“What’s Wrong With Wicca?”

Hang in there. This is a long one.

I was surfing around the net for an article about something entirely different and stumbled upon the Christian Research Institute’s article “What’s Wrong With Wicca?”[1] under their “Expertly Researched” articles, alongside a colonialist (at best) article on “Shamanism”[2] which reminded me of my Godmother, a missionary.[3] There was yet another, “Homosexuality Facts and Fiction,” that boasted a circumlocution of logic that I have only ever seen homophobic Christians manage.[4]

Let me put on my old lawyer hat one more time and disclose[5] that I was raised in an Evangelical background and retain a great deal of reverence for The Christ, I have a degree in religious studies from a Jesuit university and had my sights set on Episcopal seminary in the 90s,[6] I hang out with Christians (and love them dearly) and go to church with my momma when I visit her, I teach World Religions as part of a number of college level courses, I teach (or have been hired to teach in the Fall) at a leading Pagan seminary,[7] I believe in one Creator (but that’s just me), I do not worship The Satan,[8] and I have a PhD from a pretty decent university. In other words: I know my shit – and I know Christians’ shit too. So, when I poke a few holes in this article by the Christian Research Institute, I hope you won’t resort to Straw-Man-in-a-Pointed-Hat shaped ripostes.

The article starts out fairly enough, stating that Wicca has its origins in Gardner’s work. And that Wicca rejects, “Christian paternalism, homophobia, and insensitivity to the environment.” However, the author diminishes this sensitivity to humankind and Creation by relegating it to the realm of teen rebellion. Where I begin to part ways with the author on more significant grounds than on a rhetorical situation of terms is in the claim that “the worldviews of Christianity and Wicca are . . . worlds apart.”

I had just spent a wonderful evening with some of my aforementioned Christian friends when I found this article.[9]Whenever I am together with this

“Walking a Blended Path”

group, we end up having some wine and discussing hermeneutics. We fascinate each other.

There was a newbie in the group this week and she asked me the perennial question: “So, what do you [Pagans] believe?” After the lawyer-hat moment of explaining that Paganism is not a homogenous belief system and that I spoke only for myself, I proceeded to explain my take on deity, creation, prayer, Christ’s human-divinity (and how that relates to our human-divinity as children of God), what it means to be created in the image of God, angels and demons – well, we didn’t get into demons too much – and the designations of the material and the ethereal, and I talked about Kabbalah without actually talking about Kabbalah. Her continual response was that there didn’t seem to be any incompatibilities between my belief system and her belief system.

Except “Grace.”

Her one qualm was that I did not have a place for Grace. “Ah,” I explained, “I also don’t have a concept of sin.” After explaining The Law of Return and The Law of Attraction (using terms like “Karma” to help move things along), I went on to clarify that, as I was taught it (under the dogma of The Church of God), Grace is God’s love and mercy spontaneously and inexplicably given to us unearned and without condition. Therefore, “I live under perpetual Grace; my Creator loves me for reasons I have yet to understand and I find blessings in the most unlikely places.”

She then asked about the “end questions” and I explained that I do not believe in a finite existence. I explained my stance on recurrent incarnations and the support for continued consciousness. After resorting to terms like “Nirvana” for the sake of comprehension, we had to agree to disagree on Heaven and Hell. But that’s OK. Theologians do it all the time.

All of this is simply to discount the statement that Pagan and Christian worldviews are unharmonious. Aside from eschatological issues like eternal damnation, I’d say we have a lot of the same pages.

The CRI article defines Wicca as “distinctively feminist form of neo–paganism” where adherents “worship creation rather than the Creator.”

First off, when did “feminism” become an anti-Christian sentiment? Oh, right, The Dark Ages. I am under the impression that Mary, Deborah, Judith, Susanna, and Junia are all female names. But right, they were cut from the Bible (4th Century), relegated to the hidden places, and then Mary (one of them, anyway) was transformed by Pope Gregory (6th Century) into a prostitute and Eve was . . . . Nevermind, we know how that goes.

More importantly, I don’t know any Pagans who “worship nature.” I mean, unless I’ve been misunderstanding y’all for a quarter-century.[10] I know plenty who revere nature; but s’far as I know, there’s a whole lot more “god” and “goddess” being venerated. And I’ve heard a whole lotta “Nature is God is Nature is God” and I agree. As for me, I pray to intercessory gods, but I worship The Creator. Granted, I am panetheistic (with a li’l pandeist for flavor) and believe that all of Creation is inseparable from The Creator and that there is a Divinity that extends beyond what is immediately and logically perceptible. But that’s me. I don’t speak for y’all and your interpersonal experiences with The Divine. I mean, who does that?

Next, the article goes off on the Wiccan Rede, claiming that “Wiccans hold that moral and religious truths are ultimately relative” and that “the Wiccan worldview stands in direct opposition to the biblical notions of absolute moral truth.”

Um, really? The Bible has “notations of absolute moral truth.” OK then, all you theologians can go home now. Those who study Biblical hermeneutics and Midrash are done for the day. Lose your WWJD? bracelets and take five; The Christian Research Institute has it all in hand.

Besides that ridiculousness, I don’t think we practice “moral relativity.” Do you? Most Pagans, in my experience, have a sense of right and wrong which is, in my opinion, much stricter than the modern interpretation of Biblical ethics. My understanding of The Law of Return (also taught as a parable by The Christ in Matthew 13) involves a far more complexly nuanced set of values and responsibilities than the simplistic absolutist teachings of the Christian Church. None of these value judgments conflict with the Red Letters of the Bible, but rather run up against the authoritarian Medieval and Moral Majority enforcement of the post-Crucifixion Church-Building gospels. Mostly those involving folks’ sexuality and the “place” of women. No one seems to want to discuss Christ’s definition of all humanity as equal “children of God,” his prohibitions against material greed, or his admonitions to love unconditionally, maintain a sense of humility, and create and preserve peace.[11] All very Pagan values.

The article wraps up with the complaint that, “Wiccans practice magick (spelled with a k to differentiate it from conjuring for entertainment) in an attempt to manipulate the natural world and alter mental and material conditions. As such, Wicca is an esoteric occult practice designed to manipulate reality in concert with the Wiccan’s will.”

A) Don’t get The Bad Witch going on that K. All of Gardner’s texts spell “magic” without the K. That was Crowley and an entirely different religious system.

B) This author’s definition of magic sounds an awful lot like “prayer” to me.

C) Wicca is a religion, not a practice. I know plenty of Wiccans who don’t “do magic.” Just like I know lots of Christians who don’t pray.

The argument seems to be that “Scripture unequivocally condemns all occult practices as detestable to the Lord,” citing Deuteronomy 18:10–12; Acts 13:6–11; 16:16–18; and Galatians 5:19–21.

First, let me say that the article’s author used The King James version of the Bible.[12] There is no mention of the Apocrypha or the Gnostic Gospels. There is no mention of translations in the Septuagint or the Vulgate or any translation prior to James’ – written during The Inquisition and European Witch Hunts. The history of the relationship between James and the persecution of Witches is well known (but in case you missed the memo, here’s a summary article) and most people understand that the KJV statement that none should “suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22.18) really refers prohibitions against poison, but because of personal obsessive fears, King James changed “poisoner” to “witch.”[13] Look it up.

Sure, there are Biblical prohibitions against sorcery. But then again, the Torah was all about establishing a new community with a new religion. Of course the rules are going to be, “Don’t do what the Egyptians did.” (There are over 600 commandments, btw. Not just 10. ) The rules prohibiting Ov and Yidoni have very little, if anything, to do with Gardnerian Wicca.

Besides, of all of the prohibitions against Witchcraft-y things in the Bible, some of our greatest heroes employed them. I’m getting long-winded here, so I’ll save this part for another post. For now, just have a looksee at this and this and this and this book (which I plan to review for you soon( and this book (which I have to finish so I can include it in said review).

Finally, I’d like to talk about the “exclusive salvation through Jesus Christ who alone is ‘the way and the truth and the life.’”

Now, I’m a Johnian when it comes to Christology. But John 14:6 really rubs me the wrong way. Mostly, because, all too often, it is used to “prove” that Christianity is the *only* way to God (“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”). But, nowhere else in all of the gospels does Jesus speak of himself with exalted titles or of “one exclusive way.” I mean, The Christ tells us how we may not have access to the divine,[14] but other than in John, he never says – “only one path to the divine.” The statement is very unlike the Jesus who said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” and “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me” (Matthew 25:40 & 45) and “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). To use John’s verse to justify exclusivism is, in my opinion, grossly simplistic. After all, when you sin against your fellow human, you sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:12). Look at it this way too: the Gospel of John (typically attributed to the “beloved disciple” of Jesus – John of Zebedee) was written around 100 CE, more than 50 years after John of Zebedee was beheaded by Agrippa I (in 44 CE). So, we have to understand the quote as one of “church-building” not one of Christ’s actual propensities toward elitism. (Christ the Snob, can you imagine?)

But moreso than Jesus’ persona, logical apolitical translation dictates that we not understand John’s statement as exclusivity. Can I get an Aramaic dictionary please?[15] The word translated into the Greek to mean “I” is, in the original Aramaic (which John (ironically) used so fitly to make Christ less snobby), “ena-ena.” The problem is that ena-ena does not actually connote a singular individual “I” but rather a “comprehensive-universal I” – more like ʾehyeh ʾašer ʾehyeh or “I am that I am” (Exodus 3: 13-14). Further, the word for “comes” is “erchetai,” a present tense verb. Jesus, talking to his disciples after telling them he would soon die, was comforting them in the now – not prescribing limitations for all time.[16] So, to understand it properly,

John: 14:6 actually says: “The Great I Am is the truth, the way, and the life. I’ll show you how to get there.” Therefore, if you know El, the God of Israel, or if you know Brahman, or the Tao, or Ahura Mazda, or Wakan Tanka, or The Great Creator, The Almighty, The Alfather, or any Divine essence representing The Logos of the Greek philosophers, then you know The Great I Am. After all, it is John who points us to the Logos as Creator, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). When it comes to the Divine, we have to concede that, “Ultimate Reality is beyond all cultures and the human capacity to know, it is in the broad, fundamental identity of apprehension that all cultures across the world find” (fausto. “Reinterpreting John 14:6.” the Socinian 24 September 2005. Web. 23 June 2012).

So, in the end, this is The Bad Witch’s response to some of Christianity’s misapprehensions concerning Witchcraft. While the CRI article addresses Wicca by name, I assume it intends to challenge all forms of Witchcraft and Occult Practices. Most of what I’ve said here applies broadly to my understanding of Wicca, Druidry, Heathenry of all flavors, Witchcraft of all shapes and sizes, and Ceremonial Magic(k) (which often calls directly on the Judeo-Christian God) of all sorts.

I’ll give Satanism its own post – someday.

May God (by what ever name you call upon) Bless You, Introduce You to the Infinite Magic of Quarks, and Remind You that Love is the Law (aka: BB, Quarks, and 93),
TBW

[1]               “What’s Wrong With Wicca?” Christian Research Institute. CRI, 15 December 2010. Articles. Web. 18 June 2012.

[2]               Ritchie, Mark Andrew.  Christian Research Institute. CRI, 10 June 2009. Articles. Web. 18 June 2012.

Ritchie, Mark Andrew. Christian Research Journal 25. 4 (2003). Print.

[3] I can recall being ten or eleven when she came home from a “mission trip” lauding her apostles for having converted Indians. I asked her, as ingenuously as I could muster: “Do you mean they aren’t Indian anymore?” Even when I was ten, no one mistook The Bad Witch for naive.

[4] The attempted enthymeme ran like a bit like this:

Premise: homosexuality is an “unhealthy” and “unnatural” lifestyle.

Primary rationale: promiscuity is unhealthy and homosexuals are promiscuous. (Disregard everything involving (specifically late-twentieth-century-American) acculturation and stereotyping.)

Secondary rationale: we may disregard all science showing that homosexuality is a naturally occurring (in 10% or more of the human population) orientation whenever we are able to terrorize a population into recanting their expressions of self-identity. Use only the grossly outdated and outmoded (and therefore attackable) Kinsey Report as evidence to the contrary.

Ta-da!

[5] Because I have a feeling this article will have readers that don’t bother to go back and check my credentials before attacking them.

[6] Until the whole “women should not handle Eucharistic wine” brouhaha which split my local parish into warring factions separated firmly by a stone aisle and disrupted my discernment committee to the point of dysfunction.

[7] The Bad Witch is *not* my legal name.

[8] And I have a pretty clear, theoretical, intellectual, and spiritual understanding of the mythological-historical figures Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, and the concept of Satan as opposed to The Boogie Man.

[9] Hear me on this – these are some of the most God-fearing Christian women in Alabama. They are, however, non-judgmental, open-minded, loving women. They are also business-owning, PhD toting, pro-weed, pro-choice (though also predominantly pro-abstinence), tattooed, drinking, swearing, smoking (and smoking-hot) women. One is recently married to a man who good-humoredly refers to them, not as Christians, but as “Christ-y” to differentiate their Christ-like belief system from what has become of the institution of the Pauline Church.

[10] And if I am, please tell me. I need to know these things.

[11] No one but The Bad Witch and a few of us Wicked Pagans.

[12] I can remember a recent conversation with The Bad Husband, woefully miseducated by Carmelites, which ended with his interjection: “There’s more than one version?!” According to one of the aforementioned Christian women, a staunch Catholic raised on the Douai Bible (a not apolitical version itself), “The first time [she] read the King James Bible, [she] said, ‘What is this shit?’”

[13] In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Hebrew word for such an individual is m’khashepah / m’khaseph. In the New Testament, a criminal who murders people by secretly preparing and administering poisons, “pharmakia,” from which we derive “pharmacy,” was translated as “witchcraft.” Burn her, she’s a . . . pharmacist!

[14] “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight” and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:14-31) and “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24 likewise Mark 10:25 and Luke 18:25).

[15] This is where The Bad Witch rocks – wrote a whole thesis on John’s use of “Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?”

[16] Historical decontextualization is my hermeneutic pet-peeve.

Evangelical Detox: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying About Burning in Hell and Love Praying Again

I  struggle with being a recovering Evangelical Christian.

After an offhand comment that I overheard (it wasn’t even directed at me) about divination and “godlessness,” I started thinking about “soothsaying” or conversations with what I remember my pastor calling “divers spirits.” I remember learning about Deuteronomy 18, which prohibited the Levites from necromancy and divination, etc.: “There shall not be found among you . . . that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.”

And then I re-read the whole chapter – and when I do this, I generally find that my pastor was confused.

Moses was telling a particular tribe a way to formulate nationalism. The Israelites had no identity yet and each tribe was struggling with the big, “Who are we as a people” thing. Telling the Levites not to practice Egyptian customs is kinda like telling an SEC football fan, “Don’t wear black and red this weekend; Georgia fans wear black and red and you don’t want to be misidentified as a Bulldog.”

Anyway, Christians are taught to live by the New Covenant. Under this new law, Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd,” who has “sheep in other pens who recognize my Voice.” So – you don’t have to be a card-carrying Christian sheep for Christ and all of his mighty-good ideas to be your guide.

Keep in mind that I use God to mean That-All-Encompassing-Order-Of-The-Universe-Which-Cannot-Be-Unheaded-And-Is-Initiator-Of-All. I use Jesus to mean both the historical figure as well as the archetypical “messiah” or intercessor. I will try to be clear when I mean the dude and when I mean the idea.

Now, about the whole prayer to “other” gods thing – In John 14, Christ says, “No man comes to the Father but by me.” I thought of a little something today that blew my mind. You know how a cop wears a badge and a uniform and then he has authority – but that authority doesn’t come from him, it comes from a larger system or organization for which he is merely a representative – but before he gets his badge and uniform (and gun) he has to undergo initiation and training? Bang! It hit me. We don’t work in the physical world; we work in the spiritual world. We wear “spirit” or “astral” badges and uniforms that represent higher powers which have ultimate authority. We do not *have* authority but we certainly *represent* authority. And we are going to the Father/God/Initiator/Creator/Whatever “through” an intercessor (maybe not Christ, per se, but an intercessor like him – the idea of Jesus) – if only we could work out some kind of an initiation and system of training . . .

But then, how do we reconcile our belief in that Father God (the “no other gods before me” guy) with our reverence to Greek Gods, Egyptian Gods, and Gnosis?

Two things. First, we *don’t* have gods before the Ultimate God. It’s kinda in the definition “ultimate” god. You know – the Creator or Initiator. The one who said, “Bang,” and then there was stuff. Maybe you don’t believe in one. I do. So maybe this point isn’t exciting to you.

Second, I think that in order to understand John 14, you have to understand John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word, the Logos. The Creator and Logos/Logic/Order (and by extension: chaos; sorry, I had to say it)/Truth/The Good/Whatever-you-wanna-call-the-primal-moving-force-of-the-universe was “made flesh.” Is that flesh just Jesus (the dude), or all of us? I, too, am created in the image of the Creator – right? Do I get to be “flesh” made from “the Word”? Does that mean that in the beginning I was also with God – crap – does that mean that I too AM God (part of God)? I vote “yes.” Don’t believe me? Paul told the Corinthians, “Now [after the New Covenant] ye are the body of Christ.” (I think he meant the archetypal idea.) Are you calling Paul a liar? If so, I’m telling.

OK – I was wrong. There are three points.

Third, we cannot get to “the Father” unless we go by way of the Logos (Jesus in the idea form). Ergo, we don’t have to be a Christian, we just have to use Logos. It means God will hear you, no matter what, if you wear your “spirit-badge” (having sorority flashbacks). It means that if you’re a sheep in another pen, i.e. or a believer of another religion, then you’ll still be getting to the Father through Logos when you hear his voice and respond to it: however that manifests to you.

Then, just consider the New Covenant as defined in 1 Corinthians 12: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. . . . Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. . . . For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

So ferreal, “All the Gods are one God.” The Bible tells me so.

And now, with the New Covenant, now that nationality has been identified, now that (idea Jesus manifested by dude-form Jesus) Christ saved all humankind by showing us how to tap into the primal source, we can be spiritual beings again. We live under a new law – not the Law of Moses. 1 Corinthians 12 continues: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given . . . . the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” So, right-on Paul, as long as we do good, we are working for the One Great Spirit. So all this tells me that God – the Ultimate One – gave me the gift of prophesy and of miracles/magic, and of talking to all those other invisible things He created.

Then there’s a long bit about all the body parts; it’s a the metaphor for The Church. We are instructed, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”

My translation: Be excellent to each other.

So, yea. That’s what happens to The Bad Witch after two cups of coffee and an offhand comment about godlessness.

Be blessed.