That Question That Everyone Asks Me

The biggest question I get as a pastor and priest, and a multi-faith person, is “How do you reconcile your Christianity with Wicca?”

The quick and confusing answer is: I don’t.

The more detailed and hopefully less confusing answer is this:

When I was in seminary, I came to a point where I realized that I hadn’t really ever given up on the whole Jesus thing, even though I was definitely Wiccan and not likely to give that traditions up any time soon. It did take a bit of time of the idea rattling around in my brain to really get to the point where I accepted that I was Wiccan Christian. It took a lot longer to really figure out how that worked and what it meant to me.

About halfway through my time in seminary, my wife and I were chatting a lot about truth, theology, radical inclusion, and the meaning of belief (I think this was around the time I was taking Systematic Theology, but I digress…). Something clicked in her brain and she ended up writing a paper about a concept called metafaith.

Metafaith looks at religion from a different point of view and is based on mathematical principles. (Although, there are some of you now who are probably freaking out that I said that math is a part of it. Don’t worry, hear me out.) The mathematical principle it uses is the axiom, which is a basic, fundamental belief that stands on its own as basic to the person holding it to be true (Sarah Thompson, metafaith, 2013). In other words, these are the basic principles that you understand to be the foundations of your worldview. The axioms that I hold dear, and the ones that you hold dear may overlap, but they definitely won’t be exactly the same. Beliefs, on the other hand, stem from our own set of axioms, but are changeable. I can be persuaded to change a particular belief, but it would be much harder to convince me to change one of my fundamental axioms.

Metafaith accepts that my axioms and beliefs are true for me, just as your axioms and beliefs are true for you, and that “Truth” is relative to one’s point of view. In other words, all of us are right from our own point of view and that whatever “Truth” we perceive from this is real and all of these truths can exist together in the same time and space.

So how does this help me reconcile my Wiccan and Christian beliefs? Well, there are axioms and beliefs from both traditions that inform my own spiritual practice. However, there are some aspects of Wicca and some aspects of Christianity that just don’t, and can’t, overlap. Now, I could try to turn my brain into a pretzel and attempt to mush the traditions together, forcing them to become one thing. But, that could be really damaging emotionally and psychologically, and it wouldn’t necessarily come out with something meaningful for me. I could try and justify things in the Bible about my Wiccan practice, but who’s got time for that? Letting go of the need to force all of each tradition to play with each other lifted a great deal off my shoulders.

Besides, as someone who does a good deal of interfaith work with folks from many traditions, I think it’s important to recognize that the differences between religions aren’t bad or evil, they’re just differences. And there can be beauty and peace in the differences. I also think that having this realization has been really important when doing interfaith rituals. In some groups who attempt interfaith rituals, people try to mush things together so that the ritual works for all traditions. Unfortunately, in my experience, this tends to water down the impact of the pieces of ritual you are trying to put together. When I do interfaith or multi-faith rituals, I let each piece of the ritual stand on its own merits. The Christian parts are Christian. The Wiccan parts are Wiccan. If I want to try and put something in from one tradition, and it doesn’t work, then I figure something else out.

What it boils down to is that I don’t really “reconcile” as such. I accept each tradition as they are, and I put together what will go together. If there’s a Wiccan ritual that doesn’t work in Christian circles, I don’t do that Wiccan ritual in Christian circles, and vise versa. And if there’s stuff that doesn’t work for me in either tradition, I let it go. I take what I need and leave the rest (you 12-step folks see what I did there?).

In many areas of our lives we try to make others see what we see, or think like we think. But I’ve found, even when I make the mistake of trying to make someone see my way, that it’s ok for people think differently than I do. I remind myself that a person’s truth is important to them, and that I don’t have to make them give up their axioms. I can be an example of a different way, a more compassionate way, that follows my Wiccan beliefs and the teachings of Jesus. No one has to accept my axioms as truth, just I don’t have to accept other’s axioms as truth. (This does break down, however, when one person is trying to stomp on my, or my family’s, human rights, but that’s when you have to try and work around someone’s axioms to find compassion. That, though, is a whole different post.)

But the one thing I know, believing the way I do, is that I will NEVER have the ABSOLUTE TRUTH, and neither does anyone else. And, really, I’m ok with that.

“The West Wing” and the Disgruntled Spouse Trope

There is a TV show trope that I just absolutely detest: the person who marries another person, knowing they have a vocation or calling, who then gets all bent out of shape when their spouse puts that calling before them.

It came up again for me because the wife and I are re-watching “The West Wing” (and crying bit). In one of the first episodes of the first season, Leo McGarry (who is the Chief of Staff) comes home, and his wife is mad at him for missing their anniversary. The next day he tries to plan a romantic dinner to make up for it, but because of being Chief of Staff, he ends up having to squeeze the dinner in between work things. She then proceeds to ask “Is your job more important than your marriage?” and he says “Right now, yes!” She then decides to leave him and ask for a divorce.

This is a pretty common trope, not only in a series like this, but particularly in series that are about the types of careers that are also vocations: cops, federal agents, pastors, fire fighters, medical professionals (doctors, nurses, EMTs, etc.) and so on. It also happens in real life, especially when a spouse or family member can’t handle being second to something they deem as “just a job” or a “dangerous job.”

The thing is, it’s not “just a job,” it’s their life and their work. It’s a part of them that makes them who they are. I can’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to support their spouse being their full selves? Especially if they marry someone and know about the vocation going in. In the case of Leo on The West Wing, his wife married a politician who was helping someone run for the White House who would most likely have a job in said White House after the election if his candidate won. It’s not like she couldn’t figure out that that would eat up her spouse’s life until after Bartlett got out of office (one way or another).

Now, I won’t argue that Leo could have communicated better (much better). Or that there weren’t a bunch of cis-sexist marriage things involved in how the marriage turned out. But this trope happens a lot, even in marriages that have great communication. One partner just can’t understand that there might be something more important than them in the marriage.

My wife and I both have vocations, and we both understand that they are important to each of us. We also made an agreement that we wouldn’t give up our lives for each other. That means, that she can have her friends, I can have mine. I can take myself out for dinner alone if I want to, or just have alone time at home if I need it. It also means that I can do the work I am called to do and she will support me in doing it.

My wife is the most important person in my life, but she is not the ONLY person in my life. We make each other happy, but we’re not solely responsible for each other’s happiness. We have a lot of things in common with each other, and do a lot of things together, but we don’t do everything together.

The best advice, actually, comes from the reporter, Danny, a few episodes later when Charlie is bent out of shape because the Secret Service doesn’t allow him to go to a party with the president’s daughter. Danny basically says that she has enough to go through, and that the best thing Charlie can do for her is to be the one thing in her life that isn’t stressful. I try and do that with my wife, and she has done the same for me. Besides, I want to see my wife happy and fulfilled. I would never deny her that, nor would I tell her she is a bad person for wanting to pursue her dreams.

She is my wife, after all. I do not own her.

The weather is changing

The weather is changing.

The weather here in Chicago is much different from the Bay Area. The cold actually surprised me. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt real cold. This is the beginning of the cold that bites your cheeks, making you run for the covers and some hot chocolate.

The cold also brings back body memories from when I lived in New Hampshire and the Northeast. Like the smell of tobacco reminds me of my grandfather, the cold reminds me of growing up, among other things.

The shorter days makes me want to hibernate, but I know that’s not what people do anymore. It really helps me remember that this time of year is the time to go in, to reflect, to introspect. I do plan on doing more introspection here for the winter. I’m resurrecting my blog to do this.

There’s a lot going on here, and I have some ideas about future ministry, but for now, I just think. I reflect. I look at the past, think about what I want to do for the future, and then put the plans in motion to make it happen.

I do miss all my friends in the Bay Area, but I also know moving here was good for me, good for us. Change is hard, people don’t like it, but it’s also part of life, and usually necessary.

I wonder: what thoughts this cold season will bring me? What will Spirit tell me in these days where the Earth sleeps and things are quiet?

 

Weaver, Weaver

I know it’s been awhile, but I’ve been sucked into my new obsession: weaving! I’m still spinning, for sure, but crochet wasn’t always as satisfying as weaving seems to be. So, now I’m spinning to weave, and it’s awesome.

I used cotton yarn that I wanted to get rid of for my first project, and I ended up making a very nice cross body bag that fits my tablet, kindle, etc. I first did the strap on my inkle loom using self-striping orange/brown/white cotton for the warp and a dark brown cotton for the weft:

Then, I received my rigid heddle loom and using the same brown cotton and self-striping cotton, I made the body of the bag. It started like this:

And this is when I took it off the loom and washed it:

Initially, I used the same cotton yarn to sew it up, so it looked like this:

Which wasn’t excessively horrible, but didn’t look as finished as I wanted it to be. So, after that I used some upholstery thread, and now it looks like this:

It’s been awesome, I’m really loving it, and people seem to really like the bag!

Here’s another project I did:

Which ended up becoming a long lap blanket for the wife (and cats):

I have a lot of ideas for more projects (and Christmas/Yule presents) and I’m getting more heddles for the loom this week so I can use finer threads! 🙂

So, if you don’t hear much from me, this is what I’m doing! 🙂

I got interviewed!

When I started to train for open water swimming again a couple of years ago, I decided it would be in my best interest to become a US Masters Swimming (USMS) member. This was mostly because a lot of open water events are only open to USMS members (for liability/insurance reasons), but there are a lot of perks that come with the membership that I like, especially the forums where I can ask other swimmers questions, training programs, and their magazine “Swimmer”.

Well, a few months ago, Swimmer Magazine had an excellent series of articles about diversity in swimming which mostly focused on race, but did mention other diversity issues, except body diversity.

So, I wrote a letter to the editor, Laura Hamel, and told her as much. I basically said that while I thought their articles on diversity were really awesome, they forgot to talk about size diversity. I mentioned how hard it is to get good training swimsuits. The major swim companies don’t carry suits past size 24 (maybe) and the places where you can get suits in my size have maybe one style of suit that is suitable for swimming laps. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cute swimsuits, but I’m not lounging by the pool when I go swimming, you know?) I also mentioned that I was nervous about going to a Masters training session because I wasn’t sure how I’d be received, or if they would take me seriously, or if they’d just assume I was there to lose weight.

The editor and I had a nice exchange of emails, and they published an edited version of my letter in the next issue. She was really awesome, and said that she hoped that any Masters event I went to that they would take me seriously and welcome me. (To be honest, I still haven’t gone to one yet.)

But color me surprised when a few months later I get an email from Laura about wanting to interview me! The journalist, Elaine, and I had a great discussion when she interviewed me on the phone, and a later I got pictures done with a very nice and body positive photographer named Mike Calabro in Lake Michigan (literally in!).

The online version came out a couple of weeks ago, but I finally got my initial hard copy a couple of days ago. I created a PDF of the article, which is below! The article belongs to Swimmer Magazine and US Masters Swimming, so, if you are going to share it anywhere online, please make sure to give the appropriate citations.

I’m still going “Holy cow! Someone thought I was interesting enough to interview!” but this is awesome!

swimmerarticle

Hanging out in Malkuth and other Witchy Things

Hello again.

I know it’s been awhile, but settling in here in Chicago has taken some time. I’ve also been doing a lot of discernment and thinking about where my ministry is going, which is, as those of us who are clergy know, an ongoing process.

Lately I’ve been working on an initiation series based on the magickal Kabblah, and recently wrote the first of the initiations, which is based in Malkuth.

And apparently, I’m also there until I start writing the next one. (This is where all the witches say “duh!”)

What’s been interesting about this, though, is that being in this sphere has made me really look at this plane of existence and just how much we really do live here. Or, at least, how much I can really live in the here and now.

How do I explain this?

There are times where I can see and feel everything: all the sorrows, all the joys, all the fear, anger, happiness. The present, past, future. It’s as if it’s all laid out in front of me in a long line, or like a film reel. Sometimes it’s all of the possibilities, too. All of the futures, all of the pasts. So my spiritual practice allows me to be here, in the present. In my present.

Then, sometimes, I become too “stuck” in the here and now, especially is something emotionally bad is happening, and can’t see beyond where I am.

I know that clinically, this is my anxiety and depression, but there is a magickal component to this, too. Being stuck magickally generates a lot of the same symptoms.

So, being stuck in Malkuth isn’t a great thing for me, even being the Earth Girl that I am. Working on it, though…

***

The other night I was talking with the wife about the latest pagan blogosphere things. The first being that paganism is dying (not really true), theist pagans telling atheist pagans that they can’t be pagan (totally not true), and people getting it in their heads that all paganism has to be Earth Centered Spiritually (not always true).

Here’s the big point: “Paganism” is an umbrella term that is a really really REALLY big umbrella. It’s not really dying, it’s just changing, especially away from excessive dogmatic paganism, or any paganism that is exclusionary in its practice. I know I’m pretty tired of the witchcraft/paganism that is of the “I’m a real witch/wiccan/pagan and you’re not!” variety.

Seriously, it’s 2017. It’s time folks got over themselves about that kind of crap. Yes, an atheist can be a pagan. Yes, someone who’s Christian can also have a magickal practice. Yes, someone can be pagan without being Earth Centered.

If someone says they’re pagan, then they’re pagan, whether they have a lineage, or a teacher, or are just reading from books. This is true for any religion, regardless of what I, you, or other practitioners, think.

Some folks don’t consider me a “proper” or “real” pagan because I practice both Wicca and Christianity. So what? These days, the wife and I think of ourselves as sorcerers more than “Earth Based Spirituality” because we focus a lot more on magick and magickal systems. It’s not that we don’t care about the Earth, or honor the Earth’s turning, etc., it’s just not our primary focus. And if it is someone else’s primary focus? That’s all good. We need witches and pagans who have that as their focus. Again, so what?

Seriously, people need to stop expecting that all paganism should look and practice like theirs. That way lies the very thing many pagans say they are running from when they talk about Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity (or other oppressive religious traditions). Just like those traditions, specific pagan traditions don’t corner the market on truth and enlightenment.

(And IMNSHO, if your social justice demands that I have to do my spirituality a particular way, then your social justice isn’t very inclusive, is it?)

Lent Poetry: Cats

I watch from above
or behind the curtains
from the end of the bed
the box in the corner
I talk to you when I need
something
and sit on you when i want to
or when you’re sad
or sick
or happy
I will ignore you sometimes
and sometimes you will ignore me
but you are my human
that how it
is