Sunday, April 18, 2004

Dealing with evangelicals

About ten days ago, while I was working at home (revising the book), the notorious M.C. took the dogs for a walk in the woods, leaving me without my first line of defense. As I was pouring a cup of tea in the kitchen, someone knocked at the front door -- and it did not sound like her characteristic knock.

I went to the door. There were two of them: men, thirty-ish, dressed "cowboy formal," each clutching leather-bound Bibles, the King James Version, no doubt. Their shiny, well-muffled sport-utility vehicle had crept up the gravel driveway, and I, back in my study, had not heard it.

I opened the door, polite guy that I am. I forget now what my visitor said, but his purpose was clear. "You've come to the wrong house," I replied. No terribly witty, but it worked; they said goodbye and left.

Encounter number two was by email, from an evangelical Canadian professor whom I know just slightly from the American Academy of Religion's "new religious movements" group. He wrote to say that he was working on a book on NRMs for Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher.

I do not question that he is a legitimate scholar, not at all, but his phrasing was unfortunate: "I was wondering if you could send me a list of the 25 most influential witches in modern times."

In the context, it was a legitimate question, but it hit me all wrong. It was too much like, "Give him another jolt, Boris. He'll crack and tell us who his associates are."

The correct response would be, "Witches? That's a lot of silliness. There are no witches." (see Gerald Gardner's Craft Laws, nos. 131-132 in Lady Sheba's version -- but those in the linked document are not numbered).

But, too polite to do that either, I suggested several good reference books, such as the Rabinovitch and Lewis Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism.


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