic and she is the nicest and most tolerant person I know. When I changed my faith to become Wiccan, she asked me questions, wanting to understand. She loves and accepts me even though our faiths are so different . . . but not really . . . we both agree the bottom line is about LOVE.

    Wouldn't it be nice if we could just LOVE each other? I think every religion can agree on that!

    Thanks for sharing, Aradia!

    Blessed Be,
    Tereza

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  8. I am a Catholic. but also - a witch - a Druid too. I take a bit of this and a bit of that to come up with who I AM

    great post. !

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  9. Hi there, I grew up in a Catholic home where my mom was much like yours, but my father had converted from a more extreme form of Christianity when he met my mom. It's funny because when I approached her about the paganism stuff I found interesting, she'd get wary. Eventually, and I found out the hard way, that my dad was actually far more open to the discovery of things.

    My mom, although wary explained her reaction to me. She found absolute joy in her faith and while I was questioning everything, she said it hurt to see me go through that and it hurt that I was growing through.

    My Catholic home growing up was one where you said "why do we believe this?" and Mom or Dad would say.. "You know how to look it up," or "How about you go find out?" They were always teaching us to look on our own so that we weren't afraid to step outside of our comfort alone, because in the end faith is a lonely thing: it's something no one else can expereince with you.

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  10. I loved reading this. Your mother is so much like my own, except I don't actually remember what religion my mother was raised as. I want to say Catholic, but my mother was forced to church daily and stopped enjoying it long before she knew what any of it meant. I was never baptized. My parents were both forced church goers as kids and never wanted me to think I HAD to believe in something, it was always my choice.
    When Wicca found me, my mother bought me countless of my first books and tools and things. We'd talk about what I read, what they were for, what I was doing - and why. She never questioned or judged, just wanted to be a part of my life.

    Now, sadly I've had to answer the "why do worship the devil?" question a few too many times in my life. My friend and I basically had a screaming 2hr argument with her mother because she believe we were going to Hell and that Wicca was a fake religion, blahblahblah. Some people are close minded, and you know what? It sucks for them. I have nothing against other religions, it's all up to the specific person and how they portray it. There are several people, of several religions I could probably argue for days with, but there is no point. I follow my path, you follow yours. Leave it be.

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  11. Wow... This is an amazing post. I'm so grateful you shared this! You have an amazing mom. ^-^

    I've been trying very hard not to Christian bash, but it's incredibly difficult for me. My dad is a Protestant pastor, and growing up being able to see the "other side" of things that took place behind the scenes of various churches has not made me a fan of very many Christians.
    But you're so right when you say that the loudest squawkers aren't the majority. There are many, many wonderful, caring Christians who are truly good people. I sometimes forget that, though, in the face of all the not-so-good ones...

    So thank you. Thank you for reminding me that generalizations about groups of people are rarely (if ever) right & never good. And give your mom a hug next time you see her, just 'cause she's so awesome. =D

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