Book Review continues with Chapter Two

It’s been a while since I started my book book review of Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality by Catherine Edwards Sanders. As such, I decided to take the time to read through and review chapter two of the book, which the author gave the title, “Tired of Sitting in Pews.” In this chapter, Sanders attempts to look at the reasons that so many people are looking to find spirituality in Paganism rather than seeking it through Christianity. The four reasons that she compiles are as follows:

  1. Concern for the earth
  2. Empowerment for women
  3. Frustration with consumer culture
  4. The draw of the supernatural

What interests me here is that Sanders does not try to dismiss these reasons. In fact, she shows a certain amount of sensitivity towards these sentiments. She even goes so far as to admit that many Christians and churches do seem to ignore these matters, and can even be antagonistic towards them.

Once acknowledging these differences, she speaks of the complaint of hypocricy within “the Church” that many Pagans complain about. Again, she does not shy away from this and does not deny that these things happen. However, she does rightfully point out that not all Christians play the part of the hypocrite. She also rightfully points out that there are some less-than-perfect people within Paganism.

As she discusses the tensions between Christians and Pagans alike, as well as the preconceived notions each side has about the other, Sanders makes what is both one of the simplest and one of the most important observations about the whole affair:

Sadly, many Christians don’t take the time to get to know people like Ginny [one of the witches the author interviewed for this chapter]; instead, they judge her from afar. And, like Ginny, many Pagans judge Christians from afar. This only alienates neo-Pagans from Christians. It would be better if Christians defied the stereotypes by getting to know neo-Pagans, as the apostle Paul did.

I would add to Sanders’s thoughts that it would also be helpful if more Pagans took the time to temporarily “forget” the stereotypes when meeting a Christian for the first time and got to know that individual as a real person. Until we’re willing to stop filtering every experience through the stereotypes and our past experiences, no sincere attempt by Christians to get to know us better is likely to be all that successful.

One of the specific incidents that Sanders mentions where Christians have generated some “bad blood” involves an incident that happened three and a half years ago. (Incidentally, this is another area where Sanders demonstrates a need to be a bit more exacting in her research. The incident that she is describing did not occur at Midsummer, but during a ritual honoring the Spring equinox.) A small group of overly-zealous Christians attempted to interrupt a rite being performed outside a Craft store in Lancaster California and generally harassed those in attendance. This is one of those cases where Sanders certainly shows her willingness to look critically at some of the things adherents of her own faith have done.

Overall, I felt this chapter was a bit short and more than a little superficial. The author certainy did not cover the widh and breadth of reasons why people might leave Christianity, or what theological issues individual Pagans might have with Christianity. For example, she did not consider the fact that many Pagans question the need for “salvation,” or the fact that many find Christianity’s all too common focus on the afterlife to be rather life-negating in nature. It’s not clear to me whether Sanders just picked the “top four” reasons she ran across and chose to focus on them, or whether she really believes those four reasons actually “cover all the bases.”

One thought on “Book Review continues with Chapter Two”

  1. Wow…very interesting entry Jarred… The four points listed however, I think can be covered quite well within the context of Christianity if people would take the time to study/practice the Word for themselves, rather than rely on the Church to do it for them.

    1. Concern for the earth – A great study can be done on God calling his people to be “stewards” over the creation. Certainly there is a Biblical mandate for care for the environment to the best of our ability. (Of course, the debate can go on from there as to what is actually practical for the industrial/information age that we live in.)

    2. Empowerment for women – again, even a casual study especially of the New Covenant will show how much empowerment women actually have in the Kingdom of God…considering it was a shock to the Jews that God would pour out His Spirit “on all flesh”…which included women. Then there’s also the issue of equality before God in approaching Him (there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free…) Certainly there are other passages which talk about spiritual headship (man over woman in the context of a family), but even those set up something other than what liberals and women-libbers make it out to be.

    3. Frustration with consumer culture – Hardly a problem in just the church alone…and I think it’s rather ignorant to direct blame to the church for that, considering ALL of society is guilty of this “sin”. And again, even a cursory reading of God’s Word will show that He has some things to say about attachment to material possesions over devotion to Him.

    4. The draw of the supernatural – I’ll give them this…being disallusioned with the Church over this “lack.” I blame it on Cessationists. Supernatural power has ALWAYS been a part of God’s work in this world…for one reason or another. The Church has plenty of examples in it’s New Covenant justifying the display and exercise of the Power of God…healing, tongues, prophecy, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and other spiritual (supernatural) gifts that too many Christians are “afraid” to practice and engage in. It’s sad really, because so many ARE looking for something beyond themselves…a display of power that will show that God IS in fact alive and working in the world today. But when you have a church that has no faith for such things…disallusionment is sure to happen.

    So, all that to say, I wish instead of running to Paganism (no offense Jarred), that these neo-pagans would actually take the time to read and study and PRACTiCE the Word themselves, rather than blaming it all on the church.

    Heh. *steps off soap/rant box*

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