Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Thealogy: A set of beliefs you can take home to Mom

Over the past couple of years I've slowly revealed some of my spiritual beliefs to my Mom. My parents aren't Christian fundamentalists by any stretch, but they care about their nice, mainstream Protestant beliefs and would, I suspect, like it best if I shared those beliefs. Not being one to want to disappoint my folks, and having something of a "good girl" complex, I've been less than forthcoming where my religious beliefs deviate sharply from theirs. (I'm more outspoken about politics.) Over Christmas, after declining to go to the altar for communion after the minister invited "all Christian believers," I finally copped to my Mom that I'm not a Christian. Being my Mom and clairvoyant in the way many mothers are, she wasn't surprised.

Now, like most Pagans, I'm faced with the challenge of describing my beliefs to someone with no frame of reference whatsoever. (During the Christmas conversation, my Mom asked me who I pray to. "Do you just make up a goddess or something?") I've turned to Isaac Bonewits, in his handy Essential Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft, for a pithy summary of Pagan belief, one I can more or less take home to Mom.

Here are the first five ideas:

1. Neopagans believe that divinity is both immanent and transcendent. Isaac glosses "immanent" as internal and "transcendent" as external. I would define those terms somewhat differently. The Goddess is immanent; she is around and among us. She is concrete. She is the earth, trees, soil, animals, water, stars. And, yes, she is in all things and all beings. But the Goddess is at the same time transcendent; she is the Mystery at the heart of life. She is more than what we can see, touch, taste, smell, and hear. She is more than we can rationally understand.

2. Neopagans believe that children are born holy. We don't believe in original sin - that children come into this world needing to be cleansed. Nor do we believe that we need to be saved from sin. We don't need a Messiah. All children are sacred.

3. Neopagans believe that divinity is just as likely to manifest in a female form as it is in a male form and that the word "Goddess" makes just as much sense as the word "God." A lot of Christians would have a problem with this, but I chalk that up to sexism in the culture. More progressive Christians have sought feminine god-language in the bible. My Mom thinks that God is ultimately beyond male or female, so she has no problem with describing God as "She."

4. Neopagans believe in a multiplicity of gods and goddesses, as well as "lesser" beings, many of Whom are worthy of respect, love, and worship. OK, Mom is not going to buy this. She'll think it's weird. Isaac says that "Neopagans have a wide variety of nonexclusive concepts as to the nature of these entities. Among Wiccans, female deities are usually seen as aspect or faces of a single 'Triune' Goddess, most often described as a Maiden, a Mother, and a Crone. Male deities are likewise usually seen as aspects or faces of a single 'Biune' God, most often described as a vegetation/hunting and solar deity.... Thus, Wicca is predominately 'duotheistic'."

5. Neopagans believe that no one religion, philosophy, scripture, or other approach to understanding can explain the infinite complexities of the multiverse. There are many paths up the mountain. Again, I find that progressive Christians are hip to this and have no problem with different people having different faiths.

Next week, more Pagan thealogy for Mom.


Sojourner said...

I hear ya. It is hard to discuss something as personal as your beliefs when those that are close to you have other beliefs. And it also depends on how open to people are to other viewpoints. (And it sounds like your mom is fairly open, enough to ask questions at least.)

I have this difficulty with my family. Some of my relitive are in the ministry (Christian) and very connected to their beliefs and I have a difficult time discussing anything of a spiritual nature with them for fear that there won't be that level of understanding. (I don't expect them to belief what I do, I would just hope that they could show some respect.) Because I feel that there would be a lack of respect (ie - trying to convert me to their line of thought), I choose not to discuss the subject of religion with them.

Most of them were shocked to find out that I was attending a UU church. And answering those questions was bad enough....

I wish you luck on your future conversations with your mom.

Mama Kelly said...

While my mother was still alive we TRIED to have this conversation, it never really worked

As for my dad --- he's happiest believing that I'm an atheist. LOL


Mama Kelly

Inanna said...

Both of my parents have become more open-minded over the years, and I like to think my sister and I had something to do with that. Actually, I think we did, not necessarily in the sense of convincing them of anything (though we probably have), but because they wanted to be better people and role models for us.

Like you, Sojourner, I don't care at all if they share my spiritual beliefs, but I do want acknowledgement and respect. I guess the most important thing to me is that I can share myself with them more fully.

It will be a whole new set of challenges, I think, if or when Adonis and I have kids and choose not to have them baptized and to raise them Wiccan. My parents might flip (again).

Livia said...

I guess I must be really lucky. Even though my mom is a Christian she's one of the hip few and respects my beliefs.

Good luck.

Eelsalad said...

delurking -

I find that the trouble I have in talking about neopaganism in a meaningful way comes largely from my recognition that there is almost nothing one can say about neopagans as a group that will be true for all of them. For example, while I agree with 1, 3, 4, and 5 of your points, I disagree with 2. (Not that I believe in original sin, I just don't believe children are somehow more sacred than anything else.)

I've been wrestling a lot with discussing my path, so this post really caught my eye. Thank you.

deborah oak said...

I love this post. Thank you. Looking forward to more pagan thealogy for mom posts....and yes, I agree with hecate from her comment on your most recent blog...some daffodils might be just the ticket. Every spiritual path has it's days/weeks/months/and even
years of slogging thru. Best to surround yourself with flowers.

Inanna said...

Thanks eelsalad and oak - I plan to write more this weekend.

Eel - I agree that it can be difficult to find tenets that all Pagans agree on; indeed, it's part of our identity that we'll disagree with at least something, no? Still I think Isaac does a nice job identifying tenets that many of us will agree with much of the time. I don't think #2 is saying that children are more sacred than anything else, simply that, like other things, they are sacred; we don't come into this world needing to be washed of sin and our mother's blood.