Oath-breaking is an absolute taboo for me, as an Irish polytheist. I know that many ex-Christian Pagans feel that any promises they made to the Christian God were made in ignorance or in coercion. But mine was an oath that I wanted to take, where I knew very clearly what I was doing, what I was promising, and who I was promising it to. Maybe if I could have seen a couple of years into the future, I wouldn’t have taken it. But I’m only human.
I was intense and sincere about my seeking in the churches. I kept trying to get closer to God – and failing. The Christian God and I almost never spoke, although I had a wonderfully close relationship with Mary and Sophia-as-Spirit. The Christian God was more distant – like a father whose children are raised by a nanny and who deigns to visit them once a week. And so I tried, more and more devoutly, to find God. I went to more and more Bible studies. I went to mass more and more often. I was no good at praying on my own, since Christianity is a community-based religion, but I tried.
And, eventually, I got confirmed in the Church of England. In the Anglo-Catholic tradition. I took an oath.
And, although the Christian God and I agreed to part, there are ways in which I still can’t break that oath.
There is absolutely *no* way for me to square this theologically – believe me, I’ve tried. I know perfectly well that the Christian God ‘officially’ bans worship of any gods except for him, and requires absolute, unquestioning obedience from his people. I know some very nice Christo-Pagans, and I could never, ever share their theology or approach. The LORD will not be one of many. So, we parted on mutually agreed terms when I started to follow the old gods.
And one of those terms was that, while I don’t have to worship the Christian God regularly, I do have to offer worship when I’m in churches. I was confirmed in the Christian Church, and in Christian houses of worship, my worship is for the Christian God alone. Usually, these days, I will pray to St Brigid or Mary in churches, reverently asking them to take my prayers to the God who doesn’t bother much with me.
It’s only good hospitality, after all.
I think this is also related to my taboo against honouring the Canaanite deities. When I’m in Israel, too, I’m only to acknowledge him.
And so I keep my oath.
Oh, and another of the ‘terms of parting’ was that I was to continue to serve the Christian Church in my research – to finish what I started. And so, I accept the implications of those terms. Which include researching theology, observing practice (including practices that I find very painful to observe), and occasionally going to church to share the results of my research.
I also acknowledge the debt that modern Irish Paganism owes to Christians. I refuse to lie and claim that pagans were wiped out by Christians in Ireland, or to demonise their saints and heroes. After all, I get annoyed when they do that to mine.
This is also why I could never not be involved with the interfaith movement. Christianity shaped me until I was about 30 years old. I will continue to remain in dialogue with that community, even as a Pagan.
Interfaith. It’s a complicated thing for some of us. I think it’s important to acknowledge that.