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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
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  • Rory

    Who was telling you that you cannot value Jesus and the Morrigan? This seems to me similar to separatist lesbians I knew of in the mid-1980′s who asked the newer lesbians to denounce previous loves they may have had because they were men. Some people can readily discard their pasts like so much shed skin and some preserve that part of themselves as heartwood.

    No one else should get a vote in how you grow.

  • JasonMankey

    Welcome to the Christo-Pagan wars. Though he and I parted ways years ago I’ve always felt as if there was room for him within Modern Paganism. Deity calls, we listen, and we don’t always have much control over who calls.

    Christianity has a long history as an esoteric faith (if you know where to look), one full of magick and mystery. Good luck on the next step of your journey.

  • Amber Rienna Lemmon

    I don’t see how the two have to be mutually exclusive. Yes, the Ten Commandments says we are to have no other gods before God… But the Bible also says He is known by many names. It begs the question “if one lives and dies never having known the Christian God, does that mean God never spoke to them?” Or, if we are all truly God’s children, does it matter what name we call upon? Who are we to say that the Christian God and the Pagan Morrigan aren’t part of the same divine source? At the end of the day, you followed your heart and it led with compassion. I know of no religion that holds the monopoly on that. :)

    • T

      The Bible states there is no other name by which men can be saved.

      • Tasha Rose

        And the Bible was written by fallible men.

  • Princess of Dork

    The Christian God, in all of His aspects, is just another deity, really. There’s nothing wrong with honoring Whoever calls to you.

  • Kevin

    There is only one God, who is gently calling to you, who sent his son to die on the cross for you. He loves you man.

  • Shawnee Johnson

    I am glad you were brave enough to post this, Teo. I’ve been feeling this conflict lately as well. The difference for me is that I have no roots in Christianity, besides those given to us by our culture and repeated exposure to a majority religion. I can’t shake the feeling that there is worth there. For many years I had a sense of revoltion from reading the word “God.” It confused me. I didn’t know why I had such strong feelings about it. I embraced Paganism at a young age and have been blessed by experiences that I have no words for, but for the last two years I have been drawn to some aspects of Christianity. Especially the love and community that I see in some churches. I’m drawn to that sense of family and kindness, compassion for others. But I have identified so much to being Pagan, that I fear what others would think. Especially my significant other, as he is an athiest who grew up in the bible-belt and doesn’t much care for Christians for reasons I’m sure we’ve all heard a thousand times. I will never be able to believe in a judgemental God who damns people to a firey pit. And I do not care for the notion of sins or Satan. But a balanced, compassionate Christianity holds great appeal to me. So many of our ancestors held dual faiths with no qualms about it, I almost feel a nod of approval. I’ve also been drawn to Brigid and her flame burns brightly in my heart. I could never give her up. I feel she is quietly guiding me this way. You know, she was known as the “foster-mother of Jesus” and is said in one myth to have been midwife to Mary. These stories were quite healing for me. Maybe you’d be interested, too.

  • fenifuego

    Follow your truth, wherever it leads. Blessings.

  • Adrian Guerra

    Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me

  • Stacey Lawless

    This sounds familiar. I think one of the drawbacks to contemporary Paganism is that it lacks much social support for developing compassion or ties to the wider community. There are many compassionate Pagans who reach out, it’s just that the culture as a whole doesn’t prioritise it. Christianity does, though unfortunately many Christians seem to overlook that part.

    The beautiful thing about compassionate work is that it doesn’t have to operate under the aegis of any faith in particular. The beautiful thing about God is that God doesn’t either. I can’t see myself returning to any Christian orthodoxy, but I made my peace with the religion; my spiritual work puts me in contact with saints and Catholics, and I’m fine with it, though my own path is basically Pagan.

    I can say I have never felt judged by God (only loved).

    Anyway, do what you need to do, be the road ever so hard.

  • Peter Dybing

    What I see is proof that divinity manifests in a multitude of ways. Being Pagan opens our minds to the fundamental truths in many paths.

  • http://foodponderings.blogspot.com/ Heather J

    I think many people come to Paganism as a form of rebellion. I know I did, and while I still don’t think of Jesus as deity still, I don’t dismiss the influence that his teachings had on me, as I consider him a very wise man. Those veins still run deep within me. I can’t deny what kind of influence Christianity had on me, either, so why should I? If you want to consider him part of your spiritual practice, who am I to say not to?

  • oly65

    Jesus was a great teacher of humanity ,There is nothing wrong with being Pagan and loving Jesus and what he stood for.. I personally don’t like in what I call the franchising of Jesus and God ..Because to me that is exactly what he fought against and thought wrong of Judaism. Just be you =)

  • Leah

    I recently had a personal revelation regarding Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice. It’s messing with my head a little, because i don’t think of myself as believing in Christ at all. But if I’m truly maintaining an open mind, then should I really shut it to anyone with good things to say?

  • LisaSpiral Besnett

    Why wouldn’t an enchanted, alive, vibrant and magical world have enough room for all expressions of the Divine? If you are open to noticing, without bias to form, why would the form be limited? People will make assumptions about what you do and do not believe. This just let’s you know more about their frame of reference. You have chosen a path that allows yours more flexibility. There is no “One Right Way.” Walk in spirit my friend, however it finds you.

  • Áine

    The Jewish faith started out henotheist, until the Jewish peoples were under the yoke of a Zoroastrian ruler. I can see no reason why you can’t see and appreciate the beauty in Abrahamic faiths without accepting, /exclusively/, their tenets. At least, it seems to work for me, anyway.

    The Divine has many faces and many forms. The world, the universe, the multiverse are alive, are vibrant, are mystical, sublime, and magical. There is room enough for Jesus *and* Brighid. There is as much room as your heart makes for Them.

  • Conor O’Bryan Warren

    Teo,

    If I have read everything of yours correctly it is clear to me what is going on. You left Christianity because it hurt you, because it put your place as an Episcopalian up to a vote, you felt singled out and excluded. Eventually you found Paganism and Druidry, yet still felt yourself longing in some small way for the faith of your childhood and eventually this turned into looking for ‘a way back’ so to speak. So now you are at a crossroads aren’t you? A turning point, maybe a realization that we can’t have it all.

    Honestly, I don’t think you can have it all. You either believe that Jesus is the way to Salvation or you don’t. If you believe he is the way to Salvation, you are a Christian, if you don’t you aren’t. Are you going to be a Christian with Pagan influences or a Pagan with Christian influences? You could try to abandon the influences completely of one or the other I s’pose but I don’t think you can do it [and I don't mean that in a bad way!]. You just have to make a choice on who you are going to call your fellows because I think you and I both know that you aren’t going to be able to be heavily active in both.

    • Griffin

      Even open minded Christians are pretty specific about Jesus. He’s kind of the core. Right or wrong, political or not. I think Conor is right. You can’t have it both ways, but that doesn’t mean one can’t influence the other.

  • Michael Strojan

    The experiences you related here are very moving and cut to the core of what humanity is, that same reality that Jesus conveys through his actions in scripture. These are not unique to Christianity and, clearly, are available to any one of us who open our hearts to the numinous beauty of our world. What Jesus means to you is as unique as anyone else who has heard his name throughout history – if it’s through his name and meditating on how he’s touched others that touches you, that’s great! Jesus isn’t anyone’s property, not even Christians’. Godhead, as I’ve come to understand, is very big country where each of us can have our own piece of land and sit on the porch seeing the same beauty of the world expressed in many different ways. Anyone who can experience what you experienced is a Christian in my book, and that doesn’t mean having to accept a collection of books written 1,900 years ago.

  • http://leithincluan.wordpress.com/ Leithin Cluan

    I have a very long Christian history. I’ve found that I can’t just give it up. For me, it got redirected into relationships with the saints, and a sort of redefined relationship with Jesus, who I now consider a teacher and positive example. Other Pagans may have different types of relationships with the Christian god or with Jesus. I don’t see any contradiction here with my polytheism. I believe that all the gods exist. Not all of them want a relationship with me, and I don’t want a relationship with all of them. But if the Christian god called me back into his service, I somehow don’t imagine my household gods (who include the Morrigan) would mind. They’ve never objected to me going to church occasionally or using the Bible in hoodoo work. My gods understand polytheism – and of course, they would! There are Pagans who honour Christianity or the Christian god in many different ways. (Have you read Mark Townsend’s new book ‘Diary of a Heretic’? You might find it helpful here.)

  • Random

    I believe much of “pagandom” has bought into the “evil Xtian” mindset. To this day they blame all ills on Christian churches and practically hang out the garlic when anyone utters anything positive about the faith. There does seem to be a barrier between being a good pagan and admiring and accepting Christianity as an equally valid path. At least in the US. I think this division is not so strong elsewhere.
    I agree with posts above that we can appreciate the teachings and other things about Christianity without losing our paganism. Hate and hiving off into our own little insular religions is obviously not working. I guess what really needs examining is why we find the need to do so instead of freely and willingly embracing everything that is out there–to have our own individual ways, but to understand there is nothing special or superior about them and we are all just a dew drop on the web of life.

  • BrotherEDEN

    Teo. The most appropriate thing I can say is ‘thank you’ for being HONEST in your continual evolution. Everyone seems to be vested in their way being THE way.., and it keeps us separate and afraid to just entertain another’s journey. Remember my introduction to you was through your work on UNSPOKEN and the lyrics of those early songs still inform me, today, on my journey. BE ALL YOU WERE CREATED TO BE. Every part of you is a Blessing.

  • http://spinningofthewheel.wordpress.com/ Áine Órga

    I find it interesting that one of the most overwhelming concerns about this is how it will be perceived by others. And while I can understand this instinct, I think it must come secondary to following whatever you truly intuitively feel. This is not to say that I’m underestimating the difficulty in reconciling these very different impulses. But I say go with it – see where it takes you – and hang what anyone thinks.

  • Chef Ette

    I agree with most of the comments here….honor which ever deity calls you and feels right in your heart. try not to be confused just go with it. It should only matter to you and no one elses business what path you follow. No one is going question your beliefs except the people who don’t approve of Paganism to begin with and poo on them. Just remember the glass house and stones saying and hold you head high. Blessings always.

  • Aine O’Brien

    I believe in believing in what you believe. The only questions to ask are “do I believe this?” and “What do I really believe?” Let’s face it, no one knows what The Truth and if, when we do find out, most, if not all of us will be surprised. It will be like the end of a twilight zone episode. For now, though, I think that many of us are moving away from limiting, restrictive systems, and the gods/spirits are taking advantage of our open minds. Imagine a world where people allowed others to have their own beliefs? Wars would end. Minds would open. Souls would be freed. I think you are being called to have an experience. Maybe you should just allow it to happen, just experience it. Then decide.

  • Tami Olsen

    I have been in that same place, thinking those same thoughts. I’ll put forth an idea that isn’t (from what I’ve read) yet discussed in these comments…

    Psychology has tons of data on how the experiences we have as children shape who we are. The associations we build as children are powerful and rooted in a consciousness that seems more… primal.

    If you grew up associating Christianity with compassion and forgiveness, then you’re going to have a hard time throwing off those feelings. In times of great stress or hardship, those feelings will often surface.

    It is perhaps not Christianity itself that you’re missing, but the devotion that you had as a child. Children feel things with their whole hearts, and it leaves its mark.

  • Oak Abbey

    There is beauty and blessedness in the Between.
    And the transparency of your expression is a gift.
    Thank you.

  • Elijah Levi Brown

    Christianity as has been passed down is pagan at it’s very core so I can understand the draw to the g0d-man idea and mystical teachings found in the greek testament .

  • Griffin

    When I was Wiccan, one of my favourite Wiccan authors returned to the Catholic church. I couldn’t blame him. Community, consistency, music, poetry, art, tradition. I prayed to the Christian god but never got a response, or else I would probably be there now.

    The Pagan community isn’t maturing – or maybe, just isn’t maturing as fast as we’d like. The majority are caught up with the status quo (very un-Witch-like, if you ask me), and the ego involved isn’t letting go. I have recently removed myself from my local community, because I felt I had three options: disagree with the status quo and try to change it, go along with the status quo, or walk away. For the first time in 20 years of being a pagan, I have a magical name for anonymity – so I can talk online with other pagans, without being traced back to who I am. It was maddening to see new comers only listen to the self proclaimed High/Priest/ess, even if that person was a twit.

    If I were into Celtic stuff, I’d be a hardcore OBODite. I did the Bardic studies years ago, and it changed my life. It is a community where the organizers seem to have so little ego, and sincerely want to appear as encouraging peers. Instead, for now, I’m just getting used to a life with no labels beyond Pagan and Witch.

  • Dee

    I could have written what you posted. I like to say I am a pagan who is very fond of Jesus, but it’s closer to the truth to say that there are pieces and parts and beliefs and practices of all the major religions that ring true to me. And plenty of those things that don’t. I think my aversion to organized religion is that in order to participate with other people, I think I have to buy-in to the whole thing. The whole thing never feels right to me, so now I’m trying to learn how to go with my intuitive gut-feelings and not worry about the rest.

  • Leona Oigheag

    It may be that you’re being called back to the Church, but I don’t see that as moving away from your path. In the last year that I have known you, I have seen you learn and understand more about individuals’ relationship with religion.

    I was raised Roman Catholic, and left the Church when I was 15. I returned for a while when I was in college because I needed that feeling of belonging again. Earlier this year I spent some time with Momma Starr, a Christian root worker, and she helped me to realize that some Christians can get along just fine with pagans … and have some amazing conversations that accept that all gods are accepted, if not worshiped.

    Maybe you are being called to be a Christian again, maybe not. I faced that decision a few months ago and decided that I was a pagan … but your choice may be different.

    You are who you are, and being an amazing person is independent of religion.

  • Jason

    Oddly enough, I have also felt pulled back into my prior Christian beliefs within the last few weeks. I’m not really sure what it is, but I think some of it has to do with trying to simplify my beliefs. One of the things that drove me away was the legalism and never feeling good enough, but I’m seeing a different side of it all now from the outside. As long as I focus on the force of Love (something I always felt while praying my rosary and meditating upon the mysteries of Jesus) then maybe there is more to it. One of the few places I feel at peace is Mass and maybe that’s because I belong there. I guess what I have felt is a gradual acceptance of a unitarian approach where everyone is called to follow the Divine, whatever it is, based on their own means, circumstances and destination on the spiritual spectrum. If the way I most fully experience the Divine is through Christ and his Church, then maybe I should just accept it and try to enjoy the Mystery…