Over Mabon weekend I read Niki Whitings thoughts on what she misses about being a Christian as well as Jason Mankey’s andJohn Halstead’s posts on what they don’t miss. I asked myself how I felt about this as I went to three different Mabon celebrations. How does my new life as a Pagan compare?

 

The Mabon rituals were beautiful and deeply nourishing and made me feel so grateful for my Pagan community. I realized that my thoughts revolved not around what I do or don’t miss, but what I used to miss about Christianity.*

 

Until a couple of years ago I missed many aspects of my Christian life. I used to be a Christian minister and when I left, I lost my vocation and livelihood at the same time that I lost my marriage and my community. I felt desperately lost and alone and I missed my faith community so much that it felt like there was a permanent Christianity-shaped hole in my heart. My years between Christianity and Paganism were full of longing.

I used to miss the sense of community. Some of this is, as Niki Whiting writes, a false nostalgia. I know that the “unconditional love” I experienced was freely available -- but only as long as I shared the same beliefs. Regardless, I missed the sense of community. In the years after leaving Christianity I didn’t have a support network, a tribe. I only felt a sense of belonging again once I had been a Pagan for about a year. Now I have found a new tribe. I live in an intentional community and am part of the wider Reclaiming and Pagan community in my area. When I left Christianity I thought I would never experience community again and it still amazes me that I do. Even more so, it constantly surprises me to see how much I trust in this community. It is not built on conformity. I know that I can be a part of this community whether I am polytheist or monist, monogamous or polyamorous, straight or queer, always exercising my right to be my own spiritual authority. There is a place for me here, with all of my questions, doubts, and idiosyncrasies. I am no longer missing a spiritual community.

And most Christian privileges I do not miss, either. Instead, I am happy to no longer have them. I grew up fundamentalist Christian in Germany where we were a mocked minority. I know it sounds strange, but a part of me has missed belonging to a minority. I didn't have words for it back then, but benefiting from Christian privilege in this country made me uncomfortable. Being part of a community that struggles for recognition and equality makes me feel like I have come home. The only privilege I do miss is the ability to just show up on any given Sunday at any given church and have a worship experience. But thankfully I live in an area that is rich with public Pagan rituals and events.

I used to miss the certainty of my faith. Fundamentalism was a comfortable way to live, inspite of its horrors. My breakup with fundamentalism reminds me of my divorce. For more than a year I missed my ex-husband, even though he had been abusive. I didn’t miss the rages, the walking on eggshells, the fear, the depression, but I missed the certainty and the comfort of my marriage. I knew he was always going to be there, and I felt self-righteous. I could look down on others who were divorced or playing the dating game. But when I healed from the abuse, I stopped missing my marriage and started missing my true self, the person I lost throughout years of abuse.

In the same way I missed the comfort of fundamentalism, the certainty, I missed being right and simply dismissing experiences and people that didn’t fit my worldview. But when I left I didn’t just leave the Christian religion, I also left the fundamentalist way of believing. To truly leave fundamentalism requires difficult re-thinking and painful healing. Vyckie Garrison correlates a literalist biblical theology with the wheel of abuse in her articleHow playing a good Christian housewife nearly killed me. (I highly recommend her article for anyone wanting to gain a deeper understanding of the addictive and abusive nature of fundamentalism.) The healthier I became, the less I missed my fundamentalist Christian faith. Today I don’t miss it at all, and I wholeheartedly agree with John Halstead: the thing I miss the least about it, is the fundamentalist person I used to be.

 

I also used to miss the music, the ecstatic experience of praise and worship. In my years between Christianity and Paganism I went to many different religious rituals, but none had any devotional music that resonated with me. When I found Paganism, however, I was introduced to music that changed my life (I wrote about this here). At the winter solstice a couple of years ago I fell into a place of worship, of dissolving into oneness, of being in love once again. It had been over a decade and I thought this experience was lost in my Christian past forever. I am grateful to have a religion that values music, and ecstatic states of being. I do wish music was a bigger part of our rituals, that we had songbooks with poetic songs and regular gatherings where we use lots of instruments and devotional singing.

 

So do I still miss Christianity? Most of the things I used to miss, I have found again. I am far happier, spiritually healthier, and more balanced than I ever was as a Christian. As for having more music, an abundance of rituals and resources -- helping to create them is where I find my new calling. What fascinates me endlessly is that we are such a young community and movement, a collection of new religions even though our roots go deep. We can create the spiritualities, communities, and religions we yearn for. As we sing in my Reclaiming community:

 

We are the rising tide

We are the change

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for

And we are dawning

 

When I use the term Christianity here, I am referring to evangelical (and often fundamentalist) Christianity in the United States. As I have mentioned here before, I have positive ties to progressive Christian communities and am aware that there are many different expressions of Christianity.