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The True Meaning of Sorcery (& the Ills of Holy Deception) | A Christian Witch Talks Culture & Faith

Is there ever anything holy about deception, though?

Christian Witch, Witchcraft, Mysticism, Magic, Crystals, Bible, Incense, Folklore, Sara Raztresen, God, Spirituality, Tarot, Occult, Evangelical, Demons, Sin, Danger, Possession, Idolatry, Discernment, Church, Solomonic Magic, Occult, Left Hand Path, Demonolatry, Demonology, Corinthians, Paul

When we talk about witchcraft in this day and age, we normally talk about the fun things, don't we? The crystals and the herbs, the personalized spirituality, the connection to spirits and deities and ancestors—it's all a beautiful combination of things that can help people feel peaceful, secure, and well-grounded within the world around them. But we all know that where there's the word witchcraft, there are quite a few definitions—including some really outdated ones from the medieval era that people still seem to go off of when they read the many verses about witchcraft or sorcery in the Bible.


Here's the thing, though: the places in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, talking about witchcraft, sorcery, necromancy, divination, soothsayers, mediums, or anything of this nature? They're not talking about the witchcraft we think of today. (Not quite, anyway; not for the same people, not in the same context, because as you know, the entire Old Testament is a covenant between the Jewish people and God, not everyone and God. But even if you're still worried about it, trust me: unless you're trying to put animal bones in your mouth to conjure their spirits or putting certain bodily fluids in your eye to see the future or conjuring unclean spirits to haunt your neighbor for no reason, these verses aren't talking about you.)


And in the New Testament, especially, influenced very much by Greek religion and society, we can take it a step further in all those places that mention sorcery, where pharmakeia is the common word used (or, in rare cases like Acts, periergos). Combine that with the Greek outlook on certain types of magic at the time—namely goetia, where the practitioner is known as the goēs—and you have a complete picture of the true range of tomfoolery the Bible warns against. That tomfoolery is:

  • Poisoning and harm like curses (mekhashepah, kashapu, kishpu, pharmakeia)

  • Meddling with things not supposed to be meddled with (periergos)

  • Calling on spirits outside of God to give you all the spoilers for your life (qasam qesem, ov & yide'oni)

  • Fraud, deception, and other cheap tricks (goetia (not in Bible), pharmakeia)

Seems like a pretty solid list, and one that absolves us of pretty much any claim a modern, and unfortunately uninformed, Christian could make. But that last line, boy, that last line—it really does have a sting to it we can't rub away. The good news is that it's not stinging us, per se—but the bad news is that a lot of folks who points a finger at Christian Witches may not realize that this title applies to them much, much more than they think it does.


After all, a lot of prominent Tiktok evangelists sure do love faith healing—even if it's all just a stage show, a bit of holy deception. I gave my own sermon on the justice a Christian Witch needs to hold onto in my most recent sermon, but let's talk more about holy deception first.


What is Holy Deception (and What Does it Look Like)?


This is a fascinating term, "holy deception," because it describes a phenomenon that, despite our encouragement to be honest and open with other people, is seen as totally justifiable: lying or playing tricks in order to dazzle people into coming to Jesus. Yes, really, that's a thing. And it happens a lot among the flashy types who like to exorcise demons out of people in public. Even C.S. Lewis was a proponent of it, according to Neil Carter, who noted the atheist-turned-Christian was obviously "selling something, and like most effective sales reps, he [was] leaving out an awful lot."and others, like John of God (or Jao de Deus) convinced folks that he had the spirit of King Solomon enter his body, and then many more after the fact, to perform healings and miracles through him. For a more modern take on this, though, we might take a look at Tiktok accounts like @snldan:

The problem with videos like these, as you might guess, is that they often prey on people who are already suffering and looking for a reason to externalize that suffering. This person, who may have been struggling with issues that would've been better dealt with by a medical professional like a doctor or psychologist, is instead put on display in an odd and modern form of preaching on the street corner, and rather than any interventions that actually make sense, some nonsense "witchcraft demon" is exorcised from this person instead.


But while this makes an enticing Tiktok clip, what it doesn't do is tell you all the times that people do this exact kind of stunt—except with someone in on the act. A faith healer draws a great crowd to witness his miracles, and in doing so, he "randomly" selects a total stranger from the crowd in need of healing. The crowd assumes these two have never met. The crowd sees the "demon-possessed" person scream, cry, fall down, the whole shebang while the healer shouts prayers and blessings over them. Then, miraculously, the demon is gone, the person is healed, and the crowd is amazed, being shown a true piece of God's power (or so they think).


Then we hear stories of people who find the faith healer and the newly-unpossessed person sharing a passionate kiss somewhere in the back of whatever venue they were haunting. It turns out these two knew each other, putting on professional performances each time, and they do it in the name of God, so that people might see signs and wonders with their own eyes and actually understand the magnitude of God. I can see why one would do it. Hundreds of years ago, church father Origen himself acknowledged that without such wonders and miracles being performed by the newly converted to show the surrounding pagans the power of God, the teachings of the Apostles probably wouldn't have gotten very far. But can we maybe hope that those apostles, including St. Paul, were doing real miracles, while hearing about gimmicks and nonsense like this?


I'd like to believe that there were real miracles being performed back in the day, and that they were using the same magical formulae we understand how to use now when it comes to petitioning deities and making change in the world. Problem with faith healers like Danny Boy here, though, is that there's no invocations that make any sense, no scriptures quoted or holy tools used, and certainly no glory going to God as this "healer" takes the spotlight.


Maybe leave the exorcisms to the Catholics, Danny boy.


Less Obvious Forms of Holy Deception: The Prosperity Gospel


Now, another insidious example of sorcery and holy deception (but one that doesn't go out doing active theatrics to court new converts) is the ever-famous prosperity gospel: the idea that going to church, thinking positively, and, of course, regularly tithing a good amount of money will gain you health, wealth, and happiness. Oral Roberts (1918-2009), an American televangelist, can be considered one of the first to push this idea, and he raised enough money from this prosperity gospel to even create the Oral Roberts University, which claims to be "a globally recognized, Holy Spirit-empowered university" teaching the next generation of spiritual leaders. Plenty of folks have marked this as a false teaching, like David W. Jones, who outlines these five reasons why it has nothing to do with Biblical teaching:

  1. The Abrahamic covenant is a means to material entitlement.

  2. Jesus’s atonement extends to the “sin” of material poverty.

  3. Christians give in order to gain material compensation from God.

  4. Faith is a self-generated spiritual force that leads to prosperity.

  5. Prayer is a tool to force God to grant prosperity.

If you've ever read anything Jesus says, you'll know what He says countless times, but lays out in one sentence, Matthew 19:24: it's easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for rich people to go to heaven. And as you might guess, good old St. Paul, as well as the story of Acts, warn time and time again of the many false prophets, preachers, and Messiahs who try to turn the new faith into a money-generating machine. So what has all these people flocking to a gospel that denies the reality of life? One that denies the truth of the suffering inherent in a human lifetime, or promotes toxic positivity, or engages in victim-blaming of "you just don't have enough faith" when things go wrong?


Well, for one thing, that's exactly the ticket: the way to magically get what you want is to just follow the three easy steps of believe, give, and be positive. Pretty easy to do! A lot easier than, say, I don't know, actually solving systemic issues that keep people destitute. Claiming that being poor is a sin (or a mark of sin or God's judgement) means not only do you not have to do anything about the problems plaguing society, but you can also feel good about not doing anything, because it's actually all the poor people's faults that they're poor, anyway!


Dieudonné Tamfu, assistant professor of Bible and theology, and coordinator of the Cameroon Extension Site for Bethlehem College & Seminary, writes extensively on the damage done from deceptions like this, especially in Cameroon, where he lives. He says:


This offer is especially appealing to people in the majority world, most of whom live in abject poverty. But it also appeals to the wealthy West. Who does not want to be wealthy, healthy, and mighty? Or in the case of Westerners, wealthier, healthier, and mightier? We all naturally love these. We cherish them. Why not? They give security. So if Jesus will get them for me, I can accept him.


Sugel Michelén, a senior pastor of the Iglesia Biblica del Señor Jesucristo in Santo Domingo, writes quite a bit about this, noting that one of the biggest draws of this prosperity gospel is "an easily manipulated God." He notes:


The god of these evangelists is not the one reveled in the Scriptures, whom we must approach on his terms. Instead, their god is a combination of Aladdin’s lamp genie and Psychiatrist Almighty, who can be easily manipulated through offerings and “words of faith.”


Damn.


All this to say, though, is that there are forms of "holy deception" that don't necessarily take the form of action. They take the form of ideas, too, like the Prosperity Gospel, and in ideas like this, it's so obvious to see that while they claim to be doing this for God, their megachurches and mansions and private jets tell us they're likely doing it more for their spiritual bestie, Mammon. When we talk about sorcery—and the true connotations of it, the poisoning and the fraud and the deception—we see it actually has very little to do with the people lighting candles and incense in the comfort of their own space, and much more to do with those that would use their religion and spirituality to profit off of others' fears, suffering, and pain. Of course such riff-raff exists in communities like #witchtok as well, with countless spam accounts trying to get money out of people for a fake tarot reading or others bloating their brands with foolish, baseless, and sometimes outright dangerous statements (like the idea that intrusive thoughts are actually intuition, or that people who couldn't read simply received knowledge of witchcraft from visions of Hekate or something), but it's an active decay through the American Christian psyche.


And it's a problem that, ironically, Christian Witches are the ones out to address—along with the many progressive pastors and priests, the interfaith activists, and the other types of folks that mainstream Christians would write off as deceived, possessed, or false. It's long since time to band together and stop this kind of poisonous rhetoric from ruining lives, and as the counter-church movement grows, people returning to the wilderness to find the true God of their beloved faith, there's only one fate for this god of evangelicals, this Evangelical Egregore: defeat.


Where the Gods Left Off, Pagan, Christian, Witchcraft, Spirituality, Religion, Medium, Psychic

We did it! We got the print book formatted, with 100 copies on the way!


Now, all that's left is to format the e-book, and then we're golden. By September 16th, the e-book will be uploaded to Amazon and ready to send out, and by September 20, all copies will either be sent to patrons' inboxes for e-book purchases or left at the post office to make its way to people all across the United States (and even internationally)! I can't believe we're already here, and I'm so thankful to everyone for all the support they've shown me along the way.


There are still some copies left in the first print! And when you get a copy through my site, either e-book or print, you also get:

  • Dice divination for which of the 50 interviews you should read first

  • A 1 card tarot pull

  • A signed copy (paperback only)

Check it out!


 

Christian Witch, Witchcraft, Mysticism, Magic, Crystals, Bible, Incense, Folklore, Sara Raztresen, God, Spirituality, Tarot, Occult, Evangelical, Demons, Sin, Danger, Possession, Idolatry

Sara Raztresen is a Slovene-American writer, screenwriter, and Christian witch. Her fantasy works draw heavily on the wisdom she gathers from her own personal and spiritual experience, and her s


piritual practice borrows much of the whimsy and wonder that modern society has relegated to fairy-and-folktale. Her goal is to help people regain their spiritual footing and discover


God through a new (yet old) lens of mysticism.



Follow Sara on Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube, and explore her fiction writing here.


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