Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Novels To Keep Satan At Bay

Flourishing fully in the 19th century, with Darwin and Marx ascendant and Freud in the wings, the novel matured as a very worldly art form. A kind of heightened journalism, the art of Dickens, James, Balzac and others chronicled society while examining class, romance, war, and politics.

The great Russians -- Tolstoy and Dostoevksy, the latter the novel's sharpest psychologist and strongest spiritual force -- grappled hotly with God, but they were exceptions. As the century turned, so did the novel, toward experiment, abstraction, self-reference. Catholic truth celebrates creation but abhors materialism, and its timelessness scorns novelty. It's not surprising then, that Catholics make uneasy novelists.

That unease, however, can prompt greatness. Catholics bring to the form the spirit that completes the flesh: attentive to the Word beyond the world, they make fictional life fully-dimensional. Originally the province of the French visionaries Mauriac and Bernanos, the Catholic novel has found exponents as various as are the many roads to Rome. What unites them, though, is their insistence that the novel ultimately be realistic: that it heed, that is, the whisper of the soul above the clamor of the streets.

Here follows a sampling of great Catholic novels, listed solely in the order of my preference. Try them all; each is life-changing.

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Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory. Action-packed, violent, their settings fascinatingly seedy, Greene's existential thrillers are philosophical brain-teasers you can't put down. Anticipating postmodernism's blurring of high art and pop culture, the English convert juxtaposes politics and age-old faith, the primal skill of storytelling with a technique that mimics the jump-cut editing of film noir. In this 1940 wonder, thugs have seized Mexico and, as all totalitarians must, outlawed the Church. Resisting alone is Fr. Montez, the most pathetic of Christ figures, a whiskey priest, a bastard's father. He's a broken vessel, to be sure, but through him flows divine love, antidote to the revolution's monstrously misguided humanism. At the end, Montez wears the martyr's crown; that the crown is, metaphorically, barbed and fly-specked underscores Greene's incarnational message: the Jesus in us is broken, disgraced, and triumphant.

Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood. Even today, O'Connor's native Georgia remains, for Rome, missionary turf. And from the tension between her environment (Baptist, poor in spirit, rich in character) and essence (Catholic, complex, mystical) her vitality springs. Suffering from lupus erythematosus, she identified with the lame and halt and shunned: her characters are hurled, hurt, toward heaven. Hazel Motes, prickly star of this 1952 tragicomedy, may be the misfit who haunts us longest. Fanatically fundamentalist, ultimately he acts on the biblical injunction that he who has a mote in his eye must cast it out: he blinds himself. Such a shocking finish befits a yarn whose cast includes racketeering preachers, a mummy, and a rascal in a gorilla suit. Finally, however, it's Motes's grabbing for God that startles most: like Kierkegaard, O'Connor's target is the complacent Christian. And, by any means necessary, she insists that we remember: Faith is a matter of life and death.

Jose Maria Gironella, The Cypresses Believe in God. In the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway and Malraux joined the Republican ranks, Gironella didn't. While it's hard to countenance his Fascist sympathies, it's harder to deny the power of his 1952 rendering of the brutal, baffling rehearsal for World War II. The first of five books about Spain's conflict, this thousand-page epic recalls Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, that other 20th century masterwork that renders the pathos of tradition besieged. As it surges toward the outbreak of fighting, it tells the tragedy of a priest felled by a firing squad while mobs torch churches, and of his brother, anguished over the abuses of the old order of Church and State, but terrified of anarchy's approach.

Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest. Neglected nowadays even by his compatriots, Bernanos deserves a revival, if only for this uncommonly lovely 1937 gem. An encomium to communion and sanctity gained through commonplace struggle-a kind of Zen Catholicism, a realization of Thérèse of Lisieux's "Little Way" -- it achieves sad, simple beauty by conveying in vernacular, an ordinary cleric's transcendence. Brilliant for realizing that ennui may lend Satan his easiest entry, the tale depicts a pastor's exhaustion. Warily regarded by spiteful parishioners he hopes only to help redeem, he's insomniac, forgetful, sick, and not above complaining. But, heartbroken, he endures their suspicion and his own insufficiency -- and in so doing wins God.

J. F. Powers, Wheat That Springeth Green. Satirizing American clergy -- the bull necks squeezed by stiffened collars, the all-too-human saints -- Powers flashes wit and scalpel. But his surgery on the Church's body politic is loving: he knows how priests dress, talk, err, joke -- and pray and serve. This 1938 high comedy gives us a Father Joe Hackett, a lapsed idealist, green and oily, now "a good hard worker fond of the sauce." An all-pro suburban pastor, guardian angel of the collection basket, he renders easily to Caesar. Arriving none too soon is a younger, Sixties-happy assistant. For all his naiveté, Father Bill is the tender mystic Joe once had been. From the pair's enforced fraternity arises compassionate compromise that revitalizes their very real-world parish. It's a measured grace and completely convincing.

Shusaku Endo, Silence. In 1966, Endo scored popular and critical success with this story of the persecution of Jesuit missionaries to 17th-century Japan. In a land nominally Buddhist but overwhelmingly secular, this was no mean feat. Endo went on to become one of Japan's literary titans, but Silence remains his finest work. It's a rendering, ultimately, of kenosis, the Christian giving up of power for love. Forced to witness the torture of converts, Father Rodriguez, the young protagonist, is told that their agonies will cease -- if he renounces our Lord. Refusal, and his own martyrdom, appears inevitable, but he realizes that even such hard heroism would be self-seeking.

Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter. Undset, a Norwegian of genius, won a Nobel for this trilogy, its last volume published in 1922. Fourteenth-century Norway, Christian but bloodied by its pagan past, provides her background; this is historical fiction grounded in period detail but supercharged with passionate immediacy. A celebration of woman's strength, it portrays the life-passages of its hero: love, motherhood, hard rural work, retirement to convent prayer, and death from the Black Plague. Kristin herself is more of a flesh and blood (and soul) character than most modern protagonists; like all of us, she spars with heaven and with earth. The world Undset recreates very nearly throbs on the page.

Francois Mauriac, A Viper's Tangle. Catholicism of the severity Mauriac prized is a relic today -- and his readers are almost as rare. It's not hard to see why; few writers are less ingratiating. But Mauriac, a 1952 Nobel recipient, rewards us with pitiless insight, with clear, dry judgment. French village life, in Mauriac's eyes, is seen through a glass darkly: flinty peasants squint, smug bourgeoisie preen. Ensnared among them, Louis, an ailing miser, undergoes domestic hell, his family the very vipers of the novel's title. Creeping deathward, he at last forgives them, but his journey toward love is a long walk, hard, on shattered glass.

Julian Green, Moira. His life at least as darkly tumultuous as his fiction, Julian Green was born in 1900 to American parents. But the language he commands with such panache is Moliere's. Even while chronicling the American South, his sensibility is European, and very Catholic. But his faith is leagues removed from conventional pieties; in his best work, the action takes place in an invariable time-frame -- the dark night of the soul. In this strange, overheated work of 1950, a student strangles the girl who tempted him down from the cross of his moral arrogance. He gives himself up, but not before Green subjects him -- and us -- to the full terrors both of lust and guilt.

Source: Inside Catholic

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Does God Want You To Be Rich ?

When George Adams lost his job at an Ohio tile factory last October, the most practical thing he did, he thinks, was go to a new church, even though he had to move his wife and four preteen boys to Conroe, a suburb of Houston, to do it. Conroe, you see, is not far from Lakewood, the home church of megapastor and best-selling author Joel Osteen.

Osteen's relentlessly upbeat television sermons had helped Adams, 49, get through the hard times, and now Adams was expecting the smiling, Texas-twanged 43-year-old to help boost him back toward success. And Osteen did. Inspired by the preacher's insistence that one of God's top priorities is to shower blessings on Christians in this lifetime--and by the corollary assumption that one of the worst things a person can do is to expect anything less--Adams marched into Gullo Ford in Conroe looking for work. He didn't have entry-level aspirations: "God has showed me that he doesn't want me to be a run-of-the-mill person," he explains. He demanded to know what the dealership's top salesmen made--and got the job. Banishing all doubt--"You can't sell a $40,000-to-$50,000 car with menial thoughts"--Adams took four days to retail his first vehicle, a Ford F-150 Lariat with leather interior. He knew that many fellow salesmen don't notch their first score until their second week. "Right now, I'm above average!" he exclaims. "It's a new day God has given me! I'm on my way to a six-figure income!" The sales commission will help with this month's rent, but Adams hates renting. Once that six-figure income has been rolling in for a while, he will buy his dream house: "Twenty-five acres," he says. "And three bedrooms. We're going to have a schoolhouse (his children are home schooled). We want horses and ponies for the boys, so a horse barn. And a pond. And maybe some cattle."

"I'm dreaming big--because all of heaven is dreaming big," Adams continues. "Jesus died for our sins. That was the best gift God could give us," he says. "But we have something else. Because I want to follow Jesus and do what he ordained, God wants to support us. It's Joel Osteen's ministry that told me. Why would an awesome and mighty God want anything less for his children?"

In three of the Gospels, Jesus warns that each of his disciples may have to "deny himself" and even "take up his Cross." In support of this alarming prediction, he forcefully contrasts the fleeting pleasures of today with the promise of eternity: "For what profit is it to a man," he asks, "if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" It is one of the New Testament's hardest teachings, yet generations of churchgoers have understood that being Christian, on some level, means being ready to sacrifice--money, autonomy or even their lives.

But for a growing number of Christians like George Adams, the question is better restated, "Why not gain the whole world plus my soul?" For several decades, a philosophy has been percolating in the 10 million--strong Pentecostal wing of Christianity that seems to turn the Gospels' passage on its head: certainly, it allows, Christians should keep one eye on heaven. But the new good news is that God doesn't want us to wait. Known (or vilified) under a variety of names--Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, Prosperity Theology--its emphasis is on God's promised generosity in this life and the ability of believers to claim it for themselves. In a nutshell, it suggests that a God who loves you does not want you to be broke. Its signature verse could be John 10: 10: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." In a TIME poll, 17% of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31%--a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America--agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money.

"Prosperity" first blazed to public attention as the driveshaft in the moneymaking machine that was 1980s televangelism and faded from mainstream view with the Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals. But now, after some key modifications (which have inspired some to redub it Prosperity Lite), it has not only recovered but is booming. Of the four biggest megachurches in the country, three--Osteen's Lakewood in Houston; T.D. Jakes' Potter's House in south Dallas; and Creflo Dollar's World Changers near Atlanta--are Prosperity or Prosperity Lite pulpits (although Jakes' ministry has many more facets). While they don't exclusively teach that God's riches want to be in believers' wallets, it is a key part of their doctrine. And propelled by Osteen's 4 million--selling book, Your Best Life Now, the belief has swept beyond its Pentecostal base into more buttoned-down evangelical churches, and even into congregations in the more liberal Mainline. It is taught in hundreds of non-Pentecostal Bible studies. One Pennsylvania Lutheran pastor even made it the basis for a sermon series for Lent, when Christians usually meditate on why Jesus was having His Worst Life Then. Says the Rev. Chappell Temple, a Methodist minister with the dubious distinction of pastoring Houston's other Lakewood Church (Lakewood United Methodist), an hour north of Osteen's: "Prosperity Lite is everywhere in Christian culture. Go into any Christian bookstore, and see what they're offering."

The movement's renaissance has infuriated a number of prominent pastors, theologians and commentators. Fellow megapastor Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life has outsold Osteen's by a ratio of 7 to 1, finds the very basis of Prosperity laughable. "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?", he snorts. "There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?"

The brickbats--both theological and practical (who really gets rich from this?)--come especially thick from Evangelicals like Warren. Evangelicalism is more prominent and influential than ever before. Yet the movement, which has never had a robust theology of money, finds an aggressive philosophy advancing within its ranks that many of its leaders regard as simplistic, possibly heretical and certainly embarrassing.

Prosperity's defenders claim to be able to match their critics chapter and verse. They caution against broad-brushing a wide spectrum that ranges from pastors who crassly solicit sky's-the-limit financial offerings from their congregations to those whose services tend more toward God-fueled self-help. Advocates note Prosperity's racial diversity--a welcome exception to the American norm--and point out that some Prosperity churches engage in significant charity. And they see in it a happy corrective for Christians who are more used to being chastened for their sins than celebrated as God's children. "Who would want to get in on something where you're miserable, poor, broke and ugly and you just have to muddle through until you get to heaven?" asks Joyce Meyer, a popular television preacher and author often lumped in the Prosperity Lite camp. "I believe God wants to give us nice things." If nothing else, Meyer and other new-breed preachers broach a neglected topic that should really be a staple of Sunday messages: Does God want you to be rich?

As with almost any important religious question, the first response of most Christians (especially Protestants) is to ask how Scripture treats the topic. But Scripture is not definitive when it comes to faith and income. Deuteronomy commands believers to "remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth", and the rest of the Old Testament is dotted with celebrations of God's bestowal of the good life. On at least one occasion--the so-called parable of the talents (a type of coin)--Jesus holds up savvy business practice (investing rather than saving) as a metaphor for spiritual practice. Yet he spent far more time among the poor than the rich, and a majority of scholars quote two of his most direct comments on wealth: the passage in the Sermon on the Mount in which he warns, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth ... but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven"; and his encounter with the "rich young ruler" who cannot bring himself to part with his money, after which Jesus famously comments, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Both statements can be read as more nuanced than they at first may seem. In each case it is not wealth itself that disqualifies but the inability to understand its relative worthlessness compared with the riches of heaven. The same thing applies to Paul's famous line, "Money is the root of all evil," in his first letter to Timothy. The actual quote is, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."

So the Bible leaves plenty of room for a discussion on the role, positive or negative, that money should play in the lives of believers. But it's not a discussion that many pastors are willing to have. "Jesus' words about money don't make us very comfortable, and people don't want to hear about it," notes Collin Hansen, an editor at the evangelical monthly Christianity Today. Pastors are happy to discuss from the pulpit hot-button topics like sex and even politics. But the relative absence of sermons about money--which the Bible mentions several thousand times--is one of the more stunning omissions in American religion, especially among its white middle-class precincts. Princeton University sociologist Robert Wuthnow says much of the U.S. church "talks about giving but does not talk about the broader financial concerns people have, or the pressures at work. There has long been a taboo on talking candidly about money."

In addition to personal finances, a lot of evangelical churches have also avoided any pulpit talk about social inequality. When conservative Christianity split from the Mainline in the early 20th century, the latter pursued their commitment to the "social gospel" by working on poverty and other causes such as civil rights and the Vietnam-era peace movement. Evangelicals went the other way: they largely concentrated on issues of individual piety. "We took on personal salvation--we need our sins redeemed, and we need our Saviour," says Warren. But "some people tended to go too individualistic, and justice and righteousness issues were overlooked."

A recent Sunday at Lakewood gives some idea of the emphasis on worldly gain that disturbs Warren. Several hundred stage lights flash on, and Osteen, his gigawatt smile matching them, strides onto the stage of what used to be the Compaq Center sports arena but is now his church. "Let's just celebrate the goodness of the Lord!" Osteen yells. His wife Victoria says, "Our Daddy God is the strongest! He's the mightiest!"

And so it goes, before 14,000 attendees, a nonstop declaration of God's love and his intent to show it in the here and now, sometimes verging on the language of an annual report. During prayer, Osteen thanks God for "your unprecedented favor. We believe that 2006 will be our best year so far. We declare it by faith." Today's sermon is about how gratitude can "save a marriage, save your job [and] get you a promotion."

"I don't think I've ever preached a sermon about money," he says a few hours later. He and Victoria meet with TIME in their pastoral suite, once the Houston Rockets' locker and shower area but now a zone of overstuffed sofas and imposing oak bookcases. "Does God want us to be rich?" he asks. "When I hear that word rich, I think people say, 'Well, he's preaching that everybody's going to be a millionaire.' I don't think that's it." Rather, he explains, "I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our kids to college. I think he wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don't think I'd say God wants us to be rich. It's all relative, isn't it?" The room's warm lamplight reflects softly off his crocodile shoes.

Osteen is a second-generation Prosperity teacher. His father John Osteen started out Baptist but in 1959 withdrew from that fellowship to found a church in one of Houston's poorer neighborhoods and explore a new philosophy developing among Pentecostals. If the rest of Protestantism ignored finances, Prosperity placed them center stage, marrying Pentecostalism's ebullient notion of God's gifts with an older tradition that stressed the power of positive thinking. Practically, it emphasized hard work and good home economics. But the real heat was in its spiritual premise: that if a believer could establish, through word and deed (usually donation), that he or she was "in Jesus Christ," then Jesus' father would respond with paternal gifts of health and wealth in this life. A favorite verse is from Malachi: "'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse ... and try Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts. 'If I will not for you open the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.'" (See boxes.)

It is a peculiarly American theology but turbocharged. If Puritanism valued wealth and Benjamin Franklin wrote about doing well by doing good, hard-core Prosperity doctrine, still extremely popular in the hands of pastors like Atlanta megachurch minister Creflo Dollar, reads those Bible verses as a spiritual contract. God will pay back a multiple (often a hundredfold) on offerings by the congregation. "Poor people like Prosperity," says Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University. "They hear it as aspirant. They hear, 'You can make it too--buy a car, get a job, get wealthy.' It can function as a form of liberation." It can also be exploitative. Outsiders, observes Milmon Harrison of the University of California at Davis, author of the book Righteous Riches, often see it as "another form of the church abusing people so ministers could make money."

In the past decade, however, the new generation of preachers, like Osteen, Meyer and Houston's Methodist megapastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, who gave the benediction at both of George W. Bush's Inaugurals, have repackaged the doctrine. Gone are the divine profit-to-earnings ratios, the requests for offerings far above a normal 10% tithe (although many of the new breed continue to insist that congregants tithe on their pretax rather than their net income). What remains is a materialism framed in a kind of Tony Robbins positivism. No one exemplifies this better than Osteen, who ran his father's television-production department until John died in 1999. "Joel has learned from his dad, but he has toned it back and tapped into basic, everyday folks' ways of talking," says Ben Phillips, a theology professor at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. That language is reflected in Your Best Life Now, an extraordinarily accessible exhortation to this-world empowerment through God. "To live your best life now," it opens, to see "your business taking off. See your marriage restored. See your family prospering. See your dreams come to pass ..." you must "start looking at life through eyes of faith." Jesus is front and center but not his Crucifixion, Resurrection or Atonement. There are chapters on overcoming trauma and a late chapter on emulating God's generosity. (And indeed, Osteen's church gave more than $1 million in relief money after Hurricane Katrina.) But there are many more illustrations of how the Prosperity doctrine has produced personal gain, most memorably, perhaps, for the Osteen family: how Victoria's "speaking words of faith and victory" eventually brought the couple their dream house; how Joel discerned God's favor in being bumped from economy to business class.

Confronting such stories, certain more doctrinally traditional Christians go ballistic. Last March, Ben Witherington, an influential evangelical theologian at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, thundered that "we need to renounce the false gospel of wealth and health--it is a disease of our American culture; it is not a solution or answer to life's problems." Respected blogger Michael Spencer--known as the Internet Monk--asked, "How many young people are going to be pointed to Osteen as a true shepherd of Jesus Christ? He's not. He's not one of us." Osteen is an irresistible target for experts from right to left on the Christian spectrum who--beyond worrying that he is living too high or inflating the hopes of people with real money problems--think he is dragging people down with a heavy interlocked chain of theological and ethical errors that could amount to heresy.

Most start out by saying that Osteen and his ilk have it "half right": that God's goodness is biblical, as is the idea that he means us to enjoy the material world. But while Prosperity claims to be celebrating that goodness, the critics see it as treating God as a celestial ATM. "God becomes a means to an end, not the end in himself," says Southwestern Baptist's Phillips. Others are more upset about what it de-emphasizes. "[Prosperity] wants the positive but not the negative," says another Southern Baptist, Alan Branch of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. "Problem is, we live on this side of Eden. We're fallen." That is, Prosperity soft-pedals the consequences of Adam's fall--sin, pain and death--and their New Testament antidote: Jesus' atoning sacrifice and the importance of repentance. And social liberals express a related frustration that preachers like Osteen show little interest in battling the ills of society at large. Perhaps appropriately so, since, as Prosperity scholar Harrison explains, "philosophically, their main way of helping the poor is encouraging people not to be one of them."

Most unnerving for Osteen's critics is the suspicion that they are fighting not just one idiosyncratic misreading of the gospel but something more daunting: the latest lurch in Protestantism's ongoing descent into full-blown American materialism. After the eclipse of Calvinist Puritanism, whose respect for money was counterbalanced by a horror of worldliness, much of Protestantism quietly adopted the idea that "you don't have to give up the American Dream. You just see it as a sign of God's blessing," says Edith Blumhofer, director of Wheaton College's Center for the Study of American Evangelicals. Indeed, a last-gasp resistance to this embrace of wealth and comfort can be observed in the current evangelical brawl over whether comfortable megachurches (like Osteen's and Warren's) with pumped-up day-care centers and high-tech amenities represent a slide from glorifying an all-powerful God to asking what custom color you would prefer he paint your pews. "The tragedy is that Christianity has become a yes-man for the culture," says Boston University's Prothero.

Non-prosperity parties from both conservative and more progressive evangelical camps recently have been trying to reverse the trend. Eastern University professor Ron Sider's book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, a fringe classic after its publication in 1977, is selling far more copies now, and some young people are even acting on its rather radical prescriptions: a sprinkling of Protestant groups known loosely as the New Monastics is experimenting with the kind of communal living among the poor that had previously been the province of Catholic orders. Jim Wallis, longtime leader of one such community in Washington and the editor of Sojourners magazine, has achieved immense exposure lately with his pleas that Evangelicals engage in more political activism on behalf of the poor.

And then there is Warren himself, who by virtue of his energy, hypereloquence and example (he's working in Rwanda with government, business and church sectors) has become a spokesman for church activism. "The church is the largest network in the world," he says. "If you have 2.3 billion people who claim to be followers of Christ, that's bigger than China."

And despite Warren's disdain for Prosperity's theological claims, some Prosperity churches have become players in the very faith-based antipoverty world he inhabits, even while maintaining their distinctive theology. Kirbyjon Caldwell, who pastors Windsor Village, the largest (15,000) United Methodist church in the country, can sound as Prosperity as the next pastor: "Jesus did not die and get up off the Cross so we could live lives full of despair and disappointment," he says. He quotes the "abundant life" verse with all earnestness, even giving it a real estate gloss: "It is unscriptural not to own land," he announces. But he's doing more than talk about it. He recently oversaw the building of Corinthian Pointe, a 452-unit affordable-housing project that he claims is the largest residential subdivision ever built by a nonprofit. Most of its inhabitants, he says, are not members of his church.

Caldwell knows that prosperity is a loaded term in evangelical circles. But he insists that "it depends on how you define prosperity. I am not a proponent of saying the Lord's name three times, clicking your heels and then you get what you ask for. But you cannot give what you do not have. We are fighting what we call the social demons. If I am going to help someone, I am going to have to have something with which to help."

Caldwell knows that the theology behind this preacherly rhetoric will never be acceptable to Warren or Sider or Witherington. But the man they all follow said, "By their fruits you will know them," and for some, Corinthian Pointe is a very convincing sort of fruit. Hard-line Prosperity theology may always seem alien to those with enough money to imagine making more without engaging God in a kind of spiritual quid pro quo. And Osteen's version, while it abandons part of that magical thinking, may strike some as self-centered rather than God centered. But American Protestantism is a dynamic faith. Caldwell's version reminds us that there is no reason a giving God could not invest even an awkward and needy creed with a mature and generous heart. If God does want us to be rich in this life, no doubt it's this richness in spirit that he is most eager for us to acquire.

Source: Time

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The Occult: A Substitute Faith

It is Saturday night. A young Army officer and his wife welcome a small group of people to their comfortable split-level home, which stands amid the tidy landscaping of a housing development in Louisville. The guests — most of them dressed neatly in sports clothes — include a computer programmer, a store clerk, a dog trainer and a psychology major from the nearby University of Louisville. They all troop downstairs to a vinyl-floored recreation room.

Is this a bridge party? A committee meeting for a charity drive? Hardly. The hour is midnight. On the front door of the house is an orange emblem showing black pitchforks. Downstairs, the party is gathered solemnly before a black -draped altar. Facing them, on the wall, is a chartreuse goat-image superimposed on a purple pentagram. "To night there is one among us elected to the priesthood of Mendes," intones one of the men. "Satan, thou hast seen fit to charge Warlock Shai with thy priesthood on earth ... the deification of the human race." Reciting an ordination rite first in Latin and then in English, the speaker taps a second man on each shoulder with a sword. Someone pours flash powder on the sterno altar flame and whoosh! Fire leaps toward the ceiling.

This recent scene — and many a similarly bizarre one — is being re-enacted all across the U.S. nowadays. In Oakland, Calif., when the moon is full, a group of college-educated people gather in a house in a middle-class neighborhood, remove their clothes, and whirl through the double spiral of a witches' dance. In southern New Jersey, a 30-year-old receptionist winds thread around a voodoo doll and sticks steel pins into it in a determined effort to harass a rival at the office into resigning. In Chicago, from 75 to 100 otherwise ordinary people — mostly professionals, such as office managers, nurses, social workers and chemists — meet weekly in The Temple of the Pagan Way to take instruction in ancient witchcraft and ceremonial magic from a high priest and priestess.

Crystal Balls. A wave of fascination with the occult is noticeable throughout the country. It first became apparent a few years ago in the astrology boom, which continues. But today it also extends all the way from Satanism and witchcraft to the edges of science, as in Astronaut Edgar Mitchell's experiment in extrasensory perception from aboard Apollo 14. In this area, serious researchers in the field of parapsychology are increasingly interacting with devotees of such claimed occult gifts as prophecy and telepathy to probe the powers of the human mind. Indeed, the very word occult—denoting hidden knowledge, secret arts or unexplainable phenomena—is no longer fully appropriate. While some practitioners still jealously guard their secrets, much of what once seemed occult has long since emerged from underground.

A good deal of the activity focuses around occult bookshops, which often offer subsidiary courses and services as well. One of the busiest is the Metaphysical Center in San Francisco. Its book department sells out 65% of its $25,000 stock every month. The center also presents tarot-card readings, daylong crash courses in palmistry (at $25 each), reincarnation workshops, and classes in astral projections, numerology and the esoteric Hebrew mystical system, the cabala. There is even a gift shop that sells ritual robes, amulets, special incense made from herbs, and crystal balls (large size, $25; small, $16.50).

Conventional bookshops have felt the impact too. In Manhattan's courtly old Scribner Book Store on Fifth Avenue, books on the occult have completely taken over a counter that was once reserved for more traditional religious books (theological, inspirational and other churchly volumes are now relegated to a side bookcase).

Major publishers have issued dozens of hard-cover books on the occult and the related field of parapsychology in the past year. William Blatty's novel The Exorcist has been on the bestseller list for 52 weeks. The 1968 movie Rosemary's Baby—still the most terrifying of the lot—has spawned a series of occult successors, including, currently, The Possession of Joel Delaney and The Other. But the interest goes beyond books and movies: a growing number of colleges across the U.S. are offering courses on aspects of the occult.

New Alchemy. In a commercial sense, occultists seem to have discovered what alchemists sought for centuries: the ability to turn base materials into gold. The field even has its own monthly magazine, the Occult Trade Journal. Among the "marketing" reports that appeared in one recent issue is an article about Pan Am's new $629 "Psychic Tour" of Great Britain, including a visit to a psychic healing center, a seance, and a day at Stonehenge with the chief of Britain's Most Ancient Order of Druids. Each tourist receives his own astro-numerology chart, and flight dates are astrologically plotted to be favorable.

A trip to Europe—especially Great Britain—would be right in keeping with the current boom. England is experiencing such a resurgence of witchcraft and other occult dabbling that an ecumenical commission of Anglicans and Roman Catholics recently recommended that each diocese appoint an official exorcist to drive out demons. In France, a popular seer named Madame Soleil gives weekday advice on radio, and rumors say that Black Masses are being performed in Paris and Lyons.

German Journalist Horst Knaut estimates that at least 3,000,000 West Germans subscribe to some form of the occult, and perhaps 7,000,000 more "sympathize with the secret sciences." Staid Switzerland abounds with oddball sects, including one in which a supposedly "possessed" girl was tortured to death a few years ago. In Italy, it is not so much the quantity as the quality of occultism that has changed. Long a part of Italy's superstitious southern peasant culture, occultism has moved north to the industrialists, the doctors and lawyers of the affluent upper class.

Author Owen Rachleff (The Occult Conceit), who teaches a course called Witchcraft, Magic and Astrology at New York University, takes a dim view of the whole movement. "Most occultniks," says Rachleff, "are either frauds of the intellectual and/or financial variety, or disturbed individuals who frequently mistake psychosis for psychic phenomena." Yet for all its trivial manifestations in tea-leaf readings and ritual gewgaws, for all the outright nuts and charlatans it attracts, occultism cannot be dismissed as mere fakery or faddishness. Clearly, it is born of a religious impulse and in many cases it becomes in effect a substitute faith.

Much of the occult, after all, is man's feeble attempt to become godlike, to master the world around him. It is, in short, magic, the earliest of man's religious responses. The world's oldest art works, the primitive animal paintings in the cave at Lascaux in southwestern France, for example, were Stone Age man's magical invocation of success in the hunt. The astrology so many millions follow today is a direct legacy from the astronomer priests of Babylonia. Even when Christianity spread through Europe, many in the countryside kept their rustic rites along with the new religion. ("Pagan" stems from the Latin paganus meaning "country dweller" and "heathen" from "dweller on the heath.") For centuries, magical arts and Christianity lived in uneasy coexistence, as they still do in Latin American countries. But then, out of ancient lore and the minds of medieval churchmen, came the Devil.

Winged Creature. He was not a Christian invention. One of his most persistent forms in the popular imagination—the horned, winged creature with claws—dates at least as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, where it was the image of Pazuzu, the malaria-bearing demon of the southwest wind, the "king of the evil spirits of the air." In the Old Testament the Devil was satan, the Hebrew word for adversary, as in the Book of Job. Throughout the Old Testament, he remains clearly subject to the wrath and will of Yahweh. But the New Testament began to give the Devil stature, especially with Jesus' temptation in the desert, when the Devil offered him all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4: 8-9).

By the time the early church fathers were compiling a theology of the Devil, the mystery religion of Gnosticism was on the scene, proclaiming that the world and all material things in it were irredeemably evil. Taking up the Gnostics' bias, the fathers often wrote as if Satan really were the ruler of the world, or at least its viceroy.

Meantime, an entire mythology of the origin of devils arose. One story, based largely on a nonbiblical narrative known as the Book of Enoch (and brief mentions in Genesis and the epistles of Jude and II Peter), told of an angelic race of "Watchers," who were tempted to have intercourse with terrestrial women, and sired a race of giants. The giants died in internecine battle, but their bodies gave forth demonic spirits that prowled the world doing evil.

It took centuries more for the church to condemn witchcraft and magic as exclusive tools of the Devil; persecution did not begin in earnest until the 13th century. By then much of the residual paganism had died out, and at least some of the witchcraft and magic had turned more sinister. The spirits now invoked for aid were demons; the pact was with the Devil. So at least the Dominican inquisitors saw it, and so many suspects admitted.

Corrupt Priest. Some of the confessions must have been sheer defiance: faced with a ruling establishment that was sanctified by the church, a resentful peasantry followed the only image of rebellion they knew—Satan. The satanic messiah became especially appealing in times of despair, such as the era of the plague known as the Black Death. Real or imagined, the pact with the Devil may have been the last bad hope for safety in a world fallen out of joint. Thousands died in the persecution, many of them probably guilty only of delusion. Even benevolent magic was swept away in the purges: the "good walkers" of Friuli in the 16th century believed that their spirits rose from their bodies as they slept and went out into the fields to do battle with evil forces. Despite their good intentions, they were categorized as witches and condemned by the church.

Others were not so guiltless. A peak of sulfur-and-brimstone intensity was reached by the Satanists of 17th century France, who were rooted out by a secret court under Louis XIV. A famous case of that day involved a series of demonic rituals commissioned by a mistress of Louis who felt that she was falling out of favor. To regain the monarch's love, she had a corrupt priest say sacrilegious Masses *over her nude body in a subterranean Paris chamber, sacrificing a live child at the height of each Mass.

Despite such malevolent connections, Satan remained a temptingly attractive figure. Milton made him such a hero that next to him Christ looked almost pallid. Faust's fiendish friend, Mephistopheles, is one of literature's great protagonists. It is no new thing for the Rolling Stones to conjure up Sympathy for the Devil. He had it long ago, even from so famous a church father as Origen, who speculated that Satan and his fallen angels would be saved at the end of time.

Even the Enlightenment did not do the Devil in. Just as ancient Romans flocked to mystery cults in the days of religious and political decay, so do more modern men seek out the occult in times of stress or excessive pragmatism. The Victorian period saw one such flowering, the 1920s another. Now an occult revival has come to the space age.

Despite the bewildering variety of fads and fascinations involved in it, there are roughly four main categories, and Lucifer still has his place:

SATANISM. "Blessed are the strong, for they shall possess the earth. If a man smite you on one cheek, SMASH him on the other!" This inverted gospel —from Anton Szandor La Vey's The Satanic Bible—sets the tone for today's leading brand of Satanism, the San Francisco-based Church of Satan. Founded in 1966 by La Vey, a former circus animal trainer, the Church of Satan offers a mirror image of most of the beliefs and ethics of traditional Christianity.

La Vey's church and its branches might well be called the "unitarian" wing of the occult. The members invest themselves with some of the most flamboyant trappings of occultism, but magic for them is mostly psychodrama —or plain old carnival hokum. They invoke Satan not as a supernatural being, but as a symbol of man's self-gratifying ego, which is what they really worship. They look down on those who actually believe in the supernatural, evil or otherwise.

La Vey's church is organized, incorporated and protected under the laws of California. La Vey, 42, stopped giving out membership figures when his followers, who are grouped in local "grottoes," reached a total of 10,000. The most striking thing about the members of the Church of Satan (one of whom is shown on TIME'S cover) is that instead of being exotic, they are almost banal in their normality. Their most insidious contribution to evil is their resolute commitment to man's animal nature, stripped of any spiritual dimension or thought of self-sacrifice. There is no reach, in Browning's famous terms —only grasp. Under the guise of eschewing hypocrisy, they actively pursue the materialistic values of the affluent society—without any twinge of conscience to suggest there might be something more.

They jockey for upward mobility in the five degrees of church membership, which closely resemble those in witchcraft covens: apprentice, warlock (or witch), wizard (or enchantress), sorcerer (or sorceress) and magus—the degree that La Vey holds. The ruling Council of Nine, which La Vey heads, makes appointments to various ranks on the basis not only of the candidate's proficiency in Satanist doctrine but also his "dining preferences," the "style of decor" in his home, and the "make, year and condition" of his automobile.

The Army officer who celebrated the recent ordination in Louisville is a fourth-degree Satanist priest, a memmber of the Council of Nine and editor of La Vey's "confidential" newsletter, the Cloven Hoof. He is also the author of a widely used ROTC textbook. Other La Vey Satanists include a Marine Corps N.C.O. from North Carolina and, in New Jersey's Lilith Grotto, a real estate broker and an insurance executive. Beyond such devotees, La Vey's sinister balderdash reaches hundreds of thousands more through the black gospel of The Satanic Bible and his second book, The Compleat Witch, in which his advice reaches the downright sordid.

Besides La Vey's well-publicized group, there are some quasi-Satanists in the public eye. The Process Church of the Final Judgment (TIME, Sept. 6) includes Satan in its Godhead along with Christ, Jehovah and Lucifer (who is seen as a separate divinity), though it has been playing down Satan lately and emphasizing Christ. But the darker, more malevolent Satanists give only rare and tantalizing hints of their existence, and none at all of their numbers —probably for good reason. Sociologist Marcello Truzzi of Florida's New College at Sarasota observes that one variety of this underground Satanism consists primarily of sex clubs that embellish their orgies with Satanist rituals. A larger variety, he says, are the drug-oriented cults, whose members improvise their Satanism as they go along.

The most famous of such groups, so far, is the Charles Manson "family," but now and again other grisly items in the news reveal the breed. In New York this spring, police were searching for possible Devil worshipers in a grave-robbery incident. In Miami last summer, a 22-year-old woman Satanist killed a 62-year-old friend, stabbing him 46 times. Convicted of manslaughter, she drew a seven-year sentence, thanked Satan for her light penalty, and said that she had "enjoyed" the killing. In April she escaped from prison, and has not been recaptured.

WITCHCRAFT. In 1921, British Anthropologist Margaret Murray advanced the theory that witchcraft was basically a vestige of the nature worship of Europe's pagan days. Scholars have challenged her theory, but many of today's "white witches" take her suggestion and imitate pagan ways rather than satanic witchcraft. Generally, white witches derive their presumed power from beneficent forces of nature and use it in an effort to heal, resolve disputes and achieve good for others. Such benevolent magic may also include defensive spells against the maledictions of black witches. The black witches invoke power from the darker forces of nature—or Satan—and generally employ their magic for themselves, either in an attempt to acquire something or to cast a malicious spell on an enemy.

America's most famous witch, Sybil Leek, lives comfortably today in Florida, "practically a millionaire," she says, from sales of her books. She takes pride in being a hereditary witch whose lineage, she says, goes all the way back to 1134. Redhaired, with deep-set blue-green eyes, Sybil at 48 still looks her part. Like many another witch, she prefers to call her craft by the Anglo-Saxon name of wicca, which is thought to have referred to a kind of early medieval medicine man. She admits that witchcraft is power and bemoans the fact that in America "power leads to corruption. People wish to use witchcraft to personal advantage. [In] pure witchcraft, the life force is all important. Satanism is death. Wicca is a religion designed to preserve life."

Aidan Kelly's San Francisco Bay area coven seems more designed to celebrate life. Kelly, 31, a former Roman Catholic who is a manuscript editor of physics textbooks, generally follows a variety of witchcraft called Gardnerian, after a retired British customs official, Gerald Gardner, who formulated it in England in the 1940s. Gardnerian witchcraft is what Occult Debunker Owen Rachleff calls "library witchcraft": it seems to have been largely concocted from books, perhaps combined with some rudimentary witchcraft practices of existing covens in the Hampshire hills. Kelly himself is one of the founders of a Gardnerian spin-off called the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, and has rewritten many of Gardner's rituals and created new ones of his own.

The main ritual is conducted every month when the moon is full. If the ceremony is indoors, it is conducted "sky-clad"—in the nude. It begins with a dance, men and women rotating in a circle facing out. "Thout-tout-a-tout-tout," they sing, "throughout and about." The men put their weight only on the toes of their left feet, which gives them a hobbling gait. At a certain moment, the priestess breaks free and guides the others inward in a spiral. When she gets to the center, she kisses the man next to her and begins to unwind the spiral. Each woman then kisses each man, and the spiral opens up into a circle again.

The double-spiral dance, claims Kelly, is a 6,000-year-old symbol of reincarnation, which the witches ardently believe in. Costume, obviously, is minimal: a white waist cord for first-degree witches, a red cord for second degree, and a magic knife called an othame. So far, not even Kelly has felt prepared to go for the highest degree, the green garter. Among other things, it involves a milder version of what Gardner called the "Great Rite," an act of ritual sexual intercourse. "Nobody in our coven," says Kelly, "has felt ready to take it."

PROPHECY. Power, the occultists and their critics agree, is at the core of the occult quest for self-realization. Time and again, converts from traditional religions relate how they resented being told what to do by their priests or ministers, how the occult gives them freedom to do what they want, seek what they want. In Christianity the Gospel message is submission to God; in the occult the ruling motive is control. One anxiety the occultists share with the rest of mankind is about the future. They want to know it, and many of them believe that they can glimpse it.

Astrology has long been the favorite method for divining the future, but many new occultists these days combine their interest in astrology with other ancient methods of divination. The I Ching, the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, provides one of them—an elaborate and complicated casting of sticks (or in another variation, coins). Their random order of fall directs the inquirer to appropriate passages in the book, which then guide his actions. Tarot cards are another favorite. The standard tarot deck has 78 cards, 56 of the "minor arcana," similar to and forerunners of modern playing cards, and 22 "major arcana" cards depicting such mystical symbols as The Devil, The Fool, The Lovers and The Hanged Man, each of which has many interpretations. The tarots can be laid out in several ways to tell fortunes and interpret character; one method sets them in the form of a cross, another in an outline of a "tree of life."

The most dramatic prophecies are made by individual psychics who claim the ability to foresee the future. The 16th century physician and astrologer Nostradamus is perhaps the most famous of all time. Nostradamus knew the trick: his writings were cryptic, and interpreters can read any number of different predictions into a single passage. Modern seers like Jeane Dixon are also generally vague, and they bolster their visions by keeping an observant eye on human nature and events. Sybil Leek, for instance, predicted the likelihood of an assassination attempt on Presidential Candidate George Wallace—but many thoughtful and apprehensive laymen could have done the same.

The best-known modern seer is undoubtedly the late Edgar Cayce, a devout Protestant, who made his predictions in a sleep-like trance. His long-range prognostications, such as the imminent rise of the lost continent of Atlantis and another in the Pacific called Lemuria, have become cult favorites, but Cayce in fact had many misses in his predictions. What gave him his credibility was a more limited but very special talent, the ability to diagnose illnesses of persons many miles away. Many Americans —most, the optimistic would say —still find the craze for prophecy foolish and even bankrupt. Others may enjoy the predictions for what many of them are—a parlor entertainment. But millions, obviously, need reassurance about the future.

SPIRITUALISM. Spiritualists are often categorized merely as mediums to contact the "other side," as holders of seances to call up some departed spirit. In fact, that is only one of their functions. General practitioners of the occult, spiritualists often spend as much or more time healing and counseling as they do holding séances.

The art of spiritual healing is a gift frequently mentioned in the New Testament in connection with Jesus. Many a saint has since established his credentials with healing miracles, and many an evangelical preacher—and occultist—still tries. One such is the Rev. Bonnie Gehman, 32, an attractive woman who heads her own Spiritual Research Society in Orlando, Fla. Founded two years ago, S.R.S. offers religious services, training for mediums and healers, and healing services that evoke the style and flavor of Christian Healer Kathryn Kuhlman (TIME, Sept. 14, 1970).

At least a quarter of the Rev. Geh-man's work is in health readings for those who seek her help in detecting illness; several reputable doctors in the area bring patients to her for diagnostic clues. Her information, in true spiritualist tradition, comes from "spirit guides," friendly sources on the "spirit side" who offer secret information to the "earth plane." On Sundays, standing in a pink chiffon dress in her pulpit, Bonnie will call out, "I want to talk to the lady in the pretty white dress. Those on the spirit side tell me to pass on to you a message not to worry about your lower back." To another woman: "Your husband has applied for a new job. They tell me it will be a choice of two things. Everything will be all right."

No skeptic has proven spiritualism to be valid, but there is a residue of the unexplained in these claimed psychic events, some occurrences that seem to defy the laws of chance or mere coincidence. It is just such phenomena that are currently being investigated by parapsychologists under the general heading of ESP, extrasensory perception: telepathy, communication from one mind to another without normal means; precognition, the prediction of future events; clairvoyance, the power to discern objects not present to the senses; and psychokinesis, the movement of material objects with the mind. While investigations go on, though, such gifts pose a problem for Christians. The Old Testament expressly forbids soothsaying; but the prophets' sort of future prediction was an obvious exception. The New Testament phenomenon of spiritual prophecy among early Christians was seen as a gift of the Holy Spirit —although Christians are warned to discern "good" spirits from bad.

Demonic Dangers. At least some clergymen have chosen the path of investigation. The late Episcopal Bishop James A. Pike was probably the most enthusiastic—and for more orthodox Christians, embarrassing—investigator, claiming to have communicated with his dead son with the aid of the minister-medium the Rev. Arthur Ford. Ford and other, somewhat less flamboyant Protestant ministers had even earlier formed a group known as the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship to open a bridge between traditional Christianity and the occult. For evangelicals and fundamentalists, on the other hand, nearly every aspect of the occult still remains a demonic danger, from ouija-board prophecy to the evocation of a personal and malevolent Satan. Some fundamental ists even attribute every non-Christian spiritual movement to the inspiration of demons.

Whether as a threat or a promise —or as an object lesson—occultism is a phenomenon with which a growing number of churchmen realize that they must come to terms. One who sees it from a particularly revealing angle is the Rev. Festo Kivengere, an Anglican evangelist in Uganda who has been on a speaking tour of the U.S. Kivengere, who was raised as an animist, discerns in occultism "a trend toward the kind of religion that most of my people were converted from."

Though his family worshiped the "Great God," he says, they sought the aid of spirits to prevent "catastrophes that were beyond our control." He senses a similar need in the West today —"something on which you can lean in this complicated life. There is a profound disappointment in the things that people put their trust in. Whatever his material welfare, man is threatened with non-being."

Philosopher Huston Smith of Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of many authorities who see the occult revival as a response to the failure of science and reason, a movement spurred by the conviction that technology has failed to make the world better, as Americans long believed it would. Dean J. Stillson Judah of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley suggests that today's young people "cannot live as so many of us do, without the depth of myth and symbol and the richness of mysticism that existed before the rise of the empirical scientific attitude."

In his 1970 book What About Horoscopes? Evangelical Author-Editor Joseph Bayly lays much of the blame at the door of traditional Christianity. "Another age might have turned to the church in its anxiety and desire for a mystical element in life," writes Bayly. "But to many people, today's church seems impotent because it is identified with the problems it should be solving. They see the church as a mere authenticator of the Establishment. The individual is a unit to be counted in large church meetings, his money rung up, just as he is counted by business, university and government for their purposes. Beauty's holiness, or holiness's beauty, fades before pragmatism and expediency. But the desire for mystery will be satisfied."

Magician Playmate. Mixed with the desire for mystery, though, is undoubtedly a desire for mere novelty. Jesuit Theologian John Navone of Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, who held a "Devil Day" at the Gregorian recently to discuss the theology of the Devil, so far is not seriously alarmed by the recrudescence of Satanism. In modern Devil cults, he argues, the Devil "is more often a type of magician playmate, the product of a Playboy culture rather than the malign personal being found in Scripture. These cults tend to use the Devil for a type of arcane amusement, whereas the unamusing Devil that appears in Scripture manages to use men for his dark purposes."

Sociologist Truzzi argues somewhat similarly in a recent issue of the Sociological Quarterly. "If we fully believed in demons," Truzzi writes, "we certainly would not want to call them up." For most occultists, he says, the occult arts and practices are just a form of "pop religion," more healthy than dangerous. "It shows a playful contempt for what was once viewed seriously by many, and still is by some." Mass interest in the occult indicates "a kind of victory over the supernatural, a demystification of what were once fearful and threatening cultural elements. What were once dark secrets known only through initiation into arcane orders are now exposed to everyman."

There is a danger, of course, in taking the Devil too lightly, for in doing so man might take evil too lightly as well. Recent history has shown terrifyingly enough that the demonic lies barely beneath the surface, ready to catch men unawares with new and more horrible manifestations. But the Devil taken too seriously can become the ultimate scapegoat, the excuse for the world's evils and the justification for men's failure to improve themselves.

Perhaps the ideal solution would be to give the Devil his due, whether as a symbolic reminder of evil or a real force to be conquered—but to separate him, once and for all, from "magic." Beyond all the charlatanism, there is a genuine realm of magic, a yet undiscovered territory between man and his universe. Perhaps it can once more be accepted as a legitimate pursuit of knowledge, no longer hedged in by bell, book and candle. Perhaps, eventually, religion, science and magic could come mutually to respect and supplement one another. That is a fond vision, and one that is pinned to a fragile and perpetually unprovable faith: that the universe itself is a whole, with purpose and promise beneath the mystery.

* Authorities are divided on what constituted a Black Mass and how many there ever were. Some sacrilegious Masses were merely ordinary Masses offered for evil intentions. Others may have involved the profaning of a consecrated host, the saying of inverted prayers, the use of crosses upside down and a nude woman on the altar. Some of the worst profanations were probably the exaggerations of church inquisitors, fantasied in their horror of Satanism. If so, such later devotees of the wicked as the Marquis de Sade and England's 18th century Hell-Fire clubs simply took their cues from the inquisitors.

Source: Time



"[Tempering with the occult opens] a doorway. It’s tampering in the spirit world, and you do not know who’s going to show up. So when someone gets into Wicca, black magic or white magic, psychics, séances, Tarot cards, spells, or all that other idolatrous stuff, they don’t know what’s going to happen. They’re tapping into a realm they know nothing about, most of the time." Father Gary Thomas, a renown Exorcist priest. Read more here.

Listen also to prominent Catholic theologian and exorcist Fr. Malachi Martin on The Nature Of Evil, Exorcism & Possession.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth, Rome's chief exorcist's book is is a great resource on demonology and diabolic possession. Read about how one can get possessed and how to protect yourself and your family - here.

If you need help pertaining to cases of demonic possession or oppression, please contact a deliverance prayer group in your area listed in this worldwide directory.

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Christianity's Surge In Indonesia

Jakarta's Reformed Millennium Center has
seating for more than 4,500 worshippers

They flocked to the open field by the hundreds to praise Allah. In a village in central Java, just a few miles from where Indonesian special forces shot dead an Islamic terrorist linked to the fatal July bombings of two hotels in Jakarta, worshippers raised their hands to the heavens. But this ceremony, which took place as the call of the muezzin echoed in the sultry air, was not a celebration of Islam. Instead, in the heart of the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, Christians held a Pentecostal revival, complete with faith healing and speaking in tongues. As a tropical downpour fell, believers' tears mixed with rain — and a line of sick and disabled took to the stage to claim they had been cured by a God they, like Indonesian Muslims, call Allah. "People think Indonesia is just a Muslim country, but look at all these people," says pastor David Nugroho, whose Gesing church boasts a congregation of 400 worshippers today, up from 30 when it was founded in 1967. "We are not afraid to show our faith."

A religious revolution is transforming Indonesia. Part of the spiritual blossoming entails Muslims embracing a more conservative form of faith, mirroring global trends that have meant a proliferation of headscarves and beards in modern Islamic capitals. More surprising, though, is the boom in Christianity — officially Indonesia's second largest faith and a growing force throughout Asia. Indeed, the number of Asian Christian faithful exploded to 351 million adherents in 2005, up from 101 million in 1970, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, based in Washington, D.C. (See pictures of spiritual healing around the world.)

Much of the growth comes from Pentecostal and Evangelical conversions, which have spread charismatic Christianity across the globe and are a large reason for estimates that by 2050 a majority of Christians will be living in developing nations. Already, less than a quarter of the world's 600 million Pentecostals reside in the West, where the modern movement has its roots. Indeed, Pentecostalism is believed by some to be the fastest-growing faith in the world, if measured by conversions as opposed to births.

Because of the relative youth of these Evangelical sects, they are less bound by the history of colonial conversion that has complicated the legacy of, say, Roman Catholicism or mainstream Protestantism. Instead, by focusing on personal salvation adapted to local environments, Evangelicals, especially Pentecostals, have found great success across Asia in recent years, from Indian metropolises like Chennai to rural China where homegrown sects are drawing in tens of thousands of people each year. The world's largest megachurch is the Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea, which claims a membership of 830,000 people. Its Pentecostal Sunday services regularly attract a quarter of a million people to an upscale neighborhood of Seoul. In poorer regions of Asia, as well as within many ethnic Chinese communities, converts are lured by the so-called prosperity gospel, an American theology linked to charismatic Christianity that promises riches to those who follow a moral path.

For many in the global Evangelical community, though, it is the faith's inroads in Indonesia — a nation with some 215 million Muslim adherents — that are most riveting. Exact figures are hard to gather in a country where conversions from Islam to Christianity face a stigma and likely lead to an underreporting of Christian believers. The 2000 census counted just under 10% of Indonesians as Christians, a figure many Christian leaders believe is too low. Anecdotal evidence paints a compelling picture of the faith's rapid rise. In the early 1960s, for instance, there were no Evangelical churches in Temanggung, where the soccer-field revival took place; now there are more than 40. In the capital Jakarta, newly built megachurches that might seem more at home in Texas send steeples into the sky. Other Christians worship at unofficial churches based in hotels and malls, where Sunday services rival shopping as a popular weekend activity. Asia's tallest statue of Jesus Christ, built in 2007, presides over Manado city in eastern Indonesia, while Indonesian cable TV beams 24-hour Christian channels.

State of Grace — and Disgrace
What is it about Evangelical Christianity that has so resonated in Indonesia? As in many other crowded, developing-world countries where a person can feel lost in a teeming slum, the concept of individual salvation is a powerful one. At the same time, the attempted hijacking of Muslim theology by a small band of homegrown terrorists who have killed hundreds of Indonesians in recent years has led some to question their nation's majority faith. So, too, has the general trend toward a more conservative Islam that has given rise to hundreds of religiously inspired bylaws, from caning for beer-drinking to enforced dress codes for women.

Not everyone, though, is celebrating Christianity's boom. Some Muslims view the faith as an unwanted foreign influence, even though Islam, too, is an imported religion. Since the country exchanged dictatorship for democracy more than a decade ago, a great diversity of voices has arisen. But an unfortunate byproduct of this pluralism has been an uptick in religious conflict, which has affected unorthodox offshoots of Islam and Christian sects alike. Although bloody outpourings — like the communal riots that claimed more than 1,000 Christian and Muslim lives in Poso and Ambon around a decade ago — have ceased, spasms of violence are still occurring.

Over the past couple of years, Christian groups say, dozens of churches and theological academies have been destroyed or forced to shut by Islamic groups who accuse Christians of stealing believers from Muslim ranks. Despite appointing prominent Christians to his Cabinet, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said little to defend religious minorities, and has remained silent as dozens of local governments pass Islamic-based laws that threaten Christian rights. Such moves "conflict with the constitution and have the potential to threaten freedom of religion in this country," according to Hendardi, chairman of the Setara Institute, a Jakarta-based NGO that promotes pluralism.

Last year, the Indonesia Ulema Council, an influential Islamic clerical body, sounded the alarm about Christian proselytization and called on Muslims to more staunchly guard their faith. The pace with which unlicensed churches are being shut down by local authorities is also increasing. Christians complain that gaining official sanction to build a mosque is easy while getting similar permission for churches is glacial. As a consequence, most Christian houses of worship are unofficial. "There is a real fear that Christianity is on the march," says Mike Hilliard, a Scottish minister who with his Indonesian wife runs an orphanage outside Jakarta that has been targeted by militant Muslims. "Because of this fear, emotions are easily stirred up and mobs can form quickly."

Defenders of faith have mobilized in neighboring Malaysia too. After a local court ruled on Dec. 31 that a Malaysian Christian newspaper could refer to the Christian deity as Allah, many Muslims, who constitute the multiethnic country's majority, protested. Christians professed puzzlement: when speaking Malay, they had used the word Allah for centuries — why the sudden outrage now? Prominent Islamic activists responded by saying that sharing one word for two different gods could lead some Muslims to unwittingly stray to Christianity. By January, passions had spilled onto holy turf, with around a dozen churches, one mosque and a Sikh temple attacked. Late that month, eight people were arrested for suspected roles in the firebombing of a Pentecostal church in the capital of Kuala Lumpur.

As both Muslims and Christians more fervently express their faith, a kind of spiritual siloing is developing in Southeast Asia, in contrast to the sectarian mixing that often characterized relations in previous generations. "Even compared to five years ago, relations between Christians and Muslims have worsened," says Father Andang Binawan, a Roman Catholic priest in Jakarta who holds a Ph.D. in theology from a Belgian university. "Many people now, including government officials, feel pressure by society to identify themselves as good Muslims and they worry that by associating with people of other religions, they will be seen as less pious. Even saying 'Merry Christmas' to a Christian can be seen as a problem."

At the same time, aggressive proselytization by Evangelical groups, both foreign and local, leads to accusations that Christians are hungry for souls — and church donations. Website and sermon invectives, in which some Christian preachers dismiss Muslims as terrorists, also feed a prejudicial cycle that is spinning both sides away from Indonesia's pluralistic underpinnings. (Unlike neighboring Malaysia, which was set up as a Muslim state — although one that guarantees minority religious rights — Indonesia recognizes six official faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestant Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism.) "We have many [religions], and they all coexist peacefully," President Yudhoyono told TIME last November. "This is the capital we will use to show that a clash of civilizations can be prevented." But even as he spoke, Christian theological students were staging a sit-in on a busy Jakarta street to protest having been intimidated into evacuating their campus after threats from Muslim mobs. A clash of civilizations seemed to be exactly what was taking place.

Raising Spirits
To get to the hip-hop concert, you have to walk through a five-star hotel's lobby, go past a parking lot and take a cramped elevator ride to the 12th floor. There, in an anonymous Jakarta annex syncopated by a purple strobe light, Indonesian youths dance for Jesus. The congregation bops to the beat, waving their arms in the air as the lyrics implore them to let their "lives be a celebration" of Jesus' love. After pastor Jose Carol takes to the stage, some worshippers whip out their iPhones, onto which they have loaded electronic copies of the Bible. Back when the Jakarta Praise Community Church formed a decade ago, only a couple hundred people attended its services; today the congregation has grown to 5,500 mostly young urbanites.

A few hours earlier, in Jakarta's Kemayoran business district, parishioners gathered in the main auditorium of the Evangelical Reformed Millennium Center, which seats more than 4,500 people. Above the crowds, a pair of giant TV screens broadcast the sermon of Stephen Tong, an Indonesian pastor who conducts weekly services throughout Asia — including Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong — and ministers to a regional congregation that has grown to 15,000 in just two decades. Opened in 2008, the church complex cost $30 million to build — and it took 17 years to obtain permission from local authorities. The privately funded church is the largest licensed one in the capital, although an unofficial megachurch with space for 10,000 faithful is nearing completion in a Jakarta suburb. When Tong, 69, raised a crucifix onto the church's massive steeple, worshippers at a nearby mosque complained. Tong didn't back down. "Jakarta has 1.2 million Christians, so a church for 4,000 people is nothing," he says. "We did this all legally, so why can't we put a cross on our church, just like mosques have their symbol?"

Other Indonesian Christians worry that such towering icons will only serve to inflame Muslim sentiment. The dangers are all too real. Take the hundreds of students from the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology, who staged the November sit-in. They were subsisting in refugee-like conditions, sleeping on thin mats in an abandoned Jakarta building with no electricity or running water. Before that, the beleaguered students lived for months in a park, 35 to a tent. Yet on the outskirts of east Jakarta, the Christian college actually had a handsome campus. In July 2008, hundreds of Islamic extremists crowded the school's gates, accusing students of proselytizing among the local Muslim community — a charge the institute's leaders deny. When three students tried to escape, thugs threw acid in their faces. With local government officials advising the student population to decamp because of continuing danger, Arastamar officials had no choice but to accept the government's proposal for makeshift housing. "How can you say there is true freedom of religion here if things like this can happen to us?" asks school principal Jusup Lifire.

Muslim converts to Christianity are also targets, their apostasy viewed by some radical Islamic scholars as deserving of execution. Syaiful Hamzah grew up as the madrasah-attending son of a Muslim family in Jakarta that helped build the neighborhood mosque. But while working in eastern Indonesia's Maluku archipelago, which has a substantial Christian population, he was swayed by Evangelical teachings. By 2000, he had been baptized at a Pentecostal church and returned to Jakarta to begin theological studies. His family cut him off; one brother threatened to burn his house down. Undeterred, he began lay-preaching to a house-church congregation in his modest home near Jakarta's port. In 2008, a mob armed with clubs showed up and demanded Syaiful stop. He shuttered his church but still guides Muslim converts to Christianity, the number of which he says is growing, in part, because of the terror attacks unleashed in Indonesia in the name of Islam. "So many have converted," he says, "but they are afraid to say so publicly because Muslims will harass them."

The numbers of converts may not be as high as Islamic groups fear. Some so-called converts were Christians all along. In the 1960s, a government anticommunist drive forced each citizen to pick a religion for inclusion on their national ID card. (Suspected communists were quick to pick a religion to convince authorities they were not atheist Marxists.) Worried about future persecution and loath to give up the chance for certain career opportunities reserved for Muslims, some Christians chose Islam for their ID cards, even though they quietly kept going to church. Now they're officially switching to their true religion, seeing safety in growing numbers. Another significant group of Indonesian converts to charismatic sects is ethnic Chinese. But they are abandoning Chinese religions or mainline Protestantism, not Islam.

still, it's hard to ignore the power of a revival like the one held in Temanggung — and easy to understand why some Muslims have reservations about encroaching Christianity. Permission to hold the meeting was only granted after the organizers put up a sign forbidding Muslims from entering. Nevertheless, among the line of sick and suffering hoping to be healed was an elderly Muslim man who others said was blind. After fervent prayers from worshippers in the driving rain, he suddenly blinked and gazed at the gathered crowd. "A Muslim who can now see," said pastor Jason Balompapueng, tears rising in his eyes. "It is a miracle." The faithful urged the tottering man onstage to bear witness to his regained sight. As the man clambered up the stairs, he removed his peci, an Indonesian fezlike hat often associated with Islam. A visiting minister from Jakarta blessed him. Another soul was saved, the Christian pastor rejoiced. Tomorrow, he vowed, there would be more.

— With reporting by Jason Tedjasukmana / Jakarta

Source: TIME

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Holy Bible The Secrets Of Revelation

Documentary of Revelation from the Holy Bible. And the events that are going to happen at Armageddon.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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Why Do Catholics Make Such A Big Deal About Mary ?

You’ve heard the question before. Perhaps you’ve even asked it yourself. Here’s one way to answer the question.

While Our Lord was on His Holy Cross and saw Mary and “the apostle whom He loved” standing at the foot of it, He said to His mother: “Woman, behold your son.” He then said to the apostle: “Behold your mother.” The Gospel goes on to say: “…from that hour, he [the apostle] took her into his home.” (John 19:25–27)

Now just think for a moment about this.

As Jesus—God in the Flesh—was doing His work on His Cross saving man from damnation, the greatest work He will ever do, He paused for His mother. He took a moment to entrust her to His apostle’s care because she had no other children. Had she other children, Christ would not have had the apostle assume responsibility for her.

But perhaps Jesus did not pause from His work. Consider that—just perhaps—giving Mary to the apostle, and therefore to us, was part of His work: an instrumental element in His salvation of mankind. It would explain why the Gospel writer thought this event important enough to warrant being documented.

If the words spoken by Christ are of vital importance and held in the highest esteem by Christians, even more so are the words spoken by God from His Holy cross: His words concerning His mother. These words must not be ignored or marginalized, and the implications of these words must not be minimized. Indeed, these words demand contemplation, study, and must be allowed to assume their natural place within the Will of God.

For nearly two millennia Catholics, acting as “the apostle whom He loved,” have lovingly taken Mary into their homes and have honored her. We are faithfully and lovingly doing what Our Lord told us to do: we “behold” our mother.

Source: Catholic Phoenix

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Exorcist Says Satan Exists But Without 'Horns, Wings Or A Tail'

Spanish exorcist Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea Cucurull stated in an interview last week that though Satan does indeed exist, he does not have “horns, wings or a tail.” The priest recommended that the faithful seek the counsel of a priest if they suspect someone is possessed.

Fr. Fortea is a priest and theologian who specializes in demonology and is now studying for his doctorate of theology in Rome

In an interview with the newspaper El Tiempo during his recent visit to Colombia, Fr. Fortea said, “The devil does not have a body, a color, or a visual form, nor does he have horns, wings or a tail. He is an invisible, bodiless entity.”

“Believing in God means believing in what he has said. And he has spoken of the existence of the devil,” the priest remarked, recalling that “at the end of the 'Our Father' he warned, ‘Deliver us from evil’.”

Fr. Fortea then explained that though he has never seen a demon, he knows they exist, saying he has felt the presence of evil. “I have approached this like a scientist: even though I wear a habit, I am not void of reason.”

“On a certain number of occasions, alone at my house or other places, I have felt an evil presence.” He continued. “I would be lying if I did not acknowledge that I felt that evil presence in an intense and powerful way.”

The priest said that during one of these instances, his cat quickly scurried behind the curtains, staring at a particular spot in the room.

“It is not normal for a cat to hide, tremble and stare at a particular point,” he added.

“Although we tend to speak of the demon, in reality there are many demons, each one is different, but there is one who is head over all the demons, the most powerful one: Satan,” the priest continued.

Fr. Fortea went on to say, “Anyone who resorts to spiritism, witchcraft, or worse yet, Satanism, is in danger of being possessed. That is the general norm, but there are cases that have no explanation, even if someone has not engaged in these practices.”

“When someone possessed receives an exorcism, it takes a reasonable amount of time for him or her to be liberated. A number of sessions are required. The devil resists because he knows he is condemned to leave,” he added.

Fr. Fortea said he does not feel “especially harassed, but reason does tell me that since he exists, the devil does have outstanding issues with me.”

Source: Catholic News Agency

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Symptoms Of Spiritual Bondage

By Ron Phillips

After spending a decade doing hand-to-hand combat with satanic forces, I have discovered several symptoms of demonic operation. Some of these indicators can be signs of mental illness, which isn't always the result of demonic attack. But when good psychological care from Christian professionals doesn't result in a cure, it is often possible that the person's symptoms could point to demonic operation.

Drawn from the account of the demoniac of Gadara in Mark 5, the first six symptoms are extreme. The man in that passage was controlled by a legion of demons and had been chained in a cemetery because of his erratic and violent behavior. Other signs of demonic activity may be subtler, but they are no less dangerous and shouldn't be ignored.

1. Incapacity for normal living (see Mark 5:1-5). The actions of legion made him unsuitable for normal social interaction with friends and family. An unusual desire for solitude, accompanied by a deep loneliness, will often set in. The person will often become very passive with no desire to change.

2. Extreme behavior (see Mark 5:4). An explosive temper and extreme uncontrollable anger could be signs of demonic activity. These are dangerous behaviors that control the individual and affect surrounding loved ones.

3. Personality changes (see Mark 5:9,12). Changes in personality, extreme or mild, may be evidence of demonic activity. And though all cases of multiple personality may not be demonic, in most cases demon activity is involved.

4. Restlessness and insomnia (see Mark 5:5). The demoniac cried in the tombs "night and day." He couldn't sleep. Insomnia can be a sign of a physical or spiritual problem. God has gifted His children with sleep (see Ps. 127:2). So when you can't sleep night after night and there is no medical reason, the devil may be tormenting you.

5. A terrible inner anguish (see Mark 5:5). Grief and anguish are normal emotions. Yet persistent unresolved anguish that won't leave after normal therapies of counseling, encouragement and prayer could well be demonic.

6. Self-inflicted injury and suicide. In Mark 5:5, the demonized man was cutting himself. And in Mark 9:14-29, a man's son was both deaf and mute because of a demon, and the evil spirit would often throw the boy into fire and water to destroy him. Demons can cause people to injure themselves and even incite suicide.

7. Unexplained illness. When medical testing produces no physical cause for an illness, then we should look to the mind and spirit for answers. Sometimes illnesses are psychological, and good counseling can result in a cure. Other times the battle is with demons. Luke 13:11-16 tells the story of a "daughter of Abraham" who was afflicted by a "spirit of infirmity." Although she was a child of God, she was tormented by illnesses caused by this class of demons.

8. Addictive behavior. Addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling and other things opens the door to demonic influence and control. I'm not saying demons cause all of these problems. But anything that causes one to be out of control opens that person to infernal control.

9. Abnormal sexual behavior. The spirit of harlotry is mentioned several times in Ezekiel 16:20-51. This spirit infected the nation of Israel with the sins of Sodom and even motivated the people to sacrifice their own children. Homosexuality, adultery, fornication and even infanticide were all inspired by the spirit of harlotry (see Hos. 4:12). And nations and families are sold into spiritual bondage by the witchcraft of this spirit (see Nah. 3:4). When we play around with sexual sin, we open ourselves to this demonic spirit. We must battle this principality that dominates our nation.

10. Defeat, failure and depression in the Christian life. It is Satan's purpose to rob us of the victorious life that is ours in Christ (see 2 Cor. 2:10-14). This symptom is often manifested by an inability to praise and worship, which is a weapon of warfare. In Psalm 106:47, David asks God for salvation so he could "triumph in [God's] praise."

11. Occult involvement and behavior. Occult involvement is clearly a symptom of demonic control. Deuteronomy 18:9-12 catalogs the works of the occult, including child sacrifice, fortune-telling, sorcery and calling up the dead.

12. Speech difficulties. In Matthew 9:32-33, Jesus rebuked a demon, and the mute man was able to speak. Speech difficulties may be physical, emotional or mental, but in some cases they are demonic. Extreme language and cursing also may be prompted by the enemy.

13. Doctrinal error. First Timothy 4:1 warns that in the last days deceiving spirits will teach the doctrines of demons. Today religious cults and charlatans abound. The reason these deceivers draw many people is the power of the demonic that teaches them.

14. Religious legalism. In Galatians 3, the church at Galatia had forsaken a faith ministry that resulted in the miraculous for a law ministry of rules and regulations. Paul classified this error as witchcraft. Some deeply religious people are under the bondage of tradition, man-made rules and outward appearances. Demons thrive in this kind of environment, especially demons of control. Whenever something is substituted for faith in the finished work of Christ, it is a doctrine of demons.

Source: Charisma Magazine

If you need help pertaining to cases of demonic possession or oppression, please contact a deliverance prayer group in your area listed in this worldwide directory.

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