Something just occurred to me: Christians claim contradictory things: (1) No miracles are necessary to prove that their god is the one true god because “faith,” yet (2) they use miracles as signs to justify that faith.
So, if a miracle occurred inside the faith, then *boom,* all of the thousands of claims of their doctrines are true. But if a miracle occurred outside their faith (in other religions, such as paganism), then they would use Satan as an alibi. “Satan can do miracles too.” Miracles were only ever used to validate their claims, regardless of where they occurred.
Pentecostalism is an interesting breed of Christianity. Life for a Pentecostal isn’t just about following religiosity such as the reading of holy text, the discipline of prayer, the practice of fasting, the attendance of church service, the participation in community, etc., all of which are more universal practices among various religions. In addition, Pentecostalism defines itself by a very physical engagement with the supernatural that manifests itself in what normal life would categorize as weirdness. Some examples: speaking in tongues (babbling incoherent syllables that make no linguistic sense, also called glossalalia), miracles of physical, relational, sexual, and spiritual healing, exorcism (although we never would have called it that), uncontrollable shaking and trembling, uncontrollable laughter, vivid hallucinations (dreams and visions), fortune-telling (prophecy), psychic readings (another form of prophecy), out-of-body experiences, and group hypnosis through chanting, repetitive music, and hypnotic tones (praise/worship service) to achieve the above. There are many, many more of these weird manifestations to include pretty much anything someone can dream up. Seriously, I’ve heard of a pastor who got under a table and barked like a dog because the Holy Spirit asked him to. ????? But this isn’t just an athropological explanation based on observation. This is a personal memoir based on my own experience. Coming from a Pentecostal denomination (Assemblies of God), I have engaged in each and every one of the above — both as the recipient and as the “giver” unto someone else.
Yes, I’ve had demons cast out of me and I’ve prayed for them to be cast out of others. Yes, I’ve prayed for a man with a broken knee to be healed, causing him to be able to jump around, and I’ve been prayed for and experienced physical healing with my carpal tunnel in my wrists. Yes, I’ve led worship music playing and singing to “get the congregation drunk in the spirit,” and I have been in the audience of thousands as we experienced a group hypnosis — a hypnosis that caused mass fainting, falling, babbling, visions, trembling, shaking, laughing, on and on and on for houuuuuurrrs. I didn’t eat for days. Barely slept for days. And was as high as a kite on the “spirit.”
After the group hypnosis ended, I would still give myself another hit on my own by going for a drive, putting on the same hypnotic music, and gettin’ all manifest up in the drivers seat with a plethora of personal weirdness pentecostalalia.
My disbelief in god crashed, burned, and obliterated this truly magical world in which I lived. Everything used to be colorful, sparkly, purposeful. In a very real way, I had rainbow-colored glasses that made everything glittery. I was chosen, important, the anointed one– prophesied to me over and over about how magically endowed I was. Divinely called and equipped to transform the world. I was living in a fairy tale in which I was the hero, through Jesus.
It took time to adjust to reality. Not unlike CS Lewis’ Great Divorce in which heaven is so real it’s painful, so I experienced pain as I adjusted to the new sharpness of reality. But now, I’ve been able to take my own paintbrush to make my world colorful. Appreciation is deeper and more meaningful. And mostly, I’ve stayed away from crazy magic.
Until last weekend.
I attended a Mother Circle for a pregnant friend of mine. It was a baby-shower alternative, a celebration of the mother and baby to come. As each of the many women attending came from different walks of faith (most either “True Blue” Mormon or post-Mormon/agnostic/atheist), paganism was a safe median. Wait, what?
It was a flashback to my pentecostal days. The rituals may have been named differently, but the physical engagement with the supernatural was extremely similar.
I honestly have no idea how many of those women actually believed in the magic they tried to create, but it was an obvious escape from the cold, patriarchal world outside her doors by giving each woman the power of “the divine goddess.” It definitely pumped me up.
The squeals, the shivers, the tears as The Universe and Mother Earth brought together meaningful gifts, herbs, crystals, and words for this woman reminded me of spiritual moments at an intense Bible study. Girls would wave their hands like they were fanning their faces with pure, magical glee. “God is just sooooo amazing!! Jesus did this tonight FOR US!” we would comment about silly coincidences and “blessings” of abundance. The same thing happened here, just with a differently named god.
This very pregnant woman cried from all the glory of the “good energy”and “good juju” in the room. “Wooooooow!!!” we all ooh’d and awed as the yet another woman adorned the salt bowl with rose petals. Mother Earth must really be trying to send a message with rose petals to the birthing mother, they all agreed.
“The rock you gave me matches my mandala rug!!” more squeals and tears. I was trying to get caught up in drifting through the dreaminess of the magic of the moment, but a big part of me was desperate to keep from rolling my eyes and bursting out laughing. Were they serious??
Yes. “You guys, you are not alone. Mother Earth loves you SO MUCH! Because you ARE her, and she is you!” Those words blew me away. Wait, Jesus? Mother Earth? Wait… this is the SAME EXACT thing that I experienced as a Christian, just with different labels and different lingo!
We chanted, meditated, danced in circles, healed, prayed. And during the times of meditating about my female anatomy parts, I was immediately brought back to moments in which I was enlightened by the Holy Spirit. It was very surreal.
My Christian friends would say what I experienced last week was satanic. My universalist friends would say that it’s all just different paths to the same god. I say the disparity and stark contradictions between the various explanations is evidence that such experiences are merely made up — even if subconsciously– in our heads.
Everyone thinks they are unique. That their magic is somehow different. But if a Pentecostal would be able to experience the glimpse into paganism that I witnessed with any sort of open mind, it would shatter all facades of uniqueness. Christianity is not the only place to find the miraculous, or even the only place to find a god that loves unconditionally (which I can actually make an incredibly thorough argument about why YWHW and his son are anything but full of unconditional love). Point is: beneath the surface, no religious claim or experience is unique. It’s the same concoction of chemicals in our brains regardless of the name.