Posts by: "Teo Bishop"

Bishop in the Grove is just shy of three years old. The coming Solstice is its anniversary.

I’ve written here about my doubts, my interests, my questions and my fears. I’ve engaged with Pagans, polytheists, Druids, Christians, atheists, Buddhists, Humanists, and many a wayward Witch. I’ve written my way into and out-of Paganism, and I’ve found myself reoriented back toward the religion of my youth. This blog has documented a great many shifts in my thinking; some exciting for my readership, and others not so much. I’ve offended people, challenged people, encouraged people, praised people, and in all of it done my best to be honest, kind and thoughtful.

I’ve fallen short a few times, but I’ve given it my best.

And now it’s time to say goodbye to this blog.

h-k-d - Man walking away
I’m no longer walking in that grove I entered into back in 2010. I’m investing myself in a completely different study, one that is not the blending of Pagan and Christian paths that I thought it might be. I’m building community with other Christians — on ground and in person — and I’m planning to undergo a focused course in spiritual direction after the 1st of the year. I’m actively discerning what feels like a “call”, and considering the possibility that this call is one to ministry. I’m not certain whether this is a call to ordained or lay ministry, or whether it might just be a call to a simple Christian practice. But I know that my heart is being pulled to serve others. That’s how this whole wonderful mess got started.

Writing on this blog allowed me to cultivate a voice I never knew I had. It validated the part of me that isn’t the performer, or the “minor-league celebrity,” or any of the other things I’ve been known for in my music career. It validated something much simpler and more ordinary, but also much richer and more complex: the pull toward the Divine.

I will continue to write about my journey on my new web journal, Holy, and I will keep BITG online as a web archive. I’m looking forward to using the new Ghost blogging platform, which emphasizes simplicity in web publishing. It’s much less dependent on the “bells and whistles” you might find in a WordPress backend. I’ve given thought to blogging my way through the Episcopal Lectionary, or maybe even the Daily Office. I’m not sure yet. But feel free to follow along, if you’d like.

I pray that all those who have visited this blog and contributed to my spiritual journey continue to grow in your own spiritual lives. I pray that you be led to the spiritual homes that nurture you, and that inspire you to engage fully with the world you live in. I pray that you increase your capacity to love, and that you extend this love outward and inward without reservation.

Thank you for walking with me.

Blessings, Teo

ed10vi - Hourglass

I feel a distance from that awareness of God I had during my first days of reawakening to Christ.

I don’t blame this on anyone, most especially the people who’ve welcomed me into their community. It’s been wonderful to meet Christians with whom I could share my experiences of God, and who could witness to me their own spiritual journey. I’ve been hungry for community for a long time, it seems.

If anything, I think this may be an issue of language and tense.

Any language which places the reality of the Kingdom of God in some far off place creates in me a feeling of distance. When the Kingdom becomes “Heaven,” or an afterlife, I feel a distance. When the Kingdom becomes some ideal, unapproachable place, I feel a distance. When our conversations about the reality of God in the world putter out, and we instead worry ourselves with the politics of the Church or the ways in which one denomination is superior or inferior to another, I feel a distance.

This sensation of distance has come up quite often lately. It’s uncomfortable, and I find myself frustrated rather quickly over it. My “conversion experience” was little more than one, clear moment in which I consented to believe in God. It was as immediate as anything I’ve ever felt. It was a thoroughly present tense experience. So when I feel this distance from God, or from God’s Kingdom in the world, I feel like something must be wrong.

But as uncomfortable as that feeling may be, I wonder if this sensation of distance is exactly the right thing to be happening right now.

It’s Advent, the season in which we are called to wait for the coming Christ, the light which will shine in the darkness, illuminating all things. My personal theology says that Christ has come already, and the light is already shining. Jesus was that light, and he came to show that light to all who would see, and to call each of us to bear witness to it.

But in Advent we feel a distance. We feel the darkness.

The Pagan in me says that’s probably the most natural thing in the world.

It’s the cold season of Samhain in the Northern Hemisphere, and everything around me is going dormant. There are no leaves on the trees outside my office. The ground is frozen. The days are dark, and the nights come in the middle of the afternoon. This weather makes it rather easy to believe that the lifeblood of the world is running dry.

But the promise of Advent is that “the glory of God shall be revealed.” In this season of darkness, the season preceding the Yule celebrations of my friends and lovers of the earth, I am being called to be at peace with my own sense of waiting; my own experiences of distance. I am being called to suspend my need for God to be here right now, because God will be here.

God is always forthcoming.

I just need to be patience, and make myself ready.

So perhaps next time I find myself in a conversation in which God is placed over there, or the Kingdom is talked about in future tense, I will try to remember the words of Isaiah: “the glory of God shall be revealed”. I will try and quell my impatience with the remembrance that there is value in the waiting. I will try to embrace the distance.

There is much work to be done in the world. There are many who need to be served, cared for, clothed, fed, loved. I have so much to do yet.

But it is a fine thing to wait.

To wait, and prepare.


Photo by Eduardo Diez Viñuela

Last night I was standing at my kitchen counter, reading the first chapter of Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written, by Marcus J. Borg.

I read the following words and made an audible, “Oh.”

“By viewing the documents of the New Testament in their historical context, we recognize that they were not written to us and for us, but to and for the ancient communities that produced them.”

I knew this already, but something in Borg’s concise language drove the point home.

I was not raised in an atmosphere of Biblical literalism. I did not grow up believing that every word of the Bible had been uttered by God, Himself. “Cultural context” came up often in the bible studies of my late teens and early 20’s, but not nearly enough in conversation with other Christians. Most often the messages of the Bible were framed in a very modern context, as though the book was some sort of how-to manual for everyday life.

I’m not sure that it was written to function in that way. Borg states,

“To try to read the New Testament without taking into account its historical context produces misunderstanding. What we read is about “their then,” not directly about “our now.”

[emphasis mine]

I find that most of the conflicts I have with the ideologies of Biblical literalists, and the religious practices built around said literalism, are rooted in this “misunderstanding” that Borg speaks of. Pulling Bible passages to prove a point, to defend a modern conservative political position, or to alienate or shame someone seem like a misuse of Scripture to me. Always has.

The Bible, when read as nothing more than a rule book, can easily become a tool of the modern-day Pharisees. And if I recall, Jesus did have a few things to say about the Pharisees.

Borg places the books of the New Testament in chronological order, starting with 1 Thessalonians and ending with 2 Peter, with the Gospels falling somewhere in the middle. Read them in this order, Borg asserts, and you begin to see a completely different picture of how early Christians came to understand the relevance of the person of Jesus. Their understanding about Jesus evolved over time. It was not revealed in the Gospels, as the current ordering of the New Testament might have you think; rather, the Gospels were the product of years of Christian oral and aural tradition.

Borg’s position is undoubtably threatening to Christians who would like to simplify Jesus into a one-dimensional symbol (i.e., Savior, Redeemer of Sins, God Incarnate, etc.). It gets even more complicated when you consider that the language popularly used to describe Jesus, himself, has its own history.

Regarding the emperor Augustus:

“…Octavian became “Augustus.” The word means “he who is to be worshipped and revered.” He was heralded not only as “Augustus,” but also as “Son of God” and “Lord.” He was called the “savior of the world” who had brought “peace on earth” by ending the vicil war that was tearing the empire apart. His birth was the beginning of the “gospel,” the “good news” (the Greek word used in the New Testament and translated into English as “good news” or “gospel”). Stories were even told about his divine conception: he was the son of the god Apollo.”

This is not news to most Pagans. The evidence of other divine-human hybrids in world mythology has been used to dismiss the uniqueness of Christianity. Jesus is just another in a long line of Sons of God(s). This is not altogether untrue.

And yet I don’t find my newfound sense of faith shaken or torn apart. I do not believe that the God who quietly called to me through a moment of service was calling me into a legalistic system of “right belief” or “right piety”. My experience of calling, although it garnered a certain amount of media attention on account of my career in music, was not a sensational one. It was a calling born of simple service to a person in need.

I think there is relevance in understanding the person of Jesus, just as I believe that Jesus points to the Divine in a very particular, important way. And Borg reminds us that to have said within the context of early Christianity that Jesus was the “Son of God” was to make a political statement about the nature of power, rulership and authoritarianism. It was an act of subversion, even as it was a statement of theology.

This is no small point.

This, for most mainline Protestants in the West, is a revolutionary way of thinking about Jesus.

Borg writes,

“The gospels, Paul’s letters, and the other New Testament writings use the language of imperial theology, but apply it to Jesus. Jesus is the “Son of God”–the emperor is not. Jesus is the “Lord”–the emperor is not. Jesus is the “Savior” who brings “peace on earth”–the emperor is not. The contrast is not just a matter of language. The contrast is also about two different visions of how the world should be. The world of the domination system is a world of political oppression, economic exploitation, and chronic violence. The alternative is a world in which everyone has enough and no one needs to be afraid. The gospel phrase for this is the “kingdom of God,” the heart, as the gospels proclaim, of Jesus’s message.”

[emphasis mine]

Thanks to this book I find myself reading Scripture with a new passion. Now I am reading to get a better sense of who these early Christians were, and to understand what motivated them to create community around this crucified man.

I am reading with the knowledge that these words were not written for me, even as they continue to transform my heart.

knopfzelle - same same but different

In mid-November I payed a visit to an Evangelical Bible College with my friend, Jason Pitzl-Waters. Jason had been invited to speak to the World Religions class about Paganism, and he thought that bringing me there to talk about my journey through Paganism and back to Christianity would be useful to them. His logic was pretty simple: conversion narratives can be messy, and it’s important that we try not to over-simplify them to suit our own biases.

I would be lying to say that I wasn’t going into that classroom with some biases of my own. There have been very few occasions when I felt like I had anything in common with Evangelicals. They have always seemed to be the kind of Christians I was not.

They were the stand up and wave your hands Christians; I was the sit down and become still Christian.

They were the talk about God like you really know Him Christians, because of course you do if you’ve read the Bible; I was the talking about God in genderless terms Christian, because making God into a dude seems political (and probably incorrect), and I didn’t presume to know or understand God — Bible or not.

They were “inerrant” and “infallible” Christians; I was an “inspired” and “open to interpretation” Christian.

And, for the most part, these things still hold true.

I also felt pretty othered by Evangelicals for being gay, especially when I lived in Nashville. There was no place for me at their table. Some said so in no uncertain terms. My gayness was just the Devil trying to take a hold of my life, a college friend told me after I came out to her.

We didn’t stay friends for very long.

In all fairness I’ve probably done some othering, too. I’ve probably made assumptions that weren’t accurate, or labeled Evangelicals as “the crazy ones.” In fact, I know I have. I’ve never really understood the way they talked about God, or Jesus, or their faith. It was like we were talking about different Gods, or different Jesuses, or different Christianities altogether.

But when I started talking to the class about my recent experiences, and the way that reaching out to those in need was the primary catalyst for my return to the Christian faith and practice, I saw an intimate recognition in their eyes. They understood my experience in a way that I hadn’t expected them to.

They got me.

I was speaking a language that the Evangelicals understood. I was talking Evangelical-talk. The encounter which led me back to the Church, which continues to lead me to explore the meaning of discipleship, and which causes me to say things like, “I feel as though God is calling me to serve others somehow,” is the kind of encounter that led some of these adults to an Evangelical Bible Seminary.

I don’t know that recognizing a commonality with Evangelicals means that I’m supposed to become one, or that I even could if I wanted to. Our differences are still pronounced. I am still gay. I still approach scripture as an inspired work. The ethos of Episcopalianism still makes a lot more sense to me.

But I know something about Evangelicals now that I didn’t before. Many of them have had an experience which they identify as God interjecting, intervening, or altogether breaking open their lives.

I can relate.

While we may be different in a lot of ways — a lot of important ways — I am not unlike an Evangelical.


Photo by 72dots

Salvation Mountain USA

I don’t want to be a voice for the Newly Saved.

I don’t want to be looked at as an example of what happens when Christ enters a person’s life.

I don’t want to stand as a representative for all the Pagan converts out there, as though Pagans are so unified a group that there could be such a thing as a “Pagan convert.”

I appreciate the prayers and the support from the Christians who’ve reached out to me on Twitter, but I’m afraid that they have unrealistic expectations of me. I feel like they’re looking at me to fulfill some sort of Prodigal Son role; my story simply fitting into a narrative that they already understand.

I think that all of our stories are more nuanced and complicated than we’d like to admit publicly.

I’m unnerved that immediately after my story was exposed to the largely Christian audience of The Blaze I received my first hateful comment from a white supremacist.

Christians should take note: there is a hateful contingent among you, speaking mean-spirited things in the name of God. It should worry you. It should cause you to take a closer look at your theology, your war-language, your relationship to the “least among us,” your need to be “right” and your engagement with those who you perceive are not.

My concerns and reservations come after a long week of worrying; worrying about being misunderstood, or misrepresented, or misread. I’ve worried that Christians will see me as a champion of The Cause, and Pagans will see me as The Villain. I’ve worried that my hyper-awareness of Audience will get in the way of me listening for the movement of the Spirit in my life. I feel like the experience I had with the woman on the street — the experience which has since become a talking point on the Glenn Beck show — was a call to something. I think it may be a call to ministry of some sort, but I start to get agitated when strangers rush to tell me that they know exactly what I’m being called to.

How can they? How can they know the direction of my own life when I’m still trying to figure that out?

God works in mysterious, disruptive, seemingly illogical ways. We can pretend that God’s Will is a single thing, or a simple thing, or an easily discernible series of choices, but it’s not. We can try to tweet “God’s Will”, but unless the tweet reads “Love God, & love your neighbor as yourself,” we’ll probably be wrong.

So I don’t want to be a voice for the Newly Saved. I don’t want anyone to look to me and expect to see a cookie-cutter Christian. If you think you’ve “won one for the team,” I encourage you to reevaluate your us/them mindset.

Our call is to love.

That’s it.


Everything else is politics.

If our actions are not an extension of the directive to love, we’re missing the mark.


Photo by Renee Silverman

zantia - Bible

I didn’t grow up in a bible-crazy church.

That may sound like an unnecessary disclaimer, but it’s the kind I feel myself wanting to make these days.

There was plenty of scripture in the Episcopal services — more, I’ve been told, than you’ll find in your typical Sunday service at an Evangelical church — but there wasn’t a real emphasis on bringing scripture into your daily life. We weren’t encouraged, for example, to memorize verses. I was never put on the spot to recall scripture or to draw connections between the ordinary stuff of my life and the events in the lives of Bible characters. We heard the readings on Sunday and that was about it.

But now I find myself excited about the Bible. The New Testament, specifically. Tonight I even proposed starting up a Bible study with a few members of the church I’ve been attending. My enthusiasm was impossible to hide, and it looks like we may start to organize one soon.

I think the bible-craziness started when I picked up a copy of the The Kingdom New Testament a few days back at Powell’s. The translation has completely changed the way I think about reading the Gospel. The work by N. T. Wright, former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and current chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews, is amazingly approachable. I’ve flown through the Gospel of Matthew in no time at all. Couldn’t put it down.

I haven’t really paid attention to the Bible for years. It wasn’t a part of my paradigm as a Pagan. We were not a People of The Book (although many say lovingly that Pagans are a People of The Library). But now, after the chaos from the recent developments in my life is starting to calm, I’ve been opening up to scripture again. In fact, I’m been turning to it for comfort and solace. I’ve been reading without a clear agenda, and this new translation makes it even easier to do that. The language is so common, so approachable (while still being praised for its good scholarship in translation) that I feel like I’m being offered a richer, more digestible take of the meaning of Jesus’s life and death.

I’m reading the Gospels as entire books, too, rather than parsing them out section by section. There’s value to doing that of course, but each Gospel has a particular arch that you don’t pick up on if you’re dissecting it verse by verse. It’s nice to finally be able to view that arch more clearly.

All of this feels new and fresh, and a little foreign to me. I feel myself drawn to meditation on scripture. The stories are captivating me. They’re pulling me in. The scriptural readings from the Daily Office and the Lectionary have been speaking to me in very intimate, personal ways.

But I wonder — is this how people in the bible-crazy churches feel? Do they feel inspired to read the Gospel the way that I feel right now? For me, it’s like there’s something hidden in those stories of Jesus that I can’t put my finger on. I think that hidden thing may be connected to the feeling of being called into closer relationship with God. It’s also connected to the consistent pull I’m feeling toward some kind of service. Do they feel that way, too?

Maybe “bible-crazy” is too harsh; too sweeping.

I think biblical literalism is crazy. And I think that using the Bible as a weapon against others is also crazy.

But being inspired by scripture? Being drawn together in community around the reading and reflecting upon scripture?

Is that so “bible-crazy”?

Or is that just an organic, meaningful component of being a Christian?

jlhopgood - His Hand

“Excuse me,” the voice said from off to my side. “Can you help me?”

She was an old woman, perhaps in her 80’s. Her bones looked small and fragile. She wore a dirty coat. For some reason the coat really bothered me. This woman shouldn’t have been out there in the cold. She should have been in a home; in a warm, clean place. She should have been cared for. But instead she was on the sidewalk beneath the Sur la Table, calling me to her.

“Yes. How can I help you?”

Perhaps she wanted money. I would have given it to her, no questions asked.

“Could you help me stand up? I need to get turned around so that I can walk up to Whole Foods.”

She was sitting, hunched over the walker about half a block from the grocery store. I placed my hands under her shoulders as gently as I could and lifted her up. She moved as though my speed might break her, so I let her set the pace. Once she was standing and redirected she thanked me, and headed on her way. It was a simple goodbye. All she wanted was that small bit of help and nothing more.

I turned to see my husband with tears in his eyes. That’s his natural response to seeing people in pain, or dogs without homes, or whenever he thinks about kids so poor that they might not ever get a gift from their parents.

I pulled him close to me.

After a few minutes we made our way back toward our original destination, Powell’s Books. We were just a few feet into the store, climbing down the stairs towards the bookshelves when it happened. Into my head came the thought,

“I’m just going to go ahead and believe in God.”

My first response was to think,

“What? What does that even mean?”

The thought felt like it was mine but also not mine, as though there was something outside of me motivating it. It’s like the thought happened to me. It didn’t feel like some kind of clouds-parting conversion experience. It was just a calm, still voice making the declaration that I was going to believe in God.

In the Patheos article, What Is A Christian, Marcus Borg unpacks the etymology of “believe” in a way that sheds light on what this unexpected thought may mean in my life.

He writes:

… The language of “believing” has been part of Christianity from the first century onward. But it didn’t refer primarily to believing the right theological beliefs. It meant something like the English word “beloving.” To believe in God and Jesus was to belove God and Jesus. Namely, it meant to commit one’s self to a relationship of attentiveness and faithfulness. Commitment and fidelity are the ancient meanings of faith and believing.

Even the two most frequently heard Christian creeds, the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, reflect this understanding. They both begin with the Latin word credo, most commonly translated into English as “I believe.” But the Latin roots of credo mean “I give my heart to.”

(emphasis mine)

Looking at it now I think that this is what happened in the moment those words came into my mind: I gave my heart to God. It was hardly an altar call experience. In fact, it didn’t feel like something I was making a choice about at all. It was just the natural response to this encounter on the street.

My heart has not been the same since that woman reached out to me. Something inside me feels differently, as though my capacity to feel was just increased exponentially. The thought of people in pain, people without food, people without the feeling of love in their lives — these things have been affecting me in a way that they never have before — even during my pre-Paganism Christianity.

God likely doesn’t need my help, but this woman did. And others like her do. The lesson I take from this experience (perhaps the first lesson of many) is that through serving others I experience the love of God. Through giving freely of myself I come to better understand Christ. When I serve, I experience the Divine within myself and in others.

This woman called me back to beloving God by allowing me to serve her. It’s a calling I cannot deny or easily dismiss.


Photo by Jlhopgood

I went to the Catholic cathedral in downtown Los Angeles because I wanted to buy a cross. Specifically, I wanted to buy a replica of the cross that the Pope wears. It’s kind of an unusual thing for me to do. I’m not Catholic. My grandmother is, and being raised Episcopalian, a denomination my mother lovingly called “Catholic Lite,” I’m familiar with the phenomenon of Pope-love. I’ve just never had a case of it, myself.

But then comes along Pope Francis, acting all salt-of-the-earth Christian-like, and I want to wear his cross. I want to remember him, and I like the idea that he’s out there praying for me.

I picked up the small, pewter replica, along with a prayer card for St. Francis (I’ve always loved his “Make me an instrument” prayer) and a little Pope/St. Francis reversible medal. It was a veritable Catholic shopping spree, and appropriately inexpensive.

I left the shop and headed across the courtyard to the cathedral. The building is staggeringly beautiful. It’s more modern than any other cathedral I’ve seen. The lines are unusual, as is the shape of the structure.

lorena-david - Our Lady of Angels exterior

The sign by the door said, “Welcome to your cathedral.”

That’s nice, I thought.

The interior did exactly what a cathedral is supposed to do: it inspired in me a feeling of awe and wonder. It made me feel small, but not insignificant. It felt womb-like, peaceful and quiet. There were art students scattered about sketching and taking photographs of the architecture. Their business didn’t disturb me, and I made my way to a pew in the middle of the room.

gashwin - Nave and crucifix

I sat there for a long while and was still. Then I let my eyes lift upward to the large tapestries on either side of the room. These pieces of art were tall — perhaps 12 or 15 feet high — and they stretched from the back of the sanctuary to the front. Each panel of the tapestry contained depictions of figures from Christian history. It was ecumenical, too: there were Protestants and Catholics, Saints and other Christians who’d made an impact in the history of the Church.

That’s amazing craftsmanship, I thought.

Then I realized that the figures were all facing the same direction, lined up one behind the other. They were each looking forward with expressions of sorrow, hopefulness, or a deep and visible reverence.

gashwin - Saints

I followed their gaze to its natural conclusion and realized that these people, these ordinary people like me, were all staring at the same thing: the simple, black iron crucifix standing on the floor behind the altar.

For a moment I stopped breathing.

All of this grandeur, all of this extraordinary art was there for the sole purpose of drawing my attention back to this one man. I found myself sitting there, and at the same time standing behind an untold number of Saints, all resting our sight on this one man.

I placed the Pope’s cross around my neck and tucked it into my shirt. I took a deep breath and let it out. I bowed my head and sat in silence.


Click on images to see original sources and authors (CC).

I’ve been to dozens of baptisms in my life, but this one was different.

simonella_virus - BaptismI sat in the back of All Saints in Beverly Hills, a lovely little church in an obscenely wealthy part of the world, and I watched babies have water poured over the heads. I watched parents smile as the priest anointed their children’s foreheads with oil in the sign of the cross. Godparents stood by, beaming. Those parts were no different than what would happen at any other baptism.

What was different is how I felt inside.

I felt like this was happening at a crucial moment in my own life. I needed to be here. I needed to be witness to this. And, without a doubt, I needed to stand up and renew my baptismal covenant.

So I stood with the congregation and affirmed that I belonged to God, that I would seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, and that I would look for and seek to share the love of Christ in the world. I said I’d reject the forces of evil, too, and while I’m not really down with that language (still not a dualist) I said it anyway. I said every part of the covenant because it felt like the thing I was supposed to do in that moment.

There’s this unique push and pull going on right now between what I feel like is my will and what feels like something wholly other from my will. I’m hesitant to say that its God’s Will, but I will say that there have been moments in the past several weeks which have lined up in a way as if to say —

Yes. This is where you belong. Open your heart to this. Focus your mind on this. Be transformed by this.

All of those experiences pointed me back to God, and to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

I know that the public response to my recent transition (a word I prefer used over “conversion”) has been softened a bit because I’ve occupied this “middle way” between Christianity and Paganism. I read a number of Pagans who’ve said something to the effect of “we need more people with blended traditions represented in the world.”

Honestly, I’m a little burnt out on being a representative of anything. It was never my intention when I set up this blog to be a spokesperson for all of Pagandom (as if such a thing could even exist!), and it certainly isn’t my intention now to be a representative of Christopaganism, or for all of Christianity for that matter. I can’t shoulder that weight. And I don’t really think that Pagans or Christians need me too. If Paganism has taught me anything it’s that people need to know themselves, and they need to respond honestly and boldly to the callings they experience in their heart. That’s where Divinity is easiest to find. There, and in the hearts of those around us. That’s where we should be looking first; not in the clouds, or in the myths, or in the middle of a perfectly orchestrated ritual (although It’s there, too). We need only look into the hearts of those around us to find the spark of the Divine; to find what Christians call the Christ.

It’s right there. It’s always been just right there.

A friend and well-known Pagan told me “You know, Teo, I think people just want to know if you’re going to be a Carl McColman or a River Higginbotham.”

To that I think, I don’t know what God would have for me in any of this.

I suppose that makes me more like Carl, doesn’t it?

In my heart I know that there is more nuance to the spiritual life than can be represented in a single covenant or contained in a single religion. I know that the promises of faith and devotion we make are necessarily negotiated in each moment of each day after we make them. We have to keep making those same promises again and again. Each new time brings with it a new need to come out to ourselves and to the world. We say,

This is what I am, I think. I’m probably more than this; more than I can even realize. But this is what I am.

So if feeling compelled to reaffirm my Baptism makes me a Christian (and I think some would say that it does, unequivocally) then I guess I’m coming out as a Christian now.

A complicated Christian.

A gay Christian.

A Christian who thinks a lot like his Pagan friends, and who may have more in common with most Pagans than with most Christians.

But a Christian, nonetheless.


Photo by  simonella_virus

Me and Sean - Closeup

This is the kind of conversation my husband and I have over text messages:


When was the King James Bible published?




And before that time, how did Christians come to know the Gospel?

Or even have a complete sense of what “The Bible” was?


Oh, there were other, earlier versions of the Bible

King James commissioned a bible, some say, in repentance for his rather obvious homosexuality.




Keep in mind, though, that even after King James, most people were illiterate and too poor to own books. So, most people knew the Gospel simply from attending church. Households did not have Bibles


I just got to wonder how many thousands of people pre-King James knew the story of Jesus, and a vague sense of it’s place in the greater context of Jewish scripture, and how many didn’t, There was this long period of time when pre-Christian beliefs and practices (i.e. paganisms) existed side-by-side with a growing Christian faith.

And you make a good point.


Yep. Home practice was much more pagan, I’d think. But people attended Church. In the Middle Ages, it wasn’t just monks and nuns who prayed 7 times a day, either. The Christian life was much more like Islamic practice. But prior to the Middle Ages, Christianity was a sort of magical tradition, and Jesus was sometimes seen as the greatest of the Pagan leaders, opening up a new path to wisdom and enlightenment.

The only way syncretism really works is if it looks enough like the original religion that people are convinced they don’t need to convert at all.

This is probably one of the reasons why Arthur become mythologized as a king who would return. And why his greatest quest — even though he was otherwise Pagan — was to retrieve the Holy Grail.

I’m speaking mostly from a European, early Middle Ages perspective. How people knew the Gospel in classical times — in Rome and Greece — before there was any sort of wide, paperbound dissemination of the book, I’ve no idea.

Something I do know, from my study of Classical culture and language, though, is that Hellenistic and Roman gods were not as central to those folks lives as reconstructionists like to pretend. The switch to Jesus was pretty easy, perhaps because he was seen as an active god, one who wasn’t just a story or just a metaphor. Most educated Greeks and Romans understood the Gods as metaphors.

 Me and Sean - Crazy Face


It’s interesting to me that there are SO MANY people in the past 2000 years who have had some close, personal connection to the story of Jesus, and yet their understandings of that story could be so radically different from mine.


Yes. One of the brilliant (from the perspective of literary analysis) aspects of the Jesus story is its timelessness. It is adaptable for people of many cultures, across centuries.

He remains popular for some of the same reasons that Shakespeare’s plays remain popular.

His messages get at the very heart of the human dilemma.


You know, there’s a big, heart-shaped part of me that thinks of Jesus as the gateway to understanding God. I really love the idea that he is both fully human and fully divine. It makes humanity and divinity seem both completely different and yet totally compatable.



This changes the meaning of “God” into something only possible to understand through reflection and consideration. And something that can forever be discussed, debated, deliberated. The word “God” then becomes so slippery. Immediate, distant; intimate, foreign. For linguists, that slippage in language is a form of the erotic. And thus God becomes erotic.


Your brain is so hot.



This is why any fundamentalist perspective on your return (carefully chosen word, that) to Christian thought is immediately wrong. Because that return is exactly informed by your work within Paganism. There’s a seat at your table for both, primarily because, at the bottom of it all, there aren’t conflicts between them.



The sin/redemption bit does seem to be a distinction, though. I was struck by how much of that language was off-putting to me during the Morning Prayer service yesterday, and yet how at the same time I find Nadia’s theology so attractive.


For me, it’s always important to recognize that sin/redemption are not dependent on Jesus. He showed us a transactional metaphor. In every small way, we must die and be reborn whenever we repent, whenever we modify our behavior, apologize, change our thought patterns. There are very likely similar metaphors (actually, I can think of some from the Mabinogian right now) within Pagan traditions.

Jesus showed us we are already whole. We just need to go through some shit to recognize it.


Again and again, often.



And the avoidance of that cycle, that effort… that’s sin. The only real one. To live in a deficit of existence (not my words… from Giorgio Agamben).

Jesus said: Crucifixion is a bitch, but look what it leads to!


Jesus just became a drag queen.

Sean Morris:

“Oh, so now you’re Jesus.”

Teo Bishop:



Would you mind if I published this little bit of conversation on my blog?


Not at all.

Me and Sean - Hands up

In Swingers

I’m in Los Angeles, sitting in Swingers Diner. The air smells like onions and bacon, and before long I probably will, too. An Irish pub band is playing from the jukebox.  I’m the only customer here. I opened the joint.

After breakfast I’ll head to an Episcopal church on Hollywood Boulevard called St. Thomas. It’s only a few minutes away and they have morning prayer services. The church is Anglo-Catholic, which may be a little foreign to me. But Sunday was a travel day and I couldn’t make it to church. Morning prayer will hopefully bring a similar feeling of comfort and peace to the one I experienced in Portland.

This has been a strange couple of weeks. I’ve done a lot of explaining, profile editing, and summarizing. I don’t know if I’ve done well or poorly, because I feel like my explanations have arisen in the middle of a process.

When I run into a comment online from a Pagan that says something like,

“…now that Teo’s converted…”

I pause and think —

Is that what I’ve done? Has this been a conversion experience? That sounds so final.

Perhaps it has been a kind of conversion experience.

Except I was a Christian before I was a Pagan. This is not the kind of “coming to God” that one has without context of Christianity. This experience is not the same as a 2nd generation Wiccan realizing that they are actually a follower of Jesus. This is more complicated, more nuanced, because I already have a great deal of familiarity with Christianity. That said, all of this feels less like a falling into an old pattern than it does an attempt to uncover a new understanding.

I get that people want to rush to define what’s happening with me, but I’m hesitant to do so. This urgency to label my experience as “conversion” is being directed at me from the Christians, too. There’s this mild (and sometimes not-so-mild) rejoicing going on, as though they’ve won one back for the team. I suppose that when I say things like, “I’m feeling drawn back to the Church” that can be interpreted on a very simple, surface level; i.e. I’m going to be a Christian again. It gets complicated when you start to tease out what kind of Christian I might be. There is not just one way, even in the church of the One Way. Each Christian sect has its own framework, its own subtleties of language and theology, its own rituals. And within each denomination are people with their own personal biases, and they bring those biases to every Facebook or HuffPost comment thread.

I shut comments down on my blog, as well as on the Wild Hunt post about my Disruptive and Inconvenient Realization in order to maintain a little autonomy as I process through all of this. Blogging has been a communal event for me for a while now. The dialogues on this blog and others have taught me about who Pagans and polytheists are, how they think, and what lights a fire under them. But in terms of my personal evolutionary process I’m finding that the feedback coming from the internet — be the commenter a Christian or Pagan — necessarily gets a little big wrong about my intentions, my perspective, and my use of words. It makes me wonder how much of the identity-forming that’s taken place since I first found Paganism online and started blogging about it has been authentic, and how much of it has been an engagement with the projections that others place on me.

This is the kind of stuff I think about while I’m waiting for my eggs.

As important as it is for me to write through my experiences with this reawakening to God in Christ, it feels equally important for me to refrain from subjecting my spiritual life to an internet-wide workshopping session. It will happen to a certain degree; it already is. And that’s to be expected. But I need to remember that what I’m doing here in this discernment process is not about anybody else but me…

…and God.

Truth be told, I feel compelled to use these words — God, Christ, Jesus — and I feel somehow as though my life is being and has always been drawn into close connection to the Beings which stand behind those words, but I don’t know what that means exactly or how to explain it. It would be foolish of me to state with certainty that,

“Now I know what God is,”


“THIS is what Jesus wants for me,”


“Jesus is my best friend.”

It’s a little hazier than that, I have to trust that that’s ok.

But I do keep having these less-hazy moments when something small, or humble, or slightly broken about myself or another person will bring me into an immediate awareness of God’s presence in the world. In that moment I feel completely connected to everyone around me and fully alive in this body.

The best word to describe the feeling?


Dear Sara,

Thank you for your response. It’s delightful to read about your personal experiences with all of this. You offer a soothing, yet invigorating perspective.

ashleyrosex_ Close Cross

You asked,

“What is contradictory for you personally between Christianity and Paganism…theologically, emotionally?  Does opening the door to Christianity automatically mean shutting the door to Paganism, and if so, why?

Discussing Christian theology feels, at this point, a kind of misplacement of focus. What seems to be happening to me is an emotional and perhaps even metaphysical pull towards Jesus, God and the Gospel. It’s confusing, because I’m so used to parsing out Christianity intellectually. That’s what I did the first time around. I dug in with my head, first, and then listened to my heart.

But this feels so different. It feels as though the heart is leading, and that the heart is also being led.

I can say that I feel the immediacy of God in a new way now, and I’m using language to describe that feeling of immediacy which feels rather foreign to me. I’m saying things like, “I guess God wasn’t done with me,” or “I’m feeling called back to the Church,” or “But I was already claimed by God.” These are not the kinds of things I ever said before as a Christian. These are, in fact, the kinds of statements that would make me a little squeamish when I heard other people say them. But when I say these things now I feel like I’m speaking about something that is actually happening in my life, rather than some abstract concept or idea. It feels as real and ordinary as if I were to say, “I haven’t showered yet this morning,” or “I need to put some socks on because my feet are cold.”

This doesn’t feel like zealotry, either. I feel no compulsion to start “saving” people. Not. at. all. This immediacy feels incredibly personal, and reminds me in some ways of how I’ve heard hard polytheists speak about their Gods. And they used to wig me out a little, too, when they did that. But I don’t have any beef with them now. I actually feel like I understand them in a better way, because I’m having the sense that God is working in my life somehow just as they understand their Gods to be working in theirs.

And see, this is where it gets challenging to parse things out intellectually. I’m feeling a pull to God, a comfort in the Gospel, a challenge from the example of Jesus (all of this in a very short period of time, mind you), while at the same time feeling a deep understanding and appreciation for my polytheist friends in their experience of deity. Certain Christian doctrine and thought would seem to make that impossible or completely incompatible, but not for me.

When I’ve been in church, wrapped up in the movement of the liturgy, or when I’m considering the conciseness of the Nicene Creed and Christian cosmology (at least, the one that’s painted for me in the Episcopal service), I at once recognize that this is complete and incomplete; it is all of what is necessary to inform and enrich my own human experience, and yet it is not anywhere near complete enough to incapsulate all of what is about humanity, or life on Earth, or the Universe, or God.

To try to illustrate what I mean, I’d like to refer to a post I read on Nadia Bolz-Webber’s blog a couple days ago. The post consists of her a sermon from this last Sunday on the Gospel story in Luke about the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14). She illustrates the way in which Jesus flips the whole notion of righteousness on it’s head (which I’m down with). But then at the end of it she concludes the sermon by presenting a somewhat traditional understanding of Jesus as God made flesh/Redeemer/Savior to the sinners. Read it. You’ll see where it happens.

At that point I think: but if Jesus fucks with the paradigm of righteousness, saying that your virtue doesn’t earn you anything in the eyes of God (nor does your humility), isn’t asserting with certainty who Jesus is, or what his role is in relationship to the Human Condition yet another exercise in the righteousness that Jesus was defusing in the parable? Doesn’t defining the mystery destroy it? In the moment that Jesus is presented as the champion of Christianity rather than the One Who Comes to Mindfuck, through Love, the Christian paradigm seems smaller than Jesus, himself. Do you see what I mean?

A part of me would like for all of this to be simple: believe that Jesus is the son of God (or don’t), and believe that that means a very specific thing with very specific consequences and very specific edicts attached to it, and you’ll know how to live your life. But that part of me is minuscule when compared to the sense of God’s immediacy in my life at this moment. And the divine seems to care nothing about what I believe! My ability (or inability) to parse all of this out doesn’t make a difference. I still feel an awareness of God working in my life somehow.

And maybe that’s Grace. Maybe the message isn’t that “It doesn’t matter what you do, Jesus has washed your sin away,” but rather “It doesn’t matter what you do, you are swept up in the current of the Spirit… It is always already working in your life… You do not have to deserve it, or earn it, or justify yourself in the eyes of the divine… you are always already in a state of being loved.”

So I don’t know how to answer your question just yet. I don’t feel like I’m closing the door to Paganism, although I’m sure most Pagans would have a hard time believing that having read what I just wrote. But I feel like my Paganism is informing my reawakening to Christ, just as my time spent in the Church in my early 20’s informed my constant desire to subject all of my experiences in the Pagan community to a close exegesis of their function, meaning and relevance. I was always somewhat of a Christian when I was exploring Paganism, just as I am still somewhat of a Pagan as I respond to what feels like a call to return to the Church.

Sent with love from the inbetween,


The Truth of What Was

I was never completely committed to ADF. I didn’t finish the Dedicant Path because I was unwilling to speak out loud the final Oath. I wasn’t willing to make that kind of commitment to Paganism, or — more specifically — that significant a renouncement of my Christianity.

There were plenty of people in ADF who could see this. The leadership in the ADF Mother Grove was divided on whether or not I should be allowed to create the Solitary Druid Fellowship, not so much because they didn’t think it was a good idea but because they did not think that I was necessarily the right person to execute it. It hadn’t proved myself to the community.

At the time when I learned of their hesitation I was resentful. I thought they weren’t being progressive enough. I thought they were slow-moving, unimaginative. I thought a whole host of things that placed judgement on them. I still think that ADF moves unnecessarily slowly about certain things, but that isn’t the point. They were right. They saw something in me that I was unable to see. I was not the right man for this, and not because I couldn’t create it but because I wasn’t in it for the long haul.

You know, I almost left ADF just before the launch of the Fellowship. There was a moment when the Mother Grove questioned my investment in ADF, and I almost left. I almost took the Fellowship with me, too. I’d registered the domain, I’d reserved the Twitter handle, I’d done all of the legwork in building a website and conceiving of how the liturgical model would function. I had this moment when I realized that I didn’t really need ADF to do this.

But leaving would have created yet another splinter Pagan group, this one in my own image, and I didn’t want to do that.

tim_ellis - Splintering Brach

The Truth of What Is

I had a moment a few days ago — during church, actually — when I said to myself,

“But I was already claimed by a God. I am already His.”

It was an unusual thing for me to think. It’s not a way I ever talked about God when I was a practicing Christian, and it was also the kind of language I heard from hard polytheists that made me a little uncomfortable. That idea of being claimed always felt a little dangerous to me.

But I thought it. It made sense. It felt true.

I have been changed by my time with ADF. I can’t deny that. I have different ideas about divinity now. I’ve come to recognize, even more so than I already believed, that there are many, many ways for people to live out a meaningful spiritual life. I trust that there are some people in ADF, and in Paganism in general, who came to some Pagan tradition and thought, “This! This makes sense in my soul! This is where I belong!”

The truth of the matter is that I had that very feeling when I was in church this past weekend.

This makes sense to my soul. This is the system in which I feel most comfortable, in which I find the most richness, wherein I think there is the most room for me to grow. There is a place here for a reverence of nature. There is a place here for compassion. There is a place here to acknowledge the fullness of life, and the nuances and complexities of morality, and the gale force power of Grace. I am willing to accept that I don’t understand all there is to know about divinity, and that the Gods that other people worship — some of whom have touched my life in an immediate way — are real in ways that are mysterious to me. But when it comes down to it I’m experiencing a simple call to return to the place from which I came.

And you have to go where you feel called.

vainsang _ End of the Road

The Truth of What Is to Come

I read these words last night. They come from what The Contemplative Life website said was the most famous of Thomas Merton’s prayers:


“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.”


This is how I feel right now.

The prayer goes on to say:


“Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that

I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am

actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You

does in fact please you. …

Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost

and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for You are ever with me,

and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.


This last bit is all I can really hold onto right now. I can’t quite wrap my mind around whether or not I think that my desires to please the divine really earn me any good favor. That logic, like the idea of being claimed, feels strangely transactional and human-shaped.

But trusting in some kind of Unfolding — that is about all I can hold onto right now.

The words from Imbolc, “I keep vigil to the fire in my heart,” have always represented to me that some part of the divine was with me always, an inextricable part of me. I’ve always held that belief.

So I shall seek to continue to tend that fire, trusting that I am not alone.

Dear Sara,

I didn’t plan on going to church last weekend. It sort of just happened.

I hadn’t been in a very long time, and during my most recent visit I was only barely present. Participation in the service felt a bit like an act of treason. I’d read Pagan writers who said as much. And they must have made an impression on me, because I didn’t engage at all. I just sat and watched the Christians give themselves over to the liturgy, to the songs, and to God as though all of it was foreign to me; as though it wasn’t foundational to my spiritual identity.

But it is. And when I went to church last weekend I didn’t try to pretend otherwise. I was all in. No reservations. It didn’t matter if I didn’t believe every aspect of church doctrine. It didn’t matter to me if I took issue with the gender language. It didn’t matter if I was the only Pagan in the pews. I chose not to focus on any of that. I surrendered myself to the moment…

…and it was beautiful.


I’m not sure what changed in me that made me open to this experience. I just woke up and wanted to go. I wanted to see what it felt like, and whether it would mean anything to me. Would I — a man who’s been a very vocal Pagan in recent years, who’s tried (somewhat unsuccessfully) to adopt a polytheist theology, who’s worked to build community for other Pagans, to create a space for dialogue about Pagan issues — feel like a foreigner in church? Was there any part of me that would still feel at home in that environment?

I stopped going to church because the politics were ugly, and I was bothered by how small everyone made God out to be. If God was worth his salt, then she was beyond what anyone could imagine. God was a mystery. God was even greater than he was written about in Scripture. She was beyond all comprehension, which, itself, is an idea beyond comprehension. The Church made God small and petty, when it is really people who are small and petty.

You wrote,

“I believe spiritual journeys are wildly complex creatures.  They are not linear, they do not make logical sense – they loop back on themselves and contradict themselves.  So if this is a moment that passes away for you and you find yourself 100% (or as much as anyone can say that) Pagan, that is legit, and if you find yourself returning to the church and identifying as 100% (again, as much as anyone can) Christian, that is legit, and if you remain in a strange fluctuating inbetween world where you are both and sometimes more and sometimes less, etc, that is legit too.  Our cultural worldview doesn’t tends to affirm this.”

I think you’re right. But I find myself stuck on this idea that by having a meaningful experience in church, or by opening myself up to discussions about Jesus or his teachings (something that’s been more or less off limits in my household over the past few years) that I might no longer be Pagan. I feel like I am, and yet I cannot deny how resonant it was to me to be in that service, to sing those songs, to take the Eucharist.

A part of me wants my religious identity or my spiritual inklings to make logical sense. Binary thought is popular for a reason: it takes away a lot of the guess work. You simply are something or you’re not. There are plenty of Christians who see the world that way, and a good handful of Pagans, too.

But when it comes down to it, I don’t think I’m like that. I keep finding myself in the “inbetween world”; never either/or, but always somehow both/and.

It’s an act of faith to think that’s legit.

So I’m going to church tomorrow again.  And afterward I’ll start making plans for my Samhain ritual.

Do you ever wonder how it is that you can worship nature, or be an animist, and also be a follower of Christ? How do you hold the tension between the parts of yourself that are seemingly at odds with one another? Are they at odds, or are you just chasing the Spirit wherever it leads you?

I eagerly await your reply.

In peace,


konarheim _ eggshells

I’ve decided to close the comments at Bishop in the Grove.

It’s something I’ve considered for some time, but in recent days it’s become clear that this would be a good decision to make for my own well being. Let me explain a bit of why this seems like the right choice.

I blog about very personal things. That’s been my modus operandi since day 1. My writing is a means of processing through my ideas and my experiences, and for a long time that processing has been wide open to community discussion and involvement. By and large I’ve cherished the dialogues that have taken place here on the blog. It’s been affirmed time and time again that my own spiritual exploration mirrors that of many in the Pagan, polytheist, and even Christian communities.

Not every comment has been supportive. Some have been condescending. Other chiding. What I’m coming to discover, though, is that it doesn’t really matter whether or not the comments are positive or negative, for every comment that exists as an addendum to the writing I’ve done on the blog changes the context of the subject I’m writing about. The feedback re-contextualizes the original writing, and sometimes I find myself feeling the need to be in dialogue with this new, altered perspective rather than the experience that brought me to write in the first place (which may explain why, as some of you have pointed out, it seems that I’m unnecessarily focussed on what other people might think about my spiritual or religious life).

I’m not beyond having my opinion challenged or my perspective changed. But after three years of blogging I’ve come to understand that there is value in having the content of the blog posts I write stand alone as pieces of writing. There are other forums for conversation and dialogue, like Facebook or Twitter, and many times my posts will receive ten, twenty, or even more comments on one of those services. I think it will be better for me to have the social interaction take place on a social network and to allow the blog to simply be a publishing platform.

I’m at the beginning of something new. I’m at the start of my OBOD studies and I’m finding myself simultaneously pulled toward some kind of Christian practice (which feels both foreign and completely familiar). These new endeavors are delicate. Fragile.

Or, maybe it’s that I feel delicate and fragile, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise anymore.

My spiritual growth (as with yours) need not — or rather, cannot — be done by others. It’s my own to sort through and figure out.

And I love doing it.

That’s reason enough to write.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to offer your words here. You’ve been an undeniable part of my journey.


Photo by konarheim
Get it?

A pair a’Docs

  • I’m the kind of Pagan who hasn’t gotten rid of his Bibles.
  • I don’t think there is a single Truth any more than I think there’s only one god, but I do think there’s something which unites everything in the universe. And I’d like to imagine that this connecting force is sentient, but I don’t know that for certain.
  • I’ve built connections on the internet with other Pagans, and some of those connections have felt like “community.” But I’ve never really sustained an on-ground community with other Pagans. I think this may contribute to why it feels difficult to clearly identify at times just how I’m a Pagan. I don’t have a community of people who mirror that for me.
  • I find it difficult to have discussion about practice without having some kind of acknowledgement of belief. It feels false to me to think of the two as separate. I think they’re inherently woven together. For some belief comes first. For other practice.

I don’t know which of those people I am.

  • I feel like the best way for me to learn something new is to be a teacher, and the best way for me to teach is to be a student. This has been how I’ve approached the development of my Paganism.
  • I want to be having more conversations about morals and ethics than do many of my fellow Pagans, it seems. Discussions of morality don’t scare me, because I don’t think that morality needs to be connected to Divine Judgement. I think discussions of morality are incredibly useful for the development of a healthy society.
  • I don’t think that everything is subjective. Sometimes I want to draw a line in the proverbial sand and say — “no, that’s wrong.”

And yet I also think that drawing that is wrong.

  • Someone told me once that Goddess spirituality was born from this deep yearning for the Sacred Feminine; a principle which was absent in Western Christianity. She said,

“We just wanted a Mother.”

Her words made me remember that as a Christian I delighted in the phrase “Mother Jesus.” The idea really fucked with my perspective, and I loved that feeling of being shaken into a new way of seeing the divine.

But I’ve never really felt the kind of pull to the Goddess that I hear other Pagans talk about. I took God for granted, and I never really thought of God as a father, even if I did refer to God as “he” (which I stopped doing in my 20’s).

  • I’ve tried to make my Paganism into a religion, but I don’t think it actually functions well as a religion. It’s not defined enough. It’s not clear enough about what it is. It’s a framework — a loose framework — and maybe even a way of being, but I don’t think it’s a religion.
  • I think that polytheist reconstructionists are doing religion.
  • I have a religious nature, but the way in which I engage with religion is to get inside of it and take it apart. And I want for it to push back against me and challenge me.

I don’t know if Paganism is inherently challenging. At least, not the kind of Paganism that defaults to “whatever works for you.”

That said, I often default to that perspective because I don’t want to be judgmental. I think that you can benefit from the strengths of pluralism and still push yourself to think deeper about your assumptions, but I don’t know how many others in the Pagan community want to be challenged in that way.

  • I’m a Pagan who’s in the middle of rediscovering the impact that Jesus has had on his life. I’m also a Pagan who’s still exploring what Druidry means to him.

I’m a Pagan of paradoxes, and for now I think I’m ok with that.


Photo by Camera Eye Photography

gaspi_ Chapel Glass

  • I used to sing with my eyes closed. There were a few hymns at Christmas time that really did if for me. I sang harmonies a little louder than good taste would call for. Sometimes the priest would sing the Eucharist, and I knew every melody. I’d sing along quietly to myself, just under my breath.
  • I was the parishioner who showed up early to get a good seat.
  • I was the one who raised his hand in the Adult Forum class and said, “But, wait….”
  • I was the guy doing Morning Prayer alone in the chapel on a Tuesday evening.
  • I didn’t understand why certain biblical passages needed to be read. The church I belonged to, the Episcopal church, organizes its Sunday readings around a rotating three-year liturgical calendar. This insures that every church in the denomination is reading and reflecting on the same passages at roughly the same time. It forges a kind of unity that I was attempting to replicate (albeit loosely) with the formation of the Solitary Druid Fellowship.

My confusion about the passages, though, had more to do with their discontinuity. I felt like the imposition of this liturgical structure forced the priest to take great leaps when making meaning out of the ancient text. Her bias was always present. And some passages simply were impossible to reconcile.

  • I bowed when the cross passed by my pew. I didn’t know why at first, or who I was doing that for (aside from myself).

Acts of reverence like this aren’t always for the benefit of a benevolent god. They’re an extension of practice. They teach you something. They allow you to embody the experiences of respect and humility. There’s great value in that.

  • I spoke the Confession of Sin tentatively at times, and passionately at others. I was never really sold on the idea that my sin was of my birth, or that I was fatally flawed. The transactional savior concept was a little lost on me. But that didn’t mean I didn’t appreciate the opportunity to own up to all of myself, even the stuff I didn’t want to admit to. The Confession was an invitation into wholeness.
  • I loved picking apart the Gospel of Mark, becuase it rooted the story of Jesus in a specific culture. It broke apart some of the illusion that all of the Bible is essentially “one story”. That’s such a small way of thinking, and it isn’t true.
  • I thought the Historical Jesus was interesting, but I still wanted him to a be a little bit God.
  • I got angry at fundamentalism.
  • I felt angry that there was some expectation that as a gay Christian I had an even greater responsibility to show good face. My gayness was even more political than if I was churchless. That seemed profoundly unfair to me.

I wanted to have sex. I wanted to feel love. I wanted the stories about sex and love to be about me, too.

  • I had a really difficult time during Lent. I felt heavy. Sorrowful. Holy Week was the worst…

But Easter was amazing.

  • I was the kind of Christian who didn’t fit comfortably into any pre-fab molds. At least, it didn’t feel that way. I was always a little on the outside.

That is…except during the Eurcharist.

I knew I was always welcome then.


Coming soon: The Kind of Pagan I Am


Photo by gaspi *yg

I’m overwhelmed with thoughts of Jesus.

Jesus and God and Christianity and the Lord’s Prayer and compassion and forgiveness and hope and judgement and freedom from judgement and all of the things which made (and make) me feel connected to the Sacred.

I don’t know what to do with all of this.

andormix _ Jesus

It started when I saw a woman sitting on the sidewalk next to her shopping cart. She was filthy and small, and she looked deeply tired. Bringing her food I asked,

“How are you?”

She looked up at me, a bit surprised at having been spoken to or asked after. She thought for a moment.

“I’m recovering,” she said somberly.

My heart broke a little. It wasn’t the response I expected. It was so vulnerable, and honest. Her statement felt unfathomably large, as though she was recovering from all of the things that had ever been done to her.

She seemed grateful for the attention, and for the food.

“God bless you,” she said, sincerely.

My heart broke some more.

I headed off, feeling heavier in my boots.

Further down the path, I heard the call of a crow. I looked up and saw it sitting on top of a telephone pole. I thought of the Morrigan.

Remember me.

I felt a bit jarred. The crow seemed to take notice, and then began to fly.

I walked in the direction of the crow, uncertain. Walking in the other direction on the opposite side of the street was a man holding a book under his arm. There was a yarmulka on his head. He looked at me, probing. Are you a part of my tribe? I looked similar to many of the Orthodox men walking through the neighborhood, but not an exact match. Close, but not close enough.

The words sink a little deeper.

Am I a part of his tribe?

There is this dialogue running in me that keeps returning to the religion of my youth and young adulthood; to the man who was the subject of so many of my conversations. There is also my Paganism, built and cultivated over the past four or five years. It is young and lacking the same kind of deep root system I developed in my Christianity, but it is still a part of me now.

My Druidic studies are calling me to look at the world as an enchanted, alive, vibrant and magical place. There’s a shortage of that perspective these days. Meditating on these ideas brings me peace. But then I see someone who is broken, or damaged, or simply doing their best to not fall apart, and I think back to the lessons of compassion and kindness I learned in the Church. I feel compelled to love other people without reservation. I feel compelled to offer them respite. I feel compelled to feed them, to care for them, to treat them with dignity and respect.

These are the desires that rise up out of my memories of the Lord’s Prayer, or the stories of Jesus. These are the principles that I valued about my Christianity.

And I don’t know what to do with all of this reflection, or how to talk about it. I don’t think I’m becoming a hard-core or born again Christian, or even a Christo-Pagan. But there is a softening inside of me that feels directly connected to Jesus and to the language of mystical and contemplative Christianity.

Just the other day, after a similar encounter with an old woman on the street in Portland, I had the thought —

“I’m going to go ahead and believe in God.”

The thought came into my head before I could censor it.

A few days later I polished a Celtic cross that I’d picked up a few years back. It’s a replica of one I saw on pilgrimage in Ireland, the place where I first found Brighid. I hung the cross around my neck beside my Awen and acorn pendants. It’s still hanging there at this moment.

So there’s this softening to Jesus, and a confusion about what that means, and — in no small way — a concern about how this occurrence will be perceived by others.

Will Pagans see this as proof that I was never really one of them? Will Christians see this as proof that God is calling me back to the Church?


Photo by  Isaac Torrontera

publicenergy _ Cow

To meat or not to meat.

That, apparently, is a hot button issue.

I brought it up yesterday on Facebook and Twitter (rather apolitically, I might add).

That was it. What followed, particularly in the thread of comments on Facebook, could have, with less civil participants, been yet another battle in what what one friend termed, the “Paganinvore War”.

Thankfully, it was not.

People get really heated over the question of whether or not to eat meat. It’s charged. It brings up a whole host of topics that I hadn’t considered when I updated my status (i.e. privilege, cultural traditions, cruelty, sustainability, etc). My accidental slip into vegetarianism, a way of eating that I took on for nearly 6 years at one point in my life, happened just before falling to sleep…. on the eve of World Vegetarian Day, no less.

“I probably shouldn’t eat meat,” I said to my husband, a vegetarian for over 20 years.

That was it. I’d eaten a lamp gyro earlier in the day, and then I thought about lambs, and then it didn’t feel right to eat lamb gyros.

Simple as that.

I think it’s important to note that my husband has lived in many different financial situations during his life as a vegetarian. I wouldn’t normally think to include something like that here, but I read a number of arguments in support of meat eating that seemed to paint all vegetarians as rich, privileged Westerners. My husband lived off of lentils and brown rice for a good stretch of time. He could have spent that money on cheap meat, but he chose not to.

And ugh…. This is where it seems to get complicated. I’m doing what I read others do on my thread, and what I think might be a behavior that makes it so difficult to talk about food choices. I’m getting defensive. I’m justifying my husband’s choices. I’m making my case.

I’m a big believer in making the choices you can or want (depending on your situation) to make. I’ve been eating meat for a good while, in part because I’ve thought it made me feel better, physically, and also because I just enjoy the taste of meat. But I’ve also made the choice not to think about what I was eating from time to time, or where that food had originated. In a way, I think it’s been necessary for me to do so in order to feel ok with some of my choices.

I don’t think that willful denial is really a responsible way to live.

People should eat how they want to eat, and in certain cases we eat what we can eat. (I mean, I was a big consumer of potted meat on white bread sandwiches when I was a little kid. That stuff was cheap and delicious.) But we also need to be honest about where our food comes from. All of us. That means the vegetarians who live on nothing but beans and rice, as well as the vegetarians who eat nothing but high priced meat substitutes. Same goes for the meat eaters. Those who eat the meat from Wendy’s need to have a sense of where their food comes from, as does the guy paying a truckload of money for that cut of organic, grass-fed cow.

I have to assume that, having not developed a relationship with a farmer/rancher which enabled me to source where my food was coming from, I have been complicit in an industry that I would consider (if I had the opportunity to observe it from a close distance) inhumane. If I’m going to eat meat that comes from that industry, I think I need to own up to that fact.

What I don’t want to become, however, is someone who shames other people into taking on the same way of thinking. If I reach the conclusion that I’m going to refrain from eating meat I have to make that decision for myself. I can’t hold it over someone else. And if I decide to keep eating meat I need to own that decision as well. Shame can come from either direction, and I’d rather not become someone who cultivates a practice of shaming others for their choices.

Be the change, right?

(Gandhi was a vegetarian, by the way.)

I need to — paraphrasing the Pope — reach for what is good, as I conceive of what good is.

“That would be enough to make the world a better place.”

So for now I’m going to hold off the lamb gyros. I’m going to beef up (no pun intended) on my bean intake. There are a lot of ways to get your protein, after all.

And, no doubt, I’m going to sit back and watch as more of my readers and friends explain what motivates their dietary choices. The discussion on my Facebook post was insightful, and wonderfully civil.

Carry on.

P.S. I kind of love the Pope.



Awen - ObodIt’s official. I’m (re)starting the Bardic studies through OBOD.

The materials have been in my possession since 2009. I’ve had them stored on a number of different shelves, loaded onto a variety of audio devices (some of which are now outdated), and they’ve survived two local and one cross country move. In short, this “storehouse of wisdom” has been right beside me, untouched, for long enough. It’s time to do the work.

And I’m not going to be doing it alone. That’s perhaps the most exciting aspect of this new course of study. I’ve made a friend here in Portland, a person I met through OBOD’s private social network, and he and I are going to be synchronously working our way through the Bardic grade.

This is a big change for me. I’m used to my spiritual work being done in relative isolation, but I’m not sure that was ever the best approach for me. I’m a social person; an extrovert. While I value the work that can be done in solitude, and I believe wholeheartedly that one must engage deeply with that solitude in order to make the best of it (I wouldn’t have pushed so hard to create the Solitary Druid Fellowship if didn’t), I know now that I need to establish a meaningful social connection to support my spiritual work.

My friend and I will be relying quite extensively on a tool called Evernote to do this shared work. I don’t normally write about technology on Bishop in the Grove, but I thought it may be useful to those of you who are seeking to do collaborative work, either through OBOD, ADF, or some other Druidic study program, to learn about this service.

Here’s the skinny from Wikipedia:

Evernote is a suite of software and services designed for note-taking and archiving. A “note” can be a piece of formatted text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten “ink” note. Notes can also have file attachments. Notes can be sorted into folders, then tagged, annotated, edited, given comments, searched and exported as part of a notebook.


Elephants remember everything.

I’ve been using Evernote for a little over a year. I write songs in it. I capture images of things I’ve scribbled down on scraps of paper. I draft blog posts and emails in it. I record audio notes in it. Evernote, more so than any other cloud-based service I’ve tried, has become a kind of “catch all” for the myriad of things I want to remember.

But Evernote goes beyond being a simple note-taking service, because Evernote allows for your notebooks to be shared with other Evernote users. My friend and I will be able to write about our reflections on the Gwers (Welsh for lessons), upload any artistic creations that have been inspired by our bardic study work, and create notes that serve to inspire and encourage one another along the journey. We’ll still be doing the work independently from one another, but Evernote will allow us to check in with each other’s work online. From time to time — maybe once a week when I’m in Portland — we’ll get together in person to touch base about our studies.

This is also a change for me. I’m quite used to fostering relationship around my spiritual work almost exclusively online, and I’m a bit out of practice at doing this in the on-ground world. After having spent so much of the past few years forging relationships and building structures online I think it’s time for me to invest myself in a Druidry that connects me to my community and to the place where I live.

Ironically, I’ll be using an internet-based tool to help me do that!

I’m a big Evernote fan. There are bunch of ways that this tool is useful. I’ve barely scratched the surface in this post. I’m sharing this information with you because I think that collaborative, organizational tools like this can really help people who have a lot of different projects to manage and who find it challenging to keep track of them all — especially when one of those projects is the work of their own spiritual development.

It’s been an amazing tool for me. Perhaps it could come in handy for you, too.

Give it a try. Let me know what you think.

aloha_75 - Walk with me

In yesterday’s post on The Wild Hunt I talked about Awen and about my creative process. It wasn’t standard fare for that site, and not the most widely read and shared post that I’ve written, but it was a very natural thing for me to write about.

A song is little more than a conversation between the songwriter and the listener. The more honest the songwriter can be about her truth, the more deeply the words will connect with the listener. A song can be a testimonial, a sermon, a proclamation, a confession, or a plea, but a song is never a monologue. There is always the listener, and though the listener may not be able to communicate directly with the songwriter she is processing what she hears; translating it, transmuting it, absorbing it, becoming it or rejecting it. As the songwriter has undergone a personal transformation in the process of writing the song, so, too, will the listener undergo a similar process when she hears the final work. The more raw the former, the more impactful the latter.

I write songs. It’s my gig. For about 1/3 of every month I’m in Los Angeles writing, doing work in the ever-evolving Music Industry, and I really enjoy it.

When I started this blog I was of the mindset that there needed to be a separate space for me to do my spiritual work. I couldn’t allow overlap with the promotional work I was doing around the release of my album. That could get messy. Too many people were invested in the success of the project for me to put that in jeopardy by being transparent, I though. But what I’m coming to discover is that there is really is no way to avoid overlap.

You don’t have your “spiritual life” in a vacuum. You are all of the things that you are, pretty much all the time.

At least, that’s my experience.

For me, my creative process opens up spiritual understanding. And many times my spiritual explorations lead to creative inspiration. It’s interesting to me that I was so desperate to compartmentalize my life when I started this blog considering that many of my songs are directly influenced by different periods of my religious life. You can’t extract my spirituality from my music. Just ain’t gunna happen.

So why keep the music apart from my spiritual work?

That’s a question I’m asking myself as I think about the future of Bishop in the Grove.

Over the past few months my life has been reshaped in very interesting ways. I’m no longer affiliated with any particular tradition, although I am opening myself up to the Bardic Grade studies of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). I’m living in a new city, meeting new people, and finding that just around every corner of this luscious, green place there is some perfectly ordinary, yet totally pagan joy to be experienced. I mean, there is street-side composting here! People know where their food comes from (see Portlandia episode 1 for proof). It’s almost as though this entire town is kind of pagan in practice, even if it isn’t Pagan in identity.

So there’s all of this newness in my life, which includes a newfound sense of presence in my creative work. When I go to LA to write I feel like I am doing exactly what I should be doing with my life. My writing feels certain. Solid. I feel in total alignment as a person when I’m in that creative space, and I won’t accept that that sense of alignment isn’t also connected to my Druidry.

It was the emphasis on creativity that first led me to OBOD. They start you on the Druid path by encouraging you to invest more in your creativity; to find the Awen and come to better know how it can move though your life; to help you become a bard.

And if there was anything I think I was made for, it’s that. I mean, I am already a bard, in a modern sense. This is what I do. This is what I have always done. I’m curious if there’s a way to re-contextualize the songwriting work as “bardic expression”; to sort of reverse-engineer my perspective about the spiritual nature of creativity.

I think this is a good way to move forward. I think this is the direction the Awen is moving, if you will. It moves toward greater integration. It moves toward a deepening of practice by way of investing in the practices that encourage feelings of love and wholeness.

This will be the direction I walk, friends. I hope you will walk with me.

Photo by Sam Howzit

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