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.

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

I’m Wiccan and Christian. Does that bother you?

In the last few days I’ve seen a lot people in several forums say things like “you can’t call yourself a Christian and practice witchcraft” or “you can’t call yourself a Christian and practice traditions from other religion’s holidays.” The typical reason given is that it’s somehow evil if you do. I’ve heard similar things from the pagan end of the spectrum as well, although usually it’s more of a “consorting with the enemy” type of approach. There have been well known pagans who went back to Christianity and were called opportunists because they didn’t stay in a path that wasn’t speaking to them anymore. The typical reason from this end is that “Christians do bad things.” I can confirm from my own experiences with an abusive leader that pagans do bad things as well. Believe me, Christianity doesn’t corner the market on church burn.

If religions have both good and bad people in them that also do good and bad things, then what reasons are we left with? The main one that I see is fear: fear of the unknown, the other, of things we don’t understand. Fear that maybe we might be wrong about our faith. That if someone doesn’t practice their tradition like you do and are content in it, then there must be something wrong with them. Or, maybe they’re delusional? Maybe they’re in denial of the Truth and just need someone to tell them that Truth so that they can believe the Right Way. Maybe it’s that they learned from the wrong teacher, or all they did was read a book and self-initiated themselves, so they’re not a proper witch? Isn’t it too confusing? These sentiments are so common when multi-faith practice comes up, I need to remind progressive communities that there are people who have multi-faith practices in their own community.

My questions for those who want to condemn multi-faith practice, or even just practices that are different from their own, are these:

  • Is your faith in your own religion, your own tradition, and your connection with Spirit so fragile that you can’t handle someone doing something different from you and having just as strong of a faith and belief?
  • Do you feel that your faith necessitates you be right, even if it means bullying someone else?
  • Are people who are different from you such a threat to your own sense of self you feel the need to act violently in words and actions towards others?
  • Are you so afraid of looking outside your comfortable bubble that you can’t accept that other people do things differently than you?
  • Are you so sure about your own practice that you can claim that it is the One True Practice?

I am Wiccan and Christian. Both sets of rituals and deities feed my spirit and give me joy, comfort, and, because of my calling, purpose. I am a priest of both traditions because I have been called by my Wiccan deities and Jesus to do the work of a priest. I work to build bridges between the pagan and Christian communities and facilitate healing. I don’t always get it right, but I try my best. This is my path and I walk it with agreement between me and the Deities I serve.

Let me explain it another way. Let’s look at when Jesus came before Pilate:

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

(from Biblegateway, John 18:33-37 NIV)

When Pilate asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews, Jesus asks him if he came up with that idea, or was it something he learned from others. Jesus never claimed anything other than someone to speaking His truth. He was charged, by God and Spirit, to bring a certain truth to this world. In most of the Gospels he never fully admits to being a Messiah, either. He is a man and he had a mission. He cared for the sick, fed the poor, and did the work that God had set for him to do.

He didn’t ask for the label of “King” nor did He ever force anyone to follow Him, or call them traitor for not believing like He did. He preached, people listened, then made up their own minds to follow Him. Jesus never asked anyone to give up their sense of selves in order to follow Him. In short: He never claimed to be other than He was. He was a Jew. He also practiced this new Way of Love, which frightened the establishment. He never claimed to be anything He wasn’t.

Just like those of us who have multi-faith practices.

I am a witch and I am Christian. That is who I am. If it bothers you, is that your own idea, or did others tell you what to think of me? I was born to be who I am and this is my truth.