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Is it OK to be friends with a witch?

By Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: My background in Christianity was in the Catholic Church with summers at the Nazarene (Vacation Bible School). As an adult I belong to a Charismatic Church, and one of the things I did, because I felt God compelling me to, was to end a longtime friendship with a friend who became a Wiccan. I missed her, but felt right by God. -- From S

A: I get many repeat questions, but I have never received a question about whether it's OK to have a friend who's a witch. The Bible is quite clear and quite severe on this question. We read in Exodus 22:18, "Thou shalt not let a witch live." Now I do not believe in witches and I am definitely NOT advocating violence against anyone, particularly men and women who say they are witches. There are tragic echoes of this biblical bigotry in the witch burnings in Europe and America in the 15th through 18th centuries. Biblical teachings sadly share much blame for these acts of murderous superstition and largely anti-female bigotry.

The textual truth of the biblical verses on witchcraft are not actually so clear. The original text in Exodus and a parallel text against witchcraft in Deuteronomy 18:9-10 may not actually refer to people who cast spells and curses but to those who engaged in preparing various herbal medicines. Whatever those texts actually mean, the biblical condemnations of witchcraft/herbalism come from an ancient pre-scientific time filled with ancient pre-scientific superstitions. I cannot defend how these texts were used over time to justify murder. Part of what it means to be religious in our time is having the courage and discernment to enable one to sift through an ancient book and keep those teachings that are timelessly true while leaving behind those teachings that are just human bigotry masking the actual words of God.

However, while letting go of witch burning as a morally repugnant vestige of our faith, I think you did the right thing in cutting off your friendship with your Wiccan friend.

There are elements of Wiccan religion that just do not harmonize easily with the teachings of your Christian faith. Wicca was formed in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, a retired British civil servant. It has no fixed sacred scriptures. Some Wiccans worship witchcraft and Satanic rituals, some worship a pantheism of a Moon Goddess and a Great Horned God. There are elements of being a Wiccan that are spiritually noble and we ought to have the honesty to lift up those elements for praise. It is generally a faith that respects the spiritual integrity of the earth but from a pagan perspective, not from a biblical one. The actual content of Wicca is quite obscure and complicated by many secret practices. However, it is definitively a pagan faith that does not worship a single biblical God who created all life and a moral code.

Christians and Jews do not believe the same things about Jesus, but we are close enough to allow fruitful interfaith dialogue. The same is not true with your Wiccan friend. This would inevitably cause difficulties in your friendship because of your deep faith in Christianity. Not all friendships can survive deep differences of belief. If your heart tells you that this friendship is over, trust your heart, but consider sending her a nice Halloween card this October.

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Some final, final responses to what sport is most like life...

-- From K: There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games. Ernest Hemingway wrote that what they have in common is that you can perish if you participate.

-- Marc Gellman: If this is true, I have never ever participated in a sport!

-- From P in Harrisburg, Pa.: I right away thought of wrestling. I'm not talking professional wrestling. I'm talking about amateur, which involves high school and college kids. Here are some reasons: 1. Teamwork effort. If you lose, it hurts the team by not adding to the score. 2. You have to work hard to succeed, both physically and mentally. You have to learn your moves and when to use them. 3. You learn a lot of discipline, and how to act when you lose. 4. The match can be slow and boring, then all of a sudden a lot of action. 5. You are out there on your own with everyone watching your every move. If you lose, you not only hurt yourself, but the team. If you win, you are the hero.

-- Marc Gellman: And (how could I have forgotten this) wrestling is mentioned in the Bible. Jacob and Esau wrestle in the womb, and as a result Jacob is called Israel which means, "one who wrestles with God and man and prevails."

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at godsquadquestion@aol.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including "Religion for Dummies," co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)

(c) 2019 THE GOD SQUAD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

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