Originally titled: “Beacons of Light: Paganism and Evangelism, a Personal Revelation”
I wrote this particular post back in October of 2013. Coming back to it now, nearly three-plus years later, I have realized that it might be time to add a little more to all of this, and make it more in-depth. So here’s that attempt.
Three and a half years ago, a conversation with one of my students percolated around my online presence. I am fairly open with being a Pagan, both here at my job and out in the public world. Piecing the two together does not take a serious amount of effort. Nor does it concern me as much as it would have back in the late 1980s and early 1990s during my formative steps within the wider Pagan community. One intrepid student happened to do just this; and decided to be even more inquisitive with a face-to-face conversation following an afternoon class.
The differences between our two theological vantage points was apparent from even the early steps in the conversation. Hers, being that of a Southern Baptist Christian, were quite familiar to me – after all, I did spend time after my high school graduation exploring the aspects of beliefs couched in the Southern Baptist convention’s boundaries. My footing in the conversation, as a Polytheist, Pagan Druid were quite foreign territory for her, which lead to a lot of explanation of concepts that I believed to be rudimentary, elementary concepts. Honestly, there are times that I forget that every person I meet is not going to understand the concepts of Paganism, Polytheism, and Druidry that I personally accept as baselines for Pagan belief. But eventually, we came to a premise of mutual agreement on what all of that would mean in the course of the discussion, and she moved us into rockier territory as I noted in the original post.
One of the more interesting questions that was brought up circled around the concept of evangelism of one’s beliefs. During the conversation, we both realized that we were approaching the topic from different vantage points and quickly stopped the discussion. For a “proper” discussion to take place, we both knew we needed a similar area of understanding and footing where definitions were concerned. We settled on the premise that evangelism is the act of telling others about your religious faith whether that be openly (where you make the first move in the process) or somewhat veiled (where you do not volunteer the topic of belief until the interested party broaches the point). With a quick agreement on that, we continued along our conversational path.
I noted that hardcore, open evangelism by some of the Christian paths was a major factor for my seeking a different Path that would be a better “fit” in my life. I remarked that I did not get into the perspective of evangelizing my own beliefs, but that I was more than open to discussing such with others. And then she hit me with a combo-punch I never saw coming.
What about your podcast? Your Blog? Your social media presence? You talk about your faith there – isn’t that open evangelizing?
Shit. Bulls-eye. You nailed me right between the eyes with that one, sister. Took it right on the chin. If I was not going to evangelize my faith and beliefs – there would be no “From the Edge of the Circle” podcast; there would be no “From Within the Circle” blog site.”
Now, both the aforementioned podcast and blog do not exist any longer. From the Edge of the Circle, I eventually shuttered, and started up “Upon a Pagan Path” a little later. From Within the Circle was the earlier version of Life With Trickster Gods, back when I had the blog on the Blogger platform. But, the excitement continues for a little more…
A little further along the conversation, as I felt my position slipping slightly over this revelation, she threw me an entire aircraft carrier to use as a life raft.
Its really the difference in how and why you evangelize that sets you apart from those folks.
As I clambered aboard the USS Aircraft Carrier Saved My Ass, I could see the entire issue through her eyes. All of us in the Pagan Podcasting community, and those of us who write Pagan blogs, articles, and books – we are trying to tell the world how our faith helps us through these times. How our faith provides us comfort when the rest of the day was so shitty. We do that for those people who are searching for something that might provide them with that same comfort, that same sense of personal ease, that same feeling of “this is home, this is tribe.” In a way, its a similar notion of why the survivors at the end of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome leave fires burning in the night after they make it to Melbourne. Those fires are lighting the way for Max, showing him a beacon of hope in the darkness of that post-apocalyptic Australia. Others will see that beacon as well, and follow it to what has become a thriving and surviving community of survivors. We are not trying to shove our beliefs into anyone’s face – we are simply trying to be one of the many beacons of light for those seeking for that sense of hope, community, and tribe.
Three-plus years ago, I could never really understand how accurate and on-target my statement could ever have been. I have been approached by people online, face-to-face, in airplanes (that moment scared the shit out of me – seriously), in coffee houses, at conferences, and even at Pagan gatherings – and told that just by being out in the open about being a Pagan through the podcast and the blog, that they feel stronger in who they are as Pagans. Not only does that make me feel immensely happy about being that kind of an inspiration, I am also scared to death of it as well.
I have never had the desire to be THAT Pagan. You know, the one that everyone looks to and says – he’s the reason that I am on this Path. Because I sincerely hope I am not the reason that you are following a Pagan Path. I hope that you are on a Pagan Path to be the best individual that you possibly can, or you are following the calling of the wild and sacred in your heart. Or perhaps, you are following the whispers and calls of the Gods and Goddesses tugging at your heart. But not me. Gods, please no. I sincerely do not want that responsibility. Or as Tommy Shaw says in one of his solo efforts:
I don’t want to grow up to be a preacher
I don’t want your soul in my hands
Oh and I don’t want to sentence you to some Heaven or Hell
You’ll have to do that for yourself
Now, its taken me some time to get used to the idea that I would have some influence over how a person may or may not comport themselves. I am still greatly uncomfortable with the idea, but I get it. If one person has the courage to stand up and refuse to cave to a societal concept of who they should be; others will throw off that mantle of oppressive nonsense and be who they are too. And again, I have to realize, it is “how” I am a Pagan that matters for myself and others. The “why” of being a Pagan will arrive for those folks shortly afterwards. For me, the “why” will always be a never-ending, always-evolving process. Much like Life itself.
One thought on “Being a Pagan: The “How” and “Why” of Unintentional Pagan Evangelism”
Really good piece. I think many of encounter this sort of situation often.