I can never be accused of writing boring headlines, can I? Okay, so strap in because this requires some thinking that won’t be sewn up for at least five hundred words.
I’m “friends” with people on social media who are not Christians. I’m friends with people in real life who aren’t Christians. I go to church with some too, I’m sure. But through my social media experience I have observed something interesting and, finally, logical. But it doesn’t seem logical at first. The phenomena I speak of is former “Christians” now engaged in full-blown witchcraft. Not, not like 80’s witchcraft where you listened to Ozzy and cried about how hard your teenaged life was while you burned a black candle. No, I mean an actual appeal to a spirit or spirits in pursuit of power for one purpose or another.
This isn’t the first time I have seen it, actually, but with the anti-Trump witchcraft going around, it’s finally clicking a bit for me.
See, lots of people (myself definitely included) grew up in a weird sort of fundamentalist church. My particular experience was heavily Pentecostal/Charismatic. Everything was speaking in tongues and “prophecy.” And I mean, e’rything. But the stuff that lay under that crazytown show was actually really dark. It was acting like a Christian for the end goal of being one. You know, how you can act like a police officer in order to be one, right? I say dark because it’s way worse than witchcraft in my opinion. Seriously, appealing to a demon by way of some Latin name while in a summoning circle with a cup full of pig’s blood having consumed some datura is not as bad as saying you love Jesus when in fact you really hate Him.
At least the summoning circle and pig’s blood is honest.
And see, there’s the rub. There’s the lynchpin on the whole thing. For years and years I was taught to perform rituals and chant incantations and dance in circles. No really. I mean, have you ever been to a Pentecostal church? Not to say there aren’t sincere, bible-believing Pentecostals out there. There are. But the ways I grew up had more symmetry with witchcraft than orthodox Christianity. So there is a similarity between religious ritual and witchcraft. Which makes sense, really, because they are both religions of a type. But now imagine a kid going through those rites, those rituals, never having been connected with the truth of the gospel.
Think about her, for a moment. Think about a young girl of twelve with her hair in a scrunchy and no makeup and plain clothes that she hates because she isn’t allowed to be “immodest” by wearing anything without shoulders. Think about this girl being taught to raise her hands, and profess belief in a god she can’t see, can’t touch, and to say magic words to ensure his favor. This girl goes through years of this. And then, as children ought to do, she leaves home. She goes to college in the big city where not everybody is scared of Alice Cooper or Ozzy or… I don’t even know who the modern equivalents are, but you get the idea. And these folks pointedly challenge her so-called beliefs. They mock her devotion to the magic sky fairy. They dare her to read Hitchens or Dawkins. And she does, maybe. Or maybe she just gets a Tumblr. I don’t know much of the modern female experience.
And then one day she admits it to herself: she doesn’t believe. She just doesn’t. The old man in the sky lost his appeal. She still holds to an idea that she once was saved. She once was really there. Because it felt real. Some of those rituals resulted in tears. Some of those moments where she did wrong really did break her heart. Some of those places meant something. So if they really did mean something, then they can be counted as lost.
But now? Now she is free to run with flowers in her hair. She is free to wear shoulderless dresses. She is free to just enjoy her life. And so why not engage in these little rituals? These new things that her friend named Spring/Autumn/April/Rainne or whatever does. I mean, it’s not like she’s going to hell for it anymore, right?
And there’s something else there, isn’t there? There’s a thread of the old pattern in it too. The invocation. The meditation. The peaceful embrace of something larger than yourself.
And if she’s just “blessed” beyond reason? If she’s really blessed, absolutely nothing happens because of her rituals. She can sleep in on Sundays and enjoy weed with almost no guilt.
Witchcraft makes perfect sense to me, in this scenario. Why? Because it would have made perfect sense to me, before I was saved. I went through a period, from 2003-2006 where I cast aside the little orthodoxy I had grown up with in order to embrace a lot of heretical theology. Why should I hide that? Why should I pretend that I was a Christian for you, my meager audience? I wasn’t. I embraced something new and shiny and still didn’t have Jesus. I took on this liberal set of beliefs because what I had, before, wasn’t true either.
And for my fictional girl above? She was never embraced by Jesus. She did the rituals to avoid hell, not to love a Savior. She did them to buy heaven, not turn away from her sin. How do I know? Because I was there too. I watched this happen with myself and with other people. Witchcraft makes sense because before Jesus saves us, the most sincere tear-filled ritual within the walls of a church is still witchcraft. It’s just painted with a kitschy color to make it seem palatable to the Christians who are often right next to it.
As a father, I am both terrified and not of the state of my children’s souls. I have told them and tell them with fair regularity that I can’t tell them whether they have truly encountered God or not. Only their desires can tell them that. But I do pray for them, every day, that God would be merciful to them as He was to me. To save them from sin and not let them get lost in the rituals and the incantations that I did, as a child. I don’t push them to say a certain prayer, inviting Jesus into their hearts. But I do encourage them to chase Jesus. I talk about Jesus all the time. I answer their hardest questions with as much honesty as I can summon. I want them to think for themselves and to challenge what they profess in order to make sure, as Paul said, that they really are in the faith.
And if I they turn from Jesus? If they walk away and say they “lost” Him? I know no one actually can, and if He so chooses, they will be His. My trust isn’t in the process. It isn’t in the ritual. The real magic is what Jesus does to our hearts. Coming into contact with that magic will change them more than any church service ever could.