A Christian Mother’s Perspective

“Mom, we need to talk…”


The following article was written by the Christian mother of an adult
Pagan. She wrote it as an explanation of how she dealt with her daughter’s changing religions and adopting a Pagan name. It is republished here in the hope that it may be useful in dealing with your own parents. The opinions of the non-Pagan mother are her own; her daughter has added a few editorial comments of her own. Reprinted from the February, 1993 issue of the
Pagan Journal, Sacred Hart, P.O. Box 72, Kenmore, NY 14217 at $12/year

The moment when your grown-up kid tells you ‘I’m a Pagan’ is not any non-Pagan parent’s idea of what was promised when she sent out all of those pink or blue birth announcements. But it is an important moment in your adult relationship with your adult child; a relationship that is perhaps the most difficult time of parenting, but one that isn’t talked about much in the how-to books. How do you, who are not a Pagan, face this announcement from your offspring?

Calmly.

The Pagan/Wiccan religion is not Satanic. If your child says s/he has joined a Satanic cult, run, don’t walk, to the nearest telephone and call the police. Satan-worship is no joke. But this is not Satan-worship. Having settled that, here’s my advice.

You must remember an important fact: as much as this may annoy/ hurt/ devastate you, your child probably did not do it for the sole purpose of annoying/ hurting/ devastating you. The decision, in all probability, had very little to do with you at all. If your child did do it for that purpose, s/he will tell you in as public a manner as possible, probably in front of your pastor. If this happens, your problem is not that your child is a Pagan, but that the adult relationship between you is not working.

That is to say, the announcement is unimportant compared to other things. This article is not addressed to those things. I am addressing the problem of parents who have a basically sound friendship with their adult, now Pagan, children.

The first thing that you must remember is that it is not your fault. Their conversion to Paganism did not happen because you took them to church too much, or you didn’t take them to church enough. Nor did it happen because you gave them that Dungeons and Dragons set when s/he was twelve. Your kid has gone his or her own way, and is making his or her own decisions.

Remember how strongly you stressed when they were little that they had to do what they knew was right even in the face of disapproval? This may not be exactly what you had in mind, but that’s what has happened.

Second, they may outgrow it, but don’t count on it. Just in case, don’t react to their announcement so that they could not announce gracefully in a few years that they are no longer Pagan and still retain their dignity. In other words, don’t back them into a corner, nor paint yourself into one either.

I would advise against arguing theology with a born-again Pagan, at least not for several years. (My daughter hates for me to use that term, ‘born-again,’ but it conveys the idea I mean.) They probably have not become a Pagan through an intellectual appreciation of the concepts involved and there’s no use pushing them into trying to do it.

[The daughter’s comment: Very few religious conversions are made through an ‘intellectual appreciation of the concepts involved.’ Faith is that which sustains us when there is no proof.]

If you are a Christian, as I am, you have to get a grip on yourself. First, they’ve probably been baptized and, according to Christian doctrine, that doesn’t wash off.

[The daughter’s comment: Mother! ]

(Be calm, dear, this is what I believe.) Second, the Bible does not tell us what happens to a baptized child who decides to worship the Mother Goddess, and I personally think God is big enough to take this in stride. Who is to say, since God is outside time, that the moment a person decides to become a Pagan is more important than the moment s/he was baptized? To believe that it does is to limit God’s mercy. God transcends all our knowledge of Him and, in this case, we must simply put our faith in the mercy of a God who has promised forgiveness in the all-forgiving mercy of a loving God. Why should I object if my daughter has found the she can reach Him (or Her) best through the Triple Goddess? Any prayer that is the sincere prayer of a loving heart will reach its destination and the Pagan life is a God(ess)-centered life.

Actually, the things that are the most annoying are the pettiest. Your child may have abandoned the lovely name that you and your spouse chose so carefully, examining the meaning of it, finding the Biblical reference, invoking the memory of a beloved ancestor. Instead, s/he may have chosen a name that sounds like something from a Brownie day camp and which you probably can’t pronounce, let alone remember. This is not important.

On the other hand, you have the right to set certain rules, (as do they). You are not required to call them by their new name. I’d simply say that I am too old to go around re-naming mature, adult children. You have a right to insist that they behave reverently when you ask grace at the table in your house, as they have the right to demand that of you in their house. You may certainly insist that they not refer obnoxiously to ‘your’ traditions at Christmas time while all the relatives are there, as they have the right to insist that you not do the same to them. And if the knowledge is going to give Uncle Ed a heart attack, you can insist that Uncle Ed be spared. If they refuse to follow these rules of common courtesy, you must simply treat it as you would any other breach of decorum. Remember, though, that this works both ways.

I would also advise you not to enquire too closely into certain practices of whatever branch of Paganism your child has chosen to follow. Some practices sound bizarre when heard out of context, but they do in fact make sense within the larger context of the religion. However, you don’t know what that context is, and unbiased sources may be hard to find. For that matter, your child may not know either and then it really sounds bizarre. Let it go.

My four children were all raised within the Episcopal Church, where I was Sunday School superintendent, lay reader, and president of the Women’s Guild. Today, one of them is a born-again Christian who speaks in tongues and believes in miracles, one is a Pagan, one is a Sufi agnostic, and one is an Episcopalian. Sometimes I worry about the last one. Didn’t I teach her to do what she thought was right in spite of what anyone else said? In this family of strong out-spoken individualists, that kind of normality is suspect.

Lovingly, Mother.

[The point of all of this is simply that in religion, we are all trying to do the same thing to honor our Creator, no matter how we envision that Divine Being. It is a given that we are trying to comprehend something which is by its very definition, unknowable. How we give honor to our Creator is not nearly as important as the fact that we do try to give that honor in some way most comforting to us, which often varies from person to person and faith to faith. The name you use for your Creator is important mostly to the person who makes the bank deposits on Monday
morning.
]

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