Short rough and ready thoughts on Wicca and Christianity

Recently Gnostic Priest, author and all-round good guy, Jordan Stratford linked to this very interesting article, How a ‘teen witch’ found the Church. Like him, I thought it was one of the better examples of the genre, so linked it myself on Facebook, did a few searches and read some responses. The result was the drafting of these rough and ready thoughts 🙂 Wish I had thought more clearly on these issues back in the early 90s when regional councillor and editor for the Pagan Alliance. 

Any constructive Wiccan-Pagan dialogue has to start with honest acceptance of each other’s faith.

On the Wiccan side, we will get nowhere unless we recognise and respect that many or most Christians honestly believe that (a) Christianity and the Incarnation are different to other religions, and (b) the Great Commission impels them to evangelize for the faith (even if only through their daily life). We may not accept these views, we may not like them, but we have to respect that Christians hold them dearly. They are sacred tenants of the faith.

Wiccans simply cannot approach Christians in the same way they would another faith, like Asatru, Druidry, Neo-Buddhism, where all are seen as valid paths to the mystery. This is not how many Christians see reality and to expect them to do so is to impose our views upon theirs, which of course is what irks most Wiccans about Christians themselves 🙂

The whole question about Christians writing about the dangers of Wicca and Paganism has to be placed in context. The vast majority of this material is based on ignorance, fear and prejudice. However, some is motivated by genuine concern and love. If we accept some Christians really believe the two principles above – Christianity as the Way and Evangelism, the production of such material is inevitable. It is the only compassionate response available. And really, let’s face it, internally within Wicca there is certainly plenty of discussion and analysis of the shortcomings of Christianity as an organised faith. The only reason there are not Wiccan tracts on the ‘dangers of Christianity’ is because Wicca has no Great Commission and evangelism is anathema to most of its adherents.

On the Christian side, we need to recognise and respect that Wicca is an enlightenment based faith embracing modernity and its values. Wiccans have no concept of Salvation and no concept of scriptural Revelation. Christian dialogue based on scripture is offensive to many Wiccans as it assumes they place the same value on scripture as Revelation as Christians do, and is therefore imposing an alien reality upon them.

Additionally, coming from a soteriological point of view is meaningless. Salvation simply does not exist for Wiccans, as the faith is at roots monist, where there is no break between utmost divinity and humanity. Many Wiccans are deeply offended by evangelistic approaches. They find the root assumption of most evangelists that Christianity is a clearer truth than their own faith problematic to say the least. Wiccan theology holds that divinity is found fully within each human and each human is both blessed by their existence and can by their own efforts know divinity. This is a sacred conception. It is every bit as solid, real, sacred and precious to Wiccans as Christ is to Christians.

Since Wicca partakes of and grew out of modernity it values individuality, pluralism and diversity. These values are almost as sacred to Wiccans as any other tenants of their faith. Attempts to present traditional conceptions of sodality, unity and conformity in practice and belief will be found alien and offensive. We may not accept these views, we may not like them, but we have to respect that Wiccans hold them dearly. They are sacred tenants of the faith.

So, somehow we need to find a balance where we can honestly accept the right of each other to hold these contradictory views. More on that later, maybe 🙂

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12 comments

  1. Arcad · February 21, 2011

    Care Fra Peregrin,

    a very good post, thanks for this. I think that the principles behind it go for all inter religious discussions though. Personally, I am pretty well able to accept anyone´s faith. What I like to see though is that someone who calls him/herself believing in XXX (ad any religion/belief) should have a more or less solid knowledge abolut what this is about. Not necessarily answers to all questions but ideas. I am getting sick when Christians state “Well yes I kinda believe in god and so – well in my own way…” So I ask which way? And usually I do not get much. I am questioning my faith on a daily basis. I am not evangelist and I do have an issue with the question “are only Christians saved” – as it would be following teh strict rules. I do not really think so but this is a question for a different post. I love spiritual discourse and this can not happen without understanding and accepting teh differences we all may have between our very own systems, traditions, faith etc.

    In L.V.X.
    Arcad

  2. chonying · February 21, 2011

    Not sure that I buy the idea that Christianity is different than other faiths- I think every practicing religious person tends to think their way is the best, even if they allow for other ways to ‘get there’. I feel this way. I also don’t think it’s reasonable. How is it more reasonable for a Christian to believe that?

  3. Peregrin · February 21, 2011

    Care Fr Arcad,

    thanks for your thoughts. I think you express the essentials very well here. We certainly do need to have a solid understanding of our own faith and practice – not a simple adherence to it 🙂 Thanks for your wisdom here.

  4. Peregrin · February 21, 2011

    Hi Chonying,

    Christian theology posits the Incarnation as the Godhead becoming truly human. All the mystery of the Incarnation is different in several ways to the incarnation of avatars in Hinduism for example. Nor is it seen to be equivalent, say, to the myth of Osiris or other death-rebirth Gods. These are Gods, not the Incarnation of the One as human. We may not agree with this view, but it is there. The fact that out of the pagan antiquity the Jewish religion was ABLE to see themselves as different via their monotheism, made them different. This continued in Christianity and the Incarnation added another dimension; the fact that Christians see the Incarnation as different to all other religious streams makes their religion different. This may not be reasonable, but it is the position of many Christians and we need to respect that 🙂

    Thanks.

  5. JR · February 21, 2011

    Well put Arcad, and I think here you also gently highlight the distinction between personal belief and believing in what others believe (without personal conviction) very well.

    On the subject; I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the Romans (NT), where in latter chapters he deals with the competing issues of law vs sprituality/ faith by introducing the idea of ‘conscience’ as the most important aspect when relating to God/ devine. With respect to points Peregrin has made above concerning evangelism- I believe many Christians have the wrong idea here and forget about aspects of ‘conscience’ when evangelizing. It is not meant to be a ‘sales pitch’ or forceful, or fear mongering act of any kind, it is simply to state or preach the message (without judgement!!)… the rest is an intimate matter between those who hear it and God/ devine. Paul stresses conscience because this is seen as the (only) inner way within Christianity that God communicates with people. He also warns Christians not to ‘push’ others beyond their own conscience and where their beliefs are comfortable for them at any moment, suggesting that this is very dangerous- For if you rob someone of inner reflection and listening to their own conscience, perhaps leading them to favour another’s instead; how are they ever to hear God for themselves and what fits for their own circumstance?

    This seems to illustrate, at least for me, why it is so important to suggest others ponder and investigate their own relationship and faith with God/ devine rather than sucumb to any tactics of persuasion to comply or simply belong to ‘brand X’ etc. It also demonstrates guidelines that should apply both to one’s self first and foremost… and then also their neighbour. Particularly useful wisdom for inter-faith discussions!

  6. Cat C-B · February 22, 2011

    Not all Christians believe that Christianity is The Way (meaning the only way). Evangelical Christians do believe this, and they are the most vocal–perhaps the most fearful.

    Some Quaker Christians do believe this; others do not. I know this as a liberal (and non-Christian) Quaker.

    It’s not that I disagree with the main thrust of your points here… it is just that oversimplification of what Christianity is is also rife among Wiccans, and I feel the need to point out that, while it may not be as diverse a movement as Paganism, it is still far more complicated than the Evangelical press kit would have us believe.

    Thanks.

  7. Peregrin · February 22, 2011

    Hi Cat-B,

    Dear Cat,

    thanks for your comments. I could not agree more. I think I was quite clear when I wrote, “many or most Christians” and later “If we accept some Christians really believe the two principles above – Christianity as the Way”. I was very careful not say or imply ‘all’, as this is simply not the case, as you say.

    I agree oversimplification of the Christian religions is rife among Wiccans and pagans. I have written on this before on MOTO; most Wiccans simply do not understand the core doctrines of Christianity and are reacting to what they think Christianity teaches based, as CS Lewis points out, on a child’s understanding. May I refer you to: https://magicoftheordinary.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/christianity-again-letting-go-a-few-myths/

    Actually, Cat, I think it is clear Christianity is a far more diverse religion than Paganism. Christian practice includes 4 hour ornate and elaborate Orthodox Ceremony, unprogrammed Quaker sitting to connect with the light, Pentecostal snake handling, trance induced worship, speaking in tongues and regular Sunday morning masses of every flavour and description. Most Neo-Paganism is instantly recognisable as Pagan by other pagans; much of the diverse Christianity would not be recognisable or accepted as Christian by some other Christians. Thanks 🙂

    PS: love your blog 🙂

  8. Peregrin · February 22, 2011

    Ah, JR, another great comment. Thank you 🙂

    I think your comments here on conscience are really important and need to be understood by, well, pretty much everyone. I love the way you describe proper evangelism 🙂 We were unfortunate to be in a cafe the other day and overhearing the more typical approach. The evangelist kept talking, on and on, about doctrine and life to the potential convert. It was so sad, as they obviously had no clue how to read body language and were clearly losing him. The overall approach was to present ‘the truth’ via interpretation of doctine and how wonderful it is to accept ‘the truth’ and how bad, otherwise.

    Keep the comments, coming 🙂 Thanks.

  9. Karma Dorje · February 22, 2011

    I have to respectfully disagree here, Peregrine. On a matter like this there are two competing truth claims. They can’t both be right. Either Jesus is the only way to salvation or he is not. Either the fundamentalist is right or everyone else is. Why do we have to resolve this in any way other than smiling and nodding the way one does when an otherwise good and sane friend makes some outrageous out-of-context remark?

    As a Tibetan Buddhist, I can look to Padmasambhava’s prophecies that the Abrahamic religions are poisonous ideologies spread by demons to harm sentient beings for example. That doesn’t sound particularly like holding hands and singing Kumbaya to me. Either Padmasambhava is right, or they are. I know whose words I am going to trust, in any case.

    That doesn’t prevent me from having wonderful discourses with my many Christian friends. They can hold to their belief that Jesus in the only way to salvation and I can hold to my idea that they are grabbing tightly ahold of an iron ball and jumping into a deep lake. I can’t think of anything more boring than doing away with these many contradictions of spiritual life.

    The commonality we have is in what we do as moral beings, not what we believe. Given that there are so many conflicting viewpoints, obviously some of us are right and some of us are wrong on the important issues. I am not going to go around trying to convert Christians, but not because I don’t believe they are sorely mistaken about reality. Nor do I lack compassion for them. I won’t do it because people are drawn to a religious path by force of habit and familiarization. All that one can do is plant seeds that may or may not come to fruition some time in the future. I see little point in accommodating silliness.

  10. dylan · March 25, 2012

    all i have to say to christians is that if you leave us alone we will leave you alone you do to your religion we will do ares

  11. Pingback: Paganism and Christianity – more short and personal views « Magic of the Ordinary
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