Review: “What’s the Deal with Wicca?”
I recently read an evangelical Christian book written to warn people of the “dangers” of Wicca. I have several friends who are Wiccan, and the reason I was interested in the book is because I read online that a friend of mine, Carl McColman, “figures prominently” in the book. Actually, there is only one reference to Carl, two sentences about a book he wrote while he was Pagan (he recently converted to Roman Catholicism):
“Carl McColman, author of The Aspiring Mystic, has put together a book called The Well Read Witch to help anyone interested in finding the best books to read on Wicca. McColman reviews over four hundred books in his own paperback and also provides a basic overview of Wiccan spirituality.”
-- from What’s the Deal with Wicca? A Deeper Look into the Dark Side of Today’s Witchcraft, by Steve Russo
Russo's book as a whole was a disturbing reminder of the brand of Christianity I left behind: not interested in true dialogue with other religions, or developing authentic relationships with people from other faiths, the only important thing is to convince others, through whatever means necessary, that Christianity is the only true religion. Jesus is presented as the only way to salvation; everyone who doesn’t believe in him is deluded by Satan and damned to hell. Satan is given a whole lot of power in this form of evangelicalism.
In this book, Christianity is referred to in several passages as a religion, and in other passages we read that Christianity is not a religion at all. Russo, the author, who ministers to teenagers and hosts a radio program for Focus on the Family, acknowledges that Wiccans do not believe in Satan, yet he repeatedly tries (dishonestly) to link Wicca with Satanism. I’m sure Russo and his bosses at Focus on the Family would consider such dishonesty acceptable if it “saves” someone from Wicca.
Most of the chapters in the book present some information about Wicca (some of it accurate, some of it not), followed by what reads like the transcript of a sermon – complete with phrases like “Stop and think” and “Think about it” that are repeated so many times I wondered if the book had been edited at all. One whole chapter is an extended sermon that has nothing to do with Wicca, the supposed subject of the book.
The book may actually backfire from Russo’s stated purpose of warning teenagers and others about Wicca. Some teenagers will note the inaccuracies in the book (just one example: TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer is held up as “the classic female witch” – she’s not a witch at all, although some of the other characters on the show are) and figure that Russo doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. Then they may check out some of the many Wiccan books and websites Russo references, and move in the opposite direction. They might even buy The Well Read Witch.
The closed-minded, dogmatic, condescending, proselytizing brand of Christianity that Russo presents is not the only form of Christianity that exists. Sadly, many teenagers who read this book may think that it is. I can’t blame them at all for rejecting it and exploring alternatives.
Addendum (after reading some of the comments posted to this entry): Just as there are many different “brands” of Christianity (just think about the differences between Jerry Falwell and Bishop Desmond Tutu), so too there are many different kinds of evangelical Christians (just think about the differences between George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter). One of my oldest and dearest friends is a Southern Baptist, and he is not closed-minded at all. My opinions about this book are not my opinions about all evangelical Christians.