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The Religious Biography of Mama Rose, Witch
As collected by Shea Thomas
I've been asked several times why it is that I am Wiccan, Pagan, and a Witch as opposed, to, say, Evangelical Baptist Christian. Here's the story.
For Muslims, Christian arguments are irrelevant.
For Jews, Christian arguments are things to keep a wary eye on, watching for signs of renewed pogroms -- signs which unfortunately do come up from time to time.
For members of other religions, even less attention is paid.
But NeoPagans are, for the most part, former Christians: not people who are in ignorance of the message of Christianity, nor people who are sublimely or warily unconcerned with it, but people who have been steeped in it and have rejected it. (Note the use of the phrase "for the most part;" we certainly have people who have come out of -- or who have not left -- other traditions as well. But, for the most part, these people have little hostility toward their milk religions.)
This is my story.
Both sides of my family have been firm, even stern Christians for generations. My father's people had nurses and military people and farmers and the occasional minister; my mother's father was a first-generation Greek, agnostic within the Orthodox religion of his family, saved by Methodists in this country, and a missionary and fiery preacher his whole life. Her mother was a strongly religious woman -- indeed, her whole family was strongly Christian.
Some of you may be familiar with Asbury College, in Kentucky. That is where my grandfather learned English, and where he got his ministerial training. It is where my father got his ministerial training as well, and where my mother learned to be a nurse. It is where my mother and father met, and where they were married. I was born in Kentucky, while my father was a practicing minister. He later left the ministry, seeking work that would pay well enough to support his family. We moved from that state to Ohio when I was a year old; we lived in some 10-15 different places before I was five, and moved three more times by the time I was nine.
One of my earliest memories is kneeling at a white bannister, with a cross high on the wall in front of me, with one of my parents asking if I wanted Jesus in my heart. I said yes.
We always did Sunday School and Church, and there were Bible stories all around. I grew up thinking that the different religions were Methodism, Baptistry, and Catholicism. As I grew older, there was Bible study, and youth groups. My mother still worked at nursing; my father had a job at the Methodists' Children's Home in Lebanon, Indiana. This is a place which takes children who are emotionally distressed to live in a group-home setting and learn to deal with life outside of whatever crucible their homes had been. My mother was thought to be a bit strange; my father was well-respected.
The fall I turned nine, my father started molesting me.
He molested me for the next six years, until he moved out of the house and my parents were divorced.
A few months after that, my mother discovered what he had done, and started court proceedings against him. The proceedings were dropped when he agreed to get counseling. Then I and the rest of my family got counseling too.
We were, of course, still going to church; thorough Bible study was a regular part of my life.
The summer I graduated from High School, my mom arranged for me to work at Winona Lake Christian Assembly, a campgrounds for various religious groups. During an especially emotional revival, I answered the call to believe and be saved, assured that Jesus was the answer to all my cares and woes; I had been under the impression that I already was a Christian, but I confessed and was prayed over and saved. It felt great; I really felt clean of the taint of my father's actions and of the guilt that I had partaken of them for the very first time. For a while.
I was reading the Bible with a passion, then: studying, learning, becoming aware of passages that previously I had skipped over. And I started noticing an alarming pattern.
Children belong to their fathers, and are subject to whatever the
fathers might decide to do with them.
Sometimes fathers are good to them; sometimes they hurt them, or allow them to be hurt; sometimes God demands that they be hurt; sometimes God hurts them directly.
Fathers are commanded to love their children; but no further demands are placed on them.
Children, however, can be punished -- sometimes lethally -- for disobeying their parents, although sometimes forgiveness is issued.
Women -- adult females -- are in very little better case. Unless it happens outside a city, no charge of rape is deemed valid, since the woman could have cried out and been rescued.
I had, therefore, consented to my own molestation, since I had not cried out for help; I was guilty of fornication. But if I had cried out for help, then I would have been guilty of disobedience.
I found no passages in the Bible -- not one -- that said anything different. God didn't mind if I got molested; it broke only one of His laws, and that one was broken by me.
I noticed, however, that any sexual act between two people of the same sex -- no matter how loving, how consensual, or how committed -- was an abomination. Fathers molesting their daughters was not an abomination, but two men deeply in love with each other was.
I felt dirty all over again. I felt used. And I began to feel very angry.
Leviticus is full of rules; you may have noticed that. Line after line demarking cleanliness and uncleanness; line after line specifying dress, and physical condition, and hairstyle, and food; line after line addressing fair dealing and suitable punishments, forgiveness and death.
Not one line forbids sexual congress between an adult and a child. Not one line forbids sexual congress between a parent and a child. Not one.
Why would God have overlooked something like that? It's not as though the practice was unknown in that time period, even if it is not mentioned by the Israelites.
I searched, desperate. And found nothing. Found that, now that I was an adult, my job was once again to keep silence. At the very most, my job was to forgive my father.
Silence was killing me.
I left the church. I left Christianity. I became agnostic.
I began using the skills of a post-Freudian society to try to unravel what had happened to me, what had been damaged in me, and what could be mended.
As I got better, I once again began feeling the urge to praise. But whenever I thought of returning to a Christian environment in order to praise, I became literally, physically ill. So I began searching for a different paradigm:
Context is everything.
For any Christian who has bothered to read to the end of this: thank you. Please know that, when I attack specific portions of Christian philosophy, of Biblical teaching, of Fundamentalist creeds: it is because these things have had a direct, and nearly fatal, impact on my own life. If I act as Satan, as the Accuser, it is because I see the evil hidden within philosophies and practice, and I seek to bring them out into the sunlight. Because any who remain within the religion must -- MUST -- act to counteract these evils. You cannot simply ignore them and hope they won't happen: they do. They happen a whole lot more frequently when you pretend that, because you are saved and sanctified, it can't happen to you.
Or by you.
Because every time you make the statement that homosexuality is a sin, you concurrently ignore the fact that child molesting is not a sin. And you drive yet another nail into my heart.