Christian Wicca; or, Forcing Square Pegs into Round Holes
This article was originally written for my Wicca website, currently undergoing updates.
To my knowledge, there is a single book and website written by a Christian Wiccan. That website has changed multiple times, rendering my original footnotes useless. As of May 25, 2014, the website’s domain is expired, leaving nothing at all to be referenced. This is why most quotes here have no source notations.
There is also an article about it at ReligiousTolerance.org, which lists my original article on the matter among others as “Essays, covering a wide range of viewpoints — a few are quite negative.”
My opinion on this topic is absolutely negative, but it is informed opinion, built upon the words of author-founder Nancy Chandler Pittman and experience with others who follow it. I’ve yet to meet one who can offer a sophisticated explanation of their beliefs (instead getting things like “I believe in Jesus and nature”) or solid understanding of how diverse concepts are being coherently united. Rather than pursuing a truth, Christian Wiccans seem primarily interested in straddling two religions without making profound choices on how they understand the world, and that is what I criticize.
Defining Christianity and Wicca
The first issue is the name Christian Wicca. Every believer I’ve encountered believes Christian Wiccans are both Christian and Wiccan. In fact, most forms are true to neither Christianity nor Wicca, and it certainly cannot be true to both.
To avoid debate of exactly how one defines these religions, I turn to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary for the most general of definitions of the two faiths:
- Christianity: “The religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies.” Its Concise Encyclopedia continues with the explanation: “Its principal tenets are that Jesus is the Son of God (the second person of the Holy Trinity), that God’s love for the world is the essential component of his being, and that Jesus died to redeem humankind.”
- Wicca: “A religion influenced by pre-Christian beliefs and practices of western Europe that affirms the existence of supernatural power (as magic) and of both male and female deities who inhere in nature, and that emphasizes ritual observance of seasonal and life cycles.”
The Bible is rooted in the belief of a single deity, commonly referred to as God. There are no other acceptable deities. Wicca, on the other hand, involves the reverence of two deities minimally, a god and a goddess. If you worship God alongside a goddess, then you are breaking the Christian commandment to worship only God, and you are denying his existence as the only God. If you attempt to be a monotheistic Wiccan, you lose the polarity and unity of separate halves that is fundamental to Wicca.
ReligiousTolerance.org attempts to reconcile the difference this way:
Many Wiccans (perhaps most) also believe that there is a single ultimate deity which/who is unknowable. A common Wiccan saying is that “All Gods are the ONE GOD.” This deity is sometimes referred to as “The All” or “The One” and is often visualized as having two aspects: a male facet who is called the God and a female component, the Goddess. (source)
- The saying is “All gods are one god.” The inclusion of “the”, making it “All gods are THE one god,” is absolutely not a Wiccan belief.
- The statement is not a Wiccan saying (it was coined by Dion Fortune, who died before Wicca even existed), although some employ it to explain their personal views on divinity.
- There’s a second half to that statement, completely ignored here: “all gods are one god and all goddesses one goddess.”
- The Christian God is not unknowable.
- “The All” is a concept largely created and popularized by author Scott Cunningham.
At least some Traditional Wiccans recognize a concept known as the Dryghten, which is an impersonal power, an energy from which things came, but, again,that is not the Christian God.
Mary as Goddess
Most commonly, Christian Wiccans try to fit the Virgin Mary into the role of Goddess. The problem is Mary isn’t a goddess in Christianity. In fact, to elevate Mary to godhood destroys a vitally important facet of her. Her son, Jesus, acts as an intermediary between God and man through his dual nature of being both mortal and divine, and that nature is defined by his parentage: one mortal (Mary) and one divine (God the Father).
Worshiping a mortal as a goddess doesn’t work in Wicca either. God and Goddess are equal. God and Mary most certainly are not.
Sources of Sin
The concept of a savior is anathema to Wicca. Salvation is necessary because of inherent flaws in humanity, traditionally brought about by the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. Wicca does not accept that we can be tainted by mere existence. Any taint we might bear comes from our own choice of actions, not our nature. We do not bear responsibility for the actions of others, and only the individual can make right his or her personal transgressions.
Many other concepts are important although arguably not foundational, such as the existence of Satan. In Christianity, Satan is an embodiment of evil, and supernatural powers within a Wiccan context are intimately part of nature. A Wiccan acknowledgment of Satan would imply that some part of nature is inherently evil, which they deny.
You can’t just take one theology, smack it down on top of another theology and say “close enough”.
Are those definitions too rigid? There are always exceptions, but the above points are very central and agreed upon by most. Even so, most important here is the number of exceptions necessary to make this fusion work.
Trinitarian Wicca is the correct name of the tradition often generalized into a practice called Christian Wicca. Trinitarian Wicca is a path of American Wicca (or Non-British Traditional Wicca) that works exclusively with the Christian Pantheon. … There are no church trappings or conflicts with the Bible, because we work directly with the Gods and Goddesses; church dogma does not have a place in our ritual structure. Concepts such as the original sin, salvation, baptism, heaven, hell, and satan have no place in Trinitarian Wicca. (Nancy Chandler Pittman as quoted at ReligiousTolerance.org)
Yes, some Christians debate the existence of Satan or Hell. But if you take out Satan and Hell and Original Sin and commandments for monotheism and the need for salvation, why are you calling whatever is left “Christian”? The result is something new. There’s nothing wrong with new, but it shouldn’t be packaged as something it isn’t.
Why People Attempt to be Both
There are four general scenarios where I find people attempt to be both Christian and Wiccan:
- They believe in God and Jesus but want to practice magic and think you need Wicca to do that.
- They want to be Wiccan (often because it sounds cool), but they’re afraid of going to hell if they change religion.
- They believe in God and Jesus but are also attracted to certain things embraced by Wiccans but are by no means fundamental to Wicca. You don’t need to be Wiccan in order to respect nature and experience the glory of God through it, for example.
- They believe in God and Jesus but object to certain things within their church, such as inequality between genders or condemnation of homosexuality. I counsel such individuals to simply find a different church or denomination.
There is nothing wrong in being Christian. If that is your path, embrace it.
The Origin of Christian Wicca
Christian Wicca is the brainchild of Nancy Chandler Pittman. According to one of her old websites, her book, Christian Wicca: The Trinitarian Tradition, stems from five years of:
research and comparative studies of the Pagan Wheel of the Year, the Kabbalah, and the Gnostic Gospels. The overwhelming parallels made me wonder why no one else had written such a book for magickal practitioners who uphold the Wiccan Rede, but choose to not give up Jesus as Lord.
Problems here include
- Nothing listed is actually Christian except accepting Jesus as Lord.
- Kabbalah is an esoteric path of study within Judaism
- The Gnostic Gospels are, well, Gnostic. They floated around very early Christian communities but were rejected as contrary to the faith. Considering Gnostic teachings revolve around the soul attempting to escape the bonds of materiality, it’s quite contrary to Wicca as well.
- Neither Wicca nor Christianity is a system of magical practice. For that, you’d be looking for something like witchcraft or ceremonial magic.
- The Rede says we can do harmless things freely. It’s not something you “uphold,” and you don’t have to be Wiccan to agree with it, much less “give up Jesus as Lord.”
Biblical arguments are suspiciously missing here, perhaps because, in Pittman’s own words:
[m]ost of the information of any Female Deity or feminine affiliation with the Godhead is absent from the Holy Bible.
Correct. Goddess figures are not a part of Christianity. If you’re looking for a goddess, Christianity isn’t where you should be looking. That’s not a flaw in the religion. It’s simply a fact.
To throw out the authority of the Bible – and, indeed, replace it with texts from outside Christianity – yet continue to call oneself Christian employs a label without its substance. What Pittman is really offering is a new religion.
In short, Pittman exists in a Christianity largely of her own making.
The Old Religion
She explains the connection between Wicca and Christianity via the theory of the Old Religion, which has been debunked for many decades. Because Wicca is understood (by her) to be the modern form of the Old Religion, and the Catholic Church to merely be the Old Religion with a Christian veneer, Wicca and Christianity are therefore religious blood brothers, originating from a single source and therefore somehow compatible.
Even if they did come from the same source (and they don’t), that doesn’t make them compatible. Christianity comes from Judaism, and Islam comes from both, but there are still fundamental differences between the three.
It is interesting to note that even a person identifying herself as both Christian and Wiccan still has a bias against Christianity. According to Pittman, the Old Religion naturally evolved into modern Wicca, but Christianity had to subvert the Old Religion by force and make fundamental concessions “in exchange for [the pagans] accepting the Christian male Trinity.”
Pittman herself defines a Christian simply as one who has a “personal relationship with Jesus and the Holy Trinity” while all but discounting Jesus’s accepted teachings:
Who determines that Wicca is not an acceptable method of worshiping the Holy Trinity? Do I trust my life and my spiritual soul to British Scholars [at?] the Court of King James?
Her specific mention of the King James Bible makes me wonder why she doesn’t just work from another translation of the Bible.
As for who determines if Wicca is an appropriate vehicle for honoring the Trinity…basic definition of words is all that is required. Wicca has no Holy Trinity, and what it teaches is contrary to Christianity. That clearly makes Wicca a poor vehicle.
In later versions of her website, Pittman explains that Trinitarian/Christian Wicca was never meant to be Christian. Instead, it’s a Wiccan tradition influenced by Christianity, which is pretty contrary to her older website. Regardless, the explanation really doesn’t change much: the Christian ideas she attempts to inject into Wicca don’t work well in Wicca.
There is nothing wrong with combining certain Christian and Wiccan beliefs into something new. However, if you’re creating something new, why insist on labeling yourself something you no longer are? Christianity came from Judaism, but Christians don’t claim they’re Jews. If you believe the Trinity to be three separate figures, (Father, Son, Mother) that’s your right. But that is not a Christian belief. By insisting on being both Christian and Wiccan, you’ve committed yourself to two incompatible theologies.
Also, there’s certainly nothing wrong with bringing certain Christian concepts into your Wiccan practice or certain Wiccan concepts into Christian practice. But the choices should make sense just like any other belief system. Can a Wiccan follow Jesus’s ethical teachings? Absolutely. Can a Christian worship outdoors, creating their own sacred space? Of course. But neither of these situations results in a “Christian Wiccan”.