A historical comparison to today’s revival of witchcraft
One of the great accusations leveled against Christians who oppose witchcraft is that we want to bring back “the burning times” (i.e., the Salem witch trials). Yet Salem is misunderstood. Most believe that it was the Christians of the Puritan colony who got together one day and decided to hang some witches. That is simply not true.
While I was an English teacher at a high school in Beverly, Massachusetts (the town just north of Salem), I noticed that many of the teachers did units right around Hallowe’en on witches. I thought it was more than a little unfair that Christian teachers were not allowed call their holiday “Christmas” and to teach units on the birth of the King of Kings. But those sympathetic to witches could present their pagan holiday.
As a part of these teaching units, the Puritans were often portrayed as being stuffy, overly-intellectual, anti-sentimental and intolerant. Nothing could be further from the truth! There was more real love in the Puritan community than we have today in our churches. Read the accounts of the Plymouth and Boston settlements and you’ll see what I mean! For instance, William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation portrays the toils and great sacrifices these people made for each other. These were people who had often been literally bloodied for their faith. They experienced persecution first hand. Yet they still loved Jesus and their fellow man.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded by the Puritans in the 1630s with Salem being one of its principle port towns. It had become evident by the 1670s, however, that most of the citizens of the colony were not Puritans (or “born-again Christians” in today’s vernacular). By the 1690s, when the Salem Witch hysteria took place, the Puritan era had pretty much waned. By this time, the Puritans were the minority.
The prevailing idea today is that it was the Puritans who killed witches in Salem. Actually, the situation was that some innocent people were accused of withcraft by people who were not genuinely converted at all. The only real witchcraft going on was practiced by a servant of the town pastor! But because she confessed her sin and repented the townspeople, as a whole, forgave her. The resulting problem of the Salem witch trials was that you had superstitious, unconverted people using extra-biblical, unorthodox criteria by which to judge witches.
A pastor in Salem stirred up the original problem with irresponsible preaching and false accusations. But then he had to deflect guilt, because the witch hysteria was found to be eminating from his own household! The townspeople began accusing others and the hysteria spread. The civil court had plenty of nonsense to draw from, written mainly by Anglican pastors from England. These men argued that traditional, extra-biblical accounts of the occult were acceptable as information on the nature of the occult, and this side won the debate (with an enormous amount of bogus evidence).
It is untrue to say that the Puritans or “born-again Christians” were responsible for the deaths of innocent people. In fact, the Salem witchcraft trials were stopped by a Puritan pastor from Beverly, Massachusetts. He charged that none of the evidence met biblical criteria. So it was a true minister of the gospel who stopped the state from executing witches in Salem. The minister who brought the charges was dismissed from his pastorate due to his role in the affair.
What should be our response to witchcraft today?
As Christians, we have two avenues of resistance to witchcraft: ecclesiastical and civil.
It is the role of the Church to oppose witchcraft with all our might, even to the point of publicly condemning certain witches (if they refuse to repent) through imprecatory prayer proclamations. Sorcery is condemned throughout the Bible [see Ex. 7:11; 8:7,18; Isa. 47:9,12]. Sanctions are imposed on sorcerers who refuse to repent [see Acts 13:6,8; Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21;18:23]. As the Church, our correct response is to condemn the practice of witchcraft and to preach salvation to those who would repent.
A more controversial issue is whether or not witchcraft should be made illegal by our civil government. My view is that since the civil government in our country is not a church-state ecclesiocracy, the state should not try witches. Our local community governments would be correct, however, in enforcing ordinances against private house meetings of religious groups in order to stop the undesirable effects of wiccan rituals on the surrounding community (noise, parking violations, etc.).
The city of Palm Bay was correct and acted within biblical principles and the U.S. Constitution when they enforced an ordinance against Jacque Zaleski’s wiccan meetings held at her home. There was no “state persecution of witches,” as they have charged. In fact, Ms. Zaleski also met for teaching seminars at a rented facility during this same time and was allowed freely to do so. The state here was not promoting a certain religion over another religion. If witches believe that their religion has enough popularity to sustain itself as a viable religious organization, then let them be subject to ordinances of the city in which they reside. Yet I doubt that it is possible for witchcraft can survive in a community together with Christians who oppose them without having special privileges granted by the state.
Witchcraft is sufficiently unpopular in our community that it won’t flourish in public. It must begin in secret and then be given special legal protection in order to grow. And that is why the witches of Palm Bay are hysterical. They know that the only way they can survive is to portray themselves victims of intolerance and bigotry and then qualify for special privileges granted by the state.
Witchcraft is a problem today, because witches are gaining special rights status by claiming that they are a persecuted minority. The danger lies not in church or state persecuting witches. The real danger is when either oversteps its God-given authority, or when one tries to be the other. That is what leads to tyranny and oppression. Witches certainly can hold their beliefs and practices in private. There can be no civil law against that as long as it doesn’t interfere with public sphere of life. Private faith is an issue of the conscience. The state of the human soul is something which only God himself can judge.
From another perspective, the problem of witchcraft is rooted in the deep spiritual decline of our churches. Jacque Zaleski was raised in a Christian home, but she now worships a “nature goddess.” Our response as the Church should be to pray for her salvation. This is the only way that Jacque Zaleski can be changed. We cannot enforce inner righteousness from the top down. Righteousness begins with personal regeneration.
Yet we should not neglect our duty as Christians in the civil sphere to enforce outward morality – to enact laws against anything immoral, i.e., abortion, child sacrifice, public nudity, which is being promoted through witchcraft. We must do everything within biblical and Constitutional law to stop the immoral influences of witchcraft from spreading in our community.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A special issue of The Champion containing articles dealing with the relationship of witchcraft and abortion, plus information pertaining to the proliferation of witchcraft in our communities and even our churches, is available at:
See also: The Boston Awakening