So there’s a thing that happens whenever vocal Pagans show up in prominent public spaces, either online or in the flesh. The narrative is cliché and we all know it, whatever role we play. It goes like this:
BIG PAGAN THING OMG WITCHES AND WICCANS AND PAGANISM!
Pagan #1: OMG me too paganism witches so great!
Pagan #2: So great wait ‘til Christians see LOL awesome
Christian #1: SATAN
Pagan #2: NO SATAN DUMMY
Pagans #3-15: OMG NATURE GODDESS WICCA NO SATAN SO IGNORANT
Christian #2-Infinity: SATAN SATAN SATAN
The above might be a Facebook thread (like this one), a series of notes attached to a post on Tumblr or Instagram, a conversation at Pagan Pride Day, or the banter that takes place over coffee or booze at a Pagan moot (minus the interjections from Christians, usually). But the crux of the conversation is the same: Christians are dumb because they mistakenly think we worship Satan. We either get mad or have a laugh, but we leave thinking that the root of the problem is simple ignorance.
I spent two years working on an ethnographic project with an evangelical megachurch and focusing on contemporary American Protestant Christianity. It is through this experience that I offer the following:
When a Christian accuses you of worshipping Satan, the issue is not their lack of knowledge about contemporary witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism, etc. The issue is a difference of worldview. From the perspective of many Christians, the religious options are simple: Christ or Not Christ. Everything in the “Not Christ” box is the playing field of the Enemy.
Trust me. Evangelicals know about Wicca, Neo-Paganism, the New Age, etc., etc. They are not misinformed. Many of these folks (especially the ones publishing books and preaching) are well-educated, thoughtful people. When a Christian accuses you of cavorting with Satan, they’re not misunderstanding you. They’re disagreeing with you.
Arguing and asserting that you really worship nature or a Goddess or are secular or whatever is almost always a waste of time. You could tell them you were a Catholic or a Jew and the reaction would be comparable, because we’re all equally occupying the box of “Not Christ” (or “Doing Christ Wrong” in the case of Catholics) and are, therefore, operating in the realms of the Adversary. You cannot win a debate if your position is “But we don’t even believe in Satan.” Belief is not part of this equation. You’re in the “Not Christ” box. The whys are not relevant within the evangelical worldview.
As a Wiccan, from this evangelical perspective, I worship Satan, who has deceived me and lured me further from God. You probably worship Satan, too. At the very least, you’ve been deceived or otherwise prevented from accepting Christ. Personally, I don’t have any problem with being called Satanic. I know it’s not personal and doesn’t actually have anything to do with my Craft, my gods, or how I live my life.
So, as a community (or at least as an assemblage of angry people), we need to find another strategy for dealing with the whole Satan thing. Because the issue is not misunderstanding. It’s disagreement over the fundamental structure of the universe. We need another game plan aside from the idiotic memes that mostly do nothing but advertise our own failure to grasp the basics of Protestantism.
As a sidenote, Internet Witches, let’s stop using this meme to defend our communities:
The above illustration is from an edition of Florence Laughlin’s children’s book The Little Leftover Witch (1960), which my mom used to read to me when I was little. It’s the story of baby-witch Felina, who finds herself living with blond white suburbanites after being stranded. After struggling with the grossness that is witchcraft, she finally finds love and happiness at the end of the book when she gives up and joins the status quo. So irony. Find something else.