Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The winding path

As the subtitle of this blog suggests, I've been a long time coming to my religion, and I've resisted much of the way. Raised a Lutheran in the American Midwest among more fundamentalist Christians, Jewish friends, and one or two Muslim and Buddhist classmates, I knew little of religious diversity. Fortunately, my parents taught me tolerance for, even appreciation of, difference. They sent me to my friends' bar and bat mitzvahs and explained that of course the Jews were going to heaven; they welcomed my young boyfriends, whether African-American or Chinese-Buddhist. It was the 1980s, and what I heard of the New Age movement was that it was all crystals and psuedo-psychics in California (and the White House!).

I didn't hear about Paganism or Witchcraft as spiritual practices until my first year of college, when a friend gave me a copy of Starhawk's Dreaming the Dark. Reading it, I was both fascinated and dismissive. That was 1988. My college years saw me in and out of the Lutheran Church, as I read Mary Daly and texts from the women's spirituality movement and wondered if I could be both feminist and Christian. (If one had to go, it was going to be Christianity. Feminism was my real religion.) As I contemplated graduate school, I seriously considered attending a Lutheran seminary. I was going to be a revolutionary, using feminine pronouns for God and fighting for full inclusion of gay clergy and parishioners. I was going to be a progressive Martin Luther, with all of the sex and none of the sexism (or anti-Semitism). But that fever passed, and I entered a graduate program in philosophy, where I tried my damndest to be an atheist, or at least pass as one - atheism being the favored religion of academia.

Were I to recount the strange dance of attraction and repulsion that's brought me to where I stand now on my spiritual path - well, I would have to write a book to sort through everything. I hardly know myself how I've gotten here. Like many Pagans, I have stories from my childhood about intense experiences in nature (one that stands out took place in a grove at my fundamentalist Bible camp). As an adolescent I would sometimes sit in church and imagine dancing naked through the sanctuary. (Of course, naked dancing is now part of my spiritual practice.) Feminism helped light my way to the Goddess. Somehow I escaped many, if not all, of my parents' and culture's repressive attitudes toward sex. I read a lot. My cast of mind mixes openness with scepticism. And I have found a tradition, ever-changing and re-making itself, that loves what I love: the earth, our bodies, ecstacy, imagination, play, fire, music, sex, open inquiry, and love.

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