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.