Archive for October, 2006

‘The Unpaid Bills of the Church’ : Wicca’s Charm

Via Breakpoint

 

October 31, 2006

 

“Imagine losing all your friends at once,” a woman named Margaret Ann told Catherine Edwards Sanders, the author of Wicca’s Charm. Margaret Ann was talking about her decision to leave her Baptist faith and become a Wiccan during her college years. “My family ganged up on me and refused to discuss it with me at all,” she recalls.

Sanders adds, “All of her friends, except one, deserted her. Not one of the members of the Christian group [on campus] bothered to ask why she liked Wicca. . . . Other Christian students would only talk to her to tell her that they were praying for her.”

At another point in the book, Sanders tells the story of what happened to a group of Wiccans in Orange County. As they were practicing a sunrise ritual, a group of Christians surrounded the Wiccans with their cars and blared loud Christian rock music at them.

What’s wrong with this picture?

To begin with, we need to understand that Wicca and its power are real. Marketers of popular kids’ books and TV programs about Wicca told Sanders that it’s all fake and something kids do just for fun. But as both current and former Wiccans report, Wicca is a real, powerful, and dangerous thing. Laura, a high school student, told Sanders that she “had a very bad experience” during a Wiccan ritual and is now “haunted by a scary presence.” Kathleen and Paula, two former Wiccans, also report “negative experiences too frightening to describe.” Others have similar accounts.

So it’s hardly surprising that we Christians would perceive Wicca as a threat. But is it right for us then to turn our backs on Wiccans, or to treat them offensively? What good can that possibly do? That kind of behavior has never been known to win anyone to Christ—on the contrary, it only turns people away.

As I said yesterday, Sanders writes that many Wiccans were driven to their religion in the first place by the actions of Christians—like some women who were treated like “second-class citizens” in their churches, and turned to Wicca. Art Lindsley of the C. S. Lewis Institute says that Wicca and other forms of neo-Paganism are a result of “the unpaid bills of the church.” The Church is supposed to be a place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Our whole worldview is built on the idea of a loving God who created every person in His own image. When we fail to put that worldview into practice, people lose interest in Christianity. Many of them go off in search of a religion built on self-fulfillment, not love of God—a religion like Wicca.

So how should we as Christians reach out to Wiccans? For one thing, we can take time to study and understand what they believe and the issues that are really important to them—issues like the environment. We don’t have to worship the earth to understand why many Wiccans are so concerned about it. But even more importantly, we must live out our own worldview through our actions, treating all people with love and respect. He whom you would change, remember, you must first love, as Martin Luther King, Jr., taught us. And if we do this, we will start paying some of those unpaid bills ourselves.

This commentary first aired on October 31, 2005.

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October 31, 2006 at 7:38 pm 5 comments

Casting a Spell : The Appeal of Wicca

*Having lived in Boston briefly and spent some time in the areas around Gordon-Cornwell and Salem, this article reflected an on-going concern I still have about some of the folks I met there.

Via Breakpoint

October 30, 2006

On Halloween night, in Salem, Massachusetts, revelers gather at Gallows Hill, the site of the infamous witch hangings of 1692. Today—three centuries later—modern witches arrange an altar, form a circle, and begin to chant.

“Hear us, O great Goddess! Thou Great Mother whom we adore, grant us our passions,” one woman shouts. Four hundred witches then join in. They link arms and dance to the beat of drums, as wide-eyed sightseers watch.

Welcome to witchcraft, twenty-first century style.

It’s not just on Halloween that witches come out. Wicca has become hugely popular in recent years, attracting hundreds of thousands of young people. Our culture drives this interest through TV shows like Charmed, about three witch sisters, and through films like The Craft and Bewitched. Many teen novels now feature witchcraft themes. Even pre-teens can get into the act through summer witch camps. The Internet makes it easy to seek out more information—or contact other witches across the country. And Wicca has been mainstreamed, with the military appointing Wiccan chaplains.

In her book, titled Wicca’s Charm, Christian journalist Catherine Edwards Sanders writes that Wiccans and other neo-Pagans draw on a range of symbols and rituals to create a personal spirituality. Most hold the pantheistic belief that all living things are of equal value. They believe that humans possess divine power unlimited by any deity, and that consciousness can be altered through the practice of rite and ritual. They believe that through the casting of spells, they can tap into the power and energy of the spirit world.

And shockingly, reports Sanders, many Wiccans grew up in Christian homes. Good grief! What was it about Christianity that led these folks to reject it in favor of such bizarre beliefs?

Spending a year talking with Wiccans all over America, Sanders discovered that many feel that Christianity, as practiced in the twenty-first century, failed them. For example, many Wiccans care deeply about the environment and believe that the Church has largely ignored the command to care for God’s creation.

Second, women who embrace Wicca say that in churches, all too often, their gifts were confined to teaching Sunday school and making coffee. So they came to believe that Christianity was a patriarchal religion that demeaned the status of women.

Third, the followers of Wicca say that they are looking for a spirituality that is real. In their religious practice, they want to feel that a supernatural transition is going on. According to the book Wicca’s Charm, spiritual seekers “not only want to know things intellectually; they also want to supernaturally sense spiritual truth.” When churches ignore the reality of an unseen world or focus only on this world, the author warns, they lose people to alternative religions that do offer supernatural experiences. For many, “Wicca’s emphasis on magic and altered consciousness fits the bill.”

Clearly, Christians must lovingly reach out to neighbors who practice witchcraft. But what do you say and do if you actually run into a witch? Read “BreakPoint” tomorrow, Halloween, and learn how to witness to those lost in Wicca—to show them that the only way in which their spiritual hunger can be fed is not through casting spells, but through a relationship with Christ.

This commentary first aired on October 28, 2005.

Get links to further information on today’s topic

October 31, 2006 at 12:04 am 3 comments

October 26

*Excuse the typos; twaz hurriedly done. 

On a date and weekday like this, in my first year in a Church-sponsored mixed high school, my first experience with an organized strike came to pass.

I was the school’s prefect in charge of time-keeping.

I often rang the bell at 10:00 pm to signify the end of night prep and at 5:00 am to mark the wake-up time for general cleaning all over the school.

I had joined the school more by default than design (though I always look back and say God knew why I had to go there).

So that, in summary, is why I responded to a call-up by this school.

I think I joined it in early February thereabouts, with nothing much in the way of an impressive family background, the required school fees (untill a well-wisher came my way), etc.

I was monolized like everyone else, but got my reprieve in second term when I was appointed a prefect (I still don’t recall what the criteria was or even how I made it into the hallowed club, but I know that my life changed dramatically thereafter).

Immediate causes of the strike – High-handedness on the part of the school administration and the almighty prefects (especially the senior ones), some power-hungry teachers who were exploiting the headmaster’s personal weaknesses to plot their ascendancy to power in the event of his ouster.

Long-term causes – Pronounced absence of the headmaster from the school (he lived somewhere in Nakuru and rarely made the 6 or so hours trip to our school), a largely detached BOG and the Church (the latter the school’s main sponsor at the time), a care-free PTA, prolonged water-shortages in the school and the absence of other essential commodities, an increase in substance abuse and an attendant “sexual revolution” among most students.

In general, all conditions were ripe for the strike long before it occured.

Overall, the strike beneffited from the presence of an organized, underground movement of headstrong student leaders (independent of the prefects), most of whom happened to be on drugs (a fact known by the administration).

October 26th – Much happened on that night. Immediately I rang the bell for end of night-prep, all hell broke loose. It was traumatic. I’m not sure I can go into all the details here, but I later learnt that some female students and teachers had ben harassed sexually. The administration block and some classes were razed down (a report in the Daily Nation at the time estimated the cost to be at Kshs. 3 or so millions). The school kitchen was ransacked and so much paraffin poured into kesho’s githeri ( 🙂 ), sugar and salt mixed up and poured all over the school compound, the water reservoir’s tap let loose, expensive instruments in the school’s music room stolen, etc etc.

They spared the expensive Physics and Chemistry labs, – the KCSE candidates begged them…they had some papers coming…and they were granted that (though most of them failed…the trauma was just too much on most of them).

It was a very long night; a night of terror (long before August 7th, 9/11, the Bali bombings, London, Madrid, etc..but coming not so long after St. Kizito).

The school was a mere 20 minutes from the district headquarters, but we got no government response till much later.

I left for home around 3:00 am, in the company of another boy from a neighbouring village.

We staggered in the cold, rainy night with nothing but ourselves and just that to carry along.

We would hide in maize plantations everytime we saw some headlights, not knowing what such would mean for innocents like us from a school with a wealth of great history behind it (some of the country’s who-is-who had gone through it years before us).

My granny welcomed us into her hut around 4:40 am with a gourd of sour milk and hurriedly made ugali.

The boy (a dear Kikuyu buddy of mine..I never understand the tribalism propagated by some when I look back at what united some of us that night) left for their home a few hours later.

Of course we all chilled for that dreaded announcement on KBC before returning to school.

We paid a non-refundable Kshs. 500 fine (very hard to find if you came from a poor family like mine), filled some forms to tell what we knew, underwent oral interviews conducted by our teachers, the BOG and some policemen, got some lashes of the cane then depending on where one stood in the estimation of the authorities, either remained to do the end-of-year exams we had missed (this was so late, my friend) or went with the police for further “interrogation.”

I was innocent, – the school authorities and the policemen had no doubt about that; I remained with a few other students for the belated exams.

Tension always reigned, with late night scares from some of the rogue students who had survived the screening.

Six or so months later, things had cooled down sufficiently for us to proceed with our education un-disturbed, though the painful memories lingered.

Some of us ended school to become some influential people in our fields of interest, countless others perished along the way as a result of the strike (either at the hands of the powers-that-were or some drastic personal choices like joining the Kenyan underworld).

I learnt recently that some of the bad boys and girls of October 26 are in the disciplined forces of our country, and that they are still not giving their superiors an easy time there.

I witnessed so many more strikes later in my post-high school life, but this time round either as a student journalist or mainstream media reporter.

I have come to be generally Thomistic when it comes to these issues of strikes and war, – though I suppose it is something I’ll still have to think about a little more as I reflect on my response to the challenges facing my generation at this moment in time.

So much for this day and date.

October 26, 2006 at 6:50 pm 5 comments

“Son, follow the line of weakness…”

Aco just took me down some memory lane today with a bit of that which I and several students read undercover in primary and high school.

By the time I got into my second form, however, I was already too bored to death with such content.

Thankfully, the stuff I read (and I read much) went beyond David Mailu…it made me so love to teach…it is a miracle I never settled for a life-long career in the classroom (though I volunteer as one sometimes…languages, history and government..those are my lines of interest).

But Aco’s piece also reminded me of some other literature-related encounter I had a few weeks ago.

See, I bumped into my high school literature teacher…close to some 8 years since we last met.

If there are men and women who have helped me to intimately familiriaze myself with the products of human culture as well as the fallen human condition, this teacher would have his pride of place among them.

He was coming out of some bar; I don’t drink, so he opted to treat both of us to a public literary review / criticism of Meja Mwangi’s Kill Me Quick, a book he set for my Form 1 and 2 classes.

A crowd was swelling around us; he was feeling good about that…quite egocentric (a la last night’s episode of The Practice on KTN)…and decided to test my memory of what he had taken me through in class.

He said: “I know you are currently doing something good with your life, for which I must tell the world that I’m extremely proud. I always knew you would make for a good citizen. Folks, I taught this youngman all the good English he’s trying to impress you with.”

I was getting uneasy now, not knowing where this conversation would lead; I had come to pick his mind on something I have been working on for several months now, but here he was running the show into some unpredictable direction.

“Son, whatever it is you have come to seek my wisdom about…just do what Meja Mwangi says through one of his characters…now, remind me and the rest of the crowd what I taught you…what is it Mwangi’s character tells the other character…uhhmn, that famous line of ours?”

Ah, it was going to be so easy after all.

“Follow the line of weakness,” I said calmly.
“Excellent,” the teacher said, looking around the crowd with great satisfaction, his right arm firmly on my shoulders.

“Now folks, you understand it when I say that my eating chalk with this youngman was no wasted time.”

I met several of my ex-teachers thereafter with some interesting flash-backs.

Oh, the power that lies in the written and spoken word(s)!

October 25, 2006 at 7:59 pm 3 comments

“I want this song at my funeral”

By ANDY McCLELLAND

Via this post

This is one of the hymns I have requested to be sung at my funeral.

For someone who has been sailing many years it encapsulates the true nature of the Christian faith.

Through all the storms of life (and there have been many) I have found total security in my faith in Christ – the true Anchor!

October 19, 2006 at 12:04 am 3 comments

How Bad Will It Be?

The GOP debacle to come

By Fred Barnes
10/23/2006, Volume 012, Issue 06

REPUBLICANS and conservatives, brace yourselves! Strategists and consultants of both parties now believe the House is lost and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi will become speaker. At best, Republicans will cling to control of the Senate by a single seat, two at most. For many election cycles, Republicans have been the boys of October, using paid media and superior campaign skills to make up lost ground and win in November. This year, they were the boys of September, rallying strongly until that fateful day, September 29, when the Mark Foley scandal erupted. October has been a disaster so far. A strong finishing kick for Republicans, minimizing Democratic gains, is possible. They pulled one off brilliantly in President Bush’s first midterm election in 2002. But recovery will be harder this time, a lot harder.

The press is fixated on the so-called generic ballot–Do you want a Democratic or Republican Congress?–as an indicator of Republican setbacks on November 7. But that gauge has rarely been predictive. Two others are more reliable: presidential approval and party enthusiasm. And they tell an ominous story for Republicans about the difference between 2002 and 2006.

Presidential approval correlates with how the president’s party fares in midterm elections. It’s simple: High approval is linked to election success, low approval to defeat. In October 2002, with Bush’s approval at 62 percent in the Gallup Poll, Republicans won six seats in the House and two in the Senate. Now Bush is at 37 percent in Gallup. The inescapable conclusion is that Bush

lacks the clout with the public he had four years ago. To make matters worse, presidents associated with unpopular wars are historically a drag on their parties (Truman, LBJ).

The most overlooked election indicator is the level of voter enthusiasm. In every election from 1994 through 2004, Republicans were more enthusiastic than Democrats. That was a decade of Republican growth. This year Democrats are more excited. And it’s measurable. In 2002, 42 percent of Republicans said they were more enthusiastic than usual about the election. Thirty-eight percent of Democrats said the same. In 2006, the numbers have flipped. Republican enthusiasm has dipped to 39 percent and Democratic enthusiasm has jumped to 48 percent. Enthusiasm affects turnout. Gloomy voters are less inclined to vote.

The Foley scandal did two things, both harmful to Republicans. It stopped Republican momentum in its tracks. (Also contributing to this were the negative spin on Iraq from Bob Woodward’s book State of Denial and the faulty reporting on the National Intelligence Estimate.) And it changed the narrative of the campaign from one emphasizing national security, a Republican strength, to one emphasizing Republican malfeasance in Washington and dysfunction in Iraq.

Democrats were lucky, as they have been all year. They had fallen into a trap set by Republicans on the interrogation of high-level terrorist detainees. They voted against the compromise reached by the White House and Senator John McCain, choosing to protect civil liberties for terrorists over national security. That issue, a powerful one for Republicans, was pushed aside in the Foley frenzy.

Earlier in 2006, events had intervened to snuff out a recovery by Bush and Republicans in its embryonic stage. After a bumpy 2005 (Katrina, rising Iraq violence, failure of Social Security reform, Harriet Miers), Bush’s approval was inching upward, pointing to an end to his second-term slump. Instead, Vice President Cheney’s accidental shooting of a hunting pal, the Dubai ports fiasco, and the bombing of the Golden Dome mosque in Iraq combined to prolong the slump–until the short-lived September surge. If politics were fair, Democrats would be in as much trouble as Republicans. And they’d be just as vulnerable. They’ve been obstructionist, anti-tax-cut, soft on terrorism, and generally obnoxious. On top of that, Pelosi is the most unpopular national politician in America. But in the sixth year of the Bush presidency, with a GOP-run Congress, Democrats aren’t the issue. Republicans are.

This explains why efforts by Bush and Republicans to target Democrats have been so unsuccessful. A veteran Republican consultant says lavish spending on TV commercials in races he’s involved in has largely failed to either boost the poll numbers of his Republican candidates or drive down those of Democrats. Worse, in blue states, the Democratic crossover vote on which Republican candidates often rely has dried up. Democrats have gone home in droves.

In his stump speeches, the president concentrates on terror and taxes. And the contrast he draws between terror-fighting, tax-cutting Republicans and wimpy, taxaholic Democrats is reasonably accurate. But it’s failing to attract independents or lure disgruntled conservatives back to the Republican fold.

Should

Democrats capture the House, “they would raise your taxes and figure out new ways to spend your money,” Bush said at a rally in Chicago last week. “It’s amazing what happens when you cut taxes. The economy grows [and] you end up with more tax revenues.” On national security, he said, “If the security of the United States is the most important issue, then part of this issue is which party has been willing to step up and give those charged with protecting you the tools necessary to do so.” He didn’t need to identify which party has and which hasn’t.

The problem here is that national security isn’t the leading campaign issue. And saying it should be won’t make it so. What’s needed is an event–a big event–to crystallize the issue in a way that highlights Republican strength and Democratic weakness. It was two events–the foiled British terrorist plot and the need to comply with a Supreme Court decision on handling captured terrorists–that led to the Republican mini-rally in September.

Of course there’s little time left for a major event to occur. The North Korean bomb test wasn’t big enough to change the course of the campaign. So Republicans may have to rely on their two remaining assets: They have more money than the Democrats and a voter turnout operation second to none.

Despite their commanding position with the election only weeks away, Democrats are fearful of a last-minute Republican gambit. What if White House aide Karl Rove has arranged for the capture of Osama bin Laden so it can be announced a few days prior to November 7? Rove is clever, but not that clever. Which is why Republicans and conservatives need to prepare themselves for bad news on Election Night.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

October 18, 2006 at 10:18 am Leave a comment

In God I trust

Over the past few days and weeks, God has graciously taken me through some stuff with the benefit of His wisdom and insight in circumstances that have left some rightly wondering about the source of my confidence and peace.  The following story has, in some ways, reminded me of His providence in my own particular circumstances.  I remain beholden to Him. All glory, honour, praise and thanks to Him.

Via International Bible Society

2 Kings 5View this Chapter2 Kings 7

Elisha Traps Blinded Arameans

8 Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”

9 The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” 10 So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.

11 This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”

12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.

20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.

21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”

22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

2 Kings 5View this Chapter2 Kings 7

Today’s New International Version
International Bible Society
© Copyright 2001, 2005

October 16, 2006 at 12:11 am 2 comments

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