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Why are conservative
Christians mainly involved?

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Why are conservative Christians primarily responsible?

In those anti-Wiccan conflicts of which we are aware, when the perpetrators' religious faith can be identified, they have always been Fundamentalist or other Evangelical Christians. We know of no major verbal or physical attacks that have originated from mainline or liberal Christians, or from followers of other religions in the past seven years. (We define a "major" event as one serious enough to have come to general attention by having been publicized in the media, or to having been mentioned in a Pagan newsgroup or mailing list.)

There are many reasons why the conservative wing of Christianity is mainly involved:

bulletBible mistranslations: Some of the animosity towards Wiccans and other Neopagans appears to be linked to a misunderstanding of the many unrelated activities which have been called "Witchcraft:"  
bulletIn English versions of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the Hebrew  word "m'khashepah" is often translated as "witch." The word actually means a female sorcerer who uses spoken curses to harm other people. 
bulletSimilarly, in the English translations of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) the Greek word "pharmakia" is often translated as "witch." It actually means a person who poisons other humans through the administration of toxic potions. 
bulletMeanwhile, Wiccans often use the term "Witch" to describe themselves. They are prohibited by their rule of behavior, the Wiccan Rede, from harming others. 

Confusion is caused by the words "Witch" and "Witchcraft" having multiple, unrelated meanings. Believers who are unable to read Hebrew and Greek and who rely on English versions of the Bible may be led astray; they might assume that the witch in Exodus 22:18, and the witch in Galatians 5:19-20 and the Witch or Wiccan down the street doing a healing spell are all profoundly evil and a danger to society. This confusion is particularly prevalent in the King James Version of the Bible -- the translation most commonly used by Fundamentalist Christians. King James seems to have had a paranoid fear of witches -- of the evil sorceress type. More modern English translations often use the word "sorceress," and thus reduce the confusion.

bulletTheology: Perhaps the main reasons that Christians who attack Wiccans come primarily from the conservative wing of Christianity is due to theological beliefs: many conservative Christians hold a dualistic view of the supernatural. They visualize God is all-good and just, while Satan is seen as all-evil. They feel that Satan is a very real and always present living entity who roams the world seeking whom he might destroy. Oppression or possession by Satan or his demons is a very real possibility. Satanic attack and oppression is common. Wiccans are seen as conjuring up Satan or other evil spirits in their rituals. A second byproduct of this dualistic world view is that many conservative Christians believe that since non-Christians do not follow the Judeo-Christian God, that they must be worshiping the Devil. To them, there is really no other choice.

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In contrast, more liberal Christians tend to view Satan as a Christian concept of profound evil, but not an actual supernatural being. They accept the consensus of mental health therapists and reject the concept of indwelling demonic possession. They view Wicca as simply one of North America's many minority religions, of the same general type as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, etc: they worship other Gods and Goddesses -- none of whom are Satan. 

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Within the last few days of October 2000, when this section was originally written, we noticed three events that illustrate how the theological viewpoints of conservative Christians influence their view of Wicca:

bulletOCT-26, Smithfield VA: A belief that Satan is in charge of Wicca: A group of over 30 conservative Christian pastors and laymen met to prepare a "strategic plan" to counter pagan activity in their area.  Pastor Anthony Van Dyke "If we fail to plan...the enemy will take over our community." In an apparent reference to Satan, "The Rev. William McCarty described the pagan movement as evil and said the issue goes beyond religious freedom because there is a higher authority at work...One pastor said he didn't want to dignify Satan or his minions by addressing them - 'We understand he's already a defeated foe,' he said
bulletOCT-28, Broken Arrow, OK: A belief that Wiccans cast evil spells to hurt or kill others: Public high school officials accused Brandi Blackbear, a 15 year-old Roman Catholic student, of casting a magic spell on a ceramics teacher. He had become sick, and was hospitalized, apparently for appendicitis. They suspended her for 15 days. They had earlier seized her notebooks and prevented her from drawing or wearing Wiccan symbols. Vice-principal Charlie Bushyhead advised her "that she was an immediate threat to the school and summarily suspended her for what he arbitrarily determined to be a disruption of the education process.
bulletOCT-31: Houma, LA: A belief that Wiccans will attract evil spirits to the area: 30 conservative Christian churches in the city organized monthly meetings to pray for the conversion of local Wiccans to Christianity. Pastor René Monette of the Living Word Church and others are concerned that the presence of Wiccans will lure evil spirits into his town. He stated: "We feel like a lot of baggage is going to come with all that stuff."
bulletThe Internet, books and media: Countless web sites, books, pamphlets, radio and TV programs written and produced by conservative Christians promote the concept that Wiccans are Satanists and that they are to be feared. This causes a heightened concern within their religious communities and feeds hatred of Wiccans and other Neopagans. However, in recent years, conservative Christian authors have begun to place less reliance on obtaining information from fellow conservative Christians, and now place more importance on primary sources of information -- web sites, books, articles and other documents by Wiccans themselves. This has resulted in far greater accuracy about Wicca in their writings.

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Site navigation: Home page > World religions > Wicca > Christian/Wicca conflict > here

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Copyright © 2000 & 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-OCT-13
Latest update: 2002-SEP-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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