There’ve been a lot of interesting conversations lately about interfaith relationships, specifically those between Pagans and the Abrahamic faiths, and I wanted to add my two cents. Sunweaver’s recent post inspired me to delve into my own interfaith experience: I’ve chosen to spend my life devoted to a Christian.
When we first met, I made no bones about my faith or my values. I led off on our very first date by saying, “I’m a feminist, I’m pro choice, and I’m a witch.”
He just smiled and said, “Okay. Did you want to sit down?”
I spent the early days of our relationship constantly afraid that one day he’d get a lightning bolt to the head and suddenly the easy-going, open man I loved would become intolerant of my beliefs. It was easy to feel defensive living in the very religious corner of Southwest Michigan sometimes called “the baby Bible belt”. But he never fulfilled my fears, and gradually, I became comfortable about our different faiths.
I think the key to successful interfaith dialogue and cohabitation is respect. I respect my husband’s beliefs, and he respects mine. True, sometimes I love to drag him into a spirited historical discussion about our beliefs, but we manage to keep our conversations from hitting any hot buttons. Despite our divergent faiths, we do find some common religious ground. We may approach prayer differently, but we both acknowledge the importance of Spirit in our lives, and our individual relationships with the divine, although different, have strengthened our relationship with each other.
I think it helps a great deal that my husband’s faith is non-denominational, and can best be described as first century early church; he doesn’t espouse any particular doctrine or dogma, and there’s nothing about his beliefs that tells him he needs to work hard to convert the people around him, unlike some of the modern evangelical sects of Christianity. Instead, he’s open to my own experience with the divine, and because of this, I have learned to view the Abrahamic faiths differently; loving a Christian has helped me to practice a more open-minded way of being, and I’m grateful to him for giving me that chance.
Despite my sweetie’s openness, I was initially cautious about being “too witchy” around him. I am still in the habit of working spells in front of my private altar, alone in the bedroom, but now it’s less about hiding who I am and more about setting aside sacred space for my work. I’m no longer shy about dragging my husband to my circle gatherings (he hangs out inside until it’s time to feast, and then he joins the party), and in recent months, I’ve even branched into including him in some of my less witchy rituals, like keeping a wish jar and burning the highs and lows of the past year on the Solstice. It always surprises me how willing he is to go along with these things when I invite him, and I feel closer to him whenever we share in a small spell or ritual.
On a trip to the local magical supply store, I loaded up my basket with an oil burner carved with Ganesha’s image (sure to help us cultivate laughter), a few stones and candles, and a small bag that I planned to turn into a charm for the inhabitants of our home, including Delphi, our noble house cat. My husband didn’t bat an eye when I showed him my purchases, and although I kept pestering him, worried that I had overstepped our unspoken religious boundaries, he assured me that he really was fine with the idea of a bliss shrine in our home.
Together, we hung a small shelf in the southwest corner of our dining room, and I started to bedeck it with little tokens of prosperity. Although he hasn’t added anything to the altar yet, my husband did help me choose the first scents to fill the Ganesha burner (and our home) with joy: cinnamon and lemon.
I’ve been creating informal altars around our home for years, but this little corner shelf is the first time I’ve done so consciously after discussing it with my husband. Already, the shrine has served to remind me of the abundance that is already in my life: the abundant love and respect my husband and I share that allows us to bridge the gap of our faiths to create sacred space together.