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October 30, 2006

Talking to Wiccans

Wiccans Today's and tomorrow's "BreakPoint" radio commentaries revisit a book we first discussed last year: Wicca's Charm by Catherine Edwards Sanders. In "Casting a Spell," Chuck mentions three reasons described by Sanders that Wicca appeals to its followers:

  1. Many Wiccans feel modern Christianity has failed them.
  2. Women who embrace Wicca said they felt churches excluded them from ministry.
  3. Wicca's followers say they are looking for a spirituality that is real: "When churches ignore the reality of an unseen world or focus only on this world, the author warns, they lose people to alternative religions that do offer supernatural experiences."

Read the whole commentary, and then come back here to discuss your thoughts. And be sure to read tomorrow's commentary, "'The Unpaid Bills of the Church,'" on how to reach out to those caught up in Wicca (hint: blaring Christian rock music at them is not the answer).

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Katharine Eastvold

I'm interested to read tomorrow's commentary on how to reach Wiccans, especially women and girls who find Wicca attractive because of its brand of feminism. My main question is, how far can/should the Church go in including women more fully in the life of the Church? Obviously, we're not going to start worshipping a Mother Goddess. But I do think there's a LOT churches can do to value women, avoid legitimating gender stereotypes, really support women in finding their spiritual gifts and call, and also emphasize that God is neither male nor female. I disagree with using female pronouns to refer to God; the Bible uses male pronouns, and using female pronouns just exacerbates the problem of thinking of God as gendered, rather than eliminating it. But we must remember that God is a Spirit, that He created human gender rather than being bound by it Himself, and that His divine attributes run the gamut from those traditionally thought of as "male" and those traditionally thought of as "female." How NOT to alienate young women through "traditional" but ultimately un-Biblical rules or expectations about gender is a very important question for churches.


Katharine, the way today's commentary discusses the point about treatment of women, it regarded churches that limit women to teaching Sunday School or making coffee. I've never been to that type of church, so I couldn't picture that. (Too often, I've seen feminized, i.e., sentamentalized, churches that were lacking in intellectual faith -- "love God with all your heart, soul, and strength ... oh, with all your mind? well, maybe ... ") So as far as the Church welcoming women, I think what's best is not to create yet another woman-centered Bible study (I'm not saying dump the ones established). Rather what's needed are ministries that are not focused on bringing certain attendees, but engaging the attendees in a common cause (studying worldview; feeding the hungry; ministering to the disabled; etc.). In these past posts, commenters discussed what's desired in churches by both men and women -- and the desires coincide.


God the Blessed Trinity always reveals Himself as male, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So that is an absolute limit.

The problem would seem to be that these women have -already- been "pre-evangelized" with wiccan and similar "great is Diana of the Ephesians" beliefs, so that they rebel against what God has established, and where Korah's Rebellion is rejected, seek other religions where they can exalt themselves.

We have to engage this at the worldview level. Far to many people in the pews and even pulpits think like the world, no matter what they think that their religious beliefs and prior commitments really are.

In my one experience of a serious dialog with a neo-pagan, quite some time ago, she believed that Christianity was just like paganism, except that the Christian God was male, and therefore bad, so to find purity, she had to seek other deities. She also believed that St. Patrick "and his armies killed all the Celts". We had a very interesting and amicable conversation, and she left with quite a bit to think over.

The schools tend to be the hotbeds of indoctrination into this sort of anti-Christian rot, and sadly, school teachers and the schools - the general life environment of the youth in the West - has more credibility with the young than do pastors, Sunday school teachers, or parents.

Katharine Eastvold

First, I certainly have seen churches that only allow women to teach Sunday School (for children and for other women only) and make coffee (and food).

Second, I don't at all believe that "feminized" equals "sentimentalized" in the church. There are many, many women who worship God with their minds and desire to do so more publicly in their churches. Perhaps the reason that so many women do seek refuge in women's Bible studies that tend toward a more emotionalized view of spirituality is (A) that the available women's Bible study guides are so often of this sort, and (B) that this is the only place and manner in which many churches allow them to exercise their gifts. Furthermore, sentimentalized religion that is short on intellectual or doctrinal "meat" is not by any means limited to churches in which women lead or predominate; men are just as capable of erring in that direction, in my experience. Anti-intellectualism is a big problem in the church, but it's not a specifically female problem.

Third, I respectfully disagree with LabriAlumn that God always reveals Himself as male. Yes, He uses exclusively male pronouns to refer to Himself; that makes sense, because He had to pick one or the other in order to fit the constraints of human thinking and language, and if He switched between male and female pronouns, people might think He was two separate deities. The title "Father" is male. And the Christ was incarnated as a male human - again, He had to be one or the other in order to walk this earth in a human body, and at the time of His incarnation, a man would be listened to more than a woman. But as for the attributes of Himself that God reveals to us, they are neither male nor female - they are divine. Because we are human and limited in our understanding, we understand many of these traits as being more masculine or more feminine. But seeing them as such is only a way of helping us understand God - not the full reality of who He is.


Katharine, great comments all. Clearly, I was not clear! I meant, in short, that there is this wrong assumption some churches have of women that to draw in women churches have to go for the emotional and smarmy, etc. They fail to realize many women are interested in loving God with their mind as well, and there is too little to fill that desire. So I also don't believe "feminized" means "sentamentalized"; unfortunately, too many churches do believe that.


Gnosticism :-(

From whence this knowledge of God, masculinity and femininity, and God's callings that are not in Scripture, nor even in the historic, orthdox, Judaeo-Christian tradition? This god being proposed is not the one found in Scripture, but a different one, based upon ultimately gnostic sources.

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