Last week, my partner J and I had the pleasure of spending some time with one of J’s fellow martial artists, a fellow I’ll call C, who is a deeply passionate Christian. While he’s vaguely aware that J and I aren’t Christian, C certainly doesn’t know how liberal we are or that we’re queer.
Suffice it to say, our informal post-training dinner at Steak ‘n Shake was filled with considerable tact and careful courtesy.
At one point, J asked how the past few months had treated C, and as he relayed his somewhat rocky road to us, I did my best to listen openly. C spoke of God and Satan frankly, personally, having a strong relationship with the one and an alert enmity with the other. His level of traditionalism regarding Christian morals and ideals is, to be quite honest, not something I’m accustomed to digesting in person; normally, folks tote signs with those phrases, and I don’t hear them face-to-face.
What struck me, though, more than the novelty of listening to such powerful religious statements from a fundamentalist angle, were the similarities between us. I don’t run into a lot of Christians who casually but genuinely refer to what God told them; that’s something a lot more common among my polytheist and Kemetic comrades. How strange is it that we of many gods are all over one-on-one conversations with our deities, no middleman required, but when a Christian takes the same matter-of-fact tone about the experience, some of us balk? (I understand that many pagans and polytheists are gunshy about more fervent Christians due to personal history; in no way do I mean to dismiss or ignore that. Consider this as thinking outloud and exploring some common subconscious reactions that many non-Christians may feel.)
Another commonality I noticed was how strongly C feels about God, and how I can grok the depth of his emotions and loyalty, because I feel similarly towards Netjer— towards my name for God and my version of the divine. Many of the theists I know express a deep and boundless love, trust, and faith, and if you strip the names and trappings away, it sure feels like the same kind of love, trust, and faith a vehement Christian can have for God.
I may not agree with the level of control that C and some fundamentalists give over to God – I’m pretty fond of free will and some firm logic myself – but the idea of releasing something we humans cannot control to a higher power is far from alien, even for polytheists. If a situation is out of my hands, or another person’s actions are beyond my influence or assistance, I do pray – and I do my best to trust that Netjer’s got it covered, that the Universe will do its thing, and that my worrying won’t help anything at all. This is a concept that many polytheists and monotheists share, albeit to varying degrees of totality.
Lastly, both polytheists and Christians often pray– for ourselves, for the world, and for others. C has prayed, has meditated, and has fasted to come closer to his god; that’s not a very far cry from many polytheist or shamanic practices, though the definition and understanding of what and who God is can vary. I as a Kemetic may have vastly different conceptions of divinity than a Christian fundamentalist, but with open eyes and a steady heart, I can see where we can find common ground: in our interactions with divinity, in our love for Who we worship, and in our willingness to trust.
And in a society where many paths can be healthy and fulfilling, I find it well worth the effort to bridge the gaps and touch hands with my fellow humans, regardless of their choice of faith.