Some Musings on Christianity vs. Witchcraft
Some interesting stuff occurred to me today as I poked around some more "Christian Witch" websites. The subject has bothered me for a long time; I return to it periodically, like a child with a loose tooth, and every now and again things surface that give me much to think about.
Many people talking about the combination of Christianity as religion and Craft as a means of practicing that religion play up the similarity between prayers and spells. I've also seen much made of the fact that the Roman Catholic Church converted many early populations by absorbing the extant religions of the area, making their deities into saints, adding candles and other things to ceremonies, etc. Occasionally, I have also come across mentions of Gnosticism as a more mystic-friendly version of Christianity, especially given the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts.
Personally, none of that really resonates with me. Roman Catholicism seems extremely ritual-bound and legalistic, although that is admittedly a vague opinion, as the only Catholic service I've personally sat through was a wedding, and even that abbreviated due to the fact that the wife-to-be wasn't herself a Catholic. It has beautiful elements, and much can be learned from it that the newer branches of Christianity have rejected, forgotten, or condemned, but as a whole it is not for me.
Neither is Gnosticism. The very idea that the creator God is a "demi-urge" and is responsible for the flaws in the world (instead of human failings) makes me feel sick to my stomach. From what I can see, on the surface, Gnosticism completely rejects the Old Testament God as evil, and emphasizes the "divine spark" present in all of us, and pursuit of knowledge by the old it-was-revealed-to-me method. I have severe problems with that.
I won't get into the Old Testament issues at the moment, since my feelings on the matter are complex, but I cannot just reject it out of hand. Also, the loner, it-is-my-truth concept of knowledge is a dangerous one, and while it can produce wonders, it can also lead individuals dangerously astray. I have problems with anyone who claims to know something solely because it was "revealed" to them. Intuition is all well and good, but there are Biblical verses about this sort of thing, about not trusting "every spirit" that comes along, about testing for truth and not accepting any old idea.
At any rate, that leaves me probing my own Christian path for reasons why the concept of the Christian Witch appeals to me. And what I've found leaves me with serious ideas to chew on.
First, I should explain my personal history. I was raised almost entirely in the "Assemblies of God" branch of Christianity. We're a bit looser, perhaps, than others, but still pretty fundamentalist. Here's a brief list of the "fundamental truths", which are better explained on this Assemblies of God page.
- The Scriptures Inspired
- The One True God
- The Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ
- The Fall of Man
- The Salvation of Man
- The Ordinances of the Church
- The Baptism in the Holy Ghost
- The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Ghost
- The Church and Its Mission
- The Ministry
- Divine Healing
- The Blessed Hope
- The Millenial Reign of Christ
- The Final Judgement
- The New Heavens and the New Earth
I'll list some breif explanatory factoids (as I understand them) for the confused, but for Biblical-verse support, you should go to the AoG's webpage.
(#1) refers to both Old and New Testaments, and notes them as "the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct."
(#2) is definitely concerned with the Trinity, as in God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit, and has many supporting verses mentioned at the site I linked to above.
(#3) is quite clearly concerned with the idea that Jesus was not just a good man, or a teacher, but actually God. You'd be surprised how many Christo-Pagan types back away from the "Jesus is God" idea but still consider themselves Christian, a contradiction I find very difficult to understand.
(#4) is concerned with the idea that Man cursed itself by voluntary transgression and became separated from God, rather than God being the cause of that separation.
(#5) is concerned with salvation through faith in Jesus, bridging that separation.
(#6) notes primarily Baptism in Water and Holy Communion as practices set forth in the Bible with important spiritual symbolism that we should follow.
(#7) is not water baptism, but a spritual baptism that I'm not going to be able to adequately explain. Suffice to say it deepens the spiritual relationship with God and involves bestowment of "spiritual gifts" on believers.
(#8) involves a particular spiritual gift called "speaking in tongues". See 1 Cor 12:4-10 in particular.
(#9) should, theoretically, exclude "Sunday Christians". Sanctification properly involves every facet of one's life, striving to be "holy"; the WWJD movement could be considered an outgrowth of sanctification, IMHO.
(#10) is about believers gathering to support one another, absorb teachings, worship God, and reach out to the community. (Not necessarily always in an evangelizing way, but in a good-deeds-speak-for-themselves way).
(#11) elaborates on how ministers are called to provide leadership for (#10).
(#12) states that God really can, and does, heal and deliver from sickness.
(#13) is all about the resurrection in Christ, that is, all Christians, both living and "asleep in Christ" (i.e. dead) will end up together in Heaven at the end.
(#14) is about what happens after the Rapture, and (#15) and (#16) as well. (I don't so much concern myself with these, as those days aren't yet here).
Now, I'll talk about how this variation on Christianity, firmly based on the Bible, leads me to investigate other concepts of spirituality and mysticism.
First of all, these Christian beliefs thoroughly involve the supernatural world -- things beyond what we can see and touch. Speaking in tongues, in particular, is a very common way this is introduced to the average churchgoer. I have seen and experienced this myself; it isn't just people mumbling unintelligible words to seem "spiritual". At least, not usually -- I have met people who do that, but I have little respect for them. When it really happens, it's a very profound and deeply touching experience.
Baptism is a very ritual gesture, as is Holy Communion. As non-Catholics, we don't believe the bread and "wine" (usually grape juice) actually turn into the flesh and blood of Jesus, but it's still a very symbolic, important declaration/confirmation of faith.
Witchcraft, as a way of doing things rather than a religion (the primary religion that fully involves the practice of Witchcraft is properly called Wicca, and involves a dual god-goddess deity structure that I do not believe in), involves a great deal of ritual, much of which is symbolism, evocation, and so forth, rather than actual "spell casting". My nonlogical mind can't help but wonder about Christian rituals and how they might compare.
Baptism and Holy Communion aren't the only Christian rituals I've seen and participated in, either. For example, one of the ministers in our church moved into a new house when I was about junior-high age, and they spoke of feeling persistent negative influences there. Our youth group met there once, I believe, to pray against these "evil spirits", and later several deacons came and anointed all the lintels with oil and blessed each room of the house.
Gee. That's prayer and ritual combined. And guess what, it was pretty effective.
Then there's the practice of keeping little vials of anointing oil at the altar, so that when people come forward to pray with deacons and ministers during certain portions of the service, they put a drop on the person's forehead and then pray with them about their concern. I think this taps partially into the "wherever two or more are gathered in my name" verse, but the blessed oil also serves a function.
Speaking of this form of prayer, my experience with Divine Healing (one of the above-mentioned tenets of the faith) ties in here. Mom sent Dad to church one night alone when I was about eight, as I was very very ill, and at a certain point in the service when people went forward for prayer, Dad did so. He specifically mentioned my illness, and one of the deacons did his thing and prayed with Dad. At some point during all this, Dad had glanced at his watch. When he got home, Mom told him that my fever had suddenly broke at such-and-such a time, and I had dramatically improved health-wise. When they compared notes on the timing, guess what, it matched.
Call that a coincidence, if you like. Then there's the day my brother was hit by a car, denting the hood, flying up onto the windshield, and rolling off across the ground. The only mark the doctors found on him was a small bruise on his hip from where he'd struck the pavement; there was no explanation for how he'd managed to do such damage to the car and none to himself. What do you call that? Supernatural, or another wierd coincidence?
At any rate, I'm straying from my point. My point is that I very much believe in supernatural influences on our world, both good and evil, and I also very much believe in the Christian God. The concept of Witchcraft as "prayers with props" is a very interesting one, especially given all the notations about the true meanings of the words translated as "witch" in most Biblical passages, which tend to more literally refer to poisoners, necromancers, and so forth.
I'm unlikely to reach a conclusion about Witchcraft anytime soon. Right now, I'm a very curious, fairly open-minded conservative Christian, as oxymoronic as that may seem; we'll see where I go from here.
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