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Monday, October 30, 2006

The Hunger Behind Halloween Neo Paganism

Updated 10/31/2006

Chuck Colson has done an excellent job in today's Breakpoint discussing the powerful spiritual hunger and longing behind the growing Halloween Neo Paganism.

Using the research from Christian researcher Catherine Sanders as his starting point, Colson notes the following.

Today's "Wiccans" were frequently raised in nominally Christian homes.

So why have they turned their back on Christ and the church?

1. They have bought into environmentalism and believe the church is silent on the issue.

2. They believe the church is patriarchal and women have no place in the church except doing the dishes after a church meal. (Funny, many men think exactly the opposite - that there's no place for men in the church and that to survive there, one must be emasculated.)

3. They crave true "spirituality" and they find no spiritual reality in the church, just superficiality. I'm not sure if they're reacting against the evangelical penchant for programs for everything, the lack of Christian love and community in the Church, or the lack of a worldview that promotes worship. Maybe all of these came in to play.

As I read this, I find the criticisms true of parts of the Christian Church and therefore shortsighted.

But as one who's spent so much of his time nursing his own myopia, I understand the problem.

Now that Colson has described the problem, I look forward to reading his prescription for action tomorrow, on All Hallow's Eve (Halloween).

On 10/31/2006.

Colson followed up this article describing Wiccans as "The Unpaid Bills of the Church".

Frankly, the prescription was disappointing not because it's wrong, but because it's so vague. It boiled down to the fact that "those we seek to change, we must first love." Ok... now what?

The orthodox church is paralyzed at the moment in dealing with Wiccans for several reasons... for the most part we've stopped believing in demon possession and the demonic that empower Wicca except on the lunatic fringe that sees demons in everything. That comes from the secular mindset even within the church. So we're not prepared to deal with people who have rejected modernism's sterile view of the world as purely materialistic for the world view of somone seeking spiritual experiences from a postmodern, nonmaterialistic framework.

Concerns about the environment, spiritual formation, and women's rights bring a kneejerk negative reaction in traditional orthodox churches because such talk has been introduced into the mainline church by people seeking to transform the Christian faith into something else or in order coopt the church for the agendas of earth worship, radical feminism, or pagan spiritual practices. Why be a bi-vocational Wiccan when you can be a salaried Methodist "reimaging" God? Therefore Colson's analysis of the problem makes us reject the potential answers out of hand. They've been given to us before - we thought - by people we really don't consider faithful Christians.

Since we're spouting out cliches today, I'll spout another one.

Perhaps the way through this morass is to review the history of the Celtic Church. (I told you I'd be dishing out one of those platitudes... and believing that looking to the "Celtic Christians" might be a cure all for the woes of the West is another modern cliche. But cliche's aren't necessarily false, just time worn in this case.)

The Celtic Christians do have much to teach us though. I first recognized this thanks to a book I thought was a joke at first... How The Irish Saved Civilization".

From what I've read about the Celts and how legitimate information about them (versus the fanciful hagiography!) might be applied to today's church, the Celts were...

1. Very connected to nature
2. Had prominent both men and women in prominent leadership positions within their own spheres
3. Had the profound spirituality aimless post moderns seek

Yet they were profoundly Chrisitian, Trinitarian, and Biblical. They preserved the scholarhip of their day so that civilization might be rebuilt after the barbarians had turned the Empire's libraries into latrines.

The problem is implementing these things in the church on the corner where real people live and who have long suffered under the prodding and poking of ecclesiastical makeover fads gone awry.

Here are some sources to consider.

The Fellowship of Ailbe is one group seeking to learn from and implement the vision of the Celtic church and is in a formative stage as I write this. Many other sources for allegedly "Celtic" learning are available, but the Fellowship of Ailbe resonates with me because of its ability to dialog with the Celts and the Reformation.

Another group devoted to restoring Celtic Christianity (and whose Metropolitan can wax eloquent on the prevalence of Celtic Christianity across North America before the "Pilgrims") is the Celtic Episcopal Church. The Celtic Episcopal Church has much to teach those interested in Celtic Christianity through their liturgy and spiritual practices they consider representative of the Celtic past and reconstructed through their own pilgrimage. Ank, again, if you can get their Metropolitan waxing eloquent about Celtic missions to the US, you'll enjoy hearing how deeply he's reconstructed the Celtic impact here (though largely lost)not to mention his mastery of the storyteller's art.

May the risen Lord Jesus Christ who conquered the principalities and powers, disarming them and making mockery of them by His victory be with us to rescue the victims of darkness again.

Their hungers are legitimate in many cases, but their appetites have addicted them to candies laced with poisons. May Jesus Christ go forth through us and set them free.