The most common response I hear when I tell people I am pagan is “Oh, you should come to my church some time. You know, just to see what it’s all about.” In fact, many pagans I know go out of their way to avoid directly referring to themselves as pagans just to avoid having that awkward conversation. I’ve had several people ask me how I can be so comfortable telling people outright that I’m pagan, considering the stigma, misinformation, and prejudice that is still present today. It’s because I have the perfect response to the attempts to convert me. See, I already tried that.
Before I was born, my parents joined a cult. Of course, they don’t call themselves a cult. They don’t even call themselves a church or Christian. But they are all of those things. The result is that my childhood was… interesting. We went to church 3x a week. I did bible studies, and memorized scripture, and participated in door-to-door witnessing from as early an age as I can remember. There wasn’t any poison-spiked kool-aid, or polygamy going on, and I was terribly disappointed to find out that there was not, in fact, a machine gun hidden under all of our beds. But it was a cult nonetheless, and I realized much later in life, after I had left, just how much of my childhood was rife with emotional and mental abuse. It’s taken me years to undo some of the conditional thinking I was taught since birth. And you know what? I still don’t regret it.
That’s the part that people have trouble understanding. I’m not bitter. I’m not angry. Some of the things I experienced were horrible. Some of them were wonderful. That’s life. And every experience I had is a piece of me. It’s the film on which my truest self was developed. And I happen to actually like myself.
So when people ask me to come to their church, I can say no with confidence. Without anger, but without hesitation. I already know what it’s about. And yes, I know that not all churches are as extreme as the one I was raised in. But they’re not all that different, either.
The simple truth is that I never “converted” to paganism. It wasn’t some choice I made to piss off my parents when I left the church. It’s something that has been within me for my entire existence. It just took me a little longer to hear the song of the Earth for what it was.
The point is, all of these experiences have driven one thing home to me. Being a pagan is still so stigmatized within our society. Sure, we’re allowed to have our “quirky” ways, as long as we stay in our lane of hush-hush silly nonsense branded under modern terms like “manifestation” and “high vibrations.” The minute we want to join a more serious religious conversation, the automatic assumption is that we should want to convert, because we don’t understand what we’re missing out on. Because it’s easier to belong. It’s comfortable to be accepted. So many of us avoid those conversations. We shy away from standing up and saying, “I am a pagan.” We say things like “oh, I believe in a lot of different things, and you know just the universe in general as a powerful force.” We placate. We avoid confrontation. We stay in our lane. We use Christian terms and tweak them to sound more conforming. And I get it; I really do. It took me years after leaving the church to even admit to myself what I actually believe in. Even longer to begin admitting it to other people.
But as someone who conformed for 18+ years, I can say this. It’s not worth it.
Stand up. Because the world needs to know that we are still here. Christianity is not our enemy. Not in the truest sense of what Christianity stands for. But the world needs us. It can seem like we are unwanted in a seemingly Christian faith dominated world. With all of the crazy happening in the world right now, there are things that we can do to help that they cannot. Because while their faith requires that they live only in the Light, we can (and should) embrace the balance that is found in both Light and Dark. And there are things that will be easier to accomplish if we work together. Right now there are people crawling out of the shadows and dark places with truly abhorrent agendas. But we know that there is a difference between Dark and Evil. And while those who cling to evil may believe they own the shadows, we have the power to show them that they do not. And for those who have confused we ‘heathens’ with evil… it’s time we show them what we are really made of.