Author: Gus diZerega
Trade Paperback, 242 pages
Publication date: February 2001
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Pagans & Christians is a wonderful, first-of-its-kind book that belongs in the library of every Neo-Pagan who has to deal with Christians who fear or object to their religious beliefs. This is perhaps the most useful "interfaith" book published since Scott Cunningham's The Truth About Witchcraft Today. Where Cunningham's book presents a gentle introduction to Wicca (and by extension, Neo-Paganism) for those totally unfamiliar with it, DiZerga's book helps Christians and Neo-Pagans understand the differences and similarities in their theological and world views.
Pagans & Christians has three major sections: "The Nature of Pagan Spirituality," "Christian Criticisms of Wicca," and "Pagan Criticisms of Christianity." These sections are followed by a summary/conclusions chapter. Dr. diZerega has his doctorate in the field of political science and teaches at the university level. His academic training serves him well as his book is clear, concise, generally respectful to both religions, and well-documented with endnotes in each chapter.
The first section, "The Nature of Pagan Spirituality," is the only one I have real problems with. It could better be titled "The Nature of Wiccan Spirituality." DiZerega is a third-degree Gardnerian Wiccan. While he makes an attempt to capture the variety of non-Wiccan Neo-Pagan beliefs, his description of Neo-Paganism often sounds like a description of Wicca. This doesn't really detract from the useful nature of this book as a tool for interfaith understanding and discussion, but as a non-Wiccan Neo-Pagan I get somewhat tired of the wiccanization of descriptions of general Neo-Paganism.
The second part of this book, "Christian Criticisms of Wicca," discusses and attempts to answer many of the questions and problems many Christians have about Wicca and other Neo-Pagan religions. DiZerega discusses the nature of suffering and evil, spiritual authority, ethics and morality, clergy, and more. He answers the standard Christian objections with respect and with numerous quotes from the Bible. While this section is unlikely to convince many Fundamentalist Christians that Pagans are not following Satan, chances are it will help the vast majority of non-Fundamentalist Christians see Neo-Pagan religions in a more comfortable light.
The final section of Pagans & Christians addresses the some of problems Pagans often have with Christianity, such as it's lack of respect for nature. This section is likely to make those Pagans who get their jollies bashing Christianity just as annoyed and upset as the second section likely will Fundamentalist Christians. DiZerega explains how most of the objections many Pagans have with Christianity simply aren't supported by the Bible and Christian tradition. In other words, many of the problems Pagans have with Christianity aren't really with the teachings of Christianity in general, but with the teachings of a relatively small number of Christian sects who shout down the larger, quieter groups.
As my opening paragraph states, I strongly recommend this book. Aside from my objection to the "wiccanized" description of Neo-Paganism, my only real problem with this book is its US$14.95 price. Don't get me wrong, this book is worth every penny of the price. The problem is that price is too high for most Neo-Pagans to afford to buy copies of it to give away to those who have have sincere theological questions on Wicca and Neo-Paganism. Many Neo-Pagans I know regularly buy extra copies of Scott Cunningham's The Truth About Witchcraft Today to give away, for example. While Llewellyn normally does not do lower cost mass market editions of their trade paperbacks, Pagans & Christians is a book that begs for a low cost "buy to give away" edition some time in the future. For now, I suggest one consider buying two copies: one for your bookshelf and one to loan out.
Reviewed by Randall