Archives For Christianity Today

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Evo Morales receiving the blessing of the Aymara priests.

Evo Morales receiving the blessing of the Aymara priests.

  • Is Bolivia imposing an animist/indigenous worldview on Christians? That’s the charge some Christian groups are making in the wake of a new law which oversees the recognition of religious groups in the country. Quote: “They want to control the activities of the evangelical churches,” Agustín Aguilera, president of ANDEB, told the Santa Cruz newspaper El Deber. “Article 15 (of the law) would force all religious organizations to carry out our activities within the parameters of the ‘horizon of good living,’ which is based on the [ethnic] Aymara worldview. This is an imposition of a cultural and spiritual worldview totally foreign to ours.” It should be noted that the ethos of “Living Well,” while originating in indigenous thought, does not force a particular theology. Since Christianity Today is so concerned with people being forced to conform to religious philosophies not of their choosing, I’m sure they’ll speak out against a monarch in Nigeria who converted to Christianity and is now jettisoning traditional practices beloved by the locals. Right? Any day now…
  • Sociologist Robert Bartholomew says there’s a “sudden upsurge” in cases of mass psychogenic illness, better known in the common parlance as “mass hysteria” Worse, Bartholomew says that it can now spread via social media, which is bad news for those trying to prevent another “Satanic Panic,” or plain-old witch-hunt for that matter. Quote: “In a paper titled “Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Social Network: is it changing the pattern of outbreaks?” Bartholomew writes, ‘Local priests, who were inevitably summoned to exorcise the ‘demons’, faced a daunting task given the widespread belief in witchcraft, but they were fortunate in one regard: they did not have to contend with mobile phones, Twitter and Facebook.’ However, the old and the new are more intertwined than one might expect. Two separate strangers messaged Thera through Facebook saying she needed an exorcism.”
  • Greek Jews live in fear of the Golden Dawn, an extremist political party that’s been on the rise in the wake of austerity and fiscal crisis. Their words and actions are getting increasingly reminiscent of another European political party that arose during a time of fiscal crisis.  Quote: “In Athens on July 24, another song was heard — a Greek version of a Horst Wessel song, a Nazi anthem. The Golden Dawn Party blasted it outside its headquarters while handing out free food to “Greeks only.” Golden Dawn says it wants to “clean” Greece of foreigners. Its black-shirted supporters attack poor South Asian and African migrants, claiming they’re all in Greece illegally. The violence scares Orietta Treveza, a Greek-Jewish educator who has three young daughters. ‘It’s very scary because we think that we are next,’ she says. ‘It’s not going to end with the immigrants.'” For those wondering, the party did/does embrace nationalistic pseudo-pagan trappings, but has also realized the populist potential of catering to Greek Orthodoxy. Like most fascists, belief and tradition are simply avenues to power.
  • Satanic Panic bottom-feeder Bob Larson and his troupe of teenage exorcists have hit London, and the results are pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Quote: “Savannah seriously weighed in on why London is full of dark forces, explaining, ‘I think it’s been centuries in the making, but I believe it all kind of came to a pinnacle, a peak, with the Harry Potter books that have come out, and the Harry Potter rage that swept across England.’ Her sister Tess agreed, commenting, ‘The spells and things that you’re reading in the Harry Potter books? Those aren’t just something that are made up– those are actual spells. Those are things that came from witchcraft books.'” There’s the fruit of reality television for you, anything so long as it draws attention. Oh, and there’s going to be new Harry Potter soon, so I guess Satan wins again?
  • A United Nations housing expert has criticized a new “bedroom tax” in the UK, so naturally the Daily Fail accuses her of being a Marxist Witch. Quote: “Her lengthy CV lists countless qualifications, civic achievements, books and publications – but Raquel Rolnik makes no mention of dabbling in witchcraft. Yet the architect and urban planner appears to be an avid follower of Candomble, an African-Brazilian religion that originated during the slave trade. The academic, brought up a Marxist, actually offered an animal sacrifice to Karl Marx…” This is yet another reason why Pagans should not support or link to this tabloid.
An image from the "Abused Goddesses" campaign against domestic violence.

An image from the “Abused Goddesses” campaign against domestic violence.

  • A lot of attention has been paid recently to the “Abused Goddesses” awareness campaign against domestic violence, which features representations of Hindu goddesses that carry bruises and cuts from beatings. However, reactions from Hindus have been somewhat mixed. Praneta Jha of the Hindustan Times says that “trapping women into images of a supposed ideal is one of the oldest strategies of patriarchy – and if we do not fit the image, it is deemed alright to ‘punish’ and violate us.” Sayantani DasGupta at The Feminist Wire notes that “these images of Hindu goddesses looking sorrowful and downtrodden undermine culturally located sources of female power – however ‘contradictory’.” Lakshmi Chaudhry calls it a “giant step backward for womankind,” and USF professor Vamsee Juluri adds that “there has been such a great deal of misrepresentation, if not outright malicious propaganda, about Hinduism, that the campaign already seems to many Hindus to be a perpetuation of that, rather than a sincere attempt to address the real problem of domestic violence.” Finally, Suhag A. Shukla says that “what will be the ultimate test of the success of this campaign, however, is if it is able to stop the first of many abusers from letting his raised hand meet its intended target.”
  • Does philosophy have a problem with women? Katy Waldman at Slate.com ponders: “Taken one by one, the various explanations for philosophy’s woman problem are like Zeno’s arrow, inching ever closer to a target they can’t quite hit.”
  • In Israel, the tradition of participating in the kaparot ritual using a live chicken has caused debate after MK Rabbi Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid called the practice “deplorable” and “pagan.” Quote: “The ritual involves circling a live chicken over one’s head three times and symbolically transferring one’s sins to the animal. The chicken is then slaughtered and eaten. Many have the practice of donating the chicken’s meat to the poor […] Lipman urged Jews to perform the kaparot ritual with money or with flowers instead, as many currently do.”
  • Mitch Horowitz writes about how the occult brought cremation to America. Quote: “Cremation was introduced to America in the 1870s by a retired Civil War colonel, Henry Steel Olcott. As a Union Army staff colonel and military investigator, Olcott had amassed a distinguished record, which included routing out fraud among defense contractors and making some of the first arrests in the Lincoln assassination. In his post-military life as a lawyer and journalist, Olcott developed a deep interest in the esoteric and paranormal — which drove his fascination with the then-exotic rite of burning the dead.”
  • Definition of a slow news day: these leaves and overgrowth on power lines look somewhat like a witch! Wow! Really? Let’s get that spread around as quickly as possible.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Top Story: In the second part of a six-part series on the geopolitical ramifications of global warming in the Arctic, NPR’s Morning Edition focuses on Russia’s aggressive push to claim waterways and resources becoming available as the Arctic ice melts. One group that is particularly concerned over the rush to claim the Arctic is the indigenous Saami people, a group native to the Kola Peninsula of Russia. NPR interviews traditional singer Nadezhda Lyashenko, who discusses the environmental consequences of this rush to exploit one of the few remaining untouched regions on our planet.

Nadezhda Lyashenko. Photo: David Greene/NPR

The indigenous people of this region bore much of the brunt. The Saami tribe, for one, has lived centuries in Russia’s northwest, near the Norwegian border. Saami people were forcibly collectivized on farms under Stalin. Nadezhda Lyashenko, the Saami woman singing traditional tribal music here, can recount the horror stories. Her grandfather, a reindeer shepherd, was shot in 1937, accused of being a spy after he crossed into Finland chasing a reindeer herd. After decades of relative peace, Lyashenko says, trouble seems to be returning to her native Arctic lands. She sees Russia and other world powers in a race for oil and gas, ignoring the potential impact to a part of the Earth that’s been rarely touched. “The Arctic is just so fragile,” she says. “This time, it’s a research boat going out there. It’s like the prick of a needle, and the land will heal. But if they go with knives, with spears, they could break everything. And then what?”

The Saami and other indigenous peoples living in or near the Arctic, on the front lines of global climate change, could have much to teach us, if we are willing to listen. Sadly, the rights and concerns of the Saami are often ignored, or greeted with hostility by those who want economic development at any cost. For those who identify with the indigenous peoples and culture of Europe, the plight and position of the Saami should be of great concern. The trend of indigenous rights being undermined needs to be halted and reversed.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Observers to the horrifying phenomenon of witch-hunts and witch-killings in African nations like Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya have long wondered what role, if any, Western Christian missionaries played in the process. Some have defended missionaries, saying they have little to do with controversial figures like Helen Ukpabio, despite clear links with Western support and money. Now, Christianity Today reports that the problem of witch-hunts around the world has gotten bad enough that a major missiology conference has devoted an entire track to the subject. What these (Evangelical Christian) academics say is that indigenous ideas and reactions to “witchcraft” and malefic magic have been “Christianized” (their term), creating deadly consequences the missionaries could not (or would not) understand.

Missionaries have commonly responded [to witchcraft accusations] in two ways, said [Robert] Priest [professor of missions and intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School]. The power of witches to harm others is dismissed as superstition, but this seldom persuades local Christians to abandon the concept; or the reality of witchcraft is endorsed by missionaries not wanting to be “post-Enlightenment rationalists” with a non-biblical skepticism of spiritual warfare.

The result is that traditional witch ideas are fused with Christian theology, which obscures the social consequences: Accused witches are often destitute or outcast, and thus socially defenseless. Instead of seeing old women or children as scapegoats, said Priest, Christian leaders suggest that witchcraft participates in genuine spiritual evil and that the accusations are reasonable. “The church is providing the cognitive underpinnings for the past system in the contemporary world.”

This is a striking admission from the world of Christian missionary thought, a sign, perhaps, of how powerless Western Christian missionaries now are to halt a process they helped initiate. Another academic, Timothy Stabell, assistant professor of mission at Briercrest College and Seminary, notes that the Christian Holy Spirit becomes “just another source of witch-like power,” but one that is considered more powerful (“potent”) than indigenous magics, creating a power imbalance that would also alter reactions by non-Christian traditional practitioners.

When you take what is revealed here and apply it on a larger scale, the coercive missionary actions of organizations like Samaritan’s Purse in Haiti take a far darker turn, and the culpability of Christian missionaries in the recent anti-Vodou killings becomes a far more serious question.

[Vodou leader Max] Beauvoir said he suspected that representatives of some other religions might be stirring up popular fears against voodoo practitioners using the cholera as a pretext. “I saw this coming. Since the earthquake some people have been blaming us, saying that we cast spells and did evil things which brought the earthquake as a punishment,” he said.”

It should be emphasized that these revelations aren’t from Talk to Action or some right-wing watch-dog site, this is from the most respected evangelical Christian news organization, and from a highly respected evangelical divinity school. That the best closing spin that could be put on this story is that “missiologists have not yet done an adequate job of wisely engaging these realities,” and that Christian missionaries should “mobilize the effort to rethink our role in this,” make me wonder what hasn’t been revealed yet.

I’ve reiterated time and time again on this site that witch hunts “over there” aren’t some isolated problem that has nothing to do with us. It should concern us, not because these victims are being branded as “witches” and some of us have reclaimed that label, but because this animus, hatred, and violence share a common root. A root that fuels distrust and discrimination in Australia, badly disguised glee in the destruction of non-Christian faiths in Japan, and opportunistic panic-peddlers in the United States. That root is the anti-pluralistic and exclusionary theologies favored by some strains of the dominant monotheisms. Now that we know there is an acknowledged link between Western missionary efforts and the process that contributed to the current crisis of witch-killings, we need to ask if there will be any accountability beyond mild internal recriminations and academic discussion. Will anything be done to make missionaries who brought their ideas of spiritual warfare and demonic powers to co-mingle with indigenous ideas of malefic magic accountable?

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Just  a few quick news notes for you on this Saturday morning.

Canadian Polygamy/Polyamory Case: For the past few months I’ve been covering an upcoming case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada that will decide if the practice of polygamy should be considered a criminal act (as it currently is). That trial will hear opening arguments on Monday, and the Vancouver Sun gives a run-down of case’s history, the players on each side, and what the arguments will be.

George Macintosh — the amicus appointed to argue in favour of polygamy — will come out with guns blazing: The anti-polygamy law, which was enacted in 1890 and revised in 1954, was “aimed at defending a Christian view of proper family life and was employed in the state’s cultural colonization of aboriginal peoples.” His opening statement, filed in advance, says Section 293 “is based on an assumption that polygamy is a practice uniformly associated with harm; essentially, that it is ‘barbarous’. The law is based entirely on presumed, stereotypical characteristics, is not responsive to the actual characteristics of the particular polygamous relationships, and has the effect of demeaning the dignity of practitioners of polygamy.”

While the case will give a large part if its focus to polygamy, Canadian polyamorists also have a stake in this ruling, and many polyamorous families have filed affidavits in support of changing the Criminal Code.

She says the polygamy law “places us in a moral dilemma as parents who have raised children to be law-abiding citizens.” It has meant their children have had difficult conversations with their friends and friends’ parents about their family triad. Their children “love and respect us as parents and know that our relationship is supportive and loving, but we have trouble explaining why our breaking that law is fine but such things as underage drinking and recreational drug use have never been tolerated in or around our home.” Duff is a pagan and her Wiccan priest has declined to perform “polyamorous handfastings.” (A handfasting is a ceremony in which participants are symbolically joined by having their hands bound together with a ribbon.)

Attempts to have the government reveal if they think polyamory falls under their definition polygamy have been rejected by Chief Justice Robert Bauman, meaning that if the attempt to decriminalize polygamy fails, we’ll have no way of knowing if polyamorists would be targeted by law enforcement along with members of FLDS. Pagan clergy in Canada who have the right to legally marry couples, while generally supportive of polyamory, will not perform polyamorous handfastings lest they risk breaking the law. We’ll keep you posted as this case progresses.

Christians Leaving the Fold: Christianity Today features an article by editor Drew Dyck, author of “Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith. . .and How to Bring Them Back”. In it, Dyck explores the growing number of “nones”, those who claim no religious affiliation, and whether these “leavers” are gone for good. He also mentions that many are leaving Christianity for “alternative spiritualities.”

A sizable minority of leavers have adopted alternative spiritualities. A popular choice is Wicca. Morninghawk Apollo (who renamed himself as is common in Wiccan practice) discussed his rejection of Christianity with candor. “Ultimately why I left is that the Christian God demands that you submit to his will. In Wicca, it’s just the other way around. Your will is paramount. We believe in gods and goddesses, but the deities we choose to serve are based on our wills.” That Morninghawk had a Christian past was hardly unique among his friends. “It is rare to meet a new Wiccan who wasn’t raised in the church,” he told me.

In the CT article, as he did in a previous article I mentioned on this blog, Dyck, like many of his contemporaries, feels the problem lies with being “exposed to a superficial form of Christianity that effectively inoculated them against authentic faith.” While I don’t agree with the superficial/authentic line of reasoning for the problem/solution of Christian leavers, I do give Dyck credit for his willingness to engage with my criticisms in the comments of this blog. If Christianity in the West solves the “leavers” problem, the answer will no doubt lay more with the ideas of clear-headed thinkers like Dyck instead of the political anti-Pagan string-pullers like David Barton (or at least, one would hope that’s the case).

Pagan Hunters: In a final note, I’d like point out an editorial at PNC-Minnesota by Nels Linde that explores hunting from a Pagan perspective, and interviews three Pagan hunters in the process.

“For most Pagan hunters,  hunting is a deeply personal,  individual,  and often solitary experience.  Common to all the Pagan hunters I talked to was the idea of sharing this bounty of the woods with others.  Whether with family, friends,or community, the tribal nature of sharing the fruits of the hunt is deeply embedded in the human psyche.  All felt their experiences while hunting were not coincidences, or solely the result of their skill as hunters.  Some spiritual presence was felt.  They felt the animals in some way ‘gave’ themselves to them, in offering, and for their family’s sustenance. None practiced the often used technique of large hunter groups ‘driving’ deer from the woods at full run to standing shooters. Pagan hunters feel the chances of wounding a magnificent animal using this method was too risky and disrespectful.  They feel they are rewarded for honoring the sacred nature of the deer hunt with full freezers.”

It’s a fascinating look at how modern Paganism resacralizes activities in our lives, and how their experiences go far beyond simply hunting for sport or meat. The whole thing is well worth reading.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

The Lincolnshire Echo reports that the issue of adding Paganism to religious education in Lincolnshire schools was brought up at the Lincolnshire County Council’s body for religious education. The Daily Mail, covering the story in its sensationalist fashion, says that schools have been given the “go-ahead” to teach Paganism, though that isn’t exactly the ringing endorsement the paper is trying to imply in its headline.

Debbie Barnes, Assistant Director of Children’s Services for Lincolnshire County Council, said individual schools can decide whether or not to teach Paganism. She said: ‘Currently the county council’s RE curriculum for schools does not include Paganism, which is determined as covering a broad range of beliefs and practices. ‘There is no direct guidance about whether it should be included in the school curriculum and it is left to individual schools to make a decision about whether to include it. ‘Our RE Adviser has agreed to monitor national guidance on this and any changes that occur.’

So, in essence, individual schools could, if they wanted to, teach Paganism alongside other faiths. But it isn’t a mandate from on high, nor are there any concrete plans reported from any school to start including Paganism. It’s a story about a possibility, one that seems inspired by the recent Charity Commission approval of The Druid Network‘s application for religious charity status (both articles mention it).

There’s been a bit of increased Pagan paranoia from certain corners in Britain since that decision. As though it signals the looming takeover of modern Pagan faiths in England. You have the BBC being accused of being too Pagan-friendly, and groups like the The Christian Institute complaining about the “marginalization” of their faith, but is the hand-wringing over police guidelines and influence over museum policy distorting the reality? Christianity Today claims that, according to recent survey findings, the Christian demographic free-fall has leveled off.

“The numbers showed Church of England attendance holding fairly steady since 2001 at just under 1.2 million. Catholic attendance leveled off in 2005 at a little more than 900,000, while Baptist Union attendance increased modestly since 2002 to nearly 154,000. The findings contradicted recent forecasts. Retired Christian Research director Peter Brierley earlier this year projected further decline, including an alarming drop-off among young adults. “He may well prove to be right, but in the short term there’s a pickup we thought might encourage the churches,” Hudson said.”

So Christianity isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, though their largely static (but sizable) numbers still have to deal with a growing Pagan population. It is hoped that with the 2011 Census modern Pagans will be able to coordinate enough to get a better picture of their numbers, and if the increase is large enough, the question of Paganism being taught in religious education at schools will become a more serious one. In the meantime, if any local schools in the UK do start teaching Paganism, please let me know right away!

James Arthur Ray is Free (for now): Just a few quick news notes for you this Sunday, starting with the news that New Age motivational speaker James Arthur Ray, charged with manslaughter in the deaths of three people at a sweat lodge ceremony he led, has been released on bail.

“James Arthur Ray walked out of a Camp Verde jail at 11:10 a.m. [2/26], according to Yavapai County Jail Sgt. Dee Huntley. Ray gained his freedom after Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow lowered Ray’s bond Thursday from $5 million to $525,000. Ray has pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter stemming from a sweat lodge ceremony he led near Sedona in October.”

Ray’s bond was lowered after his lawyers argued that he’s broke, and couldn’t afford to pay $5 million dollars. While he’s free until his trial, Ray had to surrender his passport, and is barred from performing any ceremonies that could potentially harm someone. For a pretty thorough round-up of recent Ray-related news, check out Indianz.com.

Summum Heads Back to Court: Almost exactly a year ago, the Supreme Court ruled against the New Age/UFO religion Summum, who wanted the right to place a monument of their Seven Principles in the same park as a Ten Commandments display in Pleasant Grove, UT. But while Summum lost (on a free speech challenge), Supreme Court justices and analysts both opined that the case could very well be re-heard on Establishment Clause grounds, and that’s exactly what Summum is now doing.

“Geoffrey Surtees, a lawyer for Pleasant Grove, argued that the Ten Commandments display in the city’s Pioneer Park conveys a secular historical message, which the U.S. Supreme Court has said is permissible. But Summun’s attorney, Brian Barnard, contended that the monument advances religion and that Pleasant Grove must give other religious messages equal consideration. “They are a mandate from God, the Judeo-Christian God,” Barnard said of the Ten Commandments.”

A SCOTUS win for Summum here could spark considerable changes concerning religiously-oriented monuments on public lands. If Pleasant Grove wants to avoid another loss, they should take the advice of Justice David Souter and either erect more monuments to give the current one a more secular context, or remove all monuments and make the case moot. If they don’t? Well, get ready to commission all those Pagan monuments you’d like to see.

Conversions for Food? While the recent evangelical Christian attack on Vodou practitioners in Haiti was shocking enough, in its wake Pastor Frank Amedia of Touch Heaven Ministries implied that food aid was ultimately  tied to an expected conversion.

“We would give food to the needy in the short term but if they refused to give up Voodoo, I’m not sure we would continue to support them in the long term because we wouldn’t want to perpetuate that practice. We equate it with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel.”

Contrary to the stance of some extremists, this sort of food-for-converts method is usually frowned on in mainstream evangelical culture. The controversy has prompted evangelical news outlet Christianity Today to do a follow-up, and see if Amedia was quoted out of context. The answer is “sorta-kinda”.

She then expanded her question to ask “Would I continue to help them knowing they were still practicing Voodoo?” I responded that I would show them our love by helping them and that I would hope to become their friend, and then as their friend, that our compassion and love might be the difference to lead them to Christ. She then asked “How long would we continue to supply them?” To that I answered that “I am not sure we could continue to support them in the long term because we would not want to perpetuate that process. We equate [voodoo] with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel.”

So there’s still a cut-off point for charity if you aren’t sporting a Bible, just not an immediate cut-off. The implication that Christian charity is finite for non-Christians has sparked criticism from CT readers, but we’ll have to wait and see if a more organized rebuke of the expectation that your food will buy converts emerges from the evangelical Christian community.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Vampires have been popular for a long time now, with each generation changing them slightly (or not-so-slightly) to suit their own needs/desires. While I rarely touch on the vampire phenomenon, or the thriving vampire subculture, there is some overlap between it and modern Paganism /occultism. The most obvious intersections being with popular metaphysical authors like Michelle Belanger and Konstantinos.

Recently, NPR journalist Margot Adler, long celebrated within the Pagan community for her seminal 1979 book “Drawing Down the Moon”, spent several months devouring 75 vampire-themed novels and noticed that what was collectively striking about them wasn’t their celebration of immortality, but their explorations of morality.

“But what I started noticing as I read all these novels and looked at all the recent television shows featuring vampires is that their near-immortality isn’t the most interesting thing about them. Almost all of these current vampires are struggling to be moral. It’s conventional to talk about vampires as sexual, with their hypnotic powers and their intimate penetrations and their blood-drinking and so forth. But most of these modern vampires are not talking as much about sex as they are about power.”

The fascination with vampires and vampirism, and what that popularity says about our culture, isn’t just isolated to minority faiths. An increasing number of Christian authors and scholars are now exploring the vampire, as detailed by a recent Christianity Today article by Elrena Evans.

“University of Richmond English professor Elisabeth Rose Gruner notes that both Christianity and vampirism equate blood with life. Humans instinctually understand that blood is life-giving. But the blood-drinking aspect of vampirism is a “ghastly parody of Christianity,” Gruner told CT. While the Christian believer attains eternal life by accepting the blood freely shed on his or her behalf, the vampire achieves immortality by sucking the life out of another.”

But while the CT article is interesting, and points to some fascinating Christian perspectives on the vampire, it is sadly marred by the unquestioning inclusion of an “ex-vampire” to warn off those curious teens so in love with sparkly blood-drinkers.

“The fantasy-reality line doesn’t always hold, however, says William Schnoebelen, founder of the Iowa-based apologetics ministry With One Accord. Before coming to Christ, the former Freemason and Wiccan says that he was also a member of a vampire sect: a “full-blown ‘church’ with sacraments and a kind of Mass, a dark reflection of the Catholic liturgy.” Drinking blood was a perverse facsimile of the Lord’s Supper.”

Who is William Schnoebelen? He’s yet another of those Christians who make a living being an “ex”, as in an ex-Wiccan (which automatically makes him an ex-Satanist, and yes he’s yet another admitted but un-convicted baby-sacrificer), an ex-Mason, an ex-Mormon, an ex-Catholic priest, and now, an ex-vampire. He was also, of course, a member of the Illuminati. Duh. Never mind that his claims are misleading at best and clearly fraudulent at worst, never mind that he’s published by the nutty anti-Catholic hate-group Chick Publications, he’s apparently a good source of information for the folks at Christianity Today. I realize that CT, like The Wild Hunt, is a niche publication with an editorial bias towards its own, but I would never try to pass off such a liar and con-man within the Pagan community as a reputable source of information.

Which brings us back to vampires and the morality of power-over. In the vampire subculture there are rules, ethics, and an established equilibrium concerning “feeding” (whether psychic or sanguinary). Relationships are negotiated, and power-over, when given, is only after consent and understanding has been established between parties. There are, naturally, bad actors, but in many ways it is far more moral than the “vampires” who prey on various minority faiths and subcultures, tapping into their vitality in order to generate money and fame (or win souls). The rise of the “moral” vampire, reflects our own negotiations with privilege and power, of being “on top of the food chain”. We continue to be fascinated because we are struggling with curbing our own rapacious desire to dominate and destroy all that has been set before us. To ultimately redeem ourselves (on a societal level) through love, through a connection to something outside our ego-needs.

As famous vampire novelist Anne Rice says in the closing of the Christianity Today article: “They are hunger, injustice, genocide, war. Vampire stories are a relatively safe way to explore human nature.” If we can overcome, or at least negotiate, with our vampiric natures, perhaps we can also find a way towards finding a balance in the world around us.

Yesterday I mentioned a New York Times article that talked about Wicca, and how many Wiccans don’t feel safe revealing their religious identity for one reason or another.

“The Virginia mother has not told her mother or grandmother that she is a Wiccan. “I have a deep-seated fear that they will say, ‘I can’t be a part of this, you’re raising your kids as evil,’ ” she said. She attends classes about Wicca on Friday nights, and she has yet to caution her older child, a preschooler, not to tell anyone about them.”

But it seems that some are skeptical about how real their fears are, such as Christianity Today blogger Rob Moll.

“Wiccans seem to feel discriminated against, despite the fact that in my local bookstore carries as many shelves of books on the subject as it has shelves for mainstream religions. But, The New York Times reports that Wiccans are afraid of even telling their families about their religious beliefs.”

It seems that Moll hasn’t been paying close attention to the news lately, for he would see that harassment and misconceptions still occur despite the “many shelves of books”. Take for instance the case of Patricia Gardner, an “out” Witch in Cohoes, New York. Gardner recently had her house defaced with anti-Wiccan messages.

“Her openness earned her some recent unwanted attention when someone scrawled a lengthy diatribe on the side of her house that invokes the Lord’s Prayer and calls Gardner an ‘evil witch’ and a ‘spook’ while asking God to ‘please move evil away.’ … Gardner said she has lived in her Sargeant Street apartment for more than a year and half with no problems, but that she was targeted at the store she formerly managed. ‘We sold a lot of pagan things, like pagan jewelry,’ she said. ‘Someone came in and saw the jewelry and started calling me a demon-loving, Satan-worshipping baby-eater.'”

Meanwhile in Virginia, a hoax about a “Wiccan festival” including references to an orgy, blood rituals, and animal sacrifices spurred a month-long investigation by a local Sheriff and the FBI of an innocent local couple.

“The ritual was supposedly going to involve animal sacrifices and group sex. With the help of the FBI, Floyd County Sheriff’s Investigator Jeff Dalton has spent the last month researching the two land owners. It turned out they were the victims of this charade.”

How much do you want to bet that the victims of this charade don’t attend the local church? Perhaps their bumper-stickers are a bit too left leaning and “spiritual”? If only these hoaxers and harassers had gone to their local (secular) bookstore and seen the shelves full of Pagan/Wiccan books, this might not have happened. Right?