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Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

After my What Next? post I puttered around (read: procrastinated) on Amazon and different religious sites to come up with some sort of plan. See, in the Myers-Briggs personality quadrant I am an INFJ. And J means I need a plan. This sometimes gets me in trouble, religiously speaking (see: inability to break free of religious structures), but sometimes—when exploring a vast depth and wealth of knowledge—helps me out.

So I read through the websites and I searched through my own desires and came up with topics that I’m really interested in and will pursue.  Though the What Next post was a good start…I think I need to do some background work before jumping into some of that.

  1. First up will be exploring the history of satan. I think this is necessary, especially coming from the charismatic background that I do. There is so much emphasis on satan, satanic attacks and oppression, demons, demonic possession, etc. that I want to understand where it all stems from. Books I’ve looked into are: The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil’s Biblical Roots by T.J. Wray and Gregory Mobley, The Devil: Perceptions from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity by Jeffrey B. Russell and maybe The Origins of Satan by Ellen Pagels. Ellen Pagels’ scholarship and bias can be up for debate by a lot of people, so, I might save that for last/if I get around to it.
  2. The other book I’d like to read, also by Jeffrey B. Russell is A New History of Witchcraft. I’ve read Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon, which I liked but it couldn’t quiet keep my attention.
  3. Formative pagan books, i.e. The Spiral Dance by Starhawk, Drawing Down the Moon by Margaret Adler, etc. Suggestions more than welcome.
  4. Books on history/myths/psychology that interest me: Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women by Sylvia Perera, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth by Monica Sjoo, etc. Again, suggestions welcome.

Okay. I really have to get to packing and stop procrastinating!

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Monday night is our home-church group night. Last night was our family’s time to share (all the couples involved rotate through the weeks). We can share whatever we like, as long as it is somewhat Christian spiritual centered. Some people lead prophetic prayer, some do Bible studies, whatever. I went last night, and I read from John Donne’s Divine Meditations and compared it to the storybook The Runaway Bunny.

I can relate to John Donne’s poetry, especially the Divine Meditations. The  man has some serious God/Salvation anxiety issues.  His imagery is forceful and his anxiety over sinning, satan and salvation is palpable. I love it. Angsty.  It’s how I (sometimes) feel. Take Divine Meditation I:

“Thou hast made me, and shall thy work decay?
Repair me now, for now mine end doth haste,
I run to death, and death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday,
I dare not move my dim eyes any way,
Despair behind, and death before doth cast
Such terror, and my feeble flesh doth waste
By sin in it, which it towards hell doth weigh;
Only thou art above, and when towards thee
By thy leave I can look, I rise again;
But our old subtle foe so tempteth me,
That not one hour I can myself sustain;
Thy Grace may wing me to prevent his art,
And though like adamant draw mine iron heart.”

On the other hand, The Runaway Bunny is  simple child’s story about a baby bunny who is trying to run away from his mother, but his mother chases him until he gives up. He realizes that no matter where, his mother will follow him.

Two very different views of God, spirituality, love, forgiveness and redemption. One commentator I read said that they thought The Runaway Bunny was like the parable of the prodigal son in the New Testament, but I don’t think so. The Prodigal Son requires that the son comes back and repents. The Runaway Bunny instead tells us that the mother—god, divinity, whatever—will pursue us. Very different.

In high school I read (and was in) the play W;t by Margaret Edson. The play has stuck with me, and inspired the juxtoposition of John Donne and The Runaway Bunny. In W;t an English professor specializing in John Donne’s Divine Meditations is dying of ovarian cancer, and though she doesn’t want to admit it, or can’t see it, she is just as anxious about her life and her coming afterlife.  She muses over her past, how harsh she seemed as a teacher and person. She begins to recite the poetry of Donne with a new understanding. Only sick and dying does she truly comprehend him. At the end, when she really is dying, her mentor comes to her and reads her The Runaway Bunny. “A nice allegory for the soul,” the mentor says as she closes the book.

Indeed. As much as I like Donne’s poetry—the angsty, demanding, raging minor cords—one day I hope that my spirituality and life will resolve into the soft, major chords of The Runaway Bunny.

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Yesterday, Friday, I picked up my first real Pagan book called Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions by Joyce and River Higgenbotham.  I have other books, such as Scott Cunningham’s Oils, Insence and Brews and an old, old, old copy of his Wicca: Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Both were ‘interest’ books, and not necessarily ‘serious’ ones.

Since Imbolc I’ve felt it imperative to begin—really, continue—the journey I began months ago. I let it rest for the winter season, but now that the sun is slowly waxing action is necessary. Wanted. Desired. Anticipated. You get the idea.

So yesterday after some web-licious researching I decided that Paganism looked like a promising beginner’s guide that included thoughtful journal exercises, discussion, meditations and light craft work.  I took the entire evening to read it over, except for the section on physics (which, hopefully, I’ll go back and finish tonight).  The contents of the book are pretty basic but very satisfying. They address the Wheel of the Year, celebrations, rituals, beliefs, diety, good/evil, the concept of satan, ethics and values, magick, divination and briefly discussed the differences between the major sects of Paganism. Lots of nice graphics and essential points of Pagan philosophy, such as Paganism is about personal responsibility, spiritual work, engagement, etc. It is not a book friendly to arm-chair spirituality.

Today I took the journal exercises for a test drive. I sat in Chick-Fil-A, where I get my best journaling done, and completed two sections of the first chapter. It addressed thoughts on the seasons, how Pagans view life/death, and if I thought I was a pagan.

I scratched my head for a moment. I ate a piece of lemon pie. I sipped some Diet Death.

I put my pen to the page several times, each time leaving a little black dot but no answer.

Am I a Pagan? Do I think I am?

I eventually wrote that I might not be a Pagan, yet, but I don’t think I am a Christian anymore, at all.

What I love about Christianity is this: Jesus, as a wise person. The Incarnate of the One God? I can’t attest to that. I can attest to Jesus’ sacrifice, his words on love, community, priesthood and wisdom. But I have so many problems with so much of everything else: inerrancy, the Old Testament (as spiritual text, not as history–as in, I take it as a historical/mythological document, not necessarily a spiritual one), Paul, the inherent stance on women, the pervasive sense of fear in the Church, the us/them mentality that stems from a rabid belief in satan, demons, possession, generational curses, etc. Just when you thought magic wasn’t in the church? Hah. The church—all stripes—is full of magical belief.

Some might say, well, cut the wheat from the chaff and just take a belief that Jesus died for your sins. See? You’re a Christian.

I struggle with that, I do. Christianity is seeped into the very marrow of my bones. But also sharing the marrow are some very non-Christian feelings. Like the pull towards nature I get every time I am alone in the woods, or on a path, in the rain, in the sun, before a storm, looking to the moon, when the wind blows across my neck. The electricity that vibrates in the air before the first spring storm or the first autumn cold front. The life in the earth when I garden. The taste of wine. The salty flavor or cheese. The feeling of curiosity co-mingling with a coming home when I read books on certain kinds of paganism, magick, philosophy or folktales. The utter connectedness I experienced at Imbolc.

It seems…stupid, in a way. To look to all of this as a sign of another Divinity, of being mutually exclusive with Christianity and Jesus. But the Christianity that I am emerging from believes that, if not under the name of God, what I am experiencing is demonic. That the Tarot is demonic. That if I pray to another god/dess I am praying to demons and inviting them in my life. That, at this moment, I am in sin. It’s a scary mindset to be in, a fearful one. I’ll be honest: when I started this path I felt terrified. I still do, at certain moments, though the terror is easing into an acceptance. This is my life stage. More importantly, this is my life. I shouldn’t be afraid. I am starting to slowly trust myself, and starting to slowly trust that I am a mature, adult woman who has a sense of ethics, values, balance and right action. Imagine! Being a spiritual adult and not perpetually an errant child.

Whether I revert to Christianity or journey to Whatever Else this single thing will always stay with me: I choose, and therefore am responsible for, my religious/spirtual belief.

I should say that I know all churches aren’t Charasmatic, Evangelical Protestants.  I am going to a UU church tomorrow to experience liberal religion for the first time. But I don’t think that I can just easing into a…less rabid? easier? more liberal?…church is going to solve the problem. The problem is I’ve always let myself be told what to believe (because I craved that structure!) and never figured that out for myself.

And that’s what Paganism gives you. That’s what it promotes, actively. Figure it out. Paganism is a buffet, not a restaurant. Get your ass out of your seat and get your own food, dammit. Sure, there are figures in Paganism/Wicca/etc. who make money on those looking for quick-fix-its, but the majority of the pagan community I have found online are thoughtful, earnest seekers. It’s not an easy path for them and it requires constant work. Again, sure, you can find the quacks and flakes all over the web as well, but I guess I’ve been blessed to find some really good forums and blogs. *

That is what draws me to Paganism. The work. The ritual. The curiosity. The demand for intelligence, research, study, journaling, activity whether you are solitary or coven/grove/community oriented.

So am I a Christian, at this moment? I don’t think so. Am I a pagan? Not yet, no. I won’t label myself (again) until I am so positive and so sure it hurts me to not call myself by that name. Then…then I can attach some sort of label. Until then I am me, seeker, wanderer.

Ah! There is such freedom and joy and rightness in my heart.

*One forum I’ve especially enjoyed is Ecauldron. Also the blogs on the sidebar, as well as others that I find randomly through comments sections.

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You know, I really like this blog. I haven’t been able to update as much as I would like, but in the autumn life begins to slow down and become a bit more scheduled.

I love summer—how can anyone not? The freedom, the heat…(well, maybe not the heat so much…it’s too hot here)…the pool, snocones, cookouts, how daylight lingers into the evening.

Two weeks ago as I was walking to my car in the morning I felt it.

Autumn.

Just a whisp, a breath, of cool—very cool—air. For a moment I thought I imagined it but no—it came again. Sliding over my skin, promises of crisp mornings and luscious afternoons and pumpkins and hay and change and the coming death of the year.

Slowly, the shade has become cooler. The mornings are breezy, the afternoon’s dry instead of muggy and close. Autumn, my favorite season, is on its way.

One of the things that sets me apart from conventional, conservative evangelical Christianity (CCEC) is some sense of nature that I’ve always had. It sounds hokey—but I was, and am always aware of…the outside world. I’ve always been drawn outside as a storm is coming (even if I don’t know it). I feel  the seasons changing though my husband laughs and says, “Autumn? It was 105 degrees today.”

To Western, logic minded, nature-is-dead folks it sounds silly. To CCECs it’s silly and slightly dangerous. Nature is to be controlled and though they might make token statements about ‘steward’-ship, caring for the environment is all based in a Christian’s eschatology.  For most CCECs Jesus will eventually come back to restore all things, and meanwhile the world burns. That’s simplistic, of course but the gist of it.

It’s the same feeling that lead me away from the church before, that I tried to suppress during my evangelical years and that I still find unaccounted for. The evangelical voice in my head tells me that it’s silly and I give it too much weight. Sometimes that same little nattering voice tells me that it’s sinful, wrong and will lead me out of the faith and you know…on the path of hell/no relationship with Christ/God/whatever.

It sounds dramatic, but it brings up some good points about my spiritual life and life in general:

1. I let fear control waaaaaaaay too much of my life, even my thought processes

I was going to go on, but I think that summarizes it.

What am I supposed to do? Deny these feelings? Deny that I….while I believe that Jesus is a historical figure, and that his teachings are beautiful and difficult, and it makes sense to me that a Creator/Spirit would send an example of how we should live with overwhelming, sacrificial love…I’ve never felt that was all. I’ve always felt there was more.

I feel like a cat. I paw at the unfamiliar, circle and sniff it. However,  I can’t let go enough to pounce on it and sink my teeth in. I’m too afraid. Of what people will think…of what my husband will think, my family, my friends…I’m afraid of leaving my church.

I also vacillate on how much I care.  Some days it seems like nothing is more important than figuring this out and creating a place for myself. Other days I see it for what it is: foolish.

There is no box. I mean. There is, in a limited, dogmatic fashion. There is the box of CCEC beliefs. While not a box to some, it is a box to me. There is the box of I-Hate-Christians who are so blinded by their own bitterness (valid or not) that they can’t see into the deep beauty of the faith. There is the box of New-Ageism. Boxes of yoga. Boxes of our own fear.  Boxes of everything.  (Little boxes on the hillside…)

I confess: I like the box. It’s comfortable. I’m an introvert and I like crawling in with my book light, a cup of tea and an escapist novel, closing the flaps and chilling in my own little boxy world. It’s great. Comfortable. Comforting.

It’s not real, though. There’s a world outside the box. A world that is valid, that has something to say, that contains truth.

I think what I’m confirming, to myself, is that…I don’t (think) I believe there is only one way. How would that be possible? How can that be possible?

It makes me uncomfortable though. I don’t say this lightly, but I can’t deny that that is what I…feel…to be true. My feelings and instincts mean a lot to me.

I want someone to talk to. Someone—someone who questions. The only perspective I ever get is CCEC…it’s the community I’m in. And yoga, of course, but that’s different. We don’t really discuss religion and philosophy overmuch. Just in generalities.

Exhale.

It’s curious that Autumn always brings out the…discontent in me. It’s like that feeling pushes at me a little bit, whispers with the breeze: “listen to me, listen to me, listen to me; don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid; don’t be afraid.” I am afraid. But I think…I think I’ll start walking into that fear.
What’s there really to be afraid of?

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I like facts. I believe through facts you can find truth, though truth can transcend fact—what’s a fact anyway? But I digress. Another time, that one 🙂

I hate religious writing that is full of half-truth and misleading rhetoric, no matter what the faith of origin. Screaming polemics about the rising rate of crime and the coming antichrist? No, thank you.  Screes about the Church and how it’s the most GODAWFUL thing in the world? Um, whatever. This should tell you how I feel about Christopher Hitchens.

I don’t want to buy into anything and I feel like a lot of books about religion and spirituality are trying to sell me something. Everyone evangelizes something, but I don’t want religion (or non religion, for that case) sold to me. I guess, though, since it is a commodity (books, CDs, DVDs, tickets to event) it has to be sold the same way as McD’s or tennis shoes.

So how to go about getting facts? Facts and history are important. They inform our truth, otherwise we’d just believe blind lies. In a since, it isn’t important whether or not Christ actually lived…the story is so great, so true, that in the end it shouldn’t matter. But it does matter to me. I want to find out.

I think people with “faith” can be scared of facts and history. With Christians its whether or not Christ existed, Creation, biblical inerrancy. With pagans, especially Wiccans, its the idea that they (can be) “generational” from an ancient tradition of witches/goddess worshippers. Any evidence to the contrary is met with, at best, reluctance, and at worst, pure venom. And I completely understand. Whenever someone tries to present me with a contrary fact or argument to a deeply held belief I sometimes feel an almost primal anger.  These beliefs buttress who I am and how I behave. It’s beyond difficult to have to consider something else.  It means everything has to shift, in some way, to accommodate this new truth.

But it shouldn’t be that way. A true faith shouldn’t need facts to bolster it. A true faith shouldn’t rely on something that shatters at the slightest inerrancy. Likewise, though, I don’t think that faith should be built on rhetorical lies and half-truths.

So I’m starting, for now, with academic books.  It’s important to get a footing before I branch out too far. Histories and facts aren’t the path, but they can be useful lanterns.

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The first post of a new blog is always a little weird, isn’t it? Especially if it’s not one with a certain focus: wine, food, books, the like.  This is my first ‘non-focus’ blog in years.

So. Hello. Welcome.

My name is Meagan. I’m 23. And I have questions, doubts, uncertainities, hypocrocies and general opinions that I want to have a forum to express. They don’t fit into my other blogs (wine and food, natch), and well…right now, besides my husband, no one really knows that I struggle with this stuff.

You see, I’m a Christian. I attend a Charasmatic, Evangelical Church in Austin. I love that church. It’s a beautiful place, full of beautiful, warm people that have been nothing but kind and sacrificial to me. I love them.  At another time in my life that church and those people helped me regain a footing in the world when I was in danger of stumbling off of a very high precipice. I am forever grateful.

I grew up Southern Baptist. I resented, and still do in many ways, that church and its philosophies. As a child I always had an…unorthodox…side. In my teen years I played around with Wicca and paganism, but found it too flakey. Always intrigued I’d read up on it and then dismiss it when I didn’t feel like the belief system held up to scrutiny. I just couldn’t make myself believe “it”–whatever “it” is. However, I couldn’t—and can’t—deny that I’ve always felt inordinately connected with nature and intuition. Over the past few years I’ve tried to hide it. I’ve grown fearful of what is essentially myself. I’ve been afraid to explore these longings and feelings for fear of scrutiny. For as lovely as the Christian Church is—and don’t kid yourself, there are many aspects of it that are lovely—there are aspects that let judgment, criticism and fear run rampant. Especially with Evangelical Christianity, even more so in Charasmatic churches, but when you put the two together? It can be quiet discouraging to someone with questions and doubts.

So I fought myself for awhile. Then I fought the Church. After, I became apathetic and silent. Now I’m ready to confront myself and find a voice.  I will manfully pry the grip of fear off of my life.

One post at a time.

So I welcome you to this journal. I will post on a variety of thoughts—religious, political and just general musings. I encourage discussion, recommendations and healthy discourse.

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