Cross and Pentacle: Two religions at the crossroads

I was a Jesus Freak, a passionate theologian, and a Southern Baptist minister. I worked hard to convert pagans. The pagans won.

Discovering magic as a witch with an intimate knowledge of western christianity I explore the juxtaposition of these two faiths. Christianity and paganism alike are undergoing dramatic changes with parallel trends, conflicting challenges, and a growing concern for interfaith dialogue.

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What I used to miss about Christianity

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.

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Born and raised an evangelical Christian in Germany, I joined the Jesus Freak movement as a teenager and became a passionate evangelist and worship leader. No one was surprised when I went to the US at age 19 and came back a tattooed and pierced fundamentalist Christian, betrothed to a "Chrispie" (a Christian hippie, that is). I was a virgin the day we married. Five years later I graduated bible college with highest honors and post traumatic stress disorder. I deepened both my theology and trauma on the road by traveling the country in a big yellow school bus. For three years I lived as a nomad, playing music and leading bible studies, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. I learned that Christianity in America encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices, from Amish groups casting demons out of school busses to Roman Catholic priests breaking into government buildings. I saw Jesus in the oddest places. And then everything changed and I ended up a polyamorous Witch in a Pagan community in California.


  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Tuesday, 23 September 2014

    So wonderful to be in community with you!

  • Me
    Me Wednesday, 24 September 2014


    Thank you for this post, for sharing your heart. Your timing is impeccable (perhaps synchronicitous is a better word). I am going through the same transition you did. I was raised in the Pentecostal Christian tradition, the son of a minister, groomed from childhood to be a minister myself. For over almost two decades I practiced magic privately while practicing Christianity publicly. A few years ago, however, I disavowed myself from Christianity and chose to walk only the pagan path.

    It was incredibly lonely for a long time. I missed having community, of course, and all the other things you write about here, but just as much as that, I missed the deep beauty of my private devotion. Finally, within the last year or so, things have begun to fall into place, and I'm finally beginning to feel connected again to the mystery and wonder and joy of the divine. (For example, you can read a little about my rediscovery of thankfulness here: ).

    I can't wait to read the rest of your articles about moving away from fundamentalist Christianity and toward The Old Ways. Thank you again, so very much, for your encouragement.

    May Joy and Wonder find you on your path.


  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan Monday, 29 September 2014

    Thanks for the comment, Jason. It's a really tough transition to make, but in the end, totally worth it. I spent some time in the Pentecostal church, too, Assemblies of God.
    Two decades is a very long time, I can't imagine staying in the closet for that long.

    I would love to read your post, but the link doesn't work.

    Blessings to you!

  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Wednesday, 24 September 2014

    "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." -

    I love that we can write new songs and bring them to ritual. Some of the best music we have in the Reclaiming tradition came out of a moment's inspiration!

  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan Monday, 29 September 2014

    Gwion, I agree, AND I would love to have more music, including longer songs from shared songbooks :-)

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