Some responses to “Some Christian Observations on Paganism and Wicca”
In an article* for the Spotlight Ministries website, Vincent McCann attempts to address some Pagan ideas. While this is a laudable thing in and of itself, McCann’s article falls short of creating any actual understanding between Pagans and Christians and instead relies upon some of the very misconceptions that Christians have about Pagan religions. Though he claims at the end to have addressed those misconceptions, he has only reinforced them.
First off, he seems to conflate Wicca and Paganism. Whereas Wicca can be considered a Pagan religion, Paganism is the shorthand term used for all Pagan religions. There are many of them and though they share similar approaches to life and of conceiving the divine, their expressions and rituals are widely variant. The Pagan family includes Wicca, Asatru, Celtic Polytheism, Hellenismos, Discordianism, and other religions. Conflating Wicca and Paganism is a common enough mistake to make however and has nothing to do with the author’s Christianity in the least. Many in mainstream society also tend to conflate Wicca and Paganism. Though someone who publishes an article anywhere to be read by others should at least do cursory research before attempting to use terms such as Paganism or Wicca so that they can learn the difference.
McCann makes some observations about certain issues he feels are relevant to both Christians and Pagans and claims to address them “in a fair and balanced manner.” These observations center on what he categorizes as “Ecology,” “The Church,” “The Devil – A Christian Invention?” “Rituals,” “The gods, goddesses, and spirits of Paganism,” “Patriarchal Issues” and his conclusion. He claims to have written the article from a variety of sources, but it is clear that if he has relied on various sources as inspiration, he has read into them his own misconceptions.
How unfair and unbalanced his observations really are become readily apparent. His above-mentioned conflation of Wicca, a distinctive Pagan religion, with Paganism as a whole, betrays a lack of real interest in what Pagan religions have to offer. It would be like conflating Christianity, a distinctive monotheist religion, with Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) as a whole. How does such a lack of interest result in addressing issues “relevant” to both Paganism and Christianity in a fair manner? If McCann is addressing the more general broader conceptions that exist among most Pagan religions, then perhaps he should just stick with the more general term “Paganism” which refers to an entire family of religions.
In his first observation, “Ecology,” he makes the same mistake that many Christians make in assuming that Pagan reverence for nature stops short of revering the Creator. Some Pagans see the world as being created. Others see it as evolving over time. Still others view all life as the creator and thus we are all active participants in what we call existence. McCann’s metaphor of the sculpture is apt but is wrong because Pagans don’t view the world as an inert work of art made by a craftsperson or artist. The world to us is a living being in and of itself. So when we revere it in any of its forms, we are revering the divine. My own apt metaphor: Imagine the love of your life as a living self-wrought canvas of glory including the beautiful and otherwise. Would it be right to view them as an inert work wrought by another?
Since we conceive of nature as intrinsically divine or sacred and we humans must do what we can to live from the land and environment, this means we are to take care and exhibit responsible consumption of resources in gratitude and celebration. This doesn’t mean we are to rule over or do as we wish with the natural world. In fact, many if not most Pagans wouldn’t see humans as being essentially separate from nature except via cultural or social spheres of development. (This accords well with the findings of many scientific fields.) In fact some Pagans believe that animals and plants are akin to humans, if not just because of having life, but in other ways. Some Pagans conceive of the world not only in pantheistic (all is divine) terms but also in animistic (all is alive) terms. None of this presents problems to us in terms of having to eat to survive, since we see this as natural. Life feeds off of life in an interdependent fashion. Even human beings’ living bodies, at the top of the “food chain,” eventually die and contribute to this process.
In a lot of Pagan conceptions, whether or not the world was created is irrelevant. In fact, to talk of “origins” or of a “creation” that started it all would be an entirely false approach that could lead to more misunderstanding. Many Pagans see the world and the passage of time in cyclical terms, since many of our rituals and observances are based off naturally reoccurring events such as seasonal changes, solstices or moon phases. We see the ebb and flow of tides, the sun and moon cycles, the turning of seasons, and living and dying as cyclical. Thus, for us, there is no ultimate beginning or end. There is only endless life expressing itself in ceaseless change throughout the patterns and cycles which we can observe, mark, and celebrate as we take our part in it. Many Pagan religions do have myths of creation or origins, but these are understood as stories which refer to deeper aspects of existence.
His quoting of Romans 1:25 “…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” serves to support a Christian misconception of Pagan approaches to the environment and divinity, but McCann doesn’t address the fact that Pagan religions are not beholden to Christian ideas nor are they beholden to Christian misunderstandings of Pagan concepts. Pagans don’t see any religious scriptures as having any sort of divine importance. For us, our “scripture,” if you will, is the natural world around us. While Pagans respect the notion of sacred writings, we would feel it erroneous to rely on them in order to get in touch with any divinity. (Some would call such heavy reliance on scriptural authority “bibliolatry.”) I can understand why McCann might feel that in his version of Christianity, scriptural authority is of importance. However, he should seek to understand how or why Pagans don’t agree with such an idea. He should also be aware that using his own religion’s scripture to excuse his misconceptions about Paganism can be construed as insulting.
To be fair, McCann does suggest that Christians become more concerned with the natural environment and in this is a good lead for some Christians or perhaps McCann himself to follow through with the idea that since they believe their God created the world, then Christians should learn to cherish it better.
The second observation, “The Church,” touches on some of the perceptions and historical accounts of persecution by institutional Christianity throughout the centuries. The bloodstained conflicts and persecutions wrought upon Europe and many other places by Christianity is well documented and educated Pagans know much of the history. Not many of us are ignorant of Christians persecuting other Christians. Many Christian sects, denominations, and traditions were oppressed and hounded with hundreds of thousands killed. But we should also remember that in the beginning, even while the nascent Roman Church was sinking its teeth into other Christian groups in the Roman Empire, it was also making quick work of Roman laws to allow for the persecution and eventual destruction of Pagan religions, many followers of which were not converted peacefully at all.
McCann’s assertion that those in the Church were not true Christians seems like a good argument, but it is false. Even by the tenets of the Christian faith, McCann should not be willing to cast out those Christian persecutors who may have felt they were really defending their faith against evil. I agree that perhaps some of those people who caused so much suffering and death would have been better served had they taken a look at the more peaceful visions of their master, Jesus Christ, and followed those more closely, but even those peaceful ideas are not consistent. Christ Himself said He came to bring not peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34 “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace but a sword.”) Perhaps this statement is allegorical, but how are non-Christians supposed to know that, especially when throughout history such leaders as Martin Luther claimed the more violent meaning as the real one? And what are we to make of other verses such as Luke 19:27 which seem to command persecution? (“But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me.”)
I am tempted to pose this question to McCann: “If all of those hundreds of Christian leaders and hundreds of thousands of Christian people throughout the centuries who advocated and participated in persecution of heretics and non-believers have not been ‘true Christians,’ what is it about Christianity that seems to engender so many ‘false Christians’?” Many would argue as McCann does and claim that such vile people are not true Christians. Others would say that nobody is perfect and this includes Christians. You can not have it both ways. I tend toward the second explanation since there is nothing about being a Christian or a member of any other faith that would prevent someone from being a murderer or an abuser, and some people even use their religion to justify their actions.
To be fair to McCann, from the end of the old Paganism in Europe (this varies from place to place, but by around 1000 CE most of the old Pagan religions had disappeared) until modern times, the vast majority of people killed by Christian institutions were other Christians, especially after the Protestant Reformation. (Protestants and Catholics killed one another readily at that time.) Christian crusades first hacked and burned their way through Eastern Europe, which was largely Christian Orthodox. But in modern times millions of non-Christians have been killed, enslaved, or starved under forcible conversions during the great European imperial expansions after 1492. Native American nations were decimated by these Christian conquests. The issue that McCann skirts around here is that many of the Christian leaders and people involved in the persecution of other groups of Christians thought that destruction and persecution of heretics and heresy was divinely sanctioned. (Thomas Aquinas, as one example, advocated death for heretics.)
McCann is unfair in implying that the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland are simply killing each other due to religion. There are social, cultural and political issues involved in that conflict and religious persuasion became simply one of the most salient markers of which side a person tended to be on. But the issue in Northern Ireland is really one of either loyalty to the United Kingdom or the ideal of Irish nationalism which seeks to reunite Ireland and revive the native culture. The killing is largely over now since the cease fire and Good Friday Accords have put into place a very real political process where all sides can have a say. I should add though that two thirds of the civilian deaths in the conflict were caused by the UK loyalist paramilitary groups (and not the IRA) and that the loyalist community is closer to the biblical fundamentalist version of Christianity.
Back to the issue of ‘true Christians’, even they make mistakes and do horrible things. I would hope that they would not, but even so, I don’t assume they are false Christians. I do admit that many people involved in faith are doing so for greedy or violent reasons. The Pagan religions also have people of this sort. But whether a person can stay true to their religious tenets or not isn’t the issue here. The issue is that Christianity had its say with its dominance of Western Civilization for centuries and the bad result was suffering, conquest, and death. Nothing can disguise this. In terms of social freedom and democracy, the ideals of liberty were fought against by most Christian institutions for centuries until the torch was lit in America with its secular republic. Now all across Western Civilization, everyone, including Christians, benefits from secular democracy. (A side note of evidence: The Third Reich was a Christian Fundamentalist state, contrary to the claims of many.) Many of the supposed shining exemplars of Christian history were in fact violent men who advocated death and suffering for others. Martin Luther is one of those. (He advocated killing all Jews, as an example.) But even this is not the main issue.
The main issue is that Pagans of all sorts are not rejecting the church or Jesus because of the actions of some bad men or because of the persecutions. Any Pagans who give these reasons are shallow in their own faith. I myself am Pagan because Paganism speaks the truth to me. It resonates deep within my soul and sustains my spirit with a connection to the divine, wherever that divine is. I am not a Pagan because I “reject Christ” as many Christians would believe. My being a Pagan does not mean I reject Christ. Not believing is not the same as rejection. To say one must either accept something as true or reject it is inimical and leads people to think that any disagreement is due to evil or “refusal” to see. My not believing in Christ is not a rejection of anything. It simply means I believe differently. I am Pagan because I revere my Gods and because my worldview sees existence as pulsating with life. If I believed in the God of the Bible or in Christ, then I would be Christian. I see validity with a Christian believing in what they do, so Christians should see validity with me believing in what I do. If I was to use McCann’s argument here but turn it around, then that would mean that I could say that Christians are not Pagans because they have rejected our Gods. Can anyone see the absurdity? My being of one faith doesn’t mean I have rejected another faith. It simply means that I will continue being of my faith. Christians wouldn’t like it if I tried to convert them to my version of Paganism, so why do they think that Christian attempts at converting Pagans or others is to be encouraged?
In “The Devil,” McCann refutes the notion that evil was a Christian concept. And this is right. Evil and personages of evil are pretty much global and occur in many societies and cultures. However, outside of Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) the only other religions to have a “Devil” character are Mithraism (which died out) and Zoroasterism. The Pagan idea is that there is nothing that could be the essence of evil personified. Sure there may be malevolent beings, as there are malevolent humans (and some of us can point them out, or think we can), but we don’t see evil as being permanent in any essential way. The Pagan approach to evil is situational. Obviously those who profit from suffering (like criminals and others) are being evil and should be stopped. Those (humans or other beings) who would seek to enslave and coerce others are being evil and should be resisted and stopped. But we don’t attribute anything evil to natural forces, no matter how destructive. As for spirits, it turns out that humans have minds of their own and should use them to be discerning when dealing with any such beings. Much like when dealing with other humans.
Within Pagan conceptions of the universe, we don’t have a Devil, thus we don’t believe that one exists. So for us it is only logical to conclude that the Devil is a Christian idea, in as much as Western ideas of the Devil are Christian (and not Jewish or Muslim). Some make the further argument that institutional Christianity invented the Devil. This may be false, but institutional Christianity most certainly hyped up the concept for self-serving reasons. (Such as when one group persecuted another for heresy, or when Christians slander Pagans and blaspheme against our Gods by calling them “demons” or “devils,” or when some Christians lie and say we are Devil-worshippers. Or even when Christians try to tell us we are being deceived by the Devil.)
It is interesting to think about the Devil’s lie that he himself doesn’t exist. However if such a creature could pass that one off, how could any Christian be sure of their own God? Would not the Devil pass himself off as God?
McCann’s observations on “Rituals” falls short but does imply a valid point in that people should take care so that rituals don’t end up enslaving them. No individual is less important than any ritual. And no ritual, in any form of Paganism, is intended to make any individual abrogate their self.
Rituals serve many functions and I find that McCann’s observation should have addressed at least some of them. Rituals serve to build group cohesion through shared experiences. Rituals serve to express things in ways that mere language cannot – in this way they are much like art and theater. Rituals also mark passages through various stages of learning or through various life-cycle changes. Rituals can even cause the sort of changes in one’s heart that result in a person becoming liberated from habits or outlooks that are destroying them. In the Pagan view, the Christian conversion experience is a ritual, albeit improvised and personal.
I don’t like the implication McCann makes that rituals are merely for results in a magical or occult oriented way. Sure there are rituals enough for those sorts of things, but experienced practitioners tend to create their own sort of rituals for these things. The vast majority of Pagan rituals or religious ceremonies are for either celebration or for commemoration. So long as these reasons are remembered no one who participates in any ritual need go along mindlessly or out of a twisted sense of devotion. I myself practice and participate in rituals because I love doing so and they make me feel even more connected and empowered. Sure I would love to feel that way all the time, but it helps to have ritual to rely on when I need to recharge myself, or re-align myself, or to re-connect. It is much like prayer. (And we Pagans consider prayer, whether from tradition or spontaneous, to be a form of ritual.) That is what religion is about….connection. By the way, myself and the Pagans I know have done personal and group rituals that were spontaneous and out of love and celebration. (That’s what worship is all about for us.)
Many of the cyclical rituals that are observed anew every year allow us to more deeply understand the meaning the rituals point to. Thus we mature in our knowledge and understanding through such repetition. This is an aspect that those who shun all traditional or repeated rituals miss out on. To understand my point, compare it with being in love. Every time you get to spend time with your beloved, you get to know them in a deeper way (or you should be). Little by little, and eventually after time passes you realize how much closer you have gotten with your beloved. If you are both skillful in your cherishing of each other, than anniversaries and other cyclical commemorations become a way of further confirming and deepening your love and commitment. In this way, we Pagans see our rituals.
Pagan religions have exhibited a marked diversity and creativity when it comes to rituals and the experiences they engender. McCann should realize that when he speaks of rituals (I gather from his former practice of Witchcraft) not giving him liberty, then maybe that was because it wasn’t right for him. The fact that he is Christian now, and I assume happy with that, means that he of course gravitated toward a faith that was more fulfilling for him. But he should not assume that the way he feels about his faith is the same way for everyone else. Pagan faith, ideas and practices liberate me. I would feel un-free if I tried to bond myself to practicing Christianity, as I did in the past. So I understand the need to keep moving on until one finds one’s home, so to speak.
As to McCann’s observations about our Gods, Goddesses, and spirits (though he doesn’t use capital letters), he is right in saying we are mostly polytheistic. He quotes from Prudence Jones to this very idea. But then in the next paragraph he equates Pagan multiple deities with spirits and wonders as to whether they can be trusted. Of course they can be trusted in as much as a person gets to know them. It would be foolish to trust anyone or any being out of blind faith (which is really a symptom of personal irresponsibility).
McCann goes on to quote Prudence Jones again, but this time to support the fallacy that multiple deities and powers leads to a loss of focus and action. This is wrong. Polytheism is not to blame for a loss of focus or loss of personal action/responsibility. Many adherents of Monotheist faiths, Christians included, have been shown to have lost focus or a sense of personal responsibility. They attribute to God every sort of thing that happens and then refuse to make any personal choices because they leave it to God’s will. Prudence Jones “otherworldly forces whose influence can be read in every portent” can also be attributed to one God, such as in monotheistic faiths (especially when people add in the Devil and other beings like demons and angels). I seem to recall the Christian saying “So heavenly minded, no earthly good.” So even Christians have this problem, which I suspect is a psychological problem common to human beings and not inherent to any religion. It is the reason why some people join destructive cults after all.
Oddly enough, the Pagan emphasis on personal responsibility (since the divine is immanent) tends to keep adherents of Pagan religions from losing focus or from abdicating their own responsibility for their lives. In the relatively short history of modern Paganism, the whole family of religions has avoided the rise of various cults and sects that seek to brainwash and dominate their members’ every thought. The same cannot be said of any other religious family. Even modern Christianity has seen its own share of destructive cults and sects. Perhaps not only the Pagan emphasis on personal responsibility, but also its pluralism make it extremely difficult for Pagans in any large numbers to fall prey to any group or cult that would seek to dominate or control its members. It would be hard to convince Pagans that they must obey the words of some leader when they know very well that they themselves can also commune with the Gods and Goddesses. Any Pagan group that tries to enforce submission from its members would not last long since Pagans know that no one else but themselves can be responsible for their lives. Despite this, there will always be a minority of people who for whatever reason are gullible and would rather follow the words of fools then to be in charge of their own lives. As I mentioned above, this is a psychological problem, and though it has nothing to do with religion, a lot of the more institutional Christian groups have used this to their advantage.
Then McCann makes the mistake of conflating Pagan polytheism with occult practices, which is not only absurd but wrong. His claim of occultists losing power over the forces they deal with is unfounded since many occultists, as flaky or eccentric as they may be, are more in control of their lives and any forces than the average person. I know this for a fact from my own dealings with occultists. I have spent many years exploring the subcultures and people of the “occult” and so can speak from experience instead of prejudice.
But the occult and occultists are not the same as Paganism and Pagans. The occult refers to all sorts of magical and spiritual traditions and practices that deal with the so-called hidden knowledge. (But really not so hidden since anyone can walk into a bookstore and read up on any so-called secret lore.) Occultists are those people who consistently deal with such things. (Or claim to, anyway.) Paganism is an umbrella term referring to a family of religions. A Pagan is a member of one of those religions. While many Pagans are occultists, many are not. And while the Pagan religion of Wicca uses much that can be considered “magical” in its practices and rituals, this definition or term is argued over. Many occultists are members of religions and many are not. There are even atheist occultists (those who believe in no Gods or spirits). Pagan religions, being tolerant, are open to members exploring occult systems if that’s what such people wish to do. But there are many Pagans who have no time for such things and it is unfair to conflate Paganism with occultism, since the two terms refer to different things. It would be like conflating Christians with musicians.
In this observation, he remarks on spirits. But he doesn’t say a word about our Gods or Goddesses (even though he includes the words in his title). It’s almost as if he is skirting the issue that our Gods and Goddesses are valid. He seems to think that because he sees all these beings as mere spirits, that that is the truth. It may be the truth in Christianity, but it is blasphemous against our Gods and Goddesses. He calls them “evil spirit beings.” Need I say more?
It’s a shame that McCann doesn’t recognize the validity of Pagan conceptions and approaches to the divine. He probably would deny me my very real and valid experiences with my own personal Gods and Goddesses. And that’s a shame because I don’t deny his religion’s validity for him. I just disagree with him. I also know my Gods and Goddesses in a personal way and they act in consistent and trustworthy ways. I can rely on them if need be, but I also know enough to realize that I also have a brain and a life to live and so I can rely on myself. My Gods and Goddesses can also rely on me. That’s what relationship is all about between any beings.
McCann makes the same slander that most Christians make against we Pagans and our Gods and Goddesses: That they are really evil spirits that seek to deceive us. This dualist idea that one either believes in Christ or one is being deceived is a product of a mind that cannot accept that there are real differences and variations in life and that these variations and differences are intrinsically valid. McCann is repeating the ancient Christian slander of Pagan religions which states that all non-Christian Gods and Goddesses are really demons or the Devil deceiving people from the truth of the “One God.” But Polytheism, being at heart pluralistic, recognizes the validity of all conceptions of divinity. Polytheists therefore recognize that there are many Gods, Goddesses, and other beings worthy of respect, friendship and celebration. Because of this pluralism, we don’t accept that there could ever be one religion or spirituality that could ever explain away everything. Nor could there ever be one religion or set of spiritual conceptions that could ever satisfy or appeal to everyone. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to religions, faiths, or the divine. Because of this, just because another person is following a different religion or God (or a different group of Gods and Goddesses) from me, doesn’t make that other person wrong. We have the space to disagree and this variety is not only essential to survival but is sacred.
McCann’s observation about Patriarchal Issues is slight and cursory. Jesus was a man. I realize that this was simply a factor of history and such. But what would have happened had He been a She? And if the creator needs to be addressed, what is wrong with using “She,” “Her,” and Mother? As a Pagan I see nothing wrong with female deity or Goddesses and I accord women the same rights, respects, and freedoms as men. Sometimes even more so, since women give birth to us. Addressing God as “Father” is all fine and good, but McCann needs to research why that was so. The ancient Israelites were a product of their times and culture. Being patriarchal, they would naturally think of the ultimate Divine Being as “Father.” (Patriarchy means “rule of fathers” after all.) They didn’t simply choose to call Him “Father.” They were making a point by it.
I concede McCann’s point that some Pagans view Christianity as a male religion but historical and institutional Christianity did much to take away women’s social rights and freedoms. There has been much misogyny in Christian history. Many of the religion’s heroes from Augustine to Luther, considered women to be evil creatures. And consider that women weren’t allowed to be priests in Catholicism or reverends in Protestantism. Why not? To be fair, the Jesus of the Gospels appeared to treat women much better than Christians did after Him. It seemed He treated them as equals to men. Perhaps Christians in history also forgot that in the start of Christianity, there were women priests, bishops, deacons, prophets and teachers. But that was only in the start of the religion. For centuries women were denigrated and denied equality with men. Christians justified this mistreatment saying that Eve was evil for tempting Adam (as if Adam wasn’t responsible for his own actions). So the Pagan viewpoint does have some merit and a basis in real Christianity as practiced throughout history as opposed to how some apologists claim it otherwise.
The salient point about calling the “One God” by male titles is that it normalizes the male and denigrates the female into some sort of “other” being that varies from such a sacred norm. No amount of semantic diddling about thinking that Christians call God “Him” or “Father” simply as a way of address can take away the very real psychological processes of denigration or devaluation of women that such a thing encourages. This “Father God” idea thus reinforces the male centered view of themselves as being the normal humans and of women as being the variants. Modern Paganism does away with this by recognizing the divine as female and male. There are Gods and Goddesses as well as some deities that can be both or neither. Since the divine is usually beyond human bounds of conception, we use imagery that we can understand in order to express what we know about our Gods and Goddesses.
Deities also communicate with us through these forms and ideas. Resorting to Pagan Polytheism also allows women to see the richness of femininity that exists beyond gendered stereotyping since Pagan Goddesses and Gods often do things or have roles that do not fit today’s feminine or masculine ideals. (Such as some Goddesses of War, or some Gods of Nurturing.) We learn that Gods and Goddesses are not beholden to our stereotypes as we grow in our faith and practice. Since the divine is not beholden, and the divine is also immanent and within us, then neither are we beholden to stereotypes or socially ascribed roles based on gender. Many women find this a liberating breath of fresh air after so long of being told what to do or how to behave as “women.” Pagan men usually celebrate this and encourage it since when women are liberated, then men have a better chance at becoming so themselves.
As an aside, in the present era, it seems that Christian women are gaining ground and taking back their religion from the men who would hold them from their rightful place. Hopefully, they will end the male bias in the religion. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Christians have to start calling their Creator “Mother,” but frees them to do so if they wish. But with women in Christianity liberated from male dominance, perhaps then the idea of a “Father God” will become less of a burden and less of a denigration of women. Then very new and fresh ideas can form.
I should make the point though that, as poignant as it is for a woman to seek a religion in which she feels she is not the variant to a male norm, that is not the only reason many women become Pagans. The Pagan conception of the divine being Gods and Goddesses allows no sanction for men or women to belittle one another since both women and men can represent the divine. But in doing so, both men and women are freed from gender stereotypes (as I pointed out above) and can explore the true strengths and weakness of themselves as individuals first. It is a valid enough reason for the initial choice, but there are other reasons that will sustain the practice as time goes on. Some of them include: very real experiences with the divine; the celebration of life and natural cycles of growth and death; and other spiritual or life issues. Remember that Pagan religions address those “deeper” issues such as the meaning of life, despite the obsessive focus by the mainstream society on what rituals we practice. The meaning of Pagan religion isn’t what we do, but what and how we think, feel and believe about such spiritual and life issues as “meaning,” “morals,” and how to value living beings.
Back to McCann’s point about addressing the divine. He addresses his God as “Him” and such. We Pagans have many ways to address our Gods and Goddesses, from Lady or Lord to personal names. For us, there is no wrong in saying “Him” or “Her” etc. It is when some people insist on the fact that there is One God and that such a being must be addressed as a male. It is when the very notion of a female God is laughed at, derided, or causes anger…then we see a problem. We don’t insist that Christians start calling their God by female addresses. We don’t insist that Christians should start worshipping any of our Gods and Goddesses. Nor should Christians insist that we accept and worship their God (regardless of His or Her gender or lack thereof).
In conclusion, McCann seems to offer a version of “True Christianity” but that is a misnomer. What he should call it is the version that he and those who agree with him claim to be following. There are many variants of Christianity. And not all Christians would agree with McCann’s claims of “True Christianity.” Not all Christians would see anything wrong with the fact that we Pagans believe differently from them.
As for the life and claims of Christ, what of them? Which version? Whose story? The four Gospels? The countless other versions of the Gospels that were silenced and suppressed (with the followers persecuted and destroyed)? Many of us Pagans are familiar with Christianity, even with the Biblical Fundamentalist or Evangelical forms of Christianity that consider themselves “True Christianity.” We live in a society in which the majority religion is in fact Christianity. Does McCann think us ignorant or that we don’t know of all the claims, counter claims, and issues with regards to his religion? What does he really mean by his observations?
It seems that he is attempting to tell Pagans that their own religions are wrong and that if they only see his message then they will come to see Christ as the only way to freedom and salvation and thus convert. But that is very wrong. I understand the Christian message and have looked at Christ’s life and claims myself, with out any misconceptions or prejudices, without thinking about the failures of Christians to live up to their ideals (it was the religion of my childhood after all), and I still disagree with the religion. I am not Christian, so no surprise there. If I agreed with and accepted McCann’s religion as being true for me, then I would be Christian.
I am a Pagan however, and see my religion as just as valid and true. The world, in religious terms, is not either/or. It is not either I accept Christianity as true or else it is false. It simply doesn’t say much to me. I am not beholden to it. Pagan pluralism accepts that other religions are valid in the same way that cultural pluralism accepts that other cultures are valid. To say that one either accepts Christianity and believes Christ or else one is either being deceived or is practicing a false religion is the same as saying that either one accepts Chinese culture and adheres to it otherwise one is practicing a false culture. Do you see the illogic with this line of reasoning? Using a set of scriptures from within a religion to try to prove that religion’s supremacy over other religions is simply being prejudiced. I don’t accept sacred texts such as the Bible as being divinely revealed wishes from any God or Goddess. They are the records of humans struggling to come to terms with their own religious ideas. Thus there is no way Christians who believe in the Bible’s infallibility can ever try to convince me that my religion is false.
I could go around writing observations about Christianity and issues that Christians should be concerned with in regards to Paganism, and I sometimes do so, but I am not seeking to convince Christians that their religion is false, merely that they have some misconceptions and prejudices against us Pagans and against Paganism in general. In calling our Gods and Goddesses “evil spirits,” McCann shows just such a prejudice. It boils down to that fallacy of dualism again. If the world is divided between Ultimate Good and Ultimate Evil, then obviously Christians are going to think that anyone who doesn’t follow Christ is either evil or being deceived by evil. They cannot see it any other way. They have chosen to see the world in a very limiting fashion that reduces all subtlety and nuance into the tired cliche of the tyrant which says “you are either with me or against me.” Life can’t be reduced to such things. Even wise Christians have said as much.
As a Pagan living in a society influenced and dominated by Christians, I have heard all of their excuses, stereotypes, and other expressions of their Spiritual Supremacism before. Frankly, I am tired of it. McCann needs to go back to the drawing board with this article. If he wants it to be as fair and balanced as he claims, then he should allow Pagan and Christian views about issues equal and fair allotment without trying to mold the discussion into one which attempts to slander Pagan religions. Yes, if you call our religions or our Gods and Goddesses false, you are slandering us and blaspheming against our Gods and Goddesses. If McCann is as truly concerned and interested in Christ as he implies then perhaps he should focus on his own religion and not worry about what other people from other faiths are doing.
Until he is ready and willing to accept us Pagans as equals, he would do well to learn how to speak to people of different faiths rather than the attempt at evangelism he thinks of as dialogue. Perhaps he should then research what we really think and believe as opposed to what he thinks we believe. Perhaps he would do well to learn what we really do and practice as opposed to what he may have thought we practice. Perhaps he should learn to know that just because he did certain things when he called himself a Witchcraft practitioner (he doesn’t specify what sort of Witchcraft or whether it was Pagan) doesn’t mean the rest of us Pagans, whether Wiccan, Witch, or some other, do the same things or think about them in the same way as he claims we would. Many so-called former Pagan Christians all seem to have similar ideas. Did they ever think that the reason they felt or thought the way they did when they tried Paganism was because they were in a religion that was wrong for them? And just because it was wrong for them, doesn’t make it wrong for the rest of us.
McCann claims to have addressed some misconceptions Christians have about Pagans, but I see little in his article that does so. It seems he simply wishes to get Christians to reinforce their idea that Pagan religions are false or deceptive.
McCann, until you learn to dialogue with us as true equals, thanks but no thanks.
Written from Litha to June 28th, 2006
-Irreverend Hugh, KSC
(Spokesbeing of the JAMs)
*(You can read Vincent McCann’s article at
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Originally posted 2015-04-17 05:52:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter