On Faith and Facts

Religious and cultural misunderstanding happen between people of many different backgrounds. So when I saw a minister had published that witches were dancing around pentagrams on brooms and laying on graves, I had to jump in.

As many of my readers know, I live in a small rural Missouri town. It’s so small, sometimes men will ride lawn mowers to the grocery store. It’s actually in the city code that they, as men, can do so. Really, most of the relationships are equal these days and it’s an old law that has stayed on the books because we don’t really have traffic. There are also about as many churches as there are houses. My extended family attends the Methodist Church along with my landlady who is my next door neighbor. I was friends with the interim minister and always agreed with him on spiritual ideas and moral values. My husband helps our elderly Jehovah Witness neighbors by trimming their trees and cleaning their gutters.

Our best friend across the street is an atheist. He lives with and cares for his elderly grandmother who is a retired Pentecostal missionary who lived in Israel. She used to wear a protective vest each Sunday to make it to church. She taught Sunday school to Arab children. I may not agree with her religious views, but I admire her dedication to the children who looked forward to her kindness and sense of stability. Their household and ours gather to play dominoes and have dinner or shuck and preserve corn. She doesn’t know I’m Pagan because I know, and her grandson agrees, our relationship would change dramatically. I would miss her smile. I want her to see me as the kind person I am and not as the misconceptions she’s been taught. The myth that Pagans are devil worshipers tainted by evil. I also don’t want to be seen as naive and unaware that anything done outside of the Will of Christ is of Satan.

This is where religious discrimination appears subtle and cloaked in love and concern for someone’s soul. There is a line where each person has the freedom to believe what they choose, but it is also disrespectful to dismiss someone’s life experiences and claim they can never truly have happiness because they don’t follow your God. And since your holy text states your God is the only way it has to be Truth. So very often when Christians who are evangelicals who’ve known me for some time and know I’m disabled find out I’m Pagan get glassy eyed and look at me with pity. I do not like this look. I value understanding but not pity. They then tell me how wonderful God is and if I would just accept Jesus into my heart I would have so much love in my life and God would cure me of my afflictions. My grandmother told me to pray to God in this way one day last year. She doesn’t know I’m Pagan but she suspects I’m not “right with god” because I don’t attend church. My response was, “Don’t you think I did that over and over again as a child? Wouldn’t it have been better for my parents to get me to a good doctor to diagnose me properly so I could have been on the right medications? So now I use my brains to seek the medical help I need.” I felt bad for making my 81 year old grandmother cry but I had to speak the truth. She still loves me. Could I expect the same from a neighbor who doesn’t share my blood? And those of us who have been shunned by family over religious differences know, even blood doesn’t guarantee continued love and understanding.

Religious and cultural misunderstanding happen between people of many different backgrounds. When one of my sisters became engaged to a gentleman of Greek heritage who was adopted as an infant by a Japanese immigrant, my mom yelled angrily eyes bulging and jaw clinched. “I don’t want my grand babies to be Buddha heads.”
“What” I asked. Shocked by the term.
“A Buddha head,” she declared forcefully. “You know running around with shaved heads.”
“Mom, only Buddhist monks shave their heads,” I tried my best to reply calmly while thinking “Isn’t she supposed to have a college degree?”
My sister explained, “He doesn’t practice Buddhism. Besides, his mom barely follows Shinto beliefs.”

Looking back on the conversation, it’s funny. At the time, I found it racist and down right idiotic and uninformed. It really still is. Fortunately, my mom has learned a lot since then.

I’m more familiar with arguments between Christians and Pagans since those are the religions I’ve studied the most. I was a Christian from birth until age eighteen. Pagan from eighteen until now which is almost eighteen years. When people ignore facts about another religion and go on faith alone believing other religions are participating in evil, it leads to justified social hierarchies or shunning at the least, and violence at the extreme. In the US one of the most publicized examples of religious social hierarchies is our Presidential campaigns. Candidates must be supported by large Christian organizations in order to win the national election. On a smaller scale, Pagan stores have their leases terminated or they aren’t renewed. Employees are fired from their jobs. A parent looses custody of a child during a divorce. The rally cry against evil has also been used to imprison innocent people during the satanic panic of the 1980s and 90s. Violence has been used in many many instances in the name of religion. (We see this with the Lords Resistance Army in Africa, various groups in the Middle East, and the Army of God in America.)

Every Wednesday a free version of a local paper is put into everyone’s mailbox. An advertising insert called the Pennysaver Shoppers Guide is included. On Wed, Oct. 26, 2011 there was a ten inch long by five inch wide space filled with an editorial titled, “Are you a Trick or Treat Christian?” by Rodney Crewse. It included his email. In part it read:

(Paragraph 2) I could spend the rest of the article telling you the ungodly history of Halloween, how every custom we have on this day is rooted in pagan rituals based on fear. Treats were put out to appease the evil spirits; they dressed up in ghoulish costumes to confuse the evil spirits. The Druids had bone fires in which they burnt the bones of sacrifices; this is where we get bonfires. To this day, Halloween is recognized by witches as a high holy day, a time when there is a thin veil between the living and the dead. A night when they will lie on graves, because they believe the bones of the dead have powers. They will draw pentagrams and ride around them on brooms. Some will wear the pointed black hat, “The Cone of Power.” Sadly many, like years before, will laugh at Christians who have been deceived.

(Paragraph 3) [...] Look at what our children are told to say when they approach a person’s door, “Trick or Treat?” “Oh my children would never really do the Trick if not treated.” Maybe not your children, but many families will have their cars or houses egged, mail boxes destroyed and some will even lose their pets to animal sacrifice.”

(Paragraph 4) The real issue is fear and faith. Parents should never condone any event that produces fear in their children’s lives. Fear empowers the devil but faith empowers God in their lives. You may laugh now, but you won’t laugh when you need God’s power and it is not there because you have sown fear and not faith …

(Paragraph 5) [...] The Bible says that believers perish perish for lack of knowledge; so in case no one has told you, Satan is real and he is out to get you and your children. What you may call innocent child’s play he does not. for example …

The example Rodney Crewse gives is that children were interested in spells after the release of the Harry Potter books and movies.

After I contacted the Pennysaver Shoppers Guide I found out that Rodney Crewse had placed his ad in multiple inserts around the Ozarks through Ozark Regional Classifieds. If you are also concerned about misconceptions being published as facts and publishers taking money to do so, you can send a calm respectful letter to:

Ozark Regional Classifieds
100 E. Commercial St.
Lebanon, MO 65536
webdesign@ozarkdigitalmedia.com
Phone: (417)532-9131 ext.220
Fax: (417)588-7911

I emailed and called Annita identifying myself as a writer for Patheos and the Staff of Asclepius and that I had questions and concerns about Rodney Crewse’ ad. I have not received a reply.

I also began a correspondence with Rodney Crewse. I wanted to try and clear up his misconceptions and see what his motivation was. Also, when I researched him on the internet and found out his church was Fresh Fire Evangelistic and Training Center I was very concerned he was affiliated with Todd Bentley. You’ll see why.

Dear Rodney Crewse,

I write the Staff of Asclepius blog which is part of Patheos.com The Staff of Asclepius blog covers issues of spirituality and disabilities.Today I read your classified ad in the Pennysaver Shopper’s Guide titled “Are you a Trick or Treat Christian?”

As a Neo-Pagan and as someone who has studied religion both historical and modern at Southeast Missouri State University, I was concerned by several misconceptions in the ad. Halloween or All Hallows Eve once known as Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/) is an ancient festival but it’s roots aren’t based on fear. It was a time when Celtic tribes gathered to celebrate the last harvest and honor their ancestors.

Though the veil between worlds is thinner on that day, the focus then as it is now is not on evil spirits but on community and the importance of bonds between people in our families and larger community who are with us know and to remember those who have passed on. Druids and tribes did sacrifice cattle since that was the currency of the Celts and the bones were burned. Of course simply stating that “The Druids had bone fires in which they burnt the bones of sacrifices” seems much scarier and I’m sure you were going for the dramatic. Especially when you stated that witches will “lie on graves” and “draw pentagrams and ride around them on brooms. “Some will wear the pointed black hat …” The bibliography at the end of the Wikipedia Samhain article has some better references. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain

Before I wrote a post about the ad I wanted to ask you a couple of questions.

Are you the pastor of Fresh Fire Evangelistic and Training Center in Cabool?

Is your church affiliated with www.freshfireusa.com/ Fresh Fire USA Ministries? (It appeared that is how the Cabool center receives its 501c3 status.)

If so, what has drawn you to Todd Bentley’s ministry?

On the Internet I came across Evangelical sites expressing concerns that Todd Bently is violent, especially toward the elderly, disabled, and critically ill. I did find some of his sermons where he shares incidents of seemingly aggressive behavior.

Todd Bentley preaches about God telling him to slap an elderly woman who has asked for healing at the end of a late running service. He claims he his her so hard it knocked her six feet through a door and into a kitchen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97WA46li9s8
At the start of this video Tod Bentley talks about banging a crippled woman’s legs against the ground to heal her and kicking a praying elderly woman in the face with his biker boots because God told him too.

What is your response to Todd’s witness?

Thank you for your time.

Regards,
Tara Miller

Dear Tara, first of all I want to thank you for your respectful email, even though you do not agree. No I have no affiliation with Tod Bentley, nor would I. I was the pastor at Fresh Fire Evangelistic and Training Center in Cabool, but as for now we still have the ministry, but not the church. You might be interested in knowing that I too am a graduate of Southeast Missouri State. I too have intensely studied the roots of Halloween. As a Christian, I am not against anyone. However, as a minister my job is to help people receive all that God has for them. Many times the modern day church mixes Christian beliefs with worldly beliefs, Paul the apostle warns us that this nullifies our faith. God is so just and loving, that He never waivers, we can count on Him and His Word that it never changes. The Bible warns us about the worshipping of the dead. I recently read an article that Mexico has seen many more people embracing this type of worship on Halloween. They take fruits to the graveyard. Yes I am very aware that it was a time of recognizing the end of harvest,but also a mystical time of shortened days and night. However, in those ideas, the druid priest felt that they had to appease or make sacrifices to get special favor. Jesus has done the ultimate sacrifice; religion is always pointing to something that we must do to somehow get favor with God or gods. Jesus paid the price for every person on this earth to have the ability to be born again, simply meaning, a change of heart, focus and direction. Religion has an element of fear; what if I don’t do this or that, relationship with God is based on love and respect. Tara, God has spoken to you before, but there is a hurt there, there are things that you blame God for. He loves you; you may not have had the love of a mother like you should have, but if you let Him, Jesus will pour His love into you and will answer all of your questions. You are not being fully honest about the full roots of Halloween; I have Dish network, right now it is hard to find any other show on that is not based on fear. Texas Chainsaw Masaquer and so forth. There is no day when the veil is thinner; the Bible teaches the truth which states no one can pass back and forth from the dead to the living. When there are unexplainable events thru pagan rituals and so forth, those events often happen thru spirits, not spirits of people but workers of darkness, whom the Bible states often come as angels of light. The Bible also states that Jesus became the veil, He is the way the truth and the life and no person comes to God except through Him. Thank you for your time and may the Lord’s love always be your guide, may His joy always be your strength!
 
                                                                                             Rodney

Rodney,
I wanted to make sure you understood that I’m a writer at Patheos.com, which is a website about religion, and I’m putting together a piece about your ad. This is an interview and I hope you are willing to continue.

In the ad you provide biblical references for your points that Christians needed to be aware of wickedness, evil and their participation. What are your sources for claiming that on Halloween there are witches will “lie on graves” and “draw pentagrams and ride around them on brooms. “Some will wear the pointed black hat …”?

The main reason I contacted you over the ad is that in the 1980s and 90s there was a Satanic Panic when many people were accused of participating in black magic rituals and wrongly imprisoned. One example is the West Memphis Three and the McMartin Preschool Trial. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McMartin_preschool_trial

“Although there was no physical evidence, murder weapon, motive, or connection to the victims, the prosecution pathetically resorted to presenting black hair and clothing, heavy metal t-shirts, and Stephen King novels as proof that the boys were sacrificed in a satanic cult ritual. Unfathomably, Echols was sentenced to death, Baldwin received life without parole, and Misskelley got life plus 40.”  http://www.wm3.org/CaseIntroduction/Page/BRIEF-OVERVIEW

“The grotesque nature of the murders, coming in the midst of a nationwide concern about satanic cult activity, especially among teenagers, led investigators from the West Memphis Police Department to focus on Mr. Echols, a troubled yet gifted 18-year-old who wore all black, listened to heavy metal music and considered himself a Wiccan. Efforts to learn more about him through a woman cooperating with the police led to Mr. Misskelley, a 17-year-old acquaintance of Mr. Echols’s.
After a nearly 12-hour police interrogation, Mr. Misskelley confessed to the murders and implicated Mr. Echols and Mr. Baldwin, who was 16 at the time, though his confession diverged in significant details, like the time of the murders, with the facts known by the police. Mr. Misskelley later recanted, but on the strength of that confession he was convicted in February 1994″  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/us/20arkansas.html?pagewanted=all
They were finally released this August after almost twenty years of growing up behind bars.
Aren’t you concerned that using public print media to make claims of evil going on without any proof is continuing the same paranoia that imprisoned Misskelley, Echols, Baldwin, and the McMartins?

You mentioned that the Fresh Fire Evangelistic and Training Center in Cabool isn’t connected to Fresh Fire USA. How did the ministry get it’s name?

At this website I found that there was a Fresh Fire Ministries in Jennings Oklahoma under your name.
Evangelistic Charter Fresh Fire Ministries is a Intermediate Association. Its Group Exemption Number (9445) indicates that it is a member of the Fresh Fire Ministries. For Tax purposes Contributions are deductible. The organization is a Church 170(b)(1)(A)(i)

What is the difference between Fresh Fire Ministries and Fresh Fire USA or are they the same organization?

Thank you for your time.
Tara Miller

Tara, again, my whole purpose of the article was to promote life changing faith. I would never do anything to promote any form of violence. I think it is terrible what some people has done in the name of God. God is a God of love, yet He can only loves us at the level we allow. Believing in God is not enough, the Bible says that even the devils believe and tremble. It also states that our works, or fruit of our life reveals who our Father is, the devil or God. In Mark 12:27 He says that he is a God of the living and not of the dead. That is one of the main things that makes Holloween a time of evil, because anything that is not of God or love is evil. Evil doesn’t always have to mean what is normally thought of as evil. Anything that moves us away from the Truth is evil. Carol Kornacki was a witch for many years, she became a born again Christian and has written extensively on her journey. You can find “The truth about Halloween” with her teaching on youtube. The Satanic calender also lists Halloween as one of their main holidays of sacrifice. Occult100.com has an article on the “Cone of Power.” holidayinsights.com has Holloween listed as a major wiccan holiday. A friend of ours has worked with helping people come out of occults, satanism, wicca and so forth for many years. She has hundreds of documented examples of terrible things that people have encountered and the evil of Halloween. So a cute definition of Samhain on Wikipedia doesn’t cut it. Since obviously those who are involved in these events do not want the general public to know all things. I personally have seen people manifest evil, and demonic actions and have had to cast out devils out of them. Afterwards, they have had a total life transformation. I can get you testimonies of many people.
                                                                                                  Rodney

Rodney,

Thank you for writing me back concerning your intentions and where you got your information from. Sites such as occult101.com are considered money makers much like the home shopping network. Anyone can self publish there claiming to be a witch and have great occult knowlege. The best place for information about what is truly going on with modern Wicca, Drudry etc. is www.witchvox.com/, druidry.org/, and www.patheos.com/Religion-Portals/Pagan.html. You’ll see my blog there as well. The Staff of Aslcepius. Jason Pitzl-Waters, of the Wildhunt blog at Patheos, also writes for the Washington Post. I’m sure you’re familiar with that newspaper. http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/Jason_Pitzl-Waters/ These are some excellent resources on the topic. I agree, much better than Wikipedia.
A couple of my questions about the non-profit status of your ministries were left unanswered so I’ll ask them again.

I’ve left out the repeat of the affiliation questions.

Tara, Fresh Fire Minitries is an Evangelistic Charter associated with The International Gospel Assemblies out of Desoto,MO. There is no association with Fresh Fire Minitries International.
                                                                           Rodney

Note how he didn’t answer how he came up with the name Fresh Fire Ministries or clarified the information about the church in Oklahoma.

After looking at the sites and video Rodney had viewed, I could tell where he got so much of the wording for his “article”. Mainly Carol Kornacki is the source. In her video she claims that the words “Trick or Treat” are “partaking in an age old pagan festival of death”.

Rodney,

I would like to explain a bit more about my background. I began my studies of Paganism in the 1990s and began with Druidry. I first read the accounts written by Romans who settled what is now England, archaeological accounts, and also read the works of modern Druids and scholars John Matthews and Philip Carr-Gomm.

I visited http://www.holidayinsights.com/halloween/ and watched part of Carol Kornacki’s Truth About Halloween video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzPKlOrDlLQ Honestly, I could only get through several minutes because it was so full of inaccuracies.

Two major points caught my attention. 1) She mispronounces Samhain. That was explained in the cute little wikipedia article I shared with you. If she was really a witch and knew so much about the high holiday, she would pronounce it correctly. If you prefer something other than Wikipedia here is the Irish Culture and Customs pronunciation guide. http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/3Focloir/Halloween.html 2) She says the evil spirits were called up by Samhain the god of the dead. This is not found anywhere in Celtic lore or oral tradition. The Druids didn’t keep written records and rarely did the Celtic tribes. The only written records come from Roman observers (who often depicted the Celtic people and Druids as barbarians to convince the Roman population that the army should continue it’s conquest) and later Christian monks who wrote down Christianized versions of Celtic tales. None of these mention the god Samhain. None.

The God Samhain myth can be traced back to the year 1770 when Col. Charles Vallency wrote a 6 volume set of books trying to prove that the Irish people once came from Armenia. Samhain as a god was later picked up in a 1827 book by Godfrey Higgins who also attempted to prove that the Druids originally came from India. The confusion could be over the name of Samana, an ancient Vedic/Hindu deity.

Kornacki is telling a false witness in order to sell books and DVDs.

The other source you mentioned, holidayinsights.com, also continues the myth of a the god of the dead, Samhain.

Many members of my family were and are Christian ministers. Those who have had the most impact on their community shared Christ’s love through acts of kindness instead of spreading misinformation through print mass media.

You mentioned that, “A friend of ours has worked with helping people come out of occults, satanism, wicca and so forth for many years.” I would be interested to know if your friend has a website. Do you mean she’s helped people get out of cults? Because there is a difference between a cult and the occult. Occult mean hidden knowledge and a cult means a group of people who follow without question a charismatic person or persons. I’m not interested in hearing stories of human sacrifice because anyone who witnessed such a thing and did not report it to authorities is questionable.

Rodney has not yet responded to my last email. It was his goal, as ill informed as it was, “to promote life changing faith”. Though I’m concerned that by publishing such gross misconceptions is instills fear. Sure, some will laugh as my atheist friend did but others won’t and they won’t take the time to find proper resources. They, too, visit occult101.com and watch videos about the horrors of the Dark Lord Samhain. Maybe, I do need to let my other neighbors know I’m Pagan the next time they bring over a Watchtower with their old National Geographics. That will be my interfaith dialog for the day.

To calmly contact Ozark Regional Classifieds about fear being published as facts and publishers taking money to do so use the information below and mention Rodney Crewse’ October 26, 2011 ad.

Ozark Regional Classifieds
100 E. Commercial St.
Lebanon, MO 65536
webdesign@ozarkdigitalmedia.com
Phone: (417)532-9131 ext.220
Fax: (417)588-7911

About Tara Miller

Tara "Masery" Miller is a panentheist Gaian mage living in the Ozarks with her husband and pets. She's also a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. She writes the Staff of Asclepius blog. She's also a new author and editor with Megalithica Books. If you would like to be notified when Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul: Magic Practitioners Living with Disabilities, Addiction, and Illness will be available please email her at tara.miller21 (at) gmail.com Donations for the blog can also be sent through PayPal to the same email.


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