(The following is from the www.thornthewitch.com archives, dug out and modified for your reading pleasure while I enjoy a weekend at the Georgia Renaissance Festival.)
So there’s a thing that happens whenever vocal Pagans show up in prominent public spaces, either online or in the flesh. The narrative is cliché and we all know it, whatever role we play. It goes like this:
BIG PAGAN THING OMG WITCHES AND WICCANS AND PAGANISM!
Pagan #1: OMG me too paganism witches so great!
Pagan #2: So great wait ‘til Christians see LOL awesome
Interjecting Christian: SATAN
Pagan #2: NO SATAN DUMMY
Pagans #3-15: OMG NATURE GODDESS WICCA* NO SATAN SO IGNORANT
Christians x infinity: SATAN SATAN SATAN
Online Pagans (all of them): LOL DUMB CHRISTIANS
[cue gross meme]
The above might be a Facebook thread, a series of notes attached to a post on Tumblr or Instagram, a conversation at Pagan Pride Day, or the banter that takes place over coffee or booze at a Pagan moot (minus the interjections from Christians, usually). But the crux of the conversation is the same: Christians are dumb because they mistakenly think we worship Satan.
We either get mad or have a laugh, but we leave thinking that the root of the problem is simple ignorance. Jeez, if only they would just listen to us.
I spent two years working on an ethnographic project with an evangelical megachurch and focusing on contemporary American Protestant Christianity (yay grad school!). I went to church most weekends, sitting through countless services (excuse me, worship experiences), volunteering on assorted church teams, and helping out with outreach partners. I ate with them, spent my free time hanging out with them, read all of their literature, and attended more Bible and sermon study groups than I can remember. I conducted interviews, collected data, and immersed myself in the latest scholarship on the growing movement of evangelicals in the US. I even made some friends. It is through this experience that I offer my Pagan fellows the following:
When a Christian accuses you of worshipping Satan, the issue is not their lack of knowledge about contemporary witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism, etc. Rather, the issue is a difference of worldview.
From the perspective of this kind of conservative, Protestant Christianity (because it’s important to understand that there’s no monolithic entity called “Christianity”), the religious options are simple: Christ or Not Christ.
Everything in the “Not Christ” box is the playing field of the Enemy. There is no middle ground.Trust me. Evangelicals know about Wicca, Paganism, the New Age, etc., etc. They are not misinformed. Many of these folks (especially the ones publishing books and preaching) are well-educated, thoughtful people. The pastors and leaders at the church I studied were smart, savvy people with gobs of degrees and plenty of worldly travel experience (a far cry from the “ignorant redneck Southerner” image that often gets thrown in by opponents). When such a Christian accuses you of cavorting with Satan, they’re not misunderstanding you. They’re disagreeing with you.
Arguing and asserting that you really worship nature or a Goddess or are secular or whatever is almost always a waste of time. You could tell them you were a Catholic or a Jew and the reaction would be comparable (especially here in the South, where Catholics and Jews are still openly mistrusted in some spaces), because we’re all equally occupying the box of “Not Christ” (or “Doing Christ Wrong” in the case of Catholics) and are, therefore, operating in the realms of the Adversary. You cannot win a debate if your position is “But we don’t even believe in Satan.” Belief is not part of this equation. You’re in the “Not Christ” box. The whys are not relevant within the evangelical worldview.
As a Wiccan, from this evangelical perspective, I worship Satan, who has deceived me and lured me further from God. You probably worship Satan, too. At the very least, you’ve been deceived or otherwise prevented from accepting Christ.
Personally, I don’t have any problem with being called Satanic. I know it’s not personal and doesn’t actually have anything to do with my Craft, my gods, or how I live my life. It’s not a particularly effective insult; why should it be offensive, unless we buy into the same paradigm? Why not turn it on its head and wear the term proudly?
Either way, as a community (or at least as an assemblage of angry people), we need to find another strategy for dealing with the whole Satan thing. Because the issue is not misunderstanding. It’s disagreement over the fundamental structure of the universe. We need another game plan aside from the dumb memes that mostly do nothing but advertise our own failure to grasp the basics of Protestantism.
*Always Wicca. Other kinds of Paganism don’t usually get included in these dramatic tales of interfaith shouting.