A New Definition for "Saving Souls" –The Big Difference between Christianity and Wicca
Lorna Tedder at a lakeside chapel, copyright 2007; photo by Shannon Bailey, all rights reserved.
One day, I’ll write about less controversial topics. Today isn’t it. Today, it’s simply my goal to make you think, and I’m sure I’ll lose some readers and I’ll make others defensive. If so, know that I’m being true to my life purpose. If so, ask yourself why my thoughts make you uncomfortable. Discomfort or resistance to an idea is often a message from your inner core to pay attention to something–not a mandatory sign that you need to make a conversion, but rather, “think about this.” (If you’re comfortable in your opposition, you won’t care what I have to say and if you’re in agreement, you probably won’t be uncomfortable. Consider it…an opportunity to look within.)
I come from a unique perspective of having been a devout Christian who rejected certain things that didn’t “feel right” that I was taught in my staunch Southern Baptist church, much of it not in the Bible but just accepted as gospel, literally. I’ve been a Wiccan High Priestess for 4 years now, but I’ve also rejected some of the things I was taught about Wicca because it didn’t “feel right” to me. I’ve added aspects of other religions to my spiritual path as well, and I live every day in touch with Deity in a way I never did before. I understand both religions quite well but what I accepted and rejected, I did so out of my personal relationship with Deity, not because of what the Bible says or what a preacher or High Priest told me. I find that missing in many religions these days–accepting on faith what a spiritual leader says to accept rather than accepting through faith what is personally experienced with a Higher Power.
You see, during my 35 years as a Christian, I took a lot for granted because I’d been born into it and “saved” at the age of 5. If I’d been born into any other religion, I probably would have done the same thing. I was taught NEVER to question the religious teachings I was given and that if I did or if I had the slightest doubt, I was going straight to hell. I resent that now for what it is: psychological manipulation. It turns people into drones instead of allowing them to get to know God (or Goddess or however you choose to call Deity) to the fullest effect. Being told not to question is not the same as closing a door to the devil’s influence (as I was taught at an early age) but not questioning means not finding out the deeper mysteries of spirituality, regardless of the religion you follow, and that includes Christianity. Regardless of our individual paths to God, we should always be questioning and exploring and finding all those wonderful layers that Deity has to offer us instead of looking only straight ahead and not seeing the whole 360 degrees of Divine Wonder.
My uber-Christian parents desperately wanted to manifest a daughter and tried for many years. In prayer, my mom begged God for a baby girl, and if God would only agree, this child would be brought up in the church and dedicated before birth to do God’s work. And…she got me. The answer to her prayers. It’s not exactly as she thought God would make it happen, but that’s a lesson to everyone when trying to manifest your desires–when they involve souls other than your own, they can manifest in ways you never expected.
Many people ask me, in earnest, about the differences in Christianity and Wicca. My relationship with Deity is not very different as a Wiccan than it was as a Christian: there are simply more forms of God than before, and each with as different a texture as God the Wrathful Father is different from God the Loving Father. Some Wiccans will disagree with me on that, and a lot of Christians will, but I speak only for myself in this matter because I’ve been on both sides of that spiritual fence and I’d prefer to knock the fence down and run freely through the fields of spirituality, wind in my hair, happy and connected, knowing what I know.
I was one of those obnoxious kids who, at 5, answered the question of “How are you today, Lorna?” with a snotty-nosed and self-righteous “Saved!” But lately, I’ve been thinking about that term, saved. It’s a term that I’ve been feeling resistance to…annoyance with…and that means that I need to look at why.
As many of my readers know, I’m a recovering codependent. I’ve found ways to channel it constructively, but you know? Being a codependent Christian is like being an alcoholic who owns a liquor store–sacrifice and selflessness go hand in hand and are as necessary as air. Here, let me martyr myself in the name of Jesus! Becoming a High Priestess did not cure me of my codependency either. Author Christopher Penczak’s advice to me that I wasn’t meant to be everyone’s “fix-it witch” was a watershed moment for me as a 10-year Wiccan when I realized I was repeating some of the emotional muck from my previous religion. Here, let’s do a ritual to fix this situation for you!
That weight of responsibility for other people’s lives and mistakes is something I will always struggle with but I now have the tools to cope and to focus on my own fixes rather than everyone else’s. In short, codependency means that it’s my natural instinct to save people, even if that means losing myself…which is often has. I have in the past derived purpose and sense of worth (as a person and as a Christian/Wiccan) from saving others and fixing others. I am not alone in this, as I realized today.
One of the biggest differences between Christians and Wiccans is not the form of Deity that’s worshipped but rather, that most Christians proselytize and most Wiccans (as well as most pagans) don’t. Christians make it part of their spiritual mission to convert others to their beliefs and many do this with all sincerity. Pagans, contrary to the assumption of some Christians, aren’t generally out there to convert good little Christian boys and girls into heathens. The Christians typically believe in a mandate to bring people to Deity whereas Wiccans tend to believe that Deity will find those meant to walk that path.
For those people who don’t bother to find out anything about me and still get in my face (or cram my email box full) and preach to me to save me from their version of hell, I find them incredibly annoying. It feels disrespectful and arrogant, and does nothing to convince me to convert back to Christianity. They are, in effect, playing God. They are trying to fix me, to save me. What do they get out of it? Oh, immense satisfaction or worth as a Christian. I certainly did when growing up. There were contests and competitions to see who could bring the most people to church, and especially to the altar when the organist played the “invitation” at the conclusion of the service. The trend, at least in every Baptist church I went to that didn’t open its doors without me, was to focus on bringing people to Jesus, on saving them, and not on saving ourselves.
I believe that focusing on fixing other people is the same as trying to save them. And it’s a lot easier to fix other people than to fix ourselves, isn’t it? One of the biblical phrases I like best is the one about being fishers of men. That’s fishers, not saviors, and so many people who are intent on fixing other people (to believe as they do or be as they are) are really taking on the role of savior. Isn’t that God’s role?
The idea of a Savior God is something that is not much discussed in Wicca, but I like the idea. I look at it this way: Deity gives us opportunities to fix ourselves, to be saved, to learn and to grow and be made whole after being deconstructed by being born into this physical world or in the way we grew up or by our culture or whatever is in the past that shaped us. God does provide those paths to salvation/serenity/wholeness/connection with Deity, regardless of what you call God or how you name your spirituality. That return to wholeness is our salvation.
As I learned when I began to shed my codependency, before you fix others, fix yourself. Before you can be truly selfless, you must know your Self. Only then can you show others how to be whole, and it will be not by the words you write or the words you speak, but by how you live your life.
I find the first comment more than a little righteous, and definitely amusing. Do you really believe there’s anything of value you, as a Baptist, can impart about Wicca to a High Priestess of that tradition? Did the author ask her readers for a history and semantics lesson? Why do you feel compelled to “give her something to think on” when she’s made it very clear who she is, what she believes, and what she doesn’t? Living your Truth means being content to let others live theirs, regardless of what you think or how you believe. So…live your truth…and let us live ours. We are not asking to be “saved,” so take your Hell and your God and your Bible out the door you entered through – they mean nothing to most who will ever read your words on this site.
Putting my rant to rest, thank you Lorna for this fantastic post. Next time I visit I’ll focus more on the positive elements of your writing and less on the chafing comments of others who reply. 🙂
Thanks, Jerome! I decided to go back and delete that person’s comments and not give his arrogance any air time on my station. He didn’t want a “dialogue” and he really managed to reinforce all my points without seeing it. All further comments are being moderated to weed out the do-as-I-sayers. This should be a positive place to read!
I read this with great wonder. You have captured so much of the conflict within Christianity and Wicca as well as other religions. What you wrote is highly intelligent and well thought out and not based on “what you should say” but rather what you actually feel. Your path is so similar to my own and I applaud your frankness and openness. Thank you for writing this….
My dear, dear cousin~
Sometimes I think you and I are more and more alike. I can completely relate on how it feels to break away from the bonds of our Southern Baptist church. While I still consider my myself Christian, I came upon the Episcopal church. To many, I refer to it as my conversion. However, you could say many of us open-minded Episcopals take the pluralistic approach. Thankfully, I don’t have to check my mind at the door and the questioning of faith is welcomed.
I am so appreciative that I can study and learn from other religions, that I can learn about Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and others and not have that cloud of guilt hanging over me like lighting will strike me down. I don’t have to go forth and save others or myself, and from what? From a “satan” that is a fictional character we brought upon ourselves to differ between the complexities of god?
As you may remember (but you had moved on when this arose) my parents stopped going to church after my sister graduated SGA. I always felt a spiritual need, and at age 12, starting going to church on my free will. I say free will, but the choice in church was not mine. When mama and daddy divorced, I would blame it on their decline in church, for forsaking God. Well, I definitely got wiser since then. Now I see it as 2 very different people who coped with each other for 27 years of marriage and 4 children.
When you stated, “I was taught NEVER to question the religious teachings I was given and that if I did or if I had the slightest doubt, I was going straight to hell. I resent that now for what it is: psychological manipulation,” I can’t agree more.
Sometimes my mom still sees me as the “weird” child, the one that questions a little too much, and goes her own way. While I love her, I am thankful that my dad just appreciates me for who I am, and not that I fit all nice and neat into a societal box.
We should definitely meet up for some coffee or tea sometime. I think it would be a hoot. And if you have ever heard the Dar William’s song The Christians and the Pagans, I see that as our little reunion.
Thank you for writing this. Your prospective is poetic.
Pamela! Good to hear from you. Yes, I’d noticed there was a bit of Bohemian in you. I kinda like that 🙂 We do have a lot in common, including Dar Williams. We should definitely get together sometime or have a mini-family reunion. I think you were 16 last time I saw you!
I have a lot of respect for Episcopalians (did I spell that right?). I’ve had several good friends and even more acquaintances who were E’s, and the exploration their faith allowed always delighted me. The services I’ve attended were beautiful and their clergy have always been quite kind to me, too.
Wonderful, spirited, spiritually aware and sensitive post, this. I read it with yelps of recognition. So much of your experience with the Christian Church has been mine too! I’m glad to be a recovering evangelical… and one thing it’s taught me is that I, too, cannot save people; in fact, it isn’t my responsibility. I’ve got enough to do sorting myself out!
The idea of the saviour god / goddess in witchcraft is an interesting one. Why shouldn’t we believe we’re headed back to our father and mother? We don’t need saving from Hell, sure, but from death? Oblivion?
Thank you for this, Lorna – you’ve made a lot of people think, and some won’t like the experience, but this is how we grow!
Very nice post. I kind of stumbled into this blog, and I’m glad I did.
The one thing that struck me was the photograph. I’ll never understand that if Christian religious leaders have so much difficulty understanding Goddess based religions, why do they continue to honor the Goddess with their places of worship?
Note the doorway AND the window shape in the church pictured. In fact most Catholic churches have entryways shaped to honor the Goddess. Do they even realize it?
Hi there! I love your blog. 🙂
I just wanted to say that from growing up Baptist, I really understand where you are coming from. I left the church and then ended up coming back–but to a different denomination and on my own terms about Christianity. I just want to say that I’m really sorry you were given that view of what Christianity is about, and I’m sorry I got that view too! I don’t think it’s what it is really all about, otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting in a pew every Sunday these days when nobody is dressing me up and dragging me by my hair.
Having grown up and having the chance to sort things out for myself has enabled me to see most of what I felt friction with, within the church, was not really in line with what Jesus taught. He taught the worth of every individual, not just the ones who bring ten friends to church. He taught the intermingling of all people, not just Christians and not. He taught so many things that are contrary to the bondage that is many a modern Christian church.
Obviously since I’ve returned to my faith, my views about Wicca are not the same as yours 🙂 However, I think it’s shameful to not treat other’s decisions with respect, and you clearly came to your conclusions on your own time and in your own way, just as I did.
â€œI was taught NEVER to question the religious teachings I was given and that if I did or if I had the slightest doubt, I was going straight to hell. I resent that now for what it is: psychological manipulation,â€ this quote made me sad, because I often had this misconception. I now see that this is not by any means the approach of the God who is worshipped by the Christian faith, but rather his followers who don’t trust that he can compel people by love and doesn’t need arm-twisting and fire-breathing to keep his children in the faith. God’s not at all threatened by my questions or yours, he in fact has welcomed this discourse with humanity for thousands of years. I find it astounding that something so contrary to what we are told in our primary text, the Bible, is taught! Asking questions is absolutely fundamental to the true realization of the faith–read any pivotal theologian and you will see these themes emerge. C.S. Lewis all the way to modern-day Phillip Yancey. God is no psychological manipulator, but unfortunately many who throw his name around employ these disgusting habits because they don’t understand the true nature of faith!!
Just wanted to throw that out there, take it as you will, just as I have taken your thoughts. I do enjoy your blog, and I have subscribed. I really enjoyed these well-put thoughts and look forward to hearing more about your world-view and spiritual ideas in the future.
with love and respect,
Thanks Green Witch and Patchouli Sky! The chapel was absolutely stunning inside and out, and I’ll forever be fond of stained glass windows.
Hi, ML, and thanks! I do know exactly where you’re coming from. I really do 🙂 My problem has never been with God, either the Christian or the Wiccan version, which are the same Deity to me personally, but with the religious followers who try to put restrictions on spirituality that I don’t feel are coming from God but from their own motives. My older daughter often feels that it’s unnecessary to name her religious path, and I’m liking that more and more because it’s between her and Deity and no one outside of that relationship shapes it for her, including me.
People have a need to categorize everything, and faith is certainly no exception. That is very difficult to do when your particular faith has no hard and fast dogma, such as pagan paths. We’ve all seen ridiculous flame wars over who and what is Wiccan, and what is not.
I think your daughter has the right idea.
:: applause :: applause ::
I think I have found a kindred spirit.
this is one of the best blogs about the wiccan religion that I have ever found. I am writing a research paper for school and was looking for information on this religion. Well, i think I found just about all that i need to find. Thank you.
a blessed be to all of you!!!
I have been a christian since i was 18, and i born catholic. Recently my christian friends and i have been talking about why i beileve what i beileve and i am searching for answers. And they don’t like that i don’t beileve in Demons and stuff like that. I was hoping that you could give me in site.