Pagan at Heart

At peace with myself and the world… or at least headed that way

Archive for the tag “Baptist”

Fundie Gone Pagan: Prayer & Spiritual Leadership

Last night I came to a conclusion about prayer and my own spirituality that I hadn’t previously reached. First, some background:

I’ve always known that praying aloud makes me anxious, but I never thought about it beyond acknowledging my shyness. Ever since puberty I’ve dealt with self-image issues and a crippling fear of doing things where people could notice me. Part of the fear came as a result of hating it when I made mistakes in front of people – I wanted to do and say things perfectly so that I didn’t look silly or stupid. Part of the fear stemmed from how I uncomfortable I was in my own skin due to hormonal imbalances that went un-diagnosed for years (that’s my way of saying I was unpleasantly plump and had trouble with acne). And then, you throw in my religious background of Christian fundamentalism, complete with patriarchal teachings and a constant demand for holy perfection. From family devotions to school to prayer meetings, the demand for praying aloud was pretty frequent. I very quickly came to the conclusion that there was little to be accomplished, spiritually, through praying aloud in those situations. Some prayers were genuine and perhaps powerful, but often it seemed that praying aloud was just another way to show how Christian you were. The young people were particularly guilty of this, with some teens even having a special voice they switched to whenever they started talking about spiritual things or were praying aloud (which I found sickening). 

So… praying aloud really wasn’t my thing. Perhaps the most bizarre and anxiety-inducing reason was a thought I heard taught in church from the time I was a small child: be careful what you say aloud, because Satan and his devils might be listening. For whatever reason, this thought terrified me. The idea seemed to be that, if you spoke aloud about your struggles, Satan would hear and then know how to better target you with temptation and attacks. After internalizing that teaching and all the ramifications that went with it, I developed anxiety over the thought of speaking anything aloud that might help Satan and hurt me/the cause of Christ. I’m not sure what the Biblical basis for this misguided teaching was… but it did serious damage to my mind as a child.

Now we jump to the here and now, with me relearning how to approach prayer. It didn’t take me long to figure out that Paganism is all about speaking things aloud. Why? Because saying something out loud makes it more powerful than simply thinking it silently in your head. Making a statement where it can be heard is taking a risk, because once it’s been heard it’s harder for you to back out of what you said. Make a statement where only you and the Divine can hear it, and both your body and the Divine knows and you will feel more obligated to stand by what you said. Spoken affirmations during meditation helped me realize this, and also were the gateway to a few spiritual experiences. Affirmations required me to set aside my anxiety and choose to speak my thoughts and what I wanted/needed to hear/say – it was very empowering. I have yet to participate in a group ritual, but I can imagine that speaking things aloud in the company of others requires even greater courage but produces equally greater results. When I pray in my own home, around my husband and step-son, I find myself riddles with doubt and worries about how I sound. Some of that harks back to the factors from my past that I’ve already described; some of that is due to the newness of praying as a non-Christian and wondering if I’m going about it correctly. Then, there’s the aspect of my gender.

In the fundamental Christian world, women are not hailed as spiritual leaders. Women can teach Sunday School, work at a Christian school, be saintly mothers and grandmothers who are powerful “prayer warriors” in their own homes… but women are not to be leaders. I once heard of a college-aged couple who broke up upon the realization that the young lady was the spiritual leadership in their relationship. Men are supposed to be responsible for/in charge of the spiritual leadership of the home while women are to answer to/defer to their husbands leadership. If a women “usurps” this position in any way, she endangers herself and her family by tempting God’s wrath. In my relationship with my husband, can you guess who is more spiritual and likely to wind up in a position of spiritual leadership? Yup… me, the wife… the woman. We both know I’m the spiritual leader, and Hubby is fine with that, but it’s something I’m still struggling with due to the patriarchal teachings from my upbringing. In general, I tend to look to my husband for guidance, approval, and even permission for every day things – it’s hard to not do that when it comes to spiritual things as well. I’m making progress in my ability to function as an independent person, much to Hubby’s relief and joy, but it’s slow. Anyway. I find it interesting that patriarchal religion deviates from what seems to be a historical norm of women being the spiritual leaders in their communities. Hubby and I were discussing just last night how we’ve both found it to be true that women are usually the more spiritually-minded gender. We both could recall the lament of many a young Baptist woman who couldn’t find a man who was more spiritual than she was. It’s ridiculous that we were taught that spiritual leadership was a gender role exclusive to men.

When I heard the story of Deborah told in church, it was told in such a way as to shame men for making it necessary that a woman step up and fill the shoes of leadership. Now, I find myself stepping into the shoes of spiritual leadership for my family. The importance of spiritual leadership becomes more apparent with each day, as our extended family seeks to Christianize my stepson. Buddy now asks about praying frequently, and yesterday he was confused that I didn’t mention Jesus in my prayers. With the birth of my son looming in the very near future, I feel all the more need to get my act together so I can provide him and Buddy both with the atmosphere they need. I want to show them what an empowered woman looks like – I am the queen and high priestess of this house. So many things I want to teach and share. Hopefully this is the start of a beautiful new future for us as a family. 🙂

IFB Teaching: Nonsense

IFB Teaching: Nonsense

A post written on my other blog discussing some of the Independent Fundamental Baptist teachings I was raised to believe. I’m so grateful I have moved away from this mindset and its harmful teachings.

You Are What You Believe

1. What issues has this chapter raised for you? How would your family and friends respond to this material? If you are a Pagan, how would a member of your prior religion respond?

Bad memories from the past, about what I once believed, things I once said – all out of blind ignorance. My family, friends, and former church-mates would be appalled, blame the devil for my sinful life, and think I was crazy. Sad that open-mindedness, love, and embracing science are deemed crazy.  Thankfully, my partner is open-minded and loving. He is supporting me through all of this, which means the world.

2. What are the essential elements of spirituality to you? Do you think there is a difference between religion and spirituality? Where do you see Paganism fitting in?

I do see a difference between religion and spirituality. I personally find paganism in general to be more spiritual than religious. I think the essential elements of spirituality are: a sense of something bigger than yourself (be that the rest of humanity, a deity, connected energies of the world, etc.); search for inner peace and acceptance of self; desire to learn more about the world around you; and, of course, love. This is what religion means to me – following holy books and being bound to exclusive ideology.

3. What beliefs are important to you now? Why are they part of your personal philosophy? Where do you think they will take you in the future?

Important beliefs are: equality for all, world-wide love, peace, harmony, acceptance/tolerance, respect for the earth. They are important because of things I’ve read, heard, seen, and felt. I believe they will lead me to a more harmonious, happy life than I’ve had in the past.

Spiritual Timeline – Physical Crisis, Mental, Spiritual, and Psychic Breathroughs; noticeable change in state of being; sudden change in beliefs

Age 0: Born to parents who were newly entering the IFB scene. Regularly attended the local IFB church as a family.

Age 4: Mother says I wanted to “be saved” after church one night. She led me in a prayer and from then on I claimed to be saved. I never had any recollection of the actual event, but I trusted my Mom’s account. Began attending the church’s Christian school.

Ages 8-11: Had a teacher get onto me for saying “gosh;” had teachers tell me that it was wrong for girls to wear pants, so I went home and cleaned my drawers out because I wanted to please God; was obstinate enough that my dad questioned my salvation, distinctly recall him praying with me one night to show me whether or not I was really saved and to help me not be so rebellious. I remember my first attempt at witnessing – to a fellow child while we were playing together, she was Catholic.

Ages 12-18: Began to feel excluded from other students at school because I wanted to do the right thing, became very down because of the exclusion; often confused by the lack of sincerity of the other students; battled between being inquisitive and accepting what was being taught to me; loved to ask questions and do lots of thinking; I can remember wondering how we Christians could know that we were the only ones who had it right, what about the rest of the world?; did lots of reading; became involved with children’s programs at church; sang in the choir, sang specials with other people, played music for specials at church and at a nursing home; wanted to leave for college so I could get around more spiritual, mature people; worked at a Christian camp for two summers in a row, had a huge impact on my spiritual life; got my first real job, felt the need to be a good testimony by dressing right and not behaving worldly.

Age 18-21: Went to a Baptist college where I planned to study youth ministries, which changed to cross-cultural studies, which then changed to a humanities program that focused on English and history; by the time my second year rolled around I was making friends with a different crowd of people than before, and became very close to a few people who really changed my life, not sure if it was for good or bad; my new friends lived more liberally than I had once though acceptable, but they convinced me that their life was Christ-centered so I changed my views; those friends dominated my life for many months, telling me what I could or couldn’t do, pushing me to be like them, arguing with me and putting me down when we didn’t agree on something; spiritually I thought I was on a mountain top, because I was constantly reading my Bible and praying to God, truly trying to do what I thought his will for me was; became very ill while still at college, had to leave and go back home to live while tests were being run; very depressed and confused, in lots of pain.

Age 21-now: found out I had fibromyalgia, battled with depression, was in lots of pain; lonely and disheartened by current friendships; after one fight too many with my friends, we separated; I claimed my spiritual independence; shortly after that I began to question Christianity, the inspiration of the Bible, and lots of things I had been raised to believe; I left Christianity and claimed the title spiritual-but-not-religious; read heavily about deism, agnosticism; met a guy, fell in love, got married; read about and then felt a connection with paganism but pushed it away because my then-husband decided it was creepy; guy turned out to be trash, we separated, and it was very dark and sad in my life; my mother found a book of mine about paganism and flipped out, telling me it was the devil’s work and that I was his tool; found a new life, new love, and happiness again; began studying again, looking specifically at druidism and eclectic paganism.

Now I am who I am. I’m tired of taking crap from people. I’m tired of being beaten down. I’m claiming my spiritual independence and self worth and making the most of them. This is my life. These are my choices. I am strong and ready to continue my journey towards greater spirituality (sans religion).

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