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Ignoring the Battle Lines

Editor’s note: This story is a follow-up to Phil Wyman’s series, “Beyond the Pall.” The series is available here: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.

Three silver knives were stuck in the turf at my friend’s gravesite. Perhaps an incantation was uttered, or dirt from the site stored in a pouch for keeping. Someone must have feared a visitation from beyond the grave, and so created a spell hoping to entrap his spirit. After the death of my friend the Witch, Pagans from near and far had divided into friend and enemy status, but I care little for the battle lines of men and tend to dance carelessly in the battle zone while people divide into petty and personal wars.

Someone was crucified millennia ago for dancing in this same battle zone. He sat with drunkards and religious leaders. He came to break down the partition between Jew and Gentile. Being the great equalizer and the Lover of all humanity got Him crucified, but even His cross became our source for peace.

I ignored the developing battle lines. Pagan stood against Pagan. Witches were accusing other Witches of being Satan worshippers. Most Witches don’t believe in Satan, so it looked more like a politically motivated accusation. At stake was licensing for Tarot, and Psychic Readings in the city of Salem. If one group could discredit another, perhaps it meant more money—more customers during the tourist season.

Of course Christians joined the fray as well. Christians made similar accusations of Satanic worship. I wondered quietly if such exaggerated accusations against Neo-Pagans (which is a broad category including Witches and Wiccans) were a way for the Christian church to develop a much needed visible enemy and maybe even leverage in fundraising.

There were also Christians who had a deeply felt need to mention the inevitability of eternal torment at every possible opportunity to those who are not Christians. These pitched their tents on the side of Hell and lobbed their mortar in my direction. They believed that I was somehow compromising my faith by not emphasizing eternal judgment during this season of my friend’s death. I danced in the militarized zone and let the bombs fall around me.

Having been asked to speak at, and create workshops for Pagan events, I am now meeting with Witches to discuss upcoming teachings. I pass my ideas through them. Thus far I have been given carte blanche in curriculum development, and they are excited about my lessons from a Christian perspective.

Likewise I am meeting with Christian leaders who I ask for advice and wisdom as I prepare to speak at Pagan events. They offer their support and advice. They offer their prayers. Those who are my peers and mentors have supported these missional movements.

During this time the battle zone is becoming more active, and this is what I am seeing:

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I see Witches lie about one another, and I see Christians lie about one another. I see Witches posture for position for personal gain, and I see greed in Christian leadership too. I see Witches dishonoring those who die, and I see Christians speaking ill of the dead.

Yet I also see Christians who have chosen to speak the truth even if it costs them, and yes, I see Witches doing the same. I see Christians act mercifully toward those who do not deserve mercy, and I see Witches doing the same.

Often my little Christian world prides itself in being the model of ethical behavior. I am not sure that we can honestly wear the armor and carry the sword of moral authority, because they do not always fit us. Instead I believe we are called to lay down our weapons and dance gracefully in the battle zone.

We are called to avoid choosing sides in personal vendettas for the sake of loving all people. We are called to navigate the places of strife with the words of peace. We are called to help the defenseless in the moment of their greatest need and to cease throwing stones even when stones are deserved. We are called to speak words of truth even if those words defend non-Christians and call Christians to repentance. I believe that this is what dancing in the battle zone looks like, and I believe we are all called to such ministry.

Unfortunately, even Christians are collecting silver knives to superstitiously stab the turf in hopes of driving back the demons, but silver knives, incantations and chants are powerless to soothe the demons of bitterness or fear in our own hearts. These personal sins are the real ghosts of which we should be wary. Overcoming them gives us freedom to dance in the battle zone—like Jesus did.

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