God is going to change. We women... will change the world so much that He won't fit anymore.1
(Naomi Goldenberg in
Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of Traditional Religions)
Religion and culture are ever changing, ever transforming. . . . We are the transformer, maker and creator of our own religious and cultural traditions.2
( "Women, Religion, and Culture" seminar, UN Conference on Women, Beijing)
My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Peggy's struggles seemed endless. She wanted to be close to God, but she rarely felt His presence. She wanted her teenage son to love Him, but the occult posters in his room became daily reminders of unanswered prayer. She joined a Christian ministry, but satisfying fellowship with God kept eluding her. Eventually she left the ministry to return to college.
She called me a few years later. She had begun to find herself, she said. Her search had led her beyond the familiar voices that had provided "pat answers" to her spiritual questions. The biblical God no longer seemed relevant or benevolent. A college teacher had been especially helpful in her journey toward self-discovery. This teacher-counselor called herself a witch -- one who believes in the power of magic formulas and rituals to invoke power from spiritual forces.
Some years passed. When she called again, she had left her husband and moved away. "I had to find me," she explained. "My spiritual journey has opened my eyes to a whole new paradigm . . . ."
"A new paradigm?"
"Yes. A brand new way of seeing God and myself -- and everything else. It's like being born again."
"Who is Jesus Christ to you now?" I asked.
"He is a symbol of redemption," she answered. "But I haven't rejected the Bible. I'm only trying to make my spiritual experience my own. I have to hear my own voice and not let someone else choose for me. Meanwhile, I'm willing to live with confusion and mystery, and I feel like I'm in God's hands whether God is He, She, or It."
Do you have friends or relatives on similar journeys? Like millions of other seekers, Peggy longs for practical spirituality, a sense of identity, a community of like-minded seekers, and a God she can feel. She remembers meaningful Bible verses, but they have lost their authority as guidelines.
She wonders why God isn't more tolerant and broad-minded. After all, He is the God of love, isn't He? Maybe a feminine deity would be more compassionate, understanding, and relevant to women. Perhaps it's time to move beyond the old boundaries of biblical truth into the boundless realms of dreams, visions, and self-discovery?
Multitudes have. What used to be sparsely traveled side-roads to New Age experiences have become cultural freeways to self-made spirituality. Masses of church women drift onto these mystical superhighways where they adapt their former beliefs to today's more "inclusive" views. After all, they are told, peace in a pluralistic world demands a more open-minded look at all religions and cultures.
Those who agree are finding countless paths to self-discovery and personal empowerment through books, magazines, and new kinds of women's group. They meet in traditional churches, at the YWCA, at retreat centers, living rooms . . . anywhere. Here, strange new words and ideas-such as "enneagrams," re-imagining, Sophia Circles, global consciousness, and "critical mass"-offer modern formulas for spiritual transformation. Therapists, spiritual directors, and others promise "safe places" where seekers can discover their own truth, learn new rituals, affirm each other's experiences, and free themselves from old rules and limitations.
This new movement is transforming our churches as well as our culture. It touches every family that reads newspapers, watches television, and sends children to community schools. It is fast driving our society beyond Christianity, beyond humanism-even beyond relativism-toward new global beliefs and values. No one is immune to its subtle pressures and silent promptings. That it parallels other social changes and global movements only speeds the transformation. Yet, most Christians-like the proverbial frog-have barely noticed.
This spiritual movement demands new deities or a re-thinking of the old ones. The transformation starts with self, some say, and women can't re-invent themselves until they shed the old shackles. So the search for a "more relevant" religion requires new visions of God: images that trade holiness for tolerance, the heavenly for the earthly, and the God who is above us for a god who is us.
The most seductive images are feminine. They may look like postcard angels, fairy godmothers, Greek earth goddesses, radiant New Age priestesses, or even a mythical Mary, but they all promise unconditional love, peace, power and personal transcendence. To many, they seem too good to refuse.
The masks of the feminine gods.
You probably wouldn't expect to find goddesses in a conservative farming community in North Dakota. I didn't. But one day when visiting my husband's rural hometown, a neighbor told us that a new bookstore had just opened in the parsonage of the old Lutheran Church. "You should go see it," she urged.
I agreed, so I drove to a stately white church, walked to the parsonage next door, and rang the bell. The pastor's wife opened the door and led me into a large room she had changed into a bookstore, leaving me to browse. Scanning the shelves along the walls, I noticed familiar authors such as Lynn Andrews who freely blends witchcraft with Native American rituals, New Age self-empowerment, and other occult traditions to form her own spirituality.
Among the multicultural books in the children's section, one caught my attention. Called Many Faces of the Great Goddess, it was a " coloring book for all ages." Page after page sported voluptuous drawings of famed goddesses. Nude, bare-breasted, pregnant, or draped in serpents, they would surely open the minds of young artists to the lure of "sacred" sex and ancient myths.
Driving home, I pondered today's fast-spreading shift from Christianity to paganism. Apparently, myths and spiritualized sensuality sound good to those who seek new revelations and "higher" truths. Many of the modern myths picture deities that fit somewhere between a feminine version of God and the timeless goddesses pictured in earth-centered stories and cultures. Yet, each can be tailor-made to fit the diverse tastes and demands of today's searching women:
Terry wears an angel pin on her jacket. She believes that today's popular angels offer all kinds of personal help, guidance and encouragement. While God seems distant and impersonal to her, she counts on her personal angel to help and love her. She showed me a set of angel cards on a rack in her gift store. "May this Guardian Angel... give you hope and strength to meet each new tomorrow," suggested a sympathy card, complete with a tiny golden angel pin.
"Sophia, Creator God, let your milk and honey flow. . . . Shower us with your love . . . ." chanted more than 2000 women gathered at the 1993 Re-Imagining Conference in Minnesota. "We celebrate sensual life you give us. . . . We celebrate our bodiliness. . . . the sensations of pleasure, our oneness with earth and water,"3 continued one of the leaders. Representing main-line denomination, the women had come from the Presbyterian Church USA (about 400), the United Methodist Church (about 400), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (313), the United Church of Christ (144), and Baptist, Episcopal, Church of the Brethren churches about (150). About 230 were Roman Catholics. To most of these worshippers, Sophia symbolized inner wisdom and "the feminine image of the Divine." Playful, permissive, and sensuous, she has "become the latest rage among progressive church women."4
Tracy is a regional Girl Scout leader in Santa Clara County, California. To prepare young girls for an "Initiation into adulthood" ceremony, she uses guided imagery to alter their consciousness and help them visualize a "beautiful woman"--a personalized expression of Mother Earth--who will be their spirit guide for life. Each girl is free to imagine the spiritual manifestation of her choice or to welcome whichever spirit appears.
Sharon grew up in a Christian home. Disappointed with her church's chilly response to her environmental concerns, she turned to witchcraft. Since her coven accepts any pantheistic expression, Sharon simply transferred what she liked about God to her self-made image of the goddess. She describes her feminine substitute for God as a loving, non-judgmental being who fills all of creation with her sacred life. Sometimes this goddess appears to Sharon, bathing her in bright light and a loving presence.
These and countless other women share two radical views: traditional Christianity with its biblical boundaries are out, and boundless new vistas of spiritual thrills and skills are in. Anything goes -- except biblical monotheism, belief in one God. The broad umbrella of feminist spirituality covers all of the world's pagan religions -- and many of today's popular distortions of Christianity. Most seekers simply pick and mix the "best parts" of several traditions. Someone might start with Buddhist meditation, then add Chinese medicine, Hindu yoga, and a Native American wilderness initiation called "Spirit Quest." Some of these combinations match today's feminist visions better than others, but most involve--
- Pantheism: All is god. A spirit, force, energy or god(dess) permeates everything, infusing all parts of creation with its spiritual life.
- Monism: All is one. Since the pantheistic god is everything and in everyone, all things are connected.
- Polytheism: Many gods. Since the pantheistic force or god(dess) makes everything sacred, anything can be worshipped: the sun, trees, mountains and eagles -- even ourselves.
- Paganism: Trusting occult wisdom and powers. Throughout history, tribal shamans, medicine men, witchdoctors, or priests have contacted the spirit world using timeless rituals and formulas which are surprisingly similar in all the world's pagan cultures.
- Neopaganism: New idealized blends of old pagan religions. To make paganism attractive in today's self-focused atmosphere, its promoters idealize tribal cultures and pagan religions. Instead of telling the whole truth and nothing but, they tell us that spiritual forces link each person to every other part of nature. Anyone, not just spiritual leaders, can now function as priestess, contact the spirit world, manipulate spiritual forces, and help create worldwide peace and spiritual oneness.
Gateways to the goddess
Like most Neopagans, Diane believes that earth-centered spirituality brings peace and personal empowerment. A pretty young woman with long black hair and the slender look of a vegetarian, she is a local hairdresser. She is also married, looking forward to starting a family, and a member of the Bay Area Pagan Assemblies. While cutting my hair one day, she told me how she discovered the goddess.
"I always liked to read," she said, "especially books about magic and witchcraft."
"Which was your favorite?" I asked.
"Margot Adler's book, Drawing Down the Moon."
"That's almost an encyclopedia on witchcraft. How old were you?"
"A senior in high school."
"How did you find it?"
"Browsing around in the library. But I had already read some other books, like Medicine Woman by Lynn Andrews.
My thoughts drifted to another young woman who read Medicine Woman some years ago. Lori's high school teacher had encouraged her to explore various spiritual traditions -- even create her own religion. Fascinated with Lynn Andrews' blend of Native American shamanism and goddess spirituality, Lori ordered a Native American tipi from a catalog, set it up in her backyard, and used it for candle-lit rituals inspired by Wiccan magic (witchcraft). Like most contemporary pagans, she had learned to mix various traditions into a personal expression that fit her own quest for power and "wisdom from within."
Some months before Diane first cut my hair, I had met a charming Stanford University student who also called herself pagan. Beth, an education and philosophy major, had read my book about environmental spirituality and wanted to discuss it with me. While we ate lunch together at the college cafeteria, she shared her beliefs.
"Who introduced you to witchcraft and lesbianism?" I asked after a while.
"Two of my high school teachers," she answered.
I wasn't surprised. By then I knew that an inordinate number of pagan women have chosen the classroom as their platform for spreading their faith and transforming our culture.5 Like the rest of us, they want to build a better world -- one that reflects their beliefs and values.1
While Beth talked, I glanced at her jewelry. The golden pentagram and voluptuous little goddess dangling from a chain around her neck spoke volumes about her values. So did her earrings: two large pink triangles pointing down, an ancient symbol of the goddess as well as a modern symbol of lesbianism.
"What about your jewelry?" I asked. "Do people know what the pentagram and triangles symbolize? Do they criticize you for wearing the little goddess?"
She smiled. "No. Everybody here is supposed to be tolerant of each other's lifestyles. Nobody would dare say anything."
I pondered her statement. What does it mean to be tolerant -- or intolerant -- these days? If intolerance is the self-righteous attitude that despises people with "different" values, it would be wrong. Jesus always demonstrated love and compassion toward the excluded and hurting women of His times. Yet, He never condoned destructive lifestyles or actions that harmed others. What would happen in a culture that tolerates everything?
One result is obvious. The last three decades have produced an unprecedented openness to what used to be forbidden realms. Fortune telling, occult board games, and Native American rituals, along with countless other doorways to paganism, have spread from the hidden chambers of professional occultists and tribal shamans to our nation's classrooms, environmental programs, Girl Scout camps, and churches.
Leading "Christian" theologians no longer hide their spiritual preference. "The deconstruction of patriarchal religion -- in bland terms, the assisted suicide of God the Father -- left many of us bereft of divinity," explains feminist theologian Mary Hunt. "But the human hunger for meaning and value. . . finds new expression in goddess worship."6
This human hunger for meaning was designed to draw people to God. He created us to need Him, not man-made counterfeits. As the 17th-century philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, "There's a God-shaped vacuum in every heart." But, like Beth, Diane and Peggy, an astounding number of women try to fill that void with alluring counterfeits. In the process, they are shifting the foundations of our nation from biblical truth to pagan myths.
The Paradigm Shift
"I was raised in a no-you-don't world," sang Streisand, dramatizing her disdain for traditional values. But "you and I are changing our tune. We're learning new rhythms from that woman-I said, the woman in the moon. . . . O ye-ah, ye-ah!"7
Women everywhere are learning follow the rhythms of that " Woman in the Moon," a song that helped Shawntell Smith win the 1995 Miss America contest. Despising Godís standard for holiness, they create their own. To leading feminist theologian Mary Daly that ėinvolves breaking taboosî, being ėwicked women," ėriding the rhythms of. . . rage,"and ėseeking sister vibrations".8 For ėsisterhood means revolution"9 a rising revolt against biblical beliefs values that is proving the timeless allure of pagan spirituality.
As many of you know, that that allure drew over 2000 women from mainline churches in 49 states and 27 countries 10 to Minneapolis in 1993. They came together to re-imagine Jesus, themselves, their sexuality, and their world. Funded in part by their Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and Lutheran denominations,11 the four-day conference sent shock waves across our nation that are still shaking the Church.
At this Re-Imagining conference, Cuban theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz called for "a new Pentecost"-a new way of seeing reality. "We need to develop... a lens.... to understand that the way things are is not natural," she explained, "[so that] we can change them radically."12
Ms. Isasi-Diaz was talking about a paradigm shift. Her "lens" is like a mental filter that narrows her vision of the world to fit her new convictions. Like the popular Native American fetish called a dreamcatcher, it permits only ideas that support the "right" beliefs to settle in the mind. It rules out all contrary ideas. This new view of "reality" looks something like this
Everything is connected to the same god or goddess.
Therefore everything is naturally sacred and good.
Therefore insights from my "inner Self" are true and the biblical view of sin is merely a patriarchal club for controlling women.
Therefore the Church, the cross, and male authority obstruct spiritual progress.
Therefore biblical Christianity doesn't fit.
To establish this new paradigm, the old biblical "lens" must be altered or replaced with a new feminist lens. The Re-Imagining Conference, like our changing schools, used guided imagery and pagan rituals to accomplish the shift. Those new experiences-whether imagined or acted out-desensitized participants to biblical taboos and made paganism seem as normal as Christianity. It also helped them "discover" and define their own truth.
Kathleen Fischer summarizes the process in her book, Women at the Well:
Attentiveness to a person's experience is, of course, central.... What a feminist perspective adds to this emphasis is belief in the authority of women's experience, confidence that we are engaged in a new encounter with the divine through that experience, and the conviction that it is a norm for the truthfulness of the tradition.13
In other words, a woman's experience, not God's own revelation, determines the truthfulness of the new beliefs. If something feels good, sounds loving, and seems empowering, it must be right. Few seekers heed the warning in Jeremiah 17:9: "The heart is deceitful above all things.... Who can know it?"
"We can!" say feminist leaders. Though most of the women at the Re-imagining conference belonged to mainline churches, they had little resistance to the kinds of occult suggestions that beckoned them. Told to ignore the "inner voice" of their Bible-trained conscience, they embraced new "truths" designed to confirm feminist visions.
| BASIS FOR FAITH IN THE . . .|
| Christian Paradigm|| Feminist Paradigm|
|1. The Bible||1. Imagination (or experience)|
|2. Spirit-given insights into truth||2. Experience (or imagination)|
|3. Experiences that affirm Scriptures||3. Preferred Bible verses that affirm the experience|
Sex and feminist spirituality. The new truths came with built-in values made to sound and feel good. Who wouldn't want love, peace, justice and unity. But in today's climate of politically correct tolerance, the loftiest values often fade in the light of earthier wants such as clothes, sex, fame, and power.
It's easy to hide human lusts behind noble dreams and earth-centered spirituality. That's what psychotherapist Deena Metzger did in her article, "Re-Vamping the World: On the Return of the Holy Prostitute:"
Once upon a time, in Sumeria, in Mesopotamia, in Egypt, in Greece, there were no whorehouses, no brothels. . . . There were instead the Temples of the Sacred Prostitutes. In these temples, men were cleansed, not sullied, morality was restored, not desecrated, sexuality was not perverted, but divine.
The original whore was a priestess, the conduit to the Divine, the one through whose body one entered the sacred arena and was restored . . . .
It is no wonder that . . . the prophets of Jehovah all condemned the Holy Prostitute and the worship of Asherah, Astarte, Anath and the other goddesses. Until the time of these priests the women were the one doorway to God.
Do you see the two paradigms? One sees reality through the filter of biblical truth; the other looks through the lens of feeling-based paganism. From Ms. Metzger's new-paradigm perspective, the sex rites of ancient Middle Eastern paganism sound great. To the Old Testament prophets, they looked bad. Ms. Metzger needed a story that would tell her side, so she used her imagination. It filtered out facts that clashed with her vision and embellished those that fit. She understood the process well: "Whatever rites we imagine took place . . . [depends on] whether we elevate them as do neopagans or condemn them as do Judeo-Christians." Today, some link the ancient prostitutes to "orgies and debauchery." Others link them to cleansing and divinity. Most choose something in between.
Some of Ms. Metzger's feminist sisters would probably disagree that the ancient practice of "sacred" and compulsory prostitution is good for the soul, but that doesn't matter. Women don't have to agree. Today, each woman may claim the right to stand unchallenged on her own truth and values, and Metzger's "truth" sounds good to those who prefer to cloak sex with spirituality.
Janie Spahr, co-founder of CLOUT (Christian Lesbians Out Together), links sex to sacredness. seems at ease among the latter. "Sexuality and spirituality have come together, and Church, we're going to teach you!"14 she announced at the Re-imagining conference. Her theology, she explained, is first of all informed by "making love with Coni," her lesbian lover. Is she implying, as modern pagans do, that sex is a channel for spiritual energy?
"Sexuality is a sacrament," writes Starhawk, the Wiccan author you met in chapter 4. "Religion is a matter of relinking, with the divine within and with her outer manifestation in all of the human and natural world."15
"In a sacred universe," continued Ms. Metzger, "the prostitute is a holy woman, a priestess. In a secular universe, the prostitute is a whore. . . . The question is: how do we relate to this today, as women, as feminists? Is there a way we can resanctify society, become the priestesses again, put ourselves in the service of the gods and Eros? As we re-vision, can we re-vamp as well?"
The answer is a resounding "yes". People have already re-visioned sex. The "vamping" process is well under way. Just look at television and newspaper ads. Our Sunday morning papers as well as contemporary women's magazines parade the same titillating pictures once hidden in private pin-up calendars. That the feminist movement flows in the same direction as other pagan blends makes it all the more acceptable. Anything goes-except biblical intolerance-the refusal to accept what God forbids.
Life has changed at St. Olaf College since I was a student there. Years ago, Minnesota's venerable "college on the hill" seemed the ultimate in both Christian and Lutheran education. But multicultural education has replaced biblical integrity, and a new global emphasis has opened the door to professors who promote Hindu and other "mind-body" beliefs instead of biblical truth.16 The chapel, once a sacred sanctuary for worshipping God, has become a moral battleground.
One spring morning in 1989, English teacher Rebecca Mark gave the chapel talk. She first introduced the point of her message:
To speak the words, 'I am gay. I am proud to be gay,' at this place where silence has reigned too long, is not enough. I am not alone. ... I am called upon to be the voice of many who have been silent. ...
As a gay woman I speak through the earth. The word gay comes from the goddess Gaia, the Greek earth mother goddess. I speak not as a sinner, but as the Mojave shaman. . . I speak from the voice of thousands of gay spirit leaders, healers and teachers in Indian culture. . . . I speak as . . . those who have known death and rebirth. And I too mourn. . . .
Ms. Mark mourned the cruel slurs and spiteful rejection suffered by gay students, and she was right to do so. God calls us to love, not hate those who miss the mark. His love reaches out to all who hurt, including those who yield their bodies to promiscuous lifestyles, whether homosexual or heterosexual. But her call reached far beyond a condemnation of cruelty. It sent a vision of multicultural solidarity that demands a radical change in the very heart of Christianity. It summoned God's people to not only approve promiscuous and destructive lifestyles,17 but also embrace the pagan spirituality that sacrilizes sex.
She ended her talk with a sensual poem by an American Indian women who blended lesbian love with a spiritualized earth mother. Then she invited the students and faculty -- all who "can wear the pink triangle proudly" -- to come forward as a "sign of community and liberation." Singing "We are gay and straight together," they streamed to the front of the church to claim the badge of their new identity.
The enthusiastic response was no surprise, for our today's culture prefers tolerance to truth. So did ancient Israel. "Why do you tolerate wrong?"18 God asked the people He loved, knowing that their presumptuous tolerance would lead to violence and destruction. They didn't listen. Neither does our culture today. (Look up tolerance in your Bible concordance and see what God says about it.) Instead, we excuse what He calls sin and mock the peace He longs to give. The results are devastating.
Read what He says about sex outside marriage.
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
The nature of temptation
God shows us that sexual sins are especially damaging to us both physically and spiritually. Yet, neopagans tout the healing and cleansing effects of "sacred" promiscuity. Interesting twist, isn't it?
Those who tolerate sin become blind to its danger. Women cannot maintain utopian illusion unless they hide opposing truths. They can't trust their sacred self without rationalizing away its unholy bent. So they shift God's label for sin away from the things they want and attach it to the things they despise: Promiscuity? That comes from loss of self-esteem
* caused by the guilt feelings stirred up by Christians who criticize my lifestyle. Anger? Try the same reasoning.
* Update 2008 05 11: It is strongly recommended to take a look at "SHOULD
SCHOOLS TRY TO BOOST SELF ESTEEM? Beware the dark side", by Roy F.
Do you see how easy it is to be "good" if you use the "right" reasoning? Just re-imagine the old values. Base your beliefs on your momentary feelings, not on God's time-tested Word. Look at the difference a paradigm shift makes.
SIN IS . . .
| Biblical Paradigm|| Feminist Paradigm|
|separaton from God||separation from nature|
|rebelling against God||ignoring the god(dess) in self|
|self-centeredness||not loving self first or enough|
|pride||lack of pride|
|lack of self-discipline||limiting self-fulfillment|
|disobeying God||submitting to a patriarchal god|
|tolerating sin||not tolerating sin|
Tolerating sin destroys shame. Some years ago, I watched the pastor's wife in a Presbyterian (USA) church teach a Sunday school class called Women at the Well. She first "centered" the class with a chant by mediaeval mystic Hildegaard of Bingen whose pantheistic images sounded more Buddhist than Christian.[Hildegard von Bingen - Where her visions actually atmospheric halos?] Then she read a quote by Thomas Merton, the Catholic mystic who embraced Tibetan Buddhism. Finally she gave us a two-page handout from a book called Soul Friend: An Invitation to Spiritual Direction.19 It told me that today's mysticism, which blends acceptance of sin with a permissive feminine God, isn't all that new:
In the fourteenth century in Europe there was a great flowering of mysticism, and out of this period came some of the greatest spiritual guides of all time whose writings are highly relevant today. . .
Julian of Norwich . . . claims that 'God showed me that sin need be no shame to man but can even be worthwhile.' She seems to mean by this that sins are disguised virtues, for 'in heaven what sin typifies is turned into a thing of honour.'20
. . . In Julian's theology, we find the fullest expression of the concept of the femininity of God. 'God is as really our Mother as he is Father,' she says. 'Our precious Mother Jesus brings us to supernatural birth, nourishes and cherishes us by dying for us.'21
It's true that our sins show us our need for Christ's redemption, but they are not "disguised virtues. " They don't typify something of honor, nor can they be softened by putting a feminine face on God. We can live without shame only because God has forgiven us, not because sin has lost its sting. If I condone my own sins, I will neither come to the cross nor appreciate God's wonderful mercy. Nor would I fight the seductive pull of Satan's temptations -- especially those that look almost too good to resist.
Satan can only pervert God's good. Our Father invented delightful food, human affection, sexual pleasure, satisfying work, spiritual insights . . . Everything good came from Him. Satan can only distort and imitate God's precious gifts, or tempt us to grasp too much or too little, or take it at the wrong time, or in the wrong place. You know the results: pain, confusion, anger, addiction, broken relationships, decaying culture and much more. (See the rest in Galatians 5:19-25)
The things God labels as sinful lust, the world now sees as normal behavior or psychological addiction or obsession for which a person is not responsible.22 Decades of sex education promoting promiscuity and perversion in our schools has accomplished just what feminist leaders demanded: a cultural acceptance of their own radical values. Listen to the philosophy behind the sex education promoted by SIECUS (Sex Information and Education Council of the United States):
The purpose of sex education is not. . . to control and suppress sex expression, as in the past. . . . The individual must be given sufficient understanding to incorporate sex most fruitfully and most responsibly into his present and future life.23
SIECUS has been working with Planned Parenthood to bring social change. The behavior inspired by their irresponsible agenda has brought devastating results. Consider these statistics:
Every 24 hours in this nation more than 12,000 teenagers contract a sexually transmitted disease. Thirty percent of all STDs contracted are incurable.24
Each year 1.3 million new cases of gonorrhea are reported 25
One million teenage girls, nearly one in 10, become pregnant each year.26
About one and a half million unborn babies are aborted each year.
"Current sex education programs are designed to destroy the normal; embarrassment and modesty of children," writes Stanley Monteith, M.D., author of AIDS: the Uneccessary Epidemic, in his informative newsletter, "yet it is that modesty that has traditionally been a barrier to early sexual experimentation and promiscuity."27
The root problems isn't homosexuality or promiscuity or even paganism. It is the loss of truth as our moral standard. When school teachers blur the line between right and wrong, why should students say "no" to temptation? Why not try all the "new" sensations that beckon? Young people do -- and face cravings they can't control. Unlike biblical love, lust will not wait; and obsessive lust has a way of displacing God's kind and patient love.
Bondage can follow any repeated sin. "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts,"28 warns Paul. But many feminist who claim control over their bodies have already yielded that control to a stronger force.
It doesn't take long to see results. We have become a society obsessed with sex, food, looks, shopping, drugs, gambling, and coddling our feelings. But we feel no shame, because we dare not name sin. As a schoolgirl said when her 15-year-old classmate stabbed another student in the back. "What's the big deal? People die all the time. So what?"29
From tolerance to disillusionment. Any sin is a big deal. Even the smallest ones will separate us from God if we don't follow His way back to peace. Neopagans may deny sin's power, Buddhist may offer noble alternatives, and the New Age movement may inspire a massive leap in consciousness, but they all miss the point. Humanity can never evolve beyond its need for the cross.
Some years ago the Dalai Lama, god-king of Tibetan Buddhists, stopped by the Bay Area to teach "empowerment" rituals at San Jose State University and to "invoke the spirits of this area" on Mount Tamalpais. After summoning "the blessings of enlightened spiritual masters" such as the Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Mohammed in a healing and peace ceremony, he would lead San Francisco's religious leaders in a joint commitment to pursue world peace.
The newspaper made occult healing sound so normal. Saddened by the promotion of spiritism, I prayed that God would block the demonic forces. The morning of the scheduled appearance I drove to Grace Cathedral and once again joined the waiting throng, knowing that friends at home prayed with me for God's intervention.
The Dalai Lama was scheduled to arrive at 3 p.m. On the hour, heads turned back toward the huge doors. At 3:20 we were still waiting. And at 3:45, creaking benches and impatient voices suggested that people were growing weary of waiting. Finally, an hour late, the doors swung open. Enveloped in a smoky cloud of incense -- believed to purify the environment and heal relationships -- the procession of spiritual leaders marched up the aisle. All except the Dalai Lama. Our eyes stayed fixed on the back doors.
"Unfortunately the Dalai Lama is indisposed," said a voice from the podium. The unwelcome words crushed all hope. In the midst of confused whispers and a few hurried departures, the ceremony proceeded with prayers from various church leaders. But the sound system didn't work. "We can't hear!" shouted the people. But nobody solved the problem.
Walking out after the aborted ceremony, I noticed a woman crying. "Are you all right?" I asked. She didn't answer. "Would you like to talk or would you rather be alone?" I didn't want to intrude.
"I'm so disappointed," she burst out. "This was such a failure. I couldn't even hear what they said."
"It was confusing, wasn't it? How could the Dalai Lama be disabled after the healing ceremony this morning?"
Sadness filled Sue's voice as she answered. "I don't understand. It sounded so perfect. All the religions joining together. Why did everything go wrong?"
Seeking answers that would touch her heart, I prayed. Suddenly thoughts began to flow. I said, "Maybe God doesn't like our attempts to control the world and seek oneness apart from Him."
"Why wouldn't He want us to get together and make the world more peaceful?"
"Maybe He knows that our plans wouldn't work, and that by trusting ourselves and magic powers rather than Him, we would lose sight of the only real hope we have."
"But the Dalai Lama trusts God. His monks just came from the Vatican where they talked with the Pope and his monks about unity and meditation."
"I wonder what kind of unity Christians can enjoy with Buddhist monks without compromising their faith. Christianity is God-centered and Buddhism is self-centered." I waited a moment before continuing. "I don't dare rely on myself anymore. It's so much easier to admit my weaknesses and trust the only One who can give me the strength I need -- Jesus Christ."
"But why is He any better than the other great teachers? They all taught the same things. They all said we should love each other and be kind and tolerant."
"Many did say that. I guess everyone knows deep inside that love is good and hate is bad. It seems to be part of the understanding God puts in each of us. But none of those religions can do more than tell us what to do. Then each person has to muster the strength to follow their ideals on their own in the midst of all kinds of problems and irritations. I don't think I could do that."
"Isn't that why we need to learn tolerance? We have to love and tolerate each other so we can live in peace."
"But the Christian God does more than that. He wants to fill us with His life and peace so we can do what is right. He knows we can't do it ourselves, so He enables us."
We talked a long time. Her futile search for peace had led her on and off numerous spiritual paths. Now, in her frustration, she was ready to listen to the only One who could love, shepherd, and fulfill her. We prayed together, and agreed to meet again soon.
All the way home I praised my Lord, who once again had proven Himself the sovereign, omnipotent King of Kings.
From disillusionment to peace
Our root problem is as old as history: rebellion against God. Human nature doesn't change, that's why history keeps repeating itself. In Old Testament days, it didn't take more than a generation for Israel to shift their loyalties from the Shepherd who protected them to "other gods" who destroyed them. As faithful Samuel told Saul, the first king of ancient Israel,
- ...rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
- And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
- Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
- He also has rejected you." (1 Sam 15:23)
Saul had followed his feelings rather than truth, therefore God could no longer use him as a leader. Soon an unholy, "distressing spirit" began to torment him, driving him to murderous fury. Only the sweet music played by the shepherd-boy David could soothe his troubled mind. Having rejected God's gentle guidance, Saul faced the terrors of a demonic substitute.
Romans 1:18-32 shows what happens when we ignore God's protective boundaries and "suppress the truth in unrighteousness." First, when people hide the truth, they are left without a standard or reference point. Now they have no way of knowing whether they are taking the right or the wrong way. They become "unrighteous" -- they don't do right -- and they despise the standard that proves them wrong. All the more, they mock God's truth and vilify His way. Look what happens next:
"they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts...." (v. 21)
"their foolish hearts were darkened. (v. 21)
"Professing to be wise, they became fools...." (v. 22)
They "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man -- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things." (v. 23)
The last point was the purpose at the Re-imagining conference. The leaders tried to change the eternal God into mental images of created beings that decay and die. The result is a fixation on corruptible things -- including self --that decay and die, followed by an endless stream of disappointment and grief.
The downward progression doesn't stop here. Three more devastating consequences follow, each starting with the words: "God gave them up (or over) to...." indicating that God pulled back His needed resources and left them -- both individually and collectively -- to face their capricious human nature:
1. Therefore GOD ALSO GAVE THEM UP to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts . (24-25)
2. GOD GAVE THEM UP to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men... burned in their lust for one another and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Romans 1:26-27)
3. GOD GAVE THEM OVER to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (28-32)
All kinds of personal struggles, obsessions, addictions, and misery can be explained simply by understanding what happens when people turn from God to the seductions of popular paganism. Unlike God who loves us, Satan loves no one, nor does he hesitate to inspire and energize the worst in human nature.
When people reject God, He "gives them over" to who they really are. Left to their own resources and Satan's schemes, they face the driving force of their own desires. The more they feed their wants, the more cravings increase. Following that insatiable nature, they violate the natural order established by God. Deep inside, they know they are "unclean", but in their struggle to accept themselves, they blame others and run
farther away from the only source of lasting help.
There is no freedom for those who follow the flesh and ignore God's truth. Those who have struggled with addictions to alcohol, to drugs, to food or even shopping can testify to our human resistance to doing right. No one described that struggle better than Paul. "What I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do...." (Romans 7:15)
Everything changed when Paul surrender His life to Jesus Christ and joined his inadequate will to God's perfect will. His desire became Paul's desire, and God's strength became Paul's strength. Now he could exult with all God's followers who have discovered the freedom of the cross, the wonders of God's love, and the victory of the exchanged life:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
1 Naomi R. Goldenberg, Changing of the Gods: Feminism & the End of Traditional Religions (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979), 3.
2 Nancy Smith and Donna Maxfield, "Spiritual Quest in Beijing," Good News (November/December 1995); 34.
3 Re-Imagining Conference Tape 12-1, Side B.
4 Mark Tooley, "Great Goddess Almighty," Heterodoxy (October 1995); 6.
5 In The Aquarian Conspiracy, New Age leader Marilyn Ferguson wrote: "Of the Aquarian Conspirators surveyed, more were involved in education than in any other single category of work. They were teachers, administrators, policymakers, educational psychologists. . . ." (page 280
6 Mary Hunt is co-director of WATER (Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual) in Silver Springs, MD. "Mary Hunt: Goddess Equals diversity, Pluralism," Religious News Service, July 16, 1993.
7 A Star is Born (Producer: Barbra Streisand), Warner Brothers, 1976.
8 Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973), xxv.
9 Ibid. 59.
10 Katherine Kersten, "God in Your Mirror?" The Lutheran Commentator (May/June 1994); 1.
11 All funders were listed in the Re-Imagining program booklet, p 66. The largest single contributor was the Presbyterian Church (USA) which gave $66,000 from their Bicentennial Fund. An additional $20,000 covered staff expenses to attend and scholarships for Presbyterians. Other contributors included the ELCA (Lutheran), Baptists, and United Methodist.
12 Ibid., Tape 5-1, Side A.
13 Kathleen Fischer, Women at the Well (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), 6. The words deleted in the first sentence were: "to any spiritual direction context." You can check the meaning in the glossary.
14 Re-Imagining Conference, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 4-7, 1993.
15 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979), 23.
16 Among the books authored by St. Olaf College faculty and endorsed and reviewed on page 5 in St.Olaf (November/December 1994), were The Limits of Scripture: Vivekananda's Reinterpretation of the Vedas by Anantanand Rambachan, a religion faculty member, and Consciousness and the Mind of God by Charles Taliaferro, which offers "a holistic understanding of the dualist person-body relationship." Rambachan leads a weekly Hindu fellowship on the Lutheran campus.
17 Romans 1:32.
18 Habakkuk 1:3. See also Habakkuk 1:13; Revelation 2:2, 2:20 (NIV)
19 Cited by class "hand-out" from Richard J. Foster, Renovar : Devotional Readings (Vol. 1, no. 43, 1991), no page number shown.
20 Kenneth Leech, Soul Friend: An Invitation to Spiritual Direction (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), 146. Leech cites Julian's Revelations of Divine Love, 35, 37-39. These pages don't match the translations I have examined. The closest translation I could find was Julian of Norwich: Showings (New York: Paulist Press, 1978) translated by Edmund Colledge, page 154: "God also showed me that sin is no shame, but honour to man. . . . It is to them no shame that they have sinned -- shame is not more in the bliss of heaven -- for there the tokens of sin are turned into honours." These words are taken out of context; they do not reflect Julian's overall view of sin. However they do show how certain passages are being used to validate the feminist concept of sin.
21 Ibid., 147. Leech cites pages 59-61 in Divine Revelations, but again, these page numbers do not match the translations I found. Instead, may I cite a few similar quotes from Julian of Norwich: Showings (detailed above): "As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother, and he revealed that in everything, and especially in these sweet words where he says, 'I am he . . . the power and goodness of fatherhood; I am he, the wisdom and the lovingkindness of motherhood. . . I am he, the Trinity; I am he, the unity; I am he, the great supreme goodness of every kind of thing. . . . As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother. Our Father wills, our Mother works, our good Lord the Holy Spirit confirms." (pages 295-6) "Julian also wrote, "The second person of the Trinity is our Mother in nature. . . in whom we are founded and rooted, and he is our Mother of mercy in taking our sensuality. . . . So our Mother works in mercy on all his beloved children who are docile and obedient to him." (page 294) "So our Lady is our mother, in whom we are all enclosed and born of her in Christ, for she who is mother of our saviour is mother of all who are saved in our saviour; and our saviour is our true Mother, in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come." (p. 292)
22 Romans 6:11-23.
23 Lester Kirkendall, in his article included in Sexuality And Man, a collection of articles written and compiled by SIECUS board members. [I have this book in one of my many boxes. I will find it and provide the page number for the galleys]
24 Haven Bradford Gow, "Consequences of Sexual Revolution," Christian News, July 3, 1995.
25 Ibid. (Haven)
26 Associated Press, "Experts Say New Generation Is in Trouble Already," San Francisco Chronicle, June 9, 1990.
27 Stanley K. Monteith, "Anticipated Worldwide Death Toll: 1 Billion People," HIV-Watch (Vol. II, No. 1); 7.
28 Romans 6:12.
29 William K. Kilpatrick, ėTurning Out Moral Illiterates," Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1993.