That was the reply I received to a status update I posted on Facebook in February this year, regarding my going to church, meeting people, and making friends. I can’t say I was terribly surprised to receive such a reaction; up until a year or two ago, I identified as a polytheistic Pagan (about a year and a half ago I began to identify as an agnostic witch). Adie and Church were just two things which didn’t go together.
My decision to attend church was, admittedly, made with a lot more frivolity and a lot less thought than a major religious shift would typically require. Mostly because I never intended it to be a major religious shift. I honestly didn’t think church would stick; it was just an experiment.
I’ve always found Providence (a term I’ve been using to describe what I’d previously described as “the Universe/God/Spirit” and which I wholeheartedly thank Only Fragments for turning me onto) in nature. The thing is, where I live in east county San Diego… there’s not a lot left of nature. There’s a lot of dried out fire hazards surrounded by concrete, but not a lot of places to enjoy the majesty of anything other than the hot, hot sun beating down on dry, dry dirt. All the places I go where I feel connected to that higher power are in north county San Diego, on the coast of Carlsbad and Encinitas. Those are not easy places for me to get to on the bus. I missed that connection and longed to find somewhere closer to my location where I could feel it again.
Enter: Matt. I’ve mentioned Matt a few times and when faced with this conundrum he was the first person I thought of. As a Christian, his beliefs ran somewhat askew of my own, but if nothing else maybe we could have a good conversation about it which might help me.
I asked him about church because I knew he had experience with it and church seemed like an obvious place to look for Providence. Curious as I was, I still wasn’t sure I’d necessarily go, but I knew I could ask him about church and that might at least start the conversation about spirituality (which has always been difficult for me to discuss with others). I was surprised when he offered to take me to a service at his church. I mean, I told him straight up I’m a witch (which, in retrospect, is probably exactly why he offered to take me). I agreed for no other reason than to have the experience.
Every second leading up to that Sunday morning in February was shrouded in doubt and neuroses. Because of past negative experiences with Christians/Christianity, I didn’t expect to enjoy myself and wondered repeatedly why I’d even reached out with such a crazy request. I didn’t expect to ever go back and wondered how I could politely dismiss the experience when he inevitably asked how I’d liked it (Before. I ever. Even. Went. Yea, neuroses). I certainly didn’t expect it to become a regular thing.
I was drawn in by the people, at first. Matt introduced me to a few folks and they were all so friendly. They asked me about me, beyond my beliefs (in fact, very few people actually asked me about my spiritual beliefs at all). I’d never really experienced this Christian kindness, before. I’d always thought kindness was something Christians reserved for other Christians, or was maybe even just a weapon they used to admonish others while never actually adhering to it themselves. These people were… actually kind, vibrant, compassionate; the type of people most Christians I’ve met have claimed to be, but never quite put into practice.
I wanted to know them, so I kept coming back. I thought maybe I’d go for a few weeks, make a friend or two, and then explain that, while they were lovely and I enjoyed their company, the religion wasn’t really for me.
A few weeks turned into a couple months and I found, in addition to enjoying the community and welcoming atmosphere, I really connected with what they said up front. The sermons lacked the politics that seem to permeate the Christian Church™ as an institution and, while they have mentioned God’s wrath a few times, none of those I’ve listened to have preached through fear—no one is telling me I will be damned for all eternity if I continue to do X.
The focus of this church is always on the relationship with Jesus, which is… oddly a novel concept when I look at my past interactions with Christians/Christianity. The Christians I knew growing up always made the focus of their faith on following The Rules™ and earning God’s love. Here, it’s almost the exact opposite. I mean, of course, they still want you to follow The Rules™ and that’s something I struggle with, because I don’t like being told what to do with the free will that Christianity says was granted by God.
The thing is, the way they talk about The Rules™ is different. The Rules™ aren’t about earning God’s love; God already loves you. Rather, they’re about expressing your love and devotion to God. Kind of like… getting your parent a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day present. You have free will, you can choose not to do it, it might even be easier for you not to do it because you don’t have a lot of money or you don’t have time to go shopping or whatever. But, chances are, you still do it—you still make that sacrifice of time and money—because you love your parent(s) and want to show them that you care, that you appreciate what they’ve done for you.
That’s what The Rules™ are about at this church I’ve been going to. No one is going to force you to obey, but if you really appreciate the fact that this Jesus guy died for you, so that when you died you would be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven even though you’re basically a D-bag (and I’m not trying to put any specific group down here; I read the news, okay? I know we all suck), you’re probably willing to go along with the requests he makes of how you live your life.
Now, I still can’t say for certain I believe all that happened. I believe a man called Jesus existed, but my jury is still out on what I refer to as “the mythology” of Jesus’ life—the supernatural, miraculous things which, if they were written about a god like Thor or Zeus, we would refer to as Norse or Greek mythology. I’m still not sure what parts (if any) of the Bible I can trust.
What I can tell you is that I’ve never connected with the pantheons traditionally associated with Pagan witchcraft—the Greek, the Roman, the Norse, the Egyptian. Those stories are interesting, I’ve learned a lot from them, but they don’t feel like my stories and those pantheons don’t feel full of my gods and goddesses.
I can also say that I feel some kind of connection to Jesus as a spiritual icon. I feel a sense of community when I attend church that always felt lacking when I’d attend Pagan gatherings in the past. I like that feeling.
I can’t say for sure where this path will lead me. Certainly, I wouldn’t consider myself a Christian—to me, that’s still a very loaded word and I haven’t quite recovered from the emotional pain caused to me by others in the name of the faith. I also still feel a pull towards at least studying the Celtic pantheon (really the only polytheistic pantheon I haven’t gotten the chance to study, yet). So, I will admit I’m still a bit green on my journey.
Although, I am looking forward to seeing where this path leads me.
I love you all.
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