Yesterday, Slate.com’s advice columnist, journalist Emily Yoffe (aka “Dear Prudence”), tackled the issue of a Christian woman married to an “atheist” who has recently embraced Wicca. Here’s what she had to say.
There are several troubling aspects in Yoffe’s advice to the “devout” Christian wife, starting with the assertion that her husband has “radically underwritten the rules” of their relationship because he’s shifted from atheism/agnosticism to a theistic belief system (albeit not Christianity). Despite the fact that “Kent” is described as “sweet, attentive, and loving” Yoffe seems to sympathize with the wife’s concern, describing Kent’s newfound Wiccan beliefs as “sacrilegious incantations” and that if Wicca has become the “organizing principle” of his life he may have broken the “spell” of the marriage. Alongside this advice are satirical animations that portray the co-worker who introduced Kent to Wicca as a devil pouring out “goat blood,” implying a Satanic or cultish tone to the change.
I’m not sure what sort of ideological (or theological) blinders Yoffe is wearing here, but an alternate reading of this tale is apparent to anyone who is a member of a minority faith in a predominantly Christian nation. The wife was fine with Kent’s lack of faith so long as it appeared that he might someday convert to Christianity (He would occasionally go to church!), but once he became interested in a belief system that was not Christian, what was professed to be a blissful marriage took a dark turn. In reality, being married to an atheist should be no harder than being married to a Wiccan, at least from a Christian perspective, both reject the salvation of Christ and the Church. This seems more about the wife’s unsaid expectations, not about Kent’s sudden embrace of Wicca.
This video is an important examination of how far modern Pagan faiths have to go. While people have heard of terms like “Wicca” they still seem to connect it with fantasy depictions, demonic imagery, or cult-like descriptors. People like Yoffe don’t seem to know that Wiccans and Pagans still live in fear of losing their children in custody battles, or that Wiccans had to fight for a decade to have the Wiccan pentacle engraved on government-issued headstones and markers. It doesn’t connect with Yoffe that Wicca is a serious belief system, one that has spread worldwide, one deserving the same respect as any other faith she may be familiar with. I think this advice would have a very different tenor if Kent had become Jewish, or Muslim, or even a Buddhist, but it seems that Wicca is still beyond the pale, at least for Yoffe and the devout Christian wife.