I have friends that cross over into many different areas of society. Some are conflicting, which can make for some maddening moments when I wind up hearing both sides of an argument. For example, I have friends who are Trump supporters, and others who are staunch Biden supporters. Add to that mix, I have friends who are hard-core Bernie Sanders fans. All three groups are not shy about their commentary, especially in not-so-polite company. All I can really do is take a few more drinks of coffee, nibble on whatever pastry I ordered, and wait for their back-and-forth to settle down enough for me to add a different topic. But that’s politics, which makes for some really boring topical content.
In a similar vein, its difficult to talk about how I approach Paganism and Druidry to Christians – and even to some Pagans and Druids. I don’t ascribe to everything that I learn in my Gwers materials within my studies with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). I still learn what is being taught so that I can understand a perspective, but its usually materials or concepts that are set on the shelf and not used in my daily approach. There are others who utilize the lessons learned within those lessons as concrete rules, which I completely understand. Its an approach that works for them. That’s what is important. For me, the lessons aren’t always things that I would utilize in what I do, but I still want to learn those materials so that my education is more rounded than just feeding my own approach. I might not use it on my own, but I’m likely to encounter it when I work with an OBOD group at a Gathering, where rituals and such are more about everyone rather than just a single individual.
Discussions with Christian friends are a little different. The terminology is not the same. Conceptual aspects, while having the same verbiage, are quite different in approach. Conversations are a little more centered around defining approaches from both sides, finding common (and agreed upon) conceptual perspectives than it would be about deeper perspectives of understanding. Over on Facebook, I’ll post questions that some of my more conservative Christian friends will ask me in regards to my Druidry and my Paganism. More than once, I have been asked why I bother to answer these questions at all. Well, the answer is fairly simple. They are friends who are wanting to know more about me and what I believe. They ask, and in good faith, I answer.
One thing the Facebook folks never get to see is the ongoing discussion after I answer the initial question. Rarely do the questions stop at just my initial answer. An example of this is a question that was directed at me over talking with my Gods.
You claim to talk with your Gods. Do they tell you what to write in your blog posts?
Granted, the question is a touch snarky, but I did offer a reply.
Well, I do talk with my Gods. Whether you believe or agree with that isn’t up to me to convince you or anyone else. As for Them telling me what to write on the blog….rarely does that ever occur. Most of what I write in the blog comes from conversations that I have had with other people, either face-to-face or in some online fashion.
This is what people on Facebook saw. The conversation continued from there. Eventually, we stumbled into the arena of prayer. The tough part of discussing this is that we had to dance around and around on what defines prayer before we could actually have the discussion. The individual stated that prayer was:
an evolving means of interacting with God, most frequently through a spontaneous, individual, unorganized form of petitioning or thanking.
I countered that this particular example tends to bring things to utilizing the Gods as a convenient Automated Teller Machine.
I promise to be good and follow your Commandments. In return, I ask that you bring me a Pony and a plastic rocket shop.
I countered that prayer was one of several means of communicating or communing with the Gods. This didn’t always utilize a transactional aspect, as you could just be seeking a moment of Their time to say “thank you” or just to listen to Their teaching or lesson that They were providing to you. They weren’t there to be your personal Saint Nicholas.
Over several messages, we finally agreed that prayer could take both forms. Prayer is a manner of seeking rapport with God or the Gods. It can be a simple aspect of devotion, as well as a request for intercession. Of course, we could not come to an agreement that prayer was purely a Christian mechanism. Even though I had pointed out that First Nations peoples considered dancing to be an act of prayer. That was rejected out of hand within the conversation.
As interesting as this back and forth may (or may not) seem, it brings out a particular point. The two of us are as diametrically opposed on Spiritual beliefs as we can possible be. However, despite that opposition, we made a good faith attempt to communicate with one another, in order to understand the other’s perspective. We started in one spot…individual respect for one another. It took a little while to achieve that, as well as finding common ground between one another. In this case, it was a commonality that we had professionally – SQL code writing. Once we had established a piece of common ground, we started to discuss more contentious topics, such as our differing spiritual beliefs. In keeping our mutual professional respect as the underlying basis, we went through the gyrations of learning to discuss deeply held beliefs that neither of us completely agreed upon.
In many ways, I have seen this entire discussion that the two of us have had as an exercise in diplomacy. I learned more about my “opponent” and what he believed than I thought I would. I got the option to see things from his perspective, a perspective I had rejected some three decades into my own past. Since I cannot inhabit his body or conjure his thoughts…I can only hope and assume that he found the same from our discussions.
One thing that did arrive for me at the end of all of this was a deeper affirmation that I am on the Path that I should be. I talk with my Gods. Not on a daily basis though. They have plenty of other things that They are interested in and involved in. I’m just one human. I’m not Their focus within Their realm. They know I am here. When They need to communicate directly with me, They do. I know that for fact. As I noted to my friend in my response, there’s no need for me to convince anyone of that. My beliefs are not some contest to see who can piss further up the hill. Besides, all that does is eventually get piss all over your shoes.
In all of this, I have to emphasis that the first step was to find common ground from where we could be respectful to one another. I’ve had similar conversations with others about other topics, including politics. Most of the time, these folks are looking for a debate, where we go back and forth until one side beats the other into submission. The very moment I figure out that this is the point of them having the interaction, I bow out and let them have the field. They’re happy that they are triumphant. They feel that they are better than me. Me? I could care less. I was seeking a conversation, not some contest. The same holds true in my Spirituality. I didn’t come to Paganism to be the most well-known Pagan in the world. That’s an accolade that I could care less about. I came to Paganism and Druidry because it fits who I am and provides a platform for me to become a better human being, as well as help others when they have need.
In the end, I drive people crazy posting these questions to Facebook. I get it. They feel that the questions that are being asked are simple and a little stupid. Many folks can find that to be irritating. When I get these questions, I try to remind myself of one point: at one time, I asked questions like this too. I’m glad that Joni, Mary, Stefan, and so many others were patient with me. I owe it to them to be patient with those that ask similar questions of me.