Monday, January 08, 2007
Pagans, Witches, and Spiritual Warfare
Today is SynchroBlog 2 Day. There are thirteen of us who are blogging on the subject of spiritual warfare. Whoa - maybe I should have found another person. Thirteen is the complete number of a coven, and it is a demonically empowered evil number. Okay I'm being silly, and I am pressing your superstition buttons, so let's forget that and move on to the real blog.
I developed, and run a discussion list between Born-again Christians and Pagans of various types called Circle and Cross Talk.
In preparation for SynchroBlog 2 I asked the list what they thought about the subject of spiritual warfare. I wondered whether it was a subject they were familiar with, and if so what they thought that it was. Some of the Neo-Pagans on the list (these are people who are Witches, Druids, Shaman, and such) responded, and I wanted to let you see what Witches think of when they hear the term "spiritual warfare."
Before passing these thoughts from my Pagan friends on to you I should give you a definition of Spiritual Warfare. Spiritual Warfare is a term which has its primary Biblical source from Ephesians 6, where reference is made to a battle "not against flesh and blood...but against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places." There are other verses which are used to create the theology which swirls around the subject, but here are some basic thoughts: Spiritual Warfare is occuring because demonic forces are battling for control of human hearts. Temptation is a primary tool of Satan and His hordes, and the thought life is a place where the battle is waged. There are other views of Spiritual Warfare which consider issues such as demonic possession, and this possession is sometimes even considered to be something Christians and non-Christians might experience. This last view is held by more extreme groups. Often those involved in the occult are viewed as pawns of these dark forces, and it is believed by many that they do his bidding to call curses upon Christians. Praying against the forces of darkness is a common practice in many Pentecostal Circles. Most often this is benign toward individuals, but sometimes it becomes more aggressive, and people doing things which do not fit Christian ethical and moral views are prayed against. Generally the more aggressive views of Spiritual Warfare are rejected, but these practices can rise up due to fear and superstition among well meaning Christians. Spiritual Warfare is traditionally understood to be a battle against unseen forces. The Twentieth Century has seen a rise in this terminology greatly due to the influence of Jesse Penn Lewis' book War on the Saints, by the fictional work of Frank Peretti This Present Darkness, and by the influence of C. Peter Wagner.
Having set the stage, here is how my friends from another worldview see this topic Spiritual Warfare, and its impact upon their own lives, or society at large:
It was seen as a political rallying point for Paula a Jewish Wiccan:
"Interesting you should ask because I was doing research on this all day yesterday. I was researching something I read about "fear based persuasion"....Terminology like "spiritual warfare" and others like that seem to originate with the evangelical Christian movement. Ralph Reed (who took a big fall from grace for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal) was known to have used just this sort of terminology in his political lobbying."
Furthermore she stated:
"American political leaders with religious agendas who promote theocracy emotionally stoke the fires with rhetoric that uses fear based persuation in order to get the American public to suspend their disbelief. And then one by one, for our own good, they take away constitutional rights in the name of a "war" on whatever they want to declare war on. Terror, abortion, illegal immigration....In order for there to be a war on anything there has to be an enemy. This is how leaders create a mob mentality. This is how Hitler managed to murder 6 million Jews.
At another point she questions the rhetoric "spiritual warfare" and asks:
"Look at the two words together.
Thinking critically, what do the two words have in common? How does one word change the context of the other word? Do these words really belong together? Why would anyone want you to connect the two words and what contexct are they wanting you to see those two words together for? If rhetoric is the art of persuation, what might the creator of the term "spiritual warfare" be wanting to persuade you to believe or think? And is there another way to convey the message without combining two rhetoical and emotionally charged words?"
Mike a Shaman weighed in with some experiences, and a balanced approach to Christians who had not been kind to him:
"Well undoubtedly I have been the target of some peoples idea of spiritual warfare. Needless to say (or IS IT?) I took the opportunity to explore Ephesians 6 with those who were engaged in said activity. Sadly, without any success in some cases. :( I also have no doubt that there are some Christians who pray that I will be freed of the demons that keep me from meeting Christ. I don't actually have a problem with that. If that is what they believe and they're not attacking me then that's ok."
Mike also referred to Christians who take actions against professional Pagan leaders:
"But there are other activities some 'Christians' feel come under the heading of spiritual warfare. Activities that include interfering with peoples capacity to obtain a livelihood because those 'Christians' deem the spiritual path others are on to be demonically inspired."
Joseph chimed in with concerns which made him nervous:
" I was listening to National Public Radio last week, and there was a journalist who had been speaking with fundamentalist Christian groups who believed that "demons could jump into your body" if you went to places like New York City - regardless of "how good" one was, this was the justification used to explain Ted Haggard's sexual activities - this brought home the whole idea of how much fear, intolerance and hate, in my opinion, drive this idea that one is surrounded by forces of evil that are malevolent and set on doing harm to human beings. This whole concept is so strange to me - I understand that not all Christians invest in this philosophy - but I can't help but feel very anxious when I hear people talking about spiritual warfare - I find myself conjuring images of intense human suffering such as the Salem Witch Trials, The Holocaust, Pogroms, ethnic cleansing, persecution of different faith systems by other faiths, The Crusades and profound social injustice - all justified under that banner of God, all justified by the claim that the "causes" were a manifestation of "spiritual warfare"."
I hope these three views from some friends of mine in the Neo-Pagan world give you an insight to how the term, and practices of spiritual warfare look to those looking in at Christianity from the outside. It causes me to rethink the terminology I use, and the prayers I make for other people. Hearing what those outside the church think of what we do gives us a new perspective, and hopefully one we can learn from.
May God grant you peace my peacemakers.
Below are my fellow SynchroBloggers who are discussing the topic today. We are not a group who all believe the same thing, we are simply a group who are challenging conventional church life, and looking for a better way to live like Jesus. The opinions below may vary, and that's part of the fun.
John Smulo - Portraits of Spiritual Warfare
Mike Crockett - Sufism: How the Inner Jihad relates to Christian Spiritual Warfare
Steve Hayes - Thoughts on Spiritual Warfare
Marieke Schwartz - Grace in War
Cindy Harvey - Spiritual Warfare. (?)
Jenelle D'Alessandro (with one L!)- The Militancy of Worship
Mike Bursell - Spiritual Warfare: a liberal looking inwards
David Fisher - Spiritual Warfare: Does it have to be loud and wacky?
Brian Heasley - Something from Ibiza via Ireland
Webb Kline - Webb Kline's Blog
Sally Coleman - Sally Coleman's Blog
Mike Murrow - Mike Murrow's Blog