Greetings everyone! Welcome to the first installment of Ask a Christian – an ongoing article series where I will answer any questions you may have on bridging the gap between Paganism and Christianity. Whether it’s about personal relationships, how to handle dealing with someone stubborn or close-minded or just general curiosity I’ll do my absolute best to give you finest answer I can. So let’s tackle a few of these, shall we?
"I'm thinking about 'coming out of the broom closet' to my friends, most of which are Christian. What's a good way to go about this? Will they still want to be friends with me?"
Talking about your personal faith with others, especially when you know they don’t share the same views, can always be intimidating. You want to be accepted for the way you are communing with the divine, just as you respect the way your friends practice their faith. Telling them depends on your personality and theirs but there are some simple tips you can try.
Your best option is to just talk to them one-on-one with honesty and understanding, and expect the same respect from them. Try and set up something to do where you won’t be distracted while you talk. Maybe invite them over for lunch, or go out to eat at a place you’ll have a nice, quiet area. Doing it in person is always best – so much communication is in body language and it can get muddled over the phone or worse, through text.
Be honest with them, and just let them know, “Hey, there is something exciting going on in my life and wanted to share it with you.” Let them know you value their friendship and want them to be a part of your life. Some people may react warmly to this new information, and you should probably expect some questions, even if they are from a curiosity standpoint. It will be a great way to talk about all the intricacies of your faith and what you hold dear. Always remember to treat people with the same respect that you expect from them: you wouldn’t want them disparaging your beliefs, so make sure you don’t criticize theirs in the process. And then, go have fun and do something together. Watch a movie, play a game – whatever you like to do with your friends to show them that this doesn’t change anything but the way you commune with the divine.
Unfortunately, some people out there are not as kind and open-minded as others. You may have someone react negatively or defensively to this new revelation. Don’t abandon hope though: some people are just shocked by change and need some time to come around. A lot of times Christians are unfortunately taught some pretty ridiculous things about Pagans that simply aren’t true but are ingrained in them nonetheless. They probably have a lot of misinformation and preconceived ideas about your faith that is causing this negative reaction. Ask your friend “What does being Pagan look like to you? What do you think that we do?” and let them answer that question. Address the wrong information they have about your faith and explain to them what you do believe. A lot of times this can bring them to a better place of understanding and ultimately acceptance.
If you do happen to have a friend or two that cannot cope with someone of a different faith and constantly seek to correct, convert or disparage you my best piece of advice is this: get rid of them. A true friend can accept the things about another person that may not be true about themselves. You wouldn’t keep a friend who demanded you only ate the same foods they did, or only watched the TV shows they liked, so why would you tolerate someone who only accepts the faith that they have? If you have tried to connect with them and they cannot move past your difference in faiths, you are much better off finding someone who can appreciate every part of who you are. There are plenty of people who don’t get hung up on religion and are more than happy to bond over a love of comic books, cooking or whatever nifty hobby you may have.
"I'm getting married this summer to a great guy. The problem is, my family are Pagans and his family are Christian. What are some ways we could incorporate elements of both faiths to make our families feel included?"
First of all, congratulations on your upcoming marriage!
Now your wedding should be a celebration of your love and mutual commitment to each other. Plan the things that are important to both of you rather than worrying about how others are going to perceive it. To help everyone feel included, perhaps a small program about the significance of each element of your wedding can be handed out to each guest. This way the components and ceremony of your wedding can be understood on both sides of the aisle and everyone has a charming keepsake from the joyous event.
For example, if you decide on doing a handfasting ribbon custom, the Christian side of the aisle may be confused as to what is happening and lose some of the meaning. A small excerpt in program about the historical and religious connotations of this wonderful tradition would help pull them into the fold and educate them all at the same time. Make it personal as to why it’s important to you and your future spouse too.
Honestly, most people come to a wedding to celebrate the happy couple and snag some tasty food at the reception. Make things that include everyone by just having fun: I don’t know many people who won’t get up a bust a move to the Chicken Dance no matter what faith they are. Just enjoy the moment by doing things that make you happy and most people will fall in line and have a great time with you.
If you have family on either side that are uncomfortable attending a wedding where such a fusion of faiths will be taking place, politely inform them that this is what is important to you and your partner on your special day. Let them know this is something very personal to you two, and you hope they can put aside their disagreement and be happy for you. If they refuse to budge, express your condolences that they will be unable to attend, but you hope that they change their mind before the RSVPs are due. Sometimes you’ll find people are just full of bluster and hope to change your mind with idle threats. If not, it’s probably best they don’t attend, as the focus should be on the happy couple and not a sulking aunt scowling in the corner.
"I was raised a Christian, but lately I've been researching Wicca and there are some things I really agree with. Can I be both? Does that make me weird?"
Kudos to you for broadening your horizons and learning about the faiths of other people! If more people did that instead of staying in their own bubble they’d find a lot of admirable things about people of other faiths; even if they don’t agree with 100% of it. I bet if you checked into a lot of different faiths you could at least find one or two things you agreed with as well. It doesn’t make you weird – it just means you’re willing to have an open mind when looking at the beliefs of others.
Now there is nothing to say that you can’t take tenants of multiple faiths that you hold dear and follow them. I know plenty of Christians who fuse a Buddhist look on things and they would identify as both. It all depends on how you view what the core tenants of that particular faith and whether you believe and follow them. If you find one tenant disagrees with another, it’s time for some soul searching to see what you feel is right for you. That’s the thing about faith: it’s completely personal. Because of that you get to decide what you believe and how you interpret what the divine communicates to you.