Cross and Pentacle: Two religions at the crossroads

I was a Jesus Freak, a passionate theologian, and a Southern Baptist minister. I worked hard to convert pagans. The pagans won.

Discovering magic as a witch with an intimate knowledge of western christianity I explore the juxtaposition of these two faiths. Christianity and paganism alike are undergoing dramatic changes with parallel trends, conflicting challenges, and a growing concern for interfaith dialogue.

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Lessons From A Star Wars Facebook Fail

[No spoilers here. I haven't seen the movie, so this is 100% spoiler free]


Recently I posted something on Facebook and then regretted it. With a click-bait title like The Radicalization of Luke Skywalker: A Jedi’s Path to Jihad I was hooked and the article suited my mood, because I’m not a Star Wars fan. I’m usually pretty careful about what I re-share, but after being told for the umpteenth time why I should be a Star Wars fan, I re-posted the piece without fact-checking or reading it closely. 


And then I felt stupid. Friends pointed out how the original article was full of factual errors that I hadn't noticed. I wanted to delete the post and go hide and forgot this fail ever happened, so I figured there were probably important lessons to be learned


Lesson 1: Know your stuff

I barely remember the Star Wars movies at all. I’d believe just about anything written about them, because I barely remember the plot and the characters. So I violated the first commandment of social media. Thou shalt not share articles without fact checking!



I get angry at people posting articles bashing religions all the time. Christians writing about Paganism without knowing their stuff, Pagans bashing Christianity with memes that are factually inaccurate. So because some folks who love Star Wars have been annoying to me, I reacted the same way. 


I also learned just how important Star Wars has become to American culture. To me, it is just another movie, one I didn't grow up with, that doesn't hold any meaning for me. I wasn't raised with Wizard of Oz, either, but when I eventually watched the movie as an adult, I felt like I had been initiated into an American experience. (I finally understood why people kept talking about not being in Kansas anymore, when I knew that they had never actually been to the midwest.) So, I'm taking a step back, realizing that I need to stop reading about Star Wars and go and reacquaint myself with the actual stories. 


Lesson #2: Tastes are influenced by our experiences

That being said, I’m not sure I’d like the movies any better than I did the first time. There are way too many explosions. I grew up without television and find many movie too fast paced, and stressful. Explosions in particular are jarring and take up way too much time that could otherwise be devoted to character development. While I’m waiting for things to be done blowing up, my mind always wanders. How could this issue have been resolved without any explosions? How many fossil fuels were wasted filming these explosions? Is this scene going to keep blowing things up long enough for me to go use the bathroom? (Needless to say, my friends have given up on ever taking me out to the movies).


I enjoy stories I like are character driven. I like books and movies that explore questions of good and evil (like Wicked, a re-telling of Wizard of Oz). When the good guys are pretty much all good and the bad guys are basically all bad, I become bored. It just doesn’t work that way in real life and it makes it hard for me to care about who’s going to win. I want to see characters grow and struggle.


Maybe that's a reaction to my recovery from fundamentalism. In fundamentalism there was always a nice distinction between good and evil, us versus them. We would use stories like Star Wars to justify our own radicalization. When I was in bible college, the first set of new Star Wars movies came out and we had endless discussions on how the Force was really the Holy Spirit, and how the Jedis are really the Christian church, etc. We’d use Star Wars and similar stories as analogies for our fight against the liberals who we thought were destroying our country.


I know plenty of people who enjoy Star Wars without reducing it to spiritual warfare propaganda. For me, however, Star Wars remains a story I encountered through the eyes of fundamentalism. The radicalized interpretation clings to me, even as I try to back away from it. It is yet another way my fundamentalist past continues to influence me. 


Lesson #3: Who controls the story?

More than anything, though, I've been thinking about who controls our stories, who interprets our myths for us. All it takes to turn Luke Skywalker into a Jihad fighter is a disgruntled audience, a few pieces of the story left out, a subtle twist to a couple of scenes, and voila! I’d like to think I’m above the subtle (and not so subtle) manipulation of media, but I am not. My friend Lorelei said it like this:

“I think the point is that this is the same kind of spin and propaganda our media and governments propagate that puts us against 'them'. Obviously the article is just half-truths. By selecting only the actions/events that support a particular argument one can sway the story either way. It is the same kind of half-truth that is attempted to stop people thinking of terrorists or basically any Muslim as rounded individuals with personalities and hopes and desires, like any other human.”


She's right, and it frustrates me how easy it is to fall for a story that's been spun a certain way. It reminds to be more vigilant and to recognize that despite all of the personal work, despite all of our growth, it's still too easy to believe a story simply because it suits us.


Maybe re-watching Star Wars without my fundamentalist worldview will redeem the story me. And maybe not (there’ll still be way too many explosions). At any rate, though, this Facebook fail has been a cautionary experience for me, a way to remind me to listen and pay attention carefully before voicing an opinion, to examine my own baggage and biases, and to always, always question who is in control of the stories I believe.


And also, to respect mythologies that others treasure. I don't want others to (ignorantly) pick apart the stories that mean a lot to me. Sometimes a story just needs to be left alone to work its magic. As my friend said, “sometimes a light sabre is just a light sabre!” 

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Born and raised an evangelical Christian in Germany, I joined the Jesus Freak movement as a teenager and became a passionate evangelist and worship leader. No one was surprised when I went to the US at age 19 and came back a tattooed and pierced fundamentalist Christian, betrothed to a "Chrispie" (a Christian hippie, that is). I was a virgin the day we married. Five years later I graduated bible college with highest honors and post traumatic stress disorder. I deepened both my theology and trauma on the road by traveling the country in a big yellow school bus. For three years I lived as a nomad, playing music and leading bible studies, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. I learned that Christianity in America encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices, from Amish groups casting demons out of school busses to Roman Catholic priests breaking into government buildings. I saw Jesus in the oddest places. And then everything changed and I ended up a polyamorous Witch in a Pagan community in California.


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