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Archive for June, 2011

Source: Vince McCann of Spotlight Ministries.

Pagans of all persuasions revere nature. In fact, many individuals are attracted to Paganism as a direct result of a connection that they feel with the world around them and the beauty of the world they see. This reverence for nature leads many Pagans to the conclusion that the world itself must be divine.

“Our religion is about the sacredness of this life on this Earth, here and now. We are ‘Nature worshipers’ so Nature is a sacred study for us. To paraphrase, we want to see Her more clearly, love Her more dearly, and follow her more nearly. Any ecological study, any bird watching, or other such activities, help us to understand Mother Gaia.” (Chas S. Clifton (ed.), Modern Rites of Passage: Witchcraft Today, Book Two, 1994, p. 99).

Not quite.  As Pagans, we believe that the world is sacred as it includes the spirit of the Divine Creator.  It is not greater than She who set it in motion.

Many Christians could probably be more involved in the preservation of the planet in which we live. This, in and of itself is indeed a noble cause. Christians also recognize the beauty in the world around them, but stop short of seeing it as divine in some way. The Bible speaks of the wonder of the created realm in which we live, but goes on to reveal that this has been put in place so that people would go further and reach out for the Person who created it:

“…that which is know about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)

While a valiant effort, the author’s conclusions are not quite accurate.  In fact, it is not a simple concept to understand by someone who obviously has only a cursory knowledge of the subject.  I don’t believe for a moment that McCann was ever a serious practitioner of Witchcraft, Wicca, or Paganism.  The book he quotes from is by no means the quintessential resource for information on WW&P. 

The Divine and the world are not the same things.  McCann describes pantheism but never acknowledges it as such and most WW&P are not pantheists.  While it is unwise to attempt to separate the Divine from the cosmos, it is also foolish to put the Divine on the same level as the cosmos.  Most of us tend to be more panentheistic in our approach to the Divine and Nature, acknowledging that Nature is divine only because of the presence of the Divine element within it.  We believe that divinity dwells within Nature and that Nature is a diminished reflection of a higher divine reality – as above, so below.  When the Divine aspect within Nature is denied or ignored, it becomes open to abuse.  Christianity attempts to remove the divine element in all that exists which leads to disrespect and destruction, which desecrates that which is sacred.

I cannot help but feel that Pagans and Wiccans look at the world around them, see the work of God, but then stop short of going further and looking for the Creator, and instead look to the creation itself. This is somewhat like commending a sculpture rather than the one who sculptured it.

I cannot help but feel that Christians look at the world around them, see it as disconnected from the Divine and therefore lose sight of its wonder and sacredness.  Unlike Christians, we are not separated from the Divine, as a spark of her exists within our own spirit.  There is always an element of the sculptor in the sculpture.

The Bible also comments on this by stating the following: “…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (Romans 1:25)

The Bible, a collection of books by unknown authors, has no impact on the ancient religions that preceded it or those that are based on them today.  If there is a lie, it is in the notion that the cosmos is a creature and that it is worshipped apart from the Divine.  The author should take care in excerpting scripture out of context.  The passage he provides has nothing to do with WW&P.

Many Pagans and Wiccans tend to look at the sins of the Church and use this as justification to turn away from following Jesus Christ. On account of this many have, sadly, missed Jesus altogether. However, the Bible never tells us to fix our eyes on what the Church is, or is not, doing but rather to `fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2).

This is partly true.  Many of us have tried for decades to accept the precepts of the Church.  Very few of us turned away from following Jesus Christ because of the rampant sin within the Church and man’s religion.  In our deep and dedicated study of the religion in which most of us were raised, we find its obvious errors and its pagan roots.  Jesus Christ is a myth created from earlier myths that can be plainly seen. 

The Devil – A Christian Invention?
Most Wiccans do not believe in a personal entity called Satan or the Devil. Many will say that this being is simply something that the Christian Church has invented in order to control people with fear. However, well before the birth of the Christian Church, the Jews also believed in the existence of Satan. He first appears in the form of a serpent in the book of Genesis. Another Jewish source where Satan is seen as a personal being is in the book of Job. In its opening chapters, there is dialogue occurring between Satan and God, implying, of course, that both are personal beings.

It’s not so much that we don’t believe in Satan, he simply has no connection to us historically or now.  If one looks closer, the adversary described in Job is not in opposition to God, but rather is used by God to exact his will upon the hapless Job.  It bears no resemblance to the evil Satan religion has created.  There is nothing to support the notion that the serpent in the Garden myth was “Satan.”  What most evangelicals seem to believe is that the allegory and symbolism of the Bible are to be taken literally.

Other Pagans may be willing to admit that there is an evil force, or forces, in the world but that this is not to be thought of as a personal being. However, throughout the Bible the following personal attributes are attributed to Satan: He speaks (Job 1:6-2:1-5; Matt 4:1-11); he has a will (1 Chron. 21:1; Luke 22:31; 1 Thess. 2:18; 2 Tim. 2:26); he tempts (Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Cor. 7:5); and he oppressors people (Acts 10:38), all characteristics that we would expect from a personal being, not a symbol of abstract force.

It would be wise to take a closer look at the Satan myth as it is presented in the Bible.  Satan is the euphemism used to describe any person acting as an accuser or enemy (see 1 Samuel 29:4; 2 Samuel 19:22; 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Kings 11:14).  In other references he is a divine messenger sent by God as an adversary (Numbers 22:22, 32).  He is also revealed as a member of God’s inner council (1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1 and 2; and Zechariah 3:1-7).  There are no passages within the older parts of the Hebrew Scriptures where Satan is portrayed as an evil devil or the arch enemy of God and of humanity.  Both kind and evil deeds are directly or indirectly perpetrated by God.

Throughout history, and to this very day, millions of people have testified to encounters with very real spiritual forces of evil. Are we really to conclude that all these people were simply lying, or maybe hallucinating? Indeed many of these people did not come from a Christian worldview and so the concept of a Devil or demons were not at the forefront of their minds prior to these experiences. However, for those who have become Christians, their faith, and what the Bible says about the Devil and the spirits which are under his command, has enabled them to make sense of their experiences (see some of the stories listed at left).

Spiritual forces are not the same thing as the evil Satan creature embraced by the Abrahamic religions.  It is not surprising that people trying to escape their own “demons” would grasp onto a Satan/Devil creature as a means of understanding what they have experienced, both real and imagined.  The end result is that the person finds a way to blame an evil entity as the cause of the bad things they encounter or do because they are uncomfortable with the likelihood that God caused it.

The truth is, the Devil was not simply invented by the Church, but rather exists as a reality in the world today. One of the most effective deceptions he performs is to try and convince people he does not exist! Jesus called Satan “The father of lies” (John 8:44). It should therefore come as no surprise that he will seek to convince people that he does not exist.

It seems to escape apologists that to claim what they read in the Bible must be true because it is in the Bible is foolhardy at best.  Sadly, Christians tend not to educate themselves on the historical origin of the Satan myth.  Since the Jewish scriptures portray Satan as a divine messenger and member of God’s inner council, one would need to explain how he mysteriously became the “father of lies” in the NT.  If one is acting on God’s behalf and is considered a liar, it is the same as saying God is a liar.

There is no character known as the Devil or Satan in the religion of Witchcraft and the attempts of Christianity to force their all-evil character into the workings of Witches is arrogant and untenable.  Writings about Witches occur in Western literature as early as the eighth century BCE long before the introduction of Satan in Judaism and Christianity.  The concept of a personification of evil originated outside of Europe, and was later imported when trade with the Middle East and Egypt was developed.  It was around 500 BCE that Zoroaster created the concept of Ahriman (Satan) as a tempter.  Zoroaster had all the attributes of the Bible Jehovah.  In modern Christianity Satan has become the scapegoat for the evil people do. 

Ultimately one has to ask him/herself why they worship a God who has created an all-evil entity to tempt, mislead, trick or deceive the believer, and then judge and punish them for succumbing to it.  Further information on the concept of Satan:  http://www.deliriumsrealm.com/delirium/articleview.asp?Post=327

Rituals
Paganism and Wicca promote all kinds of various rituals, which have to be adhered to in particular ways to get the desired results. However, religious ceremonies (including ceremonies in some parts of Christianity too!), do not bring people true freedom, but rather enslave people. Prior to my conversion to Christianity, I can recall in my own experience with Wicca that I had to perform certain rituals, in a certain manner, having the right ingredients, etc. and often repeat this over a period of time, for a spell to work. Certainly, many Pagans may not consider this to be enslaving, but speaking as a Christian, and looking back to what I was involved in, I can see that it never brought true liberty. The Bible speaks about serving God from the heart. Any religious acts that we are engaged in should not come as a result of feeling that we have to do them, but rather, we do them spontaneously, out of love for Him (see Ephesians 2:8-10).

I think the author is being disingenuous.  The church is rife with rituals that are consistently done in the same manner time and time again with little thought.  The rituals of communion, marriage, baptism, confirmation, ordination, and even hymns and sermons follow a set formula that is performed more from a memorized plan than spontaneous.  In fact I have seen congregations complain when the ritual is interjected with something new.  Our rituals also follow comfortable routine, but what transpires is most often the result of direct communion with the Divine.  They are an outward expression of what is in our hearts and spirits in connection to our source and in relationship with each other.  They are manifested in unscripted emanations.  While many modern books supply examples to follow, nearly all acknowledge that there are no set regulations that must be followed in ritual and that those which come directly from the heart are the most desirable and effective.

The gods, goddesses, and spirits of Paganism
Most of those who are involved in Paganism hold to a belief in a multitude of gods, goddesses and various spirit beings. Pagan writer, Prudence Jones, observes that a pagan religion: “…is polytheistic, recognizing a plurality of divine beings… ” (Prudence Jones, Paganism Today, p. 34).

Since we know there are many gods and goddesses, to ignore them would be of no benefit.  Wiccans believe that all gods are one god and all goddesses are one goddess.  The Divine energy of the universe is not male only, but a true divine family consisting of both masculine and feminine energy, unlike Christianity that rejects the feminine divine and offers an incomplete divine family of a single male god, his male son, and a holy spirit.

But can these spirits really be relied upon? Can they be trusted? Again, Prudence Jones observes the following:  “When the world is seen as filled with the gods, however, it can be easy to lose ones inner focus of control. Superstition results: the synchronicities of the world are seen as controlling everything, and the human being seems to have no power faced with the enveloping multitude of otherworldly forces whose influence can be read in every portent.” (Prudence Jones, Paganism Today, p. 38).

Jones touches on some very good points here. There have been many people who have practiced various aspects of the occult and have had dealings with spirits, but at some point or another, have felt that they no longer have control over the forces which they call upon, but rather, they themselves are being swept along by forces beyond their control. This was certainly my own experience, and has been the experience of countless others, who’s experiences I have also heard. The truth is, that these spirits are highly intelligent and powerful evil spirit beings who are intent on manipulating and deceiving humanity, and leading people away from the true freedom and salvation which is to be found in Jesus Christ.

The author’s determination that dealing with “evil spirits” involves a loss of control is erroneous.  The freedom to call upon specific gods/goddesses provides much greater security than relying upon one god who sometimes answers prayer and sometimes doesn’t, who sometimes intervenes but most often does not.  Unlike Paganism, the Christian petitioner is a non-participant.  His is a god who hears the cries and prayers of many people experiencing disasters like tornadoes, but chooses to save one while letting innocent children suffer and die.  That kind of capriciousness is not experienced in WW&P.  We know we can rely upon our divine connection because we directly experience and take part in its results.

Patriarchal Issues
Christianity is often viewed as a male religion, amongst those in the Pagan community. Jesus was male and God is spoken of in masculine terms. But it should be noted that God is not a human being, but rather a Spirit (John 4:26). Nor is He male or female, as He transcends human sexuality, being outside the realms of the created order Himself. So why address Him as a He? One of the reasons for this is simply that we need to address God in some way. The Bible rules out the idea that He is an impersonal force of some kind and instead refers to Him in personal terms. By addressing Him as a `He’ the ancient Israelites were able to identify with the image of a father and all that went with such an image (Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, pp. 205-207).

This argument is the result of the challenges brought forth when women finally admitted to the ill treatment they receive in the scriptures and churches.  It has no biblical foundation.  The Bible is clear that God is male and his son as well.  While trying to whitewash the truth about his God, McCann, along with many other modern apologists, invents his own version of the Bible.  Nowhere in the Bible does it indicate that God is anything but a male spirit.  A simple knowledge of the Law of Gender shows the weakness of this position.  The Bible was written within a culture that considered women property to be handed over from one man to another either as a sex slave or a virginal wife.  Females, even female children, were depicted as being of lesser value than male counterparts and subject to their ruling father or husband.

Curses
Although many Wiccans do steer away from putting curses on others, there are others who will become involved in the cursing of an enemy. I know that this was certainly the case in my own experience in the occult. I had a close friend who called himself “a white witch”, but had no qualms about cursing someone who got in his way, or whom he simply took a dislike to! The truth is, that despite the denials of some of those who practice white witchcraft, the practice of cursing one’s enemies is prevalent in the craft.

A curse is the same as many of the prayers offered up by Christians.  They pray for their team to win a competition, which means they are praying for others to lose (cursing).  Christians often pray for those who do not follow their religion to lose their faith and follow theirs.  They do so by threatening that their God will judge, condemn, and punish them with eternal pain and suffering if they don’t abandon their long-held beliefs.  Ultimately, in both Christianity and Paganism, curses are performed.  At least most Pagans interject that what they do is to cause no harm to another.

“The Dianic Witch, Z. Budapest in The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries says that if women hex rapists or others who ‘commit crimes of patriarchy’, there is no divine retribution. She gives instructions on how to perform a ‘Righteous Hex’, for ‘violent criminals only’ and when you ‘know, not just think’ that someone has harmed you’ (1990). But I have heard mention of hexing being done between witches for more mundane reasons, over quarrels about money for example, or to gain retribution against an employer who was unsympathetic.” (Susan Greenwood, Magic, Witchcraft and the Otherworld: An Anthropology, p. 201).

The Bible answer to revenge, is to not take it yourself, but to allow God, the Judge of all humanity, administer any necessary punishment: “For we know Him who has said, “Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:30-31, LITV).

It’s irrelevant how another religion handles situations.  While Christians claim that revenge belongs only to their God, they most certainly offer up prayers to control others who are not of their religion, to call on their God to force them to conform or convert to their religion.  But even more often, evangelicals act, claiming they are acting for God, when they are in fact expressing their prejudice and hatred in violence directed toward certain minorities, like homosexuals.  Fearing the plight of falling into the hands of their wrathful God is not freedom, it is slavery to a capricious God.

“When anything goes wrong in our lives, it is too easy to accuse our nearest enemy of bringing this about by magical means, and if necessary to take magical revenge against them. Such an attitude of blame without proof can trap people in a constant cycle of vendetta and fear of vendetta, leaching energy from ordinary life.” (Prudence Jones, Paganism Today, p. 40).

That’s absolutely true.  That is why curses are not thrown or do not work when there is no proof for its need.  But Christian prayer seeks to remove free will from those who do not agree with their tenets.

For those who turn to Christ, all curses are broken (no matter how strong!), as Christ became a “curse for us” when He died on the cross for each one of us to take away our sins (see Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

WWP do not rely upon a god who would see his own son murdered rather than have people take responsibility for what they do.  Our connection with the Divine means that there is a cure for any spiritual ill and that it is available to us when we need it.

If you are a Wiccan or Pagan, and have read this far, then thank you for being willing to consider a Christian perspective on your religion. I hope that some misconceptions about what you may have perceived Christianity to be have been cleared up. Is it possible that, in the past, you have actually rejected a caricature of Christianity rather than true Christianity? Are you willing to re-examine the life and the claims of Christ? I think that if you sincerely make such a fresh re-examination you will be very surprised. I have spoken with Wiccans and Pagans in the past who have made such an investigation and been amazed at the misconceptions which they have had about Christianity.

It’s this ego-based religion that is simply untenable.  There is nothing new offered by this author, nothing that we haven’t learned by our own Christian history and study.

If you are a Christian, please note that in fairness to my Wiccan and Pagan friends, it must be said that misunderstandings also often occur from those who follow Christ. I hope that some of the misconceptions you may have had about Paganism and Wicca have been addressed. Prayerfully take some of this information and share it in a sensitive manner with your pagan friends. (See suggestions)

Attempting to judge Paganism and Witchcraft through the lens of writings by unknown authors writing for the benefit of men in an ancient culture, is dishonest to the core.

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What ultimately led me away from Christianity was an intense desire to strengthen my Christian faith through deep study and understanding of the scriptures.  Not only did it not strengthen my faith, the Bible ultimately became the catalyst for my leaving the church.

Growing up in an Italian/Catholic neighborhood to conservative Protestant parents, I had always been a questioner.  Why does Julie’s church have statues and ours doesn’t?  Why do other children have ash crosses on their foreheads?  How come we eat meat on Fridays?  Why don’t we have pretty little beads?

As an adolescent I learned the reasons for these things and realized that even among Christians, there were profound differences.  I was taught that ours was the true faith, and that seemed good enough.  After my father, who was the spiritual leader in our home, died, however, I left the church. 

Then I met a woman whose profound faith led me to yearn for a religious foundation and community of the faithful once again, so I joined a Baptist Church and also worked as the secretary there. 

I became disillusioned when the pastor left for a new position and the church began its pastoral search.  What troubled me was the fact that they wouldn’t even consider a woman for the pastorate and pointed to the Bible as the source for this decision.  This happened when we were relocating, so it was easy for me to return to un-churched status once more.

After settling into a new town I saw a want ad in the paper for a secretary for the local Presbyterian churches.  With my work history, I was immediately hired for the position.  After meeting some of the people and enjoying the atmosphere, I decided to join the church.  My husband also joined.  Soon I was on several committees, took part in services, and became an adult Bible study teacher.

After a few months, the pastor left for a new position and I took the chair position of the pastoral search committee.  We poured through dozens of applications and finally selected a newly ordained woman.  She was articulate and full of energy.  It was an exciting time for us and our yoked churches.

Unfortunately, after a few years the pastor began to involve herself in some rather immoral and unethical behavior.  She treated confidential information like gossip, betraying many confidences.  She carried on a two-year affair with a church member, even while he was living with another woman.  She also had brief affairs with others.  All of this became known to me directly from her own lips.  I wasn’t comfortable with what she revealed to me, but felt even a pastor needs someone to confide in, so I never reported it.

Then I was called for my semi-annual review.  I had been the secretary for 11 years and had always received raises and positive reviews and compliments on my work.  This review, however, turned out to be quite different.  I was fired.  I asked why and was told that they didn’t have to give me a reason.  Though it made no sense to me, it appeared they fired me because of some lies the pastor told them because she became uncomfortable with what I knew and feared it would become known. 

A bit confused over the questionable dismissal I asked if the pastor was also being fired.  I was told that she had their utmost support!  In fact, when the Session Clerk was told of the affair between the pastor and her son, she laughed.  Apparently the denial and immorality was deeply rooted in all of the members of the staff and committee heads. 

Knowing that if I exposed the church’s dirty laundry, firing me would allow them to claim I was lying because I was angry about being fired, I felt it was important to report the immoral and unethical acts of the pastor to the chair of the Worship and Spiritual Life Committee as well as the Presbytery Executive and Personal Committee.  Another woman who had been close to the pastor joined me in that report.  We were told to keep quiet and it would just disappear.  The Personal Committee did nothing.  I and the other woman were never called to verify our report.  Appalled and disgusted, I and my husband left.

You would think that would be lesson enough, but I enjoyed Bible study and the community of church members, so I started attending the local UMC with my neighbor.  Initially I enjoyed it very much, especially the Bible study, until I sat down in the class one morning and the couple that led the study began making nasty comments about homosexuals.  I picked up my Bible and left.  That was the end of my association with any organized religion.

Even un-churched, however, I maintained my deep faith.  I wanted to strengthen it, so I began serious study of the Bible and the history of Christianity.  It was in the passages that the pastors and churches avoid that I found the Christian foundation crumbling.  I read the works of many apologists, theologians, and scholars.  Not only is the Bible not the literal word of God, it’s clearly a group of books written by unknown men for the benefit of men.  It’s treatment of women and children reveals a tyrannical and capricious God.  No longer could I align myself with Christianity at all.  I was spiritually adrift.

At that point in my spiritual life I began to examine comparative religions; I had no idea there were so many.  Nothing fit.  Then I came across a new term – Book of Shadows, and searched websites that mentioned it in conjunction with Wicca, witchcraft and paganism.  To my relief and surprise, I discovered that other people felt as I did, spiritual people, people who loved nature and ritual, people who experienced many gods and goddesses.  Nothing had ever excited or called to me like paganism and witchcraft did.  I purchased Laurie Cabot’s book, Power of the Witch, and knew at once that I was on the journey of my life.

Paganism is an umbrella under which many traditions flourish, including solitary practice.  With nothing between me and the Gods, I was able to discover what had been within me my entire life, a deep spiritual core rooted in the ancient religion and practices of our ancestors.

At first I was drawn to Stregheria.  It was there that I met and came to adore Aradia, daughter of Diana.  But Aradia alone could not sustain me and I had to eventually admit that Stregheria wasn’t the tradition for me.  Then came a crystal clear dream in which my grandfather said, “Follow your roots.”

My ancestors on both sides were Celtic, so I began researching Celtic traditions and the Celtic pantheon.  That was it.  I read book after book, and was finally connected to Danu, Brighid, Cerridwen, Lugh, Cernunnos, and so many others who represent the power and energy of the universe.  It was like being lovingly embraced by divine family.  At last, I was home.  

Along with studying my own path, I continue to study the Bible, referring to it especially when I see it being misinterpreted, misunderstood, misquoted, and used to alienate, marginalize, and create prejudice and hate, often resulting in deaths.

May you follow your own true will and find peace –

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