Friday, February 15, 2013

An Unnecessary Silence: Why Pagans Don't Need To Keep Quiet About Monogamy

   I've been in a relationship with my husband for about five years, so my interest in committed love isn't new. I've searched for resources on the caring kind of committed, monogamous love I talked about in last week's post, the kind that is a choice and an action(See "On Love" if you missed it!), and I've noticed a trend. The people who are talking about this kind of giving love and these kinds of relationships are often conservatives of the Abrahamic faiths, most notably Christianity. Just try Googling the term "loving your husband" and several of the links on the first page will take you to Christian sites. I've gone to books and blogs of other faiths on this topic on occasion, for lack of anything else promising to go to, and some of these resources can be helpful and inspirational to a point. Ultimately, however, I come to biblical admonishments to be a faithful spouse, or to love a certain way. Even if I frequently agree with what they're getting at, the assumption that those things are mandated by the Divine simply isn't applicable to my perspective as a pagan. I'm interested in this kind of love outside of a Christian worldview.

   If I were to guess, I think the immediate reaction of some might be, "There's no place for that discussion in paganism. She's talking about restrictions, about rules." Though I'm talking about restrictions, I'm talking about self-imposed restrictions. When we enter into a discussion on this topic, we know up-front that there are no external expectations on us. The Divine's not telling me that I have to be monogamous, and I'm not telling anyone else that they should be monogamous. There's no sacred text mandating such a choice. It's simply a decision that some of us make. When we realize that the topic begins on a foundation of choice, then a valuable, distinctly pagan discussion can occur. It is this same foundation of freedom that we so value, and a discussion on this kind of love does not seek to devalue it.

   I can't accept that there's no place for a discussion of monogamous relationships in the pagan community because I know that I am not the only monogamous pagan. And as long as that is the case, there is a place to apply our spirituality to this area of our life, as to all others. Bronwen Forbes, in her article When Did it Become Unfashionable to Be Monogamous? on The Witches Voice, has written about how she felt out of place at a pagan festival because of her monogamy. Pagans are open to people of all colors, all genders, all sexual orientations. We include those who see the gods as literal, distinct beings, those who see them as hazy deities unified by some sort of great universal force, and those who believe in no god at all. It would be absurd to think that the monogamous are not heavily represented among us, and a great mistake not to also be open to all modes of being in relationship with others, including monogamous living. Whether this is truly a widespread problem, or simply the experience of some pagans, it's important for those of us in committed relationships to realize that if we opt out of potential opportunities for "free love" or tend not to flirt with others of the opposite sex, we are no less pagan.

   I feel that the silence on this topic within our community may be due, in part, to its loud expression among Christians. Many of us hail from Christianity and have no desire to go back. When we found paganism, we weren't looking for a religion for aesthetics, and we may very well abhor the idea of denial of self, even to the Divine(I know I do). If we talk about commitment and selfless love, we might feel like we're being like them. We tend to react against things that remind us of something we've tried to distance ourselves from. If something brings back bad, guilty vibes from my Christian days, I know I tend to shy away from it. This is why I have trouble with prayer, and have never felt comfortable asking the gods for help. This is how I feel, and yet, it could be argued that there is a place for prayer and the discussion of prayer within paganism and I wouldn't disagree. The Christians do like to talk about staying married and loving their spouses, but that doesn't automatically make the topic inapplicable to pagans, especially if we're already interested in staying in relationships and loving our partners.

   The reason a discussion on committed monogamy is warranted is simply because it is the experience of some pagans. To be pagan is to apply our paganism to all facets of our lives, not to confine it to the ritual circle or the Sabbats. Many of us are interested in love, no matter what manifestations it may take, and we need to explore what it mean to us as pagans. Once we begin this process, we can take part in meaningful discussions about its every facet and every type, including the monogamous kind.

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