Monday, November 18, 2013

X is for eX-Xians and the Craft


Though there are more and more families raising Pagan children, there are still precious few folks that grew up in Craft families.  As a result, many of us (myself included) came from Christian families. 

When I first came to the Craft, I was seeking escape from a pontificating, overbearing father god. I had sought relief in other religions including those of the Eastern variety.  Those simply didn't fit my worldview. I was not seeking escape from my body and human existence any more than I was seeking eternity on a fluffy cloud with wings and a harp.  Once I discovered Paganism I learned that there we other concepts and images of deity which were far more in keeping with my internal image of God.  I was home. 

Unfortunately, as happens all too often with converts, the desire to demonize and degrade my previous religious upbringing overtook me for a period of a couple years. I was angry about the church's role in past wars, it's obfuscation of truth thoughout the centuries, its hatred of diversity, its obsession with the collection of wealth blah, blah, blah. I was confrontational, self righteous and quick to make assumptions about the way I assumed that Chrisitian people saw me.  These became self fulfilling prophesies. I would find every opportunity to prove my archetype of the "evil Christian" and, frankly, behaved like the bigot I was railing against clothed in a different spiritual uniform.  I was young and rebelling against the yoke of oppression. Or so I thought...

Eventually I realized that, if I put half as much energy into working on myself as I invested in railing against the religion of my childhood, I would be a good example of a non-Christian rather than holding myself up as superior to all Christianity - a far more powerful message, I have found. 

As I teach other newcomers in the Craft, I sometimes see my early anger and prejudice reflected back at me.  I hear objections to words like "worship", "deity" and "ritual" because of the use of these terms in Judeo Christian religions.  Perhaps it is a natural process, like the stages of grief, that one goes through when it is realized that the religion of one's youth no longer fits the bill.  Just like a kid changing peer groups, the old group is often held up for ridicule by the new group as if to prove where true allegiance lies.  In reality, this catharsis can be helpful and healthy so long as we don't dwell there.  Like sadness, remaining in a state of anger for an extended period of time begins to breed illusion in the mind.  These delusions inhibit forward spiritual, mental and magical growth. After all, "know thyself" is first and foremost in the most basic of spiritual practice, and it is impossible to do so if one is focused on the evils of the ubiquitous "they".    

One thing I have learned after being away from my childhood religion for over 20 years is this: real release and freedom from a repressive, dogmatic religious group comes from giving yourself permission to let go of ALL your connections to that past.  Yup, all of it.  The hurt, the anger, the feelings of being less than and the anger that festers as a result of all those past hurts.  Recognize that the religion itself is not the problem and you free yourself to choose.  Just as there are rotten people grasping for power in churches across the country, there are also rotten people grasping for power and control in covens and groves and, hell, even Cub Scout troops I'd wager.  Railing against Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, is an exercise in futility.  You can make sure that your voice is heard, point out and act on inequality when you find it etc. but to demonize an entire segment of the world's population as ignorant, intolerant and down right evil only serves to expose your own ignorance. Our real freedom comes when we choose to redefine our relationships with deity, our community and ourselves and act on that choice to be a good example of what a Pagan, Witch, or Druid looks like.  

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