Alumni visit their colleges to re-connect with old friends and relive memories of the good old days. Unless, of course, they graduated from Bible College and then left the faith. In that case, visiting the college feels more like being a stranger in a strange land.
Eight years after earning a BA in theology and biblical languages I returned to Multnomah University as a Pagan. After leaving my Christian faith, I lamented that my theological education was a “waste of time”. But with my embrace of Paganism my perspective changed. It didn’t take long for me to discover that my theological education was an invaluable asset for interfaith dialogue between Christians and Pagans.
So I went to Multnomah University to meet with Dr. Paul Louis Metzger, founder and director of New Wine, New Wineskins, author of Connecting Christ, and a Patheos blogger deeply engaged in interfaith dialogue. I had been following the growing dialogue between Pagans and Christians on Jason Pitzl-Water’s blog The Wild Hunt and was excited to meet with Paul. Continue reading
It wasn’t the presence of demonic forces. I kind of expected those to be there, it was a pagan event, after all. Intellectually I didn’t expect anything evil, but I have to admit that subconsciously I was a little worried about the demons. I was raised with the understanding that witches always have evil spirits in tow. With 2500 witches in one place, you’d think I would have run into at least one demon. I didn’t.
The lack of demonic forces was startling to my subconscious which had been trained to be afraid of the occult since childhood. But there were other things far more surprising at my first pagan convention. Like the presence of Jesus.
Yes, Jesus was at Pantheacon. Continue reading
“Well, I have to disagree with that.” For a while I thought it would be fun to count how often I’d hear that phrase at Pantheacon, but I got bored pretty quickly. Ten pagans, a dozen opinions. I have been marveling at the diversity of people who gather under a common umbrella, including those who don’t like labels and go to great lengths to explain that they don’t want to be called pagans.
It’s the first day of my first Pantheacon and my head is spinning with the many fascinating conversations I have. I exchange stories with second generation Wiccan Eric Scott, talk with pagan writer Jason Pitzl-Waters who recently spoke at my former bible college, discuss inter-faith dialogue with a politically conservative heathen, listen to a talk on southern folk magick, and have several personal conversations with various people about their individual journeys.
The conversations range from heady intellectual to intimately emotional but there is a common thread that runs through all of them. Those I talk to all own their stories. Abuse survivors speak openly about their ongoing struggles and some recount experiences of rape without hushed voices. They also own their beliefs. The founder of Pantheacon mischievously declares herself an atheist, others explain that their goddess is the same as a christian god, and many talk about a confusing pantheon.
In the midst of disagreement and personal trauma, pagans are walking their paths and living through their struggles with a sense of faith and wonder. There is a theme in the presentations and conversations I have on my first day at Pantheacon. The word is “empowerment”.
I heard a scream. It didn’t sound like fear, it sounded like anger. I turned and I saw a woman pounding the floor, shouting in pain. In front of her, people swirled in a wild dance. To her right a couple in love was grinding their bodies on each other. To her left, a mother laughed, clutching her 2 year old to her bare breast. And in the back plates of chocolate sat between flowers and pictures of Brian.
Pain and laughter, dance and rage, grief and ecstasy took turns and blended into spiraling intensity. I was at a memorial service for Brian Baker, an avid dancer, passionate lover, and exuberant chocolatier with whom I just barely started building a friendship. I abhor memorial services and I didn’t know Brian well and yet I felt an irresistible urge to be at his memorial. Many members of the dance and poly community say that although they didn’t know Brian well, they feel the impact of his death strongly. Continue reading
My college graduation in 2005
A GPA of 4.0. Graduating in highest honors. Memorizing songs upon hearing them once. Solving math problems faster than most. Studying half a dozen languages. Using big words. Citing important sources. Name dropping. Winning debates.
Those are the things that impress and I have done them all. I’ve appeared on radio shows and participated in debates and usually walked away impressing people. I could win arguments and outsmart my opponents. I was proud of my intelligence, quick wits, and sharp memory. Until I was humbled. Continue reading
“I hear it all the time, young people dropping out of school, quitting their jobs to “go find themselves”. But I ask you, have you ever heard of anyone coming back saying “I did it, I found myself?” Of course not!”
Tony Campolo was arguing that we need to stick to our communities rather than venture out on a quest for self discovery. It was at the conference with Shane Claiborne, who invited me and my husband to join him with our music and story-telling. Continue reading