The Problem with Christian Wicca: Why It's Usually Neither
The Christian Wicca Oxy-Moron
There are those that argue Christian Wicca is perfectly natural and acceptable. Even further, they'll argue that anyone who says you can't be Christian and Wiccan simultaneously is intolerant, oppressive and just plain mean.
They go on to tell us that "Wicca is flexible," and "Wicca can be anything you want it to be." They explain how the Christian trinity makes sense by replacing the Holy Spirit with a Goddess, or with Mary. They will say that there is nothing wrong with a Christian doing magic, loving nature and believing you should "harm none," so they see Christian Wicca as a perfect fit.
Well, everyone is entitled to his opinions and beliefs.
That doesn't mean everyone's opinions and beliefs make sense, though. And Christian Wicca just does not make sense in terms of Christianity, or in terms of Wicca.
If you think Christian Wicca is fine, I urge you to read my point-by-point reasoning below. And since I've had this debate many times before, I've even taken the liberty of posing counter-arguments and answering them.
Hopefully, even if you still don't agree with me by the end of this article, you'll at least understand the point of view better and see that it's not born out of intolerance or fear, but some valid arguments and concerns.
Christianity + Wicca = Oxymoron
Learn more about Wiccan and Pagan history
Ronald Hutton-- historian, professor, and Pagan-raised-- has written the most scholarly and accurate history to date of modern Pagan religions, particularly Wicca, as well as tracing the real history of Witchcraft. For anyone looking to seriously learn how the modern Pagan revival has come to be, this is the best investment you can make.
Wicca and Witchcraft are Not the Same Thing
Some still passionately argue that Wicca was not developed by Gerald Gardner, but revealed to the world by him. Others accept Wicca isn't ancient, but still perpetuate the notion that it was at least based on an ancient religion of Witches. Some still use the terms 'Wiccan' and 'Witch' interchangeably.
The facts: modern Witchcraft is a thoroughly modern creation, going only as far back as the mid-1800s (and that's being generous). People did practice magic-- but magic was not their religion. They practiced the local religion that they grew up in, worshiping their indigenous Gods.
Before the 1800s, Witchcraft was almost exclusively associated with malevolent magic by everyone-- Christians and Pagans alike. Both Christians and Pagan religions persecuted Witches. Witchcraft was not considered to have anything to do with religion-- it was Christians who began associating it with Satan worship that gave it that status in the Middle Ages, but that kind of witch never actually existed at all.
The concept of Witchcraft we had today draws from older sources, but was never a religion in itself. Not even a Pagan religion. Once ready to admit the fact that the kind of Witchcraft that Wicca was based on never actually existed, we have to concede the point that Wicca has never actually been Witchcraft. The only real connection is that Wiccans are not prohibited from practicing modern Witchcraft, and often do. But we're not prohibited from gambling, either; that doesn't make us an ancient religion of gamblers.
So being a Christian Witch is not the same thing as being a Christian Wiccan. The former is actually possible; the latter, in my opinion, not so much.
On the Age of Wicca
Some would argue:
My rebuttal would be:
But Witches were considered the wise people and most of them did white magic to help others. They just got a bad reputation from Christians.
That theory has been debunked thoroughly by historians. While not all people who did magic were not automatically considered evil, 'Witchcraft' was the actual term used for evil magic, not just by Christians but by Pagans.
Well, people may not have called it Wicca, or Witchcraft back then, but they both draw from ancient sources so it's like they're a lot older!
To say that drawing from older sources makes Wicca or Witchcraft an old religion is like saying Christianity is 4,000 yrs old rather than 2,000 yrs old because it draws from Judaism. It's just not an honest argument.
More on Wicca
This book was written by someone in Gerald Gardner's original coven, and watched Wicca as it grew through its first five decades. He has unique insights, makes observations from a unique perspective, and offers some practical advice to future generations of Wiccans.
Wicca is not "anything you want it to be"
Wicca is a tolerant religion, there's no argument there. We don't tell people what to believe, and we're accepting of all religions and faiths. Somewhere down the line, though, that seemed to morph into the mistaken idea that anything we're tolerant and accepting of can be called Wicca.
I think it's fairly agreed-upon that Wicca is a religion. Here is the dictionary.com definition of religion (I took the liberty of bolding some of the text that supports my point):
- a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
- a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
- the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
- the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
- the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
I think the dictionary makes it clear that following spirituality willy-nilly according to your own instincts is not a religion. I would argue that it's perfectly fine to do this-- you should follow what you believe to be true, whether it is an established religion or not. But the whole concept of what qualifies one's beliefs and practices as a religion (as opposed to just some personal beliefs and habits) is that it is an agreed-upon, established set of beliefs and practices.
So how can something be 'anything you want' and still qualify as a religion? It is impossible, by definition, for a religion to be 'anything you want'.
For those who are still not convinced, consider this: if Wicca is anything you want it to be, does that mean someone is free to be:
- a 'Black Magic' Wiccan?
- a Neo-Nazi Wiccan?
- a baby-eating, human-sacrificing Wiccan?
- a Satanic Wiccan?
- a demon-worshipping Wiccan
I think the majority of people would say 'no'... which means that we all agree, there are lines you can cross into non-Wiccan territory. While we believe that people are free to cross those lines, it's dishonest and misleading to still apply the Wiccan label once crossed.
Sure, there is some wiggle room for every religion. You can have a few disagreements with some of the generally held tenets of your religion and still be a practitioner. But how far can you actually stray from something before you have to admit you've entered new territory entirely and aren't in Kansas anymore?
On Definitions of Religion
Some might argue:
My rebuttal would be:
But religion is a personal journey.
Your experiences in a religion is a personal journey. But that doesn't mean if your spiritual beliefs and experiences don't fit the religion you get to reinvent it and use the same name.
But Wicca is not a dogmatic religion; it teaches we are free to believe what we want.
Agreed. We're free to be Wiccan or not be Wiccan. We're not free to completely distort Wiccan beliefs and call it Wicca.
Just because you can't combine Wicca with bad religions doesn't mean you can't combine it with good religions.
It's not about whether a religion is good or bad. It's about whether it makes sense or not. Two religions can both be good, but still contradict each other when it comes to ideas and world view.
Wicca does have a core set of beliefs, practices and ethics
Wicca is not a dogmatic religion, but that doesn't mean we don't have a foundation upon which we all pretty much reside. If Wicca were truly 'anything anyone wants' then there would not be anything Wiccans have in common. Yet, we do:
- Wicca is traditionally a polytheistic (or at least duotheistic) fertility religion that acknowledges and honors many deities. Our most sacred rituals, such as the Great Rite, and our Wheel of the Year are rooted in the concept that there is both male and female deity. Gender polarity is emphasized in Wicca.
- Wiccans generally believe their deities to be immanent, rather than transcendent. We also recognize the universe as chaotic (nature taking its course) rather than as intricately planned and micro-managed. We see humans as a strand in the web of life, holding equal importance with all things in the natural world, and not as the top of a hierarchical pyramid.
- Wicca is an experiential religion, not a revealed religion or scripture-based religion. We are to grow, learn and improve through study and practice, not by accepting any word as law.
- Wicca is a religion of moral relativism rather than moral absolutes. While we have liturgy that expresses our moral beliefs, such as the Wiccan Rede, the Threefold Law and the Charge of the Goddess, ultimately Wiccan ethics promote using wisdom, judgement and prudence in deciding how to act. Adhering blindly and absolutely to moral mandates is contradictory to Wiccan ethics.
- Wicca is a religion that teaches personal responsibility and personal accountability for all one's thoughts and deeds. This is expressed by the Law of Return and Karmic Law.
- Wicca is a religion that incorporates the practice of magic, which is not generally seen as some supernatural or external force, but as rooted in nature and psychology.
This is by no means comprehensive, and certainly there is room for variation within Wicca. Some might disagree with some of these statements, but I don't think anyone would argue that they're all fairly in line with what Wicca has been since its inception. They pretty much touch on all the core concepts that are commonly accepted within Wicca.
Core tenets, beliefs and practices are what distinguishes Wiccan from Eclectic Pagan, from other Pagan religions, and from other esoteric practices, like Ceremonial Magic.
On Defining Wicca
Some might argue:
My rebuttal is:
You don't get to define Wicca.
I did not invent these tenets, I'm merely presenting them. A religion gets defined by the majority of beliefs and practices of a group. It also holds that people who don't want to let go of Christianity don't get to re-define Wicca so it fits them better.
But in Wicca, Gods and Goddesses are aspects of the same entity. They're like archetypes.
Traditionally, Wiccans have been polytheists. That's the point of a fertility religion-- the interplay between a God and Goddess; gender polarity-- the union of opposites. Some might ask why anyone would hold devotional rituals to an aspect, or an archetype?
But Wiccans see all Gods as one God and all Goddesses as one Goddess.
That idea came from Christo-Pagan Dion Fortune. The idea of some hermaphroditic entity with multiple personalities that has sex with itself, impregnates itself, gives birth to itself, mourns its own death, etc., makes little sense in a fertility religion.
Christianity Contradicts Wicca
Wiccan and Christian tenets are contradictory
Now that we've examined some of the generally accepted tenets of Wicca, let's look at some of the tenets of Christianity. Admittedly, Christian beliefs can be as diverse as Wiccan beliefs. There is a big difference between a Catholic and a Pentacostal Christian, between a Methodist and a liberal, New-Age Christian. I'm going to stick to the very generally, almost universally-held Christian tenets:
- they worship the God of Abraham, YHWH; some Christians are unitarians (YHWH is one God, indivisible) but most are trinitarian (YHWH is three entities in one: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost).
- the Holy Bible is literal-- or at least inspired-- word of YHWH. Regardless of how literally it's taken, it's a significant scripture, particularly the 10 Commandments.
- Jesus Christ was the awaited and prophecized messiah of the Jews. He was a savior, who came to take away the sins of man.
- Ultimately, every soul will end up in Heaven or Hell. Some Christians see Hell as the grave/eternal death, some see it as a fiery pit of torture. Some see it as only for the worst of the worst unrepentant people, some see it as a place where everyone who doesn't accept Jesus and a certain perspective is going. Denominations argue whether it's faith or works that matter (or if it's both). Some New Age Christians even believe in some forms of reincarnation. But ultimately, in Christian thought, YHWH is going to be the ultimate judge and decide who enters Heaven, and who will end up in Hell.
The problem with Christian Wicca is that it has to distort one of the religions beyond recognition in order to fit in with the other-- or it has to distort them both beyond recognition to create something that works together.
The Core Contradictions
Column A: Wicca
Column B: Christianity
Does not teach in a single supreme God; does not believe the Bible is the word of a supreme God. Does not teach the Bible is meant to be applied to all humans.
Believes the Christian scripture are the word of, or inspired by, the God of Abraham, and is meant to be applied by all humans.
Believes in at least 2 (usually more) deities.
Teaches there is only 1 God, or at least only 1 worthy of worship, and that God had made it clear he will not be seen as equal to others (including women like Mary promoted to Goddess)*
Does not believe in the concept of salvation. Does not believe in anything to be saved from (no divine punishment). Does not believe anyone can alleviate you of your wrongs or the consequences of your actions. Jesus’ sacrifice is meaningless.
Believes in divine punishment in the afterlife (whether you believe Hell is a ‘burning pit’, ‘the grave’ or ‘separation from God’, etc.). Believes not only can someone can alleviate you from responsibility for your wrongs, but that it’s necessary.
Sees morality as subjective and relative; beliefs and practices conflict with Christian moral codes (like the 10 Commandments).
Sees morality as absolute and outlined in the Christian scriptures, like the 10 Commandments (which would prohibit worship of a Goddess and most Wiccan practices).
Espouses belief in a gender-polarized universe made up of complimentary qualities, described as masculine and feminine (positive/negative, active/passive, etc.), which work in harmony and are best in balance.
Espouses Belief in a morality-polarized universe made up of conflicting qualities, described as good vs. evil, which work against each other and each ultimately hopes to obliterate the other.
Side-by-Side Comparisons Make it Clear
Looking at these core tenets of Wicca and Christianity side-by-side (and not even a complete list) begs the question: how do you believe and practice both simultaneously?
On the Christian God
Some might argue:
My rebuttal is:
A Christian Wiccan is like a Celtic Wiccan or a Greek Wiccan- we worship a pantheon (the Christian one) as Wiccans.
The Christian God explicitly hates Paganism, magic, etc.; how can you drag a God from another religion kicking and screaming into a Wiccan circle? Do you think that's treating this God with respect? Even if you want to call it Wicca, how is it Christian at all?
There's more to Wicca than magic, nature and harming none
Christian Wiccans often claim that they practice the Christian religion, but what makes them Wiccan is that they practice magic, love nature and live by the Wiccan Rede.The problem with this: you can be any religion and do these things.
Magic has been inherent in just about every religion since the beginning of time. I'm not talking specifically about Witchcraft, which refers to certain types of magic. I'm talking about the concept of some kind of energy or force behind a thing or action. This is where blessings, amulets, talismans, faith healing, holy relics, etc. came out of-- belief in some kind of magic.
This is why we can't fall under the misconception that doing magic is enough to make one Wiccan. Try telling a Native American medicine man that he's really Wiccan because he what he does is magical healing. Try telling a Catholic that a novena is candle magic, and therefore doing it makes her Wiccan. Tell a Ceremonial Magician he's really Wiccan because he practices ritual magic.
They'll either laugh, get angry or argue. Magic does not belong to Wicca; to claim one is Wiccan by virtue of doing magic is just inaccurate.
Likewise, loving nature doesn't make a Wiccan. Wiccans love nature, but so can anyone else, of any religion. The terms 'Wiccan' and 'nature lover' are not interchangeable.
Thinking the Wiccan Rede is a good idea also doesn't make a Wiccan. There are a lot of wise things that come out of many different religions. But there is a difference between finding wisdom and inspiration in a religion, and being a practitioner of that religion.
Liking and respecting some things about another religion is fine; but that doesn't make you a practitioner of that religion, especially when you have to throw out or twist beyond recognition half or more of the other religion's tenets, philosophies and practices.
To call yourself Wiccan because you do magic, or love nature, or respect the philosophy of the Rede would be like calling yourself Hindu because you're vegetarian or calling yourself Jewish because you were circumcised.
There has to be more to claiming to practice a religion than some belief cherry-picking-- there has to be a certain amount of adherence to the core beliefs and practices. Again, as I stated above, there is always some wiggle room... but when you have to lop off half a religion's tenets and twist half of what's left to justify it, it's probably a good time to start admitting that you're not actually practicing the religion in question.
On Practicing Christianity and Wicca
Some might argue:
My rebuttal is:
Regardless of whether you think they go together, some people have some Christian beliefs, and some Wiccan beliefs.
That's fine. Most of us could look to a lot of religions and find things we believe. I believe in many Gods (like HIndus). I believe it's wrong to kill and steal (like Judaism) I believe we should take time daily to honor our Gods (like Muslims). I also agree that we should respect other people's homes and personal belongings when you visit (Church of Satan). That doesn't mean I can accurately call myself a Hindu Jewish Islamo-Satanist Wiccan.
Telling people what to believe is un-Wiccan. You have no right.
Rebuttal: I'm not telling people what to believe. I'm arguing whether or not certain beliefs could be accurately called 'Wicca'.
Christianity and Wicca
Christian Wicca - Your Final Thoughts
What is your opinion?
Why it Matters
So why do I care? Do I just have a bug up my butt about Christianity and don't want to see it joined with Wicca? Am I an elitist who wants to tell people who's a "true Wiccan"? Do I want to burst people's bubbles and take away their happiness because I disagree with them?
No... I actually am worried about Wicca. Christianity is old enough and established enough to not worry about a few more sects that stray from its normal doctrine. Wicca is not.
It seems to be a fad now since Wicca entered pop culture to try to combine it with other religions, as if it's a purse or a scarf or some other kind of accessory you wear with an actual outfit.
This belittles Wicca... as if it's not a religion on it's own. As if there is not enough there to make it a religion. As if Wicca were so lacking in its own identity that it can be bent to work with Norse polytheism for one person, Eastern philosophy and Buddhism for another person, and monotheistic Christianity for still another person. This sends the message that Wicca is so vague, so general, so shallow and bland that it's barely a religion on its own at all.
This perpetuates so many misconceptions about Wicca being nothing more than magic and nature worship, and vague feel-good rhetoric. It perpetuates the idea that Wicca has no real depth or meaning behind it-- it's just a label that immature people slap on themselves when they want to look cool and mysterious.
It's not about intolerance or trying to make Wicca an elite religion that doesn't accept others-- it's about trying to use common sense and a basis of agreed-upon definitions. That's what language is-- agreed-upon definitions. If I refuse to call your dog an egret, it's not because I am an elitist egret person; it's not because I'm intolerant of dogs. It's because a dog is not an egret- and since a lot of people don't know what an egret is, to tell others a dog is an egret will just serve to confuse them.
There is nothing wrong with not being Wiccan. If someone doesn't follow that many core beliefs and practices of Wicca, it should not hurt their feelings to suggest they don't call themselves Wiccan. No one is trying to withhold Wicca from the masses-- everyone is free to be Wiccan. But that should mean actually practicing the Wiccan religion.
Wicca is a young religion, barely out of its infancy. Like most religions in their early stages, it's still evolving. There are still most likely more changes to come. But if we keep trying to stretch the definition of Wicca to be all-inclusive of every possible belief and every possible practice, it's like trying to stretch a woven blanket out to cover the world. It begins to tear, unravel, and eventually you have a pile of nothing.
If we keep pushing the notion that Wicca can be everything and anything, then basically we are pushing the notion that it is nothing. Nothing in particular. Wicca is a beautiful religion, and an actual religion on its own merits... if we hope to see it live another 70 years, we have to stop trying to stretch it, deform it and tear it to pieces to accommodate everyone and everything.
© 2013 Mackenzie Sage Wright