So here I am, getting settled in my new life, when the fact that I’m now living in the Bible Belt becomes quite clear. I was having a phone interview for a dance teaching position (Yay! I’m now teaching ballet to teenagers!), and the studio owner just dropped that she owns a studio because that was God’s plan for her life. When I met her in person, she was talking about Church.
And it made me think of all the ways that this could never be my life. I don’t have the Christian privilege to drop m faith into a formal conversation like a job interview, no matter whether I was the interviewer or the interviewee. And it’s strange for me because in Philadelphia, people’s religions were a private thing in a way they aren’t here.
One of my first posts here was on my desire for public piety, a way to show my faith without having to tell anyone about it. But now I see that a public faith comes with it certain downsides. The main one of which is that you are automatically subject to people’s stereotypes. If people know I’m a pagan upon first meeting me, many here in the Bible Belt wouldn’t make any effort to get to know me at all. If, instead, my faith is something people learn after they already know me a bit, I can break stereotypes and encourage discussion.
So since I moved here, I took my religion off of my Facebook profile. I thought that with all the new people I’m meeting, there is no reason to make things any more awkward than they need to be when people first look at my profile. But it’s got me thinking about why I’m a Pagan anyway and why I have chosen to give up the Christian privilege.
There are a lot of people and forces trying to make me go back to Christianity–the mainstream, and especially my mother who has now stopped totally ignoring my conversion and is instead dropping snide comments here and there. But I have no desire to give up this beautiful faith. It’s been a long time since I wrote about why I chose (and continue to choose) paganism, and Imbolc is the seventh anniversary of my first good pagan ritual (even though I don’t celebrate Imbolc anymore) so I thought it would be a good time for a refresher.
I am a pagan because I believe that a multitude of stories for a multitude of people and experiences is a more helpful religious paradigm. I can find comfort in Freyja’s story when I miss my love, Sif’s story when my hair falls out, Holda’s story when the first flakes of snow fall in winter, any number of stories for any number of pains and joys.
I am a pagan because the gods and the land speak to me. I hear the beauty of the goddesses in the call of the birds, I see Freyja sparking in the sunlight glinting on the surface of water. I feel Sif when my hair brushes my lower back. I feel Thor when the thunder shakes my home. I remember that the trees are living beings who give to us. I remember that was also give something to the trees. I remember that the land is not something we own, but our nurturing mother who provides us with our food, our air, our homes, our bodies.
I am a pagan because the mainstream is not good these days. What is mainstream and conventional is a toxic and unhealthy relationship to the land and our bodies. It is toxic to our minds and our souls and our ability to spend time or energy on the things that matter in life instead of rushing from work to the store to home and to bed. I want a life that has time for leisure with my family, that has space for remembering my soul. To gain the Christian privilege of dropping bits about my faith into everyday language, I would have to give up so much more. I would have to give up Freyja and Sif and Holda and Thor in exchange for one story of redemption.
If every story must fit the narrative of sin and redemption, or of progress which is also redemption from backwardness, than there can be no stories of loss. No stories of stasis. No stories of change for its own sake. Not everything needs to be redeemed, most things and spirits and people and flora and fauna and planets and stars just need to tell their own stories. Stories as multifaceted at the universe, as big as the galaxy, as bright as the sun or as dark as the far side of the moon.