I’d like to take a pause along the roadside to talk about spiritualism and the nature of religion.
As we engage in self-discovery and interact with the world, we find ourselves seeking out and connecting with a community of people of like-minded people. When we find that community, we feel accepted and often thrive in a safe space. Camaraderie breeds comfort and fosters pride.
“Go Team Jesus!”
“PantheaCon or Bust”
This community pride can be a very positive thing. It helps in the development and preservation of cultural nuances, language and “in” jokes. It strengthens meaning, especially in the case of religious communities.
Unfortunately, this same community pride also contributes to the hardening of the lines between who and what we are and who and what “they” are. It divides the Christians from the Pagans from the Hindus from the Jews and so forth. This is where it gets dangerous. The “Go Team” turns to “Fight Team.” In sports that may work. However, in religion it doesn’t.
Personally speaking, I have seen this happen frequently in the Jewish community where there is an inbred and powerful sense of tribal unity. I recall the story of a friend’s mother who had converted to Judaism from Catholicism. After being completely abandoned by her parents, this woman embraced Judaism with unbridled passion. She did everything in excess. To this day you would never believe that she had ever even entered a Catholic church let alone attended CCD.
Such stories of religious struggle are not limited to the Jewish community. This is a very common scenario. People just don’t like it when someone “switches teams.” When that convert is a team leader, an MVP or “fan favorite,” it can be even more jarring. Fans are baffled, stunned, and shocked. They feel abandoned. “He’s one of them now.”
This may work for sports but not for religion.
Of course I’m referring to Teo Bisop‘s recent announcement on The Wild Hunt in which he openly declared a return to Christianity. Since his announcement, tremors have permeated the Pagan-osphere. While I’m sure that the majority of Pagans are indifferent, the more vocal among us choose to comment. It seems that most comments are positive. However there has also been some backlash and even anger. To sum that up:
Teo Bishop was accepted onto our team, taught our secret handshake, given our trust and even lauded by some as a leader. We connected with him on a personal level via his writing. Now he has jumped ship, gone back to the other side – to another team.
But here’s the thing… that works for sports but not religion.
Religious-affiliation is not necessarily a final destination. While we like to think of it as such and often dogma tells us so, it really isn’t. Religious-affiliation is one stop on an expansive spiritual journey. The day that we can allow for the fluid nature of religion and at the same time respect spiritualism as a journey is the day the walls come down between religions. Teo is moving down his own river of experience which has taken him to another port-of-call. That is all that has happened. It could happen to any of us.
Spiritualism is fluid. Not only through one’s journey but through the gathering of experience. Dogmatic devices often require a complete abandonment of one’s past religious-affiliation. Oaths must be taken and beliefs forsworn. You can’t be Christian and Pagan and Muslilm at the same time. You can’t be a Democrat and Republican. You can’t be a Falcons and Saints fan. Pick one, give up the others and forever hold your peace.
That works for sports (and maybe even politics) but not for religion.
It is impossible to isolate ourselves from our past experience and the impact left behind – good or bad. We cannot deny our past. We are who we are today because of where and who we have been. We are formed by the experience and fluidity of life’s journey. As such, we change, grow and live to continue on. We carry pieces of our past religious experience forward which then help shape our perspective. Just as my understanding and practice of Wicca is colored by my Jewish – secular upbringing, Teo’s understanding of Christianity has been affected by his own negotiation of Pagan theology and his Druidic experiences. It will be like that no matter how deeply into that Christian world he gets.
Spiritualism is both creative and fluid as life. Most importantly, it is personal. I wish Teo, a heartfelt Bon Voyage as he sails forth and arrives at his new ports. I respect his journey as I respect my own. I look forward to hearing more from him as he explores the process.