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