(Originally printed in the September/October 1996 Issue of the MCOI Journal)
There is a cult system for everyone. There are more cults and cult-like organizations in our society today than I have space here to list. Each holds appeal for a different I type of person, and it seems that all the bases are covered.
For example, if you are a college student, there are groups on campus, tailor made for idealistic young people who are away from home, and looking for some “truth” to believe in. The Moonies, the International Churches of Christ, and the University Bible Fellowship are only a few of these.
If you are a stay-at-home mom, lonely for company, there are cultic wolves that will waltz right up to your door and offer you a free home Bible study or an eternal marriage. For the record, marriage is not eternal, according to Jesus (Matthew 22:30), though some may seem more eternal than others!
Are you a person with a grievance against society and a penchant for conspiracy theories? Do you believe that your race is superior to all the rest? Would you like the comfort of blaming others for all your current life’s troubles and failures? There are wolves out there who are more than willing to dance with you. There is an important color coding requirement for these particular types of cult groups, however. For example, if you are black, the Nation of Islam may be just the ticket for you, but a white man will probably feel a bit more comfortable in the KKK or the Identity Movement. Nevertheless, these groups have much more in common with each other than people would think. They make excellent dance partners, since they are shuffling to the same tune. Cataloging their similarities would make an interesting topic for another day.
Do you enjoy science fiction? There is a cult enjoying worldwide membership whose founder was a science-fiction writer who used his talents to make the big bucks, and get himself worshipped in the process. Engrams, E-meters, Thetans, and the like can be very seductive, I’m sure, but that is hardly your only science fiction option. You could join a UFO cult, and swap abduction stories and/or government cover-up theories all the day long. Tired of the patriarchal, male-dominated, religious system of your experience? Would you rather worship a goddess and gain empowerment?” Like to do your dancing by the light of a full moon? The Fellowship of Isis may be just what you are looking for. We met and interviewed the founder of the Fellowship of Isis, the Most Honorable Lady Olivia, at the Parliament of the World’s Religions here in Chicago in 1993. We asked her if the spirit beings that she communes with were real or mere Jungian archetypes, as some prefer to see it. She was incensed at the very concept! “Of course they’re real!” she retorted quite crossly. “How would you like to be referred to as a Jungian archetype?” Chill, Ms. Olivia! Remember: One person’s “real goddess” is another person’s “Jungian archetype!” Let’s be tolerant of each other’s “truth.”
Sadly, even Christians are not automatically exempt from participation in this evil hoedown Jesus warned His followers to be on the lookout for the ravenous wolves that would attempt to seduce them (Matthew 7:15). You think you’d be safe at Grandma’s house, but the wolf is in the bed! Ron Henzel was an evangelical pastor who found himself sucked into a psychotherapy cult that nearly destroyed his life. And these days, most cults and even major world religions are willing to add Jesus to the mix, no matter how opposed to Christianity you would suppose the belief system to be. We would expect Bible-based cults to have a Jesus “lure” on their hook, but these days even Hindus and Buddhists speak often and highly of Jesus, though the Jesus they speak of is not the Jesus of the Bible,
Cults are not the only dangerous wolves around these parts. False beliefs and pseudo “spirituality” abound in our culture. There are a wide variety of seemingly harmless paths that lead to the deep woods. Love animals? Worried about the environment? Think intolerance is the one thing that must not be tolerated? Watch out! You may buy into much more than bird feeding, recycling, and “live and let live” … and become convinced that God is everything and everything is God, including you and me and Jack the Ripper!
The June 24, 1996 issue of TIME magazine ran an article entitled “Faith and Healing,” where they led off with the question, “Can prayer, faith and spirituality really improve your physical health?” I’m just the type of small-minded bigot who would immediately pose a counter question. . . Prayer to whom and faith in what? And does the “spirituality” they mention have anything to do with the God of the Bible? These are questions that even Christians fail to ask sometimes, and it can lead them into cultic teachings.
The article states that “Western medicine has spent the past 100 years trying to rid itself of remnants of mysticism,” but that recently there has been a:
shift among doctors towards the view that there may be more to health than blood cell counts and EKG’s. and more to healing than pills and scalpels
Christians have always known that God, THE God, was in the business of healing, but the mysticism that today’s doctors are leaning toward has a lot more to do with Shamanism than Biblical Christianity. This article does not even mention Jesus Christ, and clarifies for us what type of “spirituality” they are highlighting in these statements:
Many seek solace in the offices of alternative therapists and faith healers, to the tune of $30 billion a year. . . millions more are spent on best-selling books and tapes by New-Age doctors such as Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, and Lam Dossey, who offer an appealing blend of medicine and Eastern flavored spirituality.
According to TIME:
Sociologist Paul Ray, who has been studying the makeup of the self help and healing movements for eight years, calls the eager listeners ‘cultural creatives,’ some 44-miilion strong, 60% women, mostly middle and upper class, with auxiliary interests in ecology and women’s issues.
What danger could there be in “spirituality,” whether Eastern or not? Plenty. Yet, even many Christians or people calling themselves Christian do not seem to understand the dangers of involving themselves with Eastern mysticism. TIME quotes a Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ nun, Sister Judian Breitenbach, as saying:
We’re moving toward the integration of the East and West, and its happening through health care
TIME goes on:
A fan of Chopra’s, she sees no conflicts between the new and the old age: ‘People are so uptight about this kind of thing. We used to call it trust in God.
No, Judian, we used to trust in the God of the Bible, which is certainly not Chopra’s god. Chopra, who has been called by some the Billy Graham of the New Age Movement, holds to Hinduism’s pantheistic view that everything is God and God is in everything. TIME says of him:
Like all great teachers, he was telling Americans something they already know, in this case, about health. At the same time, he was hinting at something they didn’t know, a simplified Hinduism that was fascinating to a nation of seekers”[emphasis added]. Chopra says that on a cosmic level, we all exist simultaneously throughout the universe,
Riiiiight.. . I’m here, I’m on Mars, I’m now. I’m seven million years ago, I’m ageless. I’m timeless . We’re to reject the Bible but believe this? I don’t think so.
The Bible teaches that God is omnipresent, but people are finite. Chopra disagrees. TIME condenses Chopra’s religio/philosophical belief as follows:
Our bodies, which seem so solid and finite, are not For one thing, we replace most of our component cells regularly; thus, rather than collections of aging organs, we are works in constant progress. On the subatomic level, moreover, we are no denser than the air around us and indistinguishable from our surroundings. Finally, since quantum physics asserts that matter and energy are interchangeable are not individual beings at all but merelyphysical expressions of an infinite universal field of energy.
Chopra’s god is. . .US! Yep We’re all just parts of the universal mind: chips off the old block, each “chip” divine. No offense, Sister Judian, but is this the sort of thing you learned about God, the real God, in Catechism class? Do you remember hearing anything at all about the uptight God of the Bible who warns us over and over again not to follow after strange gods, but to remain loyal to Him?
Concerning our own death, Chopra teaches that:
Death should hold little fear, since we understand that in our essential identity, as parts of that universal field, we are immortal.
Hmmmmm. . The 23rd Psalm, revisited: “Yea. though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for my essential identity is universal fieldness. . .” In opposition to Chopra’s rosy outlook, however, Hebrews 9:27 teaches that:
it is appointed to man to die once, and after this comes judgment.
It is true that Christians need not fear death or judgment, because our faith in Christ’s substitutionary death frees us from the penalty our sins. But folks who are trusting that their identity as parts of some universal field will assure them of immortality (eternal life) will be horribly surprised come judgment day. 1 John 5:11-12 makes it pretty clear:
And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son does not have the life.
Why should anyone trust Chopra’s wisdom with his/her eternal destiny, especially when Chopra himself admits these grandiose pronouncements of his are “vast assumptions.” More like presumptions, I would say! Chopra was once dubbed the “Lord of Immortality” by the Maharishi, but someday he will stand before the real Lord of Immortality to give an account for his “assumptions.” It would not be a good idea, I don’t imagine, to be standing too close to him when that day arrives. I charitably believe that Sister Judian hasn’t a clue about what she has gotten involved with. Perhaps she has only a passing knowledge of the Bible, or perhaps someone has convinced her that the Bible is an outdated book for uptight fundamentalists. I have to believe that she does not realize that, in her search for greater wellness and fulfillment, she has left Christianity behind.
The TIME article also introduces us to:
Soracco, an Estonian-born ‘healer’ who draws on Christian, Buddhist, and Native American traditions”
Picturing a patient in her mind, she would ask for ‘permission to heal’ and then start to explore his body in her mind: ‘I looked at all the organs as though it is an anatomy book. I could see where things were distressed. These areas are usually dark and murky. I go in there with a white shower and wash it all out.
I don’t know what “Christian” traditions she is supposedly drawing from, but I do not see that form of healing in the Biblical record. In the book of Acts, the apostles did not take the time to “picture” the infirm or “explore their bodies in their minds.” As far as we have been told, they did not look for dark and murky areas. “In the name of Jesus, walk!” they said (Acts 3:6-8). They had mission to heal in the “name of Jesus,” something Soracco does not mention at all. As for healing prayer today, God does the healing, not us.
Another form of “spirituality” TIME featured was the practice of meditation for stress reduction. Many people, some of them Christians, have told me over the years that meditation is a neutral practice with no real connection to religion. Jewish screenwriter and producer Marty Kaplan writes:
What attracted me to meditation was its apparent religious neutrality. You don’t have to believe in anything: all you have to do is do it.
He goes on to say:
The spirituality of it ambushed me. Unwittingly, I was engaging in a practice that has been at the heart of religious mysticism for millenniums. To separate 20 minutes from the day with silence and intention is to worship, whether you call it that or not” (emphasis added).
I heartily agree with Marty on this point, but I disagree with his contention that the God he found is “common to Moses and Mohammed, to Buddha and Jesus.” How do I know that? He tells us that he experiences his God:
not only in roses and sunsets but right now, as something not out there but in here .
The God of Moses, YHWH, created sunsets, roses, and Marty, but He is not part and parcel of His creation. That is an Eastern belief, and antithetical to Christianity and Judaism, which Mr. Kaplan seems not to have noticed. He says:
I used to think of psychic phenomena as New Age flim flam. I used to think of reincarnation as a myth. I used to think the soul was a metaphor. Now I know that there is a God, my God, in here, demanding not faith but experience.
Marty’s new-found god is certainly not the God of the Bible, who teaches us that faith is absolutely necessary to Him (Hebrews 11:6), that psychic phenomena is not mere “flim flam” but deadly occultism (Deut. 18:9-12), that reincarnation is not a myth but a counterfeit and that souls like Marty’s can be lost forever. I feel for Marty. As he himself said, he was “ambushed“, by a savage wolf who appeared as a stress reducer, I believe.
The main focus of the TIME article was to ask if these “spiritual” techniques “work” to cure disease or to reduce stress. Whether something “works” is not the first question for a Christian to ask. The Christian’s priority is to determine if such techniques line up with the revealed truth of Scripture, and other outdated, uptight ideas like that .Adultery “works” just as well as marital relations to produce sexual pleasure, but adultery is not for Christians! Yet, being uptight, stick-in-the-mud, left-brained empiricists, we would also like to examine the evidence that these New Age healing techniques truly produce the promised benefit. Do they “work?” Well, Soracco’s results are claimed to have been “encouraging,” but what that means in practical terms is not defined, and no evidence is offered for objective scrutiny.
In Chopra’s case, TIME informs us that he has decided to shift his focus to writing fiction books, because “Nonfiction, he told Publisher’s Weekly, leaves people saying, ‘Where is the evidence?’ And it is so boring to try to address that!” Ooooh yes. .. boring old evidence often gets in the way of “truth”. . It’s so much more fun just to make truth claims than to prove them! “It’s my destiny to play an infinite number of roles,” concludes Chopra philosophically. And the one he plays most convincingly these days involves mangy fur and large canines… the better to eat you with, my dears.
Love to all.
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; but from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. ”
Apostle Paul’s farewell message to the Ephesians (Acts 20.-2J-30)