For a religion as small and new as ours, and with as many people forging their own paths, it is inevitable that many of us will find ourselves involved in interfaith relationships. This is something I’ve briefly touched upon before, but I felt like going into a bit more detail.
As my regular readers will know, Gent and I have been in an interfaith relationship for the entire four years I’ve been a pagan (and a few years before that, too). It actually kind of cracks me up because our initial attraction to each other was due to our shared Christianity and commitment to abstinence before marriage. Hah! Clearly that worked out for us!
Anyway, when I first thought about converting to paganism, it was really hard on Davin. He was worried about the whole human/animal sacrifice thing that Christians are taught is the fact of the matter with paganism. I explained to him that that wasn’t the case at all, gave him some tidbits about what it’s all about, and told him that, in fact, pagans have The Rede, “Harm None” and all that. (Clearly, I hadn’t done all my reading yet). The following day, he came back with an argument that I couldn’t convert if I really believed that because my looking into paganism was harming him, so if I really didn’t want to harm him, I would stop reading about it. So I told him I would, but still found myself interested, so I kept reading and the next time I said something about it (which was probably the next day), he laughed and said he knew I wasn’t going to stop.
It’s been a long road to acceptance from there, requiring hard work on both our parts. There was one particularly hard day one summer when I got heat stroke sitting outside explaining to Davin that I no longer accept Jesus and my personal savior and helping him to deal with his own beliefs about heaven not leaving a place for me.
There was a long time when I was still bitter about Christianity, and particularly the evangelical Christianity in which I was raised, during which I would often say things like “Christians just make me so mad!” and he would get his feelings hurt, and I had to learn to speak more specifically about who was upsetting me.
The were the arguments about how he thought I was silly for actually believing in all these gods, which were put to a stop on our fifth anniversary, when each and every one of them left us a tangible and undeniable gift of good will. After reading this essay, and after I went to his Church for Christmas and had a similar epiphany, we both realized that we live in a world full of gods, and that we have chosen or have been chosen by different ones. Davin is a follower of Jesus, and I am a follower of Freyja and Friends.
That helped a lot. And we do well with having an interfaith relationship because we respect each other’s beliefs. Once I came to the conclusion that I am just not one of Jesus’ chosen people, I stopped feeling so much frustration at Christianity. It sure has it’s loons, but what religion doesn’t?
Gent and I have really thoughtful religious discussions. His faith deepens mine, and we can point out logical inconsistencies and confusion at each other because we have different basic premises. I could point out to him that it doesn’t make sense to me that he sees so much divine in nature, but worships a god who doesn’t seem to respect that, which has led him on a new path of inquiry. He was able to point out when my relationship with Odin was veering in an unhealthy direction because he wasn’t of the belief that we should do whatever pagan gods tell us to do. And I really appreciate that.
Gent once even said that he believes that I was meant to be his girlfriend so that I could teach him true open-mindedness instead of just believing other religions were okay over there for those other people.
When I was in high school, one of the main theses of my world history class was that “When two different cultures meet and interact, both are changed.” And that’s what has happened in my household. Gent’s Christianity has met my Paganism, and together we have found the beauty in each, combined them, and come out with something different and better. We ask each other the hard questions that lead to a deeper spirituality.
Sometimes I think it would be nice if Gent converted to paganism, but in many ways, I think it would be the death of our relationship. Now that I have years of paganism under my belt, I would turn into the teacher and he the student. There would be new power play in our relationship that wouldn’t be good for either of us. And then I would wonder if we were both following the paths we wanted, or if we were making concessions to match each other. The way it is, our faiths complement and build each other, but the two are ultimately separate.
Still, we work together because we’ve put four years of effort into learning to respect one another’s choices. It’s been hard. But we’ve made breakthrough after breakthrough, and now there is happiness and peace. We have the same values, but different modes of dealing with it. We truly respect each other’s choices and neither of us believe the other one is wrong. This is how we make it work.
Gent has been going to church a lot more lately, now that he has found one close to our new home that he likes. And at first, it was difficult for me, and I worried that, if I were ever to meet them, that my paganism would leave him outcast. But this new church is welcoming of my existence, which is the only kind of church Gent could enjoy going to now. He doesn’t enjoy most church’s sermons that focus on Jesus being the only truth. He knows that there is not an only truth and wants a church that just rejoices in Jesus without arguing about his literal existence. He came home upset just before Christmas because his pastor kept repeating that Jesus is the reason for the season, when Gent knew that the birth of the new year’s sun was the real reason. And I have never felt more loved and appreciated.