I was also interested in Stirlingâ€™s choice of Wiccans as his protagonists. Juniper Mackenzie is kind, intelligent, and clearly sincere about her Wiccan religion; and the fact that she practices what she preaches leads many other characters to adopt Wicca as the book progresses. I find that troubling.
You can re-read the entire review if you like. Mapletree7’s entire response:
I find it sad that a positive description of characters following a different religion is ‘troubling’.
I’m not sure what to make of this. Does he (or she, I know not, and “it” seems rude) think that I’ve transgressed the bounds of politeness by criticizing someone else’s religion? Have I been–gasp–intolerant? Or does she (or he) think that I’d have been happier if the Wiccans in the tale were demonized rather than praised? I dunno, as Maple7 hasn’t indicated. Consequently, rather than imagining what his or her specific concerns might be, I’ll elaborate on my statement a bit.
Frankly, I think Wicca is untrue. Obviously untrue. I might even say ostentatiously untrue. It’s a 19th-century hodgepodge of play-acting and high fantasy that bears almost no resemblance to anything the pre-Christian pagans actually said or did. I can only assume that its devotees are interested in it for reasons other than its truth or falsehood, or have an extremely fluid notion of truth, or are willfully self-deluded. (Please note, I left the Episcopal Church because I rejected its leadership’s embrace of the first two.)
Religion, for me, is a matter of truth, not of psychological utility. I go to church because I believe Christ’s death and resurrection is an historical fact, and that Christianity at its best captures the truth of the cosmos better than any other. That doesn’t mean that I think that other religions, or Wicca in particular, are wholly wrong. We all, by our human nature, are drawn to seek God. And He, in his love and mercy, has left signs of his passing all throughout creation, and not least in our own nature and psyches. All that is good in Wicca is a reflection of and response to those signs, and is, ultimately, of God. But in He has also revealed Himself much more openly and directly, first to the Jews, and then in the person of his son, Jesus the Christ.
The Greeks and Romans sought God everywhere, in the forests, in the seas, in the flight of birds, in the tales of their gods. But even they were aware that the gods were not God (read Plato, if you doubt). It’s interesting to note that Christianity spread from one end of the Roman Empire to the other almost immediately–and was the official religion of the Empire less then 300 years later. It was not spread by sword’s edge, or by coercion; on the contrary, during most of that time, being a Christian was liable to get you killed. But Jesus had come. Once the real thing arrives, there’s no longer any reason to make do with poor substitutes.
Did you get that? The pagans–the real pagans–abandoned paganism for Christianity in droves all over the Roman world.
Which is why I am troubled by signs that a farrago of New Age claptrap like Wicca is moving toward the mainstream of American culture, as evidenced by Stirling’s book. Do you see? It’s not so much the effect the book will have, as the trend of which it is symptomatic.
I’ve undoubtedly offended a number of readers, which I prefer not to do; and doubtless there are a number of readers who feel that the pot is calling the kettle black, and that I’m as willfully self-deluded in my Christian faith as the Wiccans are in theirs. I disagree, of course; but they are entitled to their opinion, as I am entitled to mine–no matter how saddened some may be by it. Ah, well.