I don’t doubt that in especially many American evangelical minds, their prejudice against astrology will seem amply justified by recent events of the presidential election. At one level the prejudice could seem well justified – even devastatingly so.
It’s a fact most American astrologers predicted Clinton would win at the election easily. The LA Times of October 18th reported that a conference at Costa Mesa of hundreds of astrologers (of The International Society For Astrological Research no less!) was unanimous Hillary would win. This was of course only what a blind media (and the polls) almost automatically assumed too in a clear case of people believing what they want to believe. (At a stretch and in mitigation one might say Clinton won the popular vote and certainly those astrologers were right who noting the moon to Neptune factor on the day forecast confusion over the result. But even so).
By contrast, and like some prophet of old, Pastor Saeed Abedini, the long term Christian prisoner in Iran so little helped by the Obama regime, told Huffington Post days before the November election, that while in jail Jesus had informed him Trump would be next president. Ironically the same Huffington Post had even given space to astrologer Larry Schwimmer to detail all the celestial aspects that supposedly showed why Clinton must win against Trump.
For American evangelicals, such devastating failure by astrologers simply justifies Isaiah’s condemnation (Is 47: 13) of stargazing and suggests that astrology when not pure nonsense is a form of the biblically forbidden divination (albeit the Essenes and Talmudists didn’t read their Torah that way and practiced astrology as did the Magi who visited the Christ child). Didn’t Isaiah ironically declare, “Let those who study the heavens stand up and save you, those who gaze at the stars and at each new moon tell what shall befall you”?. So astrology has to be wrong, religiously and empirically, right?…..
CHRISTIAN PROPHETS WRONG TOO
….Despite everything, actually the answer is no. It is so for reasons I will show presently….after immediately mentioning how inaccurate some Christian prophets have also been over the election. In Nigeria a famous preacher and self-declared prophet, TB Joshua, forecast a Hillary win but tried too late to delete it from his website causing public scandal. In America prophet Brian Carn forecast a Hillary win. Prophetically inclined preacher Perry Stone, though hoping for a Trump victory, expected a Hillary win because a prophecy from the thirties from the controversial but often accurate William Branham, foresaw the destruction of America under the rule of a woman.
Still more extravagantly there is prophetess Glenda Jackson, who portrays herself as consistently right (having visited heaven and hell and chatted with St Paul how could she be wrong?!), and due in these her latter days to be made by God like the prophet Samuel. She declared on TV to the hopelessly credulous Steve Roth of It’s Supernatural last April, that there would be no election. There would be crisis in America and Obama would suspend the election and reinstate himself to become America’s last president.
Obama as last and apocalyptic president is itself a claim quite a few would-be prophets have endorsed, some of them following visions in the night reported on YouTube. Some of these nostrums are supposedly released under the direct influence and authority of Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit. Frankly it’s an embarrassment to Christianity and recalls another prophet, Jeremiah, on another subject: noisy, over-active false prophets (Jer 14:14, 23:16) whom God never called.
But it’s no good the kettle calling the pot black. If you abominate astrologers you had better start abominating and weeding out your own prophets. So I repeat the question: is astrology so wrong? I don’t ask here whether it’s theologically wrong (a case for it can always be biblically made no matter what evangelicals claim), but is it just inaccurate nonsense no one in or out of Christianity should consider? What about all the false prediction for Clinton? How ever could this even come about?……
ASTROLOGY RIGHT, ASTROLOGERS WRONG?
……Three points in answer can suffice here:
1) It is always best if an astrologer is an all-rounder and not just a specialist and this means they need to know a bit of history in order to apply their sometimes complex data aright. The Republican party, as a conservative party is linked to Saturn whose sign of rulership is Capricorn. Yet most American astrologers seem blithely unaware of the remarkable historical/astrological fact that since the foundation of the GOP in 1854, every time Saturn has been in Capricorn, a Republican has been president. Saturn though now in Sagittarius will be in Capricorn during any first term of the next president so Hillary was not favoured. I only recently learned this through America myself but it is something especially American astrologers with a grasp of history could and should have known. It’s an instance of astrology being relevant and accurate but astrologers ignorant, rather like the bible true but high jacked by interpreters.
2) Something that almost all qualified, practicing astrologers should be expected to know, is the well-established Grant Lewi theory about the cycles of Saturn. Basically it is that career and success are governed by the 28 year Saturn transit of the natal pattern through its four quadrants. Self and career is made or re-established through the first quadrant and it grows and finds outlet in especially the last quadrant between the 10th and 12th houses. Clinton’s birth time is admittedly disputed, but on the basis that in 2014 Saturn crossed her ascendant according to the most widely assumed birth time and Saturn is thus now in only her first quadrant, she simply could never become president in her lifetime and it was astrological folly to try.
3) If astrologers were abreast of researches as of the Magi Society they would also be aware that even if the aspect is a traditionally easy/positive/fortunate one such as a trine, when transiting Saturn aspects to natal Pluto that marks failure regardless of all else. This is just what was the case around election time for Hillary. Plainly, many like Larry Schwimmer at Huffington did not know this. And almost no one listened to a friend of mine in astrology, Barbara Ybarra of San Francisco, who back in April did forecast a Trump victory on Sacramento’s local TV. She cannily noted a technicality (a progressed moon conjuncting the ruler of Trump’s career Midheaven), affecting the inauguration day as opposed to the election day most astrologers focussed on (1).
(A possible further point to note is that by transit conservative Saturn by election time had – if one used the most widely used Sibley foundation chart for America – crossed over America’s ascendant into its first house hinting at a new swerve in the body of the people towards a conservatism desiring to remake America by restoring many traditional values. The shock of this reversal was arguably promised by the way the eclipse preceding the election had closely squared America’s foundational Uranus, the shocks and upheaval factor).
TRUMP’S UNUSUAL CHIRONIC WIN
I was not myself aware of the just mentioned Saturn to Pluto principle and despite success with Brexit, can’t boast I did better than the American astrologers on Hillary, though I have more excuse. I’m not American, astrology isn’t my regular profession to concern myself with the question and I don’t know Hillary Clinton’s birth time – no one seems to which should render any predictions more cautious and provisional.
The reason I slipped over the Hillary forecast was this. Without applying any in-depth study to Trump’s (accurate) chart at all – not even the asteroids I usually examine which significantly enough show America conjunct Trump’s ascendant – , it didn’t strike me as about to produce any very typical, obvious winning pattern at election time. Jupiter conjuncting Trump’s Chiron, the wounded healer planetoid, a factor to be emphasized again at the inauguration, is rather special and raises all sorts of interesting questions beyond present scope about Trump’s and America’s situation. I merely assumed some tough but positive aspects for Hillary like the mentioned Saturn to Pluto reflected a hard campaign (as was the case) in which the disliked but least opposed candidate (Hillary) was likely to emerge as victor however narrowly. I assumed no easy run or landslide victory and can’t imagine how any astrologer ever would.
I could and perhaps should have applied the Grant Lewi principle I was familiar with, but as said the birth time is disputed. If you don’t know that you won’t measure the quadrants properly. So I have excuses and perhaps the American astrologers could be allowed some….if they hadn’t spoken with such excessive confidence.
As it is, failure of the astrological elite in this instance is rather spectacular. It’s without parallel since the 9/11 disaster which only one astrologer (in The Mountain Astrologer, America’s most intellectual astrological journal) got right according to basic rules that amazingly all the rest seem not to have known or just ignored. Essentially a major eclipse had hit a world point in the sign of America (Cancer) and eclipses are triggered for events when planets go over their degree. Aggressive, bellicose Mars hitting a dangerous eclipse point should produce mayhem the world would hear of. Was it against American positive thought to suggest disaster could occur?
Once again astrology was true enough but the astrologers like the prophets fail…….[ After issuing this blog I have belatedly discovered the case of astrologer GianPaolo DiCoco’s very striking insistence against the astrological establishment that Trump must win – various You Tubes but see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEtsUkRIOOk ]
BACK TO THE MAGI…..REALLY
All this is troubling if like myself you believe religion is important and astrology carries messages that religion should know and use, not excommunicate as heresy. As the recent election contest has underlined, many Christians want and expect visions, prophecies, special words from the Spirit. Ironically they fail to realize, and could hardly imagine, that the Spirit (long recognized by astrologers as symbolically represented by the planet Uranus) is giving messages all the time through the skies and the same astrology that Uranus “rules”. The Psalms declare night after night gives knowledge (Ps 19:2). Which they do if only attention was paid. So why not “Hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 2:7) in one of the forms in which the divine will is revealed – even daily revealed? You would need to know and understand about the astrology of diurnals to grasp something of what the Psalms claim about every day of our lives being already written in advance (Ps 139:16).
It is high time and beyond it that Christianity, which is increasingly dismissed as a purveyor of myths, should understand the long hidden mysteries of the Magi, better grasp the historical basis of its beliefs and know for once and for all when Jesus was born. Also when Jesus died and that he died on the cross (an increasingly challenged point) and along the way know whether he married the Magdalene and all such more personal details of biography and character people want to know today.
A modern astrology, especially if it applies the micro-astrology of name, place and concept asteroids and the descriptive factor of the Parts can do these things; and they are now available for anyone to read in my Testament of the Magi. The material, a radical development of the Ferrari D’Occhieppo and David Hughes theory considered by Pope Benedict as plausible, is as distinctive as a fingerprint for Jesus. It resolves numerous longstanding scholarly problems and popular questions and altogether represents so improbable a discovery – no one could possibly invent all the details – it is as good as unanswerable. Let any who wishes, try to demolish the evidence. I suggest they can’t and won’t…..All the more reason many will try to ignore and pretend the evidence doesn’t exist. (Testament of the Magi is available at Amazon in book and kindle versions https://goo.gl/I28aCm
That situation belongs with issues of our times. The Trump election has helped highlight just how much information is dominated by political and media elites who don’t necessarily reflect society but do seek to impose their own views. I submit this is one reason my crucial information has not reached the public forum as in justice it deserves. Publishers and media outlets who will give room and voice to the most whacko or negatively undermining treatments of Christianity and Jesus, have proverbially no room at the inn for this information – you are fortunate even to be given a reply to a proposal or inquiry. Sometimes there is a plain uncivil answer or, as recently with someone in religion in Australia’s broadcaster, the person is just too busy to attend to you because they have “more important things” to do…..more important that is than something in its way as potentially significant as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Basically you are liable today to be treated like a fool if the dogmatic and undemocratic elite doesn’t happen to be interested or in agreement with your views or you are not already a celebrity.
Truth however has a way of ultimately getting out. The material is now available for readers to assimilate, discuss and pass on. You can do your part in making the truth known…if it isn’t and always was so essentially secret it’s a kind of knowledge hidden from the world as St Paul would have it (1 Cor 2:7-8)….Or, as the correctly forecasting Pastor Saeed rather airily said to Huffington Post, “You’re not Christian so you wouldn’t understand”. I’ve certainly encountered misunderstanding enough.
1) Trump’s important progressed moon at inauguration time is interesting and strange like his Jupiter to Chiron aspect at election. Normally, symbolic progressions amplify but essentially agree with transits. The cited inauguration progression is of the winning variety as Barbara Ybarra saw, but at the same time Trump has Saturn transit his natal moon (anything to do with home and emotional tenor) and opposite sun (his will and status in the world). I joked to Barbara that, knowing Trump, if he did win, was inaugurated and entered the Whitehouse under Saturn he could well rubbish his new home declaring it uncomfortably inferior to Trump Tower. That’s surely a real possibility; but I do find the usually depressive, frustrating Saturn/moon transit odd at the point of assuming power. Like the Chiron factor at election, it looks as though hard times are ahead for Trump (and America) and he is taking on heavy Saturnian burdens. Barbara herself thinks the outlook for America in 2017, especially later in the year, is pretty grim and notes the long so-called Great American Eclipse across the US in August hits right on Trump’s ascendant conjunct America. Let’s not speculate…yet anyway.
9 REASONS BILLY GRAHAM IS WRONG ABOUT “HOROSCOPES”
A recent article in The Christian Post (June 8th) had the now elderly Billy Graham (or perhaps it was his staff or his son Franklin) declaring God to be opposed to “horoscopes” (i.e. astrology). Here are 9 reasons why the Bible, still less God, is not opposed to the subject.
1) According to Billy Graham who regards “horoscopes” as a mystical/magical proceedure belonging with the forbidden “divination” of Deut 18:10, for Christians to seek guidance from astrologers is akin to King Saul visiting the witch of Endor. However, if that understanding of the matter were valid, astrology would never feature so strongly in the Jewish Talmud, nor would the highly observant Essenes have sought signs of the Messiah in the heavens.
2) Astrology as we know it from especially the Greeks is not “divination”. It did not even exist in the times of the Old Testament and its prophets who do condemn forecasting from new moons. The latter however refers to what is called “omen astrology” which involved gazing at the sky and uttering oracles. “Divination” is precisely what depends upon chance (as in reading tea leaves of shuffling cards), and/or just intuition with perhaps assistance from familiar spirits.
3) Standard astrology is about as occult as reading a train timetable. It is empirical, mathematical and depends chiefly upon a study of cycles of the planets and general symbolism. The kind of events and issues observed to feature under one set of positions are assumed to occur under similar or same positions – it is the principle indicated biblically by Eccl 1:9 that declares what has been will be so that there is nothing (fully) new under the sun but only “a time to be born and die” etc.as in the famous poem of time in Chapter 3..
4) The fact that magi (astrologers) came to Christ’s birth should give Christians pause to consider that astrology might have something to teach and contribute to belief..
5) Billy Graham assumes the stars exist simply to the glory of God. They exist for more. The Bible declares they exist for signs (Gen 14 :1) and Ps 19 maintains that the night skies utter knowledge (Ps 19:2). What speech, what knowledge? Do Christians even bother to ask?
6) The Psalms also maintain that God both names the stars (Ps 147:4) and knows in advance every day of our lives (Ps 139: 16). While the latter statement can be taken by faith, the closest to any objective proof for the idea lies in astrological patterns like diurnals and the various transits of planets across the natal chart which can indicate active and stay-at-home days, excitement and nothing much happening, sometimes a turning point.
7) The previous point bespeaks fate. Evangelicals stubbornly maintain like Graham that if astrology were true there would be no free will. This is misleading and false. There is fate and fate. There are birth patterns which indicate active and prominent lives, others lives more hidden and withdrawn; but within the basic natal outline there are always choices. Attitudes and actions under certain patterns can affect the immediate situation and even the positive or negative experience of subsequent situations. People do not so much go to (or at least don’t obtain from) astrologers the “guidance” such as Graham wants believers go to bible and God for, as simple insight into their character and the nature of events they encounter.
8) Astrology is a symbol system that helps us to read and understand the hidden order of reality – the sort of order that scripture points to. Any doubt that the main impulses and lines of history follow celestial cycles should be dispelled by the work of an academic like Richard Tarnas in Cosmos and Psyche (2006). It is lamentable that there are Christians, (like Billy Graham’s daughter Ann Lotz) who presume to speak about “the end times” without even knowing or including such perspectives as the fact we are living at the end of the age (aion) of Pisces, the fishes, to whose beginning the birth of Christ approximately corresponded. Everything from flood and tsunami to fish everywhere dying along coastlines bespeaks the extremes, mostly negative, of the water and seas sign of Pisces arrived in era terms at the equivalent of the last degree of its sign. (The last degrees of any sign are notably extreme and 29 Pisces is traditionally very unfortunate, associated with violence, drowning, suicides and addiction, all the sort of issues presently concerning us).
9) Just as magi came to the birth of the messiah that prophets had foretold, so astrology can and should complement religion, at any rate its more prophetic/charismatic side. Astrology can predict or at least project various situations. The wilder claims of some would-be prophets could be questioned or modified as regards timing and likelihood if astrology were considered and in conclusion I will mention a couple of instances.
Claiming as I exceptionally do to know when Christ was born, I have been able to forecast when Jesus would likely be notably in the news as for example when in 2002 news came from Jerusalem that the so-called James ossuary box with the inscription, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus had been discovered. This if authentic (which it has belatedly been declared to be) would be the only artefact as opposed to text witnessing to Jesus.
I write this on the verge of Britan’s Brexit referendum. Astrologers have been unusually and extremely divided about the final result for reasons I needn’t detail but which suggest a rather neck and neck issue. But apart from the fact astrology can always describe a situation even if and when it cannot precisely predict its outcome, this much is plain. On the standard chart for Britain, among other things a full moon has fallen ahead of the vote conjunct a natal Uranus (rebellion, revolution, separation) opposite the natal Europa asteroid. Just by itself this marks an opposition reflective of Britain’s perennially awkward relation to the continent and even a promise as early as 1066 that there would be a Europe-separative Reformation in religion since the Uranus is in the ninth house not only of the foreign but of any religious issues. The asteroids, not even known or seen back in 1066 or at the birth of Christ, nonetheless prove eloquent today of many things. In some sense all time and language between the stars are one.
Faced with this are we to say as would Evangelicals (or the Catholic catechism which also opposes astrology) that none of what we read in the heavens reflects a divine mind or purpose, is not a case of the night skies uttering knowledge? Evangelicals especially have made a paper Pope of their bible (often the faulty KJV). Frequently read without attention to historical and cultural factors they have used scripture to make knockdown arguments where a range of sensitive issues are concerned, arguments of the kind Franklin Graham (whom many regard as undoing his father’s heritage) increasingly specializes in.
Typically, Graham cites the condemnation of Is. 47:13 as saying “ Let their astrologers stand forth….” A modern translation like the NRSV places a note to indicate it is not certain what the word is, which of course it isn’t certain because astrologers as we know them did not exist for Isaiah to condemn. But the same translation does include, as Graham doesn’t, the vital point that whoever is involved makes forecasts at new moons, which tells us this is not regular astrology which is far from reserving its kind of forecasts to such times.
It would be little short of a needed revolution of spiritual consciousness if the churches could admit elements of astrology to its understanding of existence, its theologies and the character of its leaders – even within the limited realm of sun signism it actually means something for their theology, politics and attitudes to money that Luther was born under Scorpio and Calvin under Cancer (as are Billy and Franklin Graham respectively). However I am not exactly optimistic that notable revolution is going to occur. I have not written to the Billy Graham org to express my radical divergence of view as regards astrology. I know I wouldn’t get an answer. Like American businesses and self-help theories negative responses stand to be ignored, and won’t get past the minders. In fact I know of an astrologer who years ago tried to plead the case of astrology, but never received an acknowledgement from the Graham org. So….that is the point of putting the above thoughts within the humble format of a blog.
The title could seem overstated, even impertinent directed upon such a large phenomenon as a nation’s predominant religion, but especially in its more conservative and evangelical wing American Christianity can itself be remarkably given to the overblown, aggressive or emotionally intrusive statement. Thus it’s not possible for some to maintain Obama has been wrong or misguided about, say, marriage equality, rather it has to be he has “blasphemed God!”! Even for a believer (or even the Pope) to be just concerned with welfare and poverty issues could cause him or her to be judged and dismissed as “a Marxist”.
Because despite everything I believe American Christianity does represent and preserve a few beliefs and ideas in danger of being forgotten or overlooked elsewhere, I shall first define what I mean by “American Christianity” and before pointing to some good things catalogue the real, sometimes major blemishes. This is needed because one notices how inside and outside America, most admirers of the positives seem in their enthusiasm to find it too easy uncritically to absorb, even cheerfully export, the negatives. (Asian and African churches particularly have not been helped by that tendency).
Granted if one is to generalize, American Christianity is highly diverse. Its Catholicism alone is of a unique, sometimes quasi-Protestant or very protesting variety. However, my main concern is what is covered by what broadly descends and from the first from Calvinism and Presbytery or else is close in its “evangelical” belief system to the widespread Bible-believing Baptist tradition still much represented in the South. Together these streams often combine in what gets labelled “the Religious Right”. Both these traditions, though increasingly questioned or abandoned by the young, remain widespread in terms of influence and to the extent both have things too unexamined about them, for a toxic influence.
THE CALVINISTIC ELEMENT
Together Calvin and Calvinism are almost what was most controversial about Reformation Protestantism. Calvin instituted a mini inquisition in Geneva teaching people to spy on one another. Calvinist Americans (originally from Scotland where Calvinism took strong root) retain a questionable habit of labelling, judging and testing fellow believers ( and wider society) while themselves chasing respectability and success to the point they are St Paul’s men-pleasers (Eph 6:6). But worse, overturning the beliefs of centuries and ignoring that Christ taught riches could be a stumbling block to attaining the Kingdom, Calvin taught that prosperity and success were the mark you belonged to the righteous elect and enjoyed divine favour.
The consequent emphasis upon material success has sown the seeds which would flower in contemporary prosperity gospel, a kind of legitimized religious materialism and even greed recently obscenely symbolized by preacher Creflo Dollar’s 69 million dollar private jet to help him bring people the gospel. There is something in all this that recalls the condemned Church of Laodicea which declares, “I am rich, I have prospered and I have need of nothing” (Rev 3:17). In reality, however, even Calvin’s prosperous children need something and it’s to support or to be supported by the traditional party of the wealthy in politics, the Republicans, in order to impress their beliefs and agendas upon the masses. The irony of this is just not seen.
THE BAPTIST INPUT
Despite some liberal policies – support of separation of church and state, women preachers, some reasonable scope for divorce – the Baptist/evangelical strain which in modern times has produced the archetypal Billy Graham, has been hamstrung upon its Koranic style treatment of “God’s Word”. Here the Bible becomes an inerrant authority, an authority which can assume the role of a Paper Pope and almost more infallibly. Any human quirks or weaknesses in the record are simply not seen. St Paul and others don’t write inspired documents, they simply repeat what God says much as Mohammed claimed to receive the Koran. References to “God’s Word” at least implies complete direct dictation.
It follows that the mainstream of Baptist/Evangelical churches read the bible at face value literally. Poetry and ambiguity, cultural and historical filtering don’t count (who cares about poetry in America and a day means 24 hours only doesn’t it?)…..unless and until by selective reading it suddenly does count. Thus today there are evangelicals of the plain sense school prepared to preach that “as in the days of Noah they were marrying and giving in marriage” (Luk 17:27) has to mean Noah’s contemporaries were pushing gay marriage. How? Why? Remind these same people that the “covenant” David and Jonathan had was a berith which can mean marriage or inform them that one of the ancient meanings of “eunuch” that Jesus said some are naturally born, was the nearest thing to the modern “gay”, and you would be accused of special pleading or worse.
Biblical literalism excused or justified the South’s slavery historically, but selective reading still abounds. Paul gets suitably ignored about women covering their heads or men obeying political authority (American independence was born of ignoring St Paul!); but whatever the apostle may have meant in Romans 1 about Roman morals it’s living proof “homosexuality”, (though the bible knows no such word), is the final barometer of morality and national life. Tolerate marriage equality and you go the way of Rome and divine judgement falls! Making your gay offspring homeless is perfectly OK. The long history of bullying and violence directed against gays or those thought not masculine enough everywhere from schoolyard to high street has never been protested but even been deemed inevitable by those same literalists who will scream like stuck pigs about persecution and diminution of their rights under secularism.
Hawthorn’s Scarlet Letter might as well to be attached to every gay or seeming gay in those corners of the land where heteronormative Christianity rules and regards the disposition not as an inspiration for the likes of Michelangelo but a living curse. (Gay is envisaged as nothing but drug and alcohol fuelled sex addiction around bars or perhaps a demonic possession). Besides which, sinners have no real rights in democracies, only conservative Christians should own democracy…or just rule the land. But that’s only one issue.
Despite Jesus’ relative pacifism and “put down your sword”, religious rights for literalists include carrying guns according to the constitution. (You might need to fight an evil government or the forces of Antichrist!). The connection between gun laws and America’s internationally exceptionally elevated crime and murder rates is just not seen; such connections are only made by evil unbelievers! Disciples of Jesus are as good as gun-toting soldiers. Again the irony, even eccentricity of all this is not seen.
THE RULE OF “GOD’S WORD”, A WEAKNESS OPPOSED TO THE SPIRIT
Even given a less face value, more consistent reading of scriptures which educated conservatives do allow, should the Bible ever assume the almost Paper Pope authority evangelicals give it to the point they will almost hit people over the head and dismiss them and any contrary argument with what the inerrant “Word of God” declares? Even for those of us who consider scripture precious, we must say, no.
I always cite how the apostle Peter denies vision itself to protest to God what he is shown is against scripture (Acts 10). Long before him the daughters of Zelophehad successfully petition against what they deemed unjust to them in details relating to the (revealed) Law (Num 27). The fact is one cannot adequately read and apply scriptures to absolutely all people, situations and times always, especially not without some illumination. Try it and you may finish up with policies like the most rigid rulings of conservative Catholicism whose guide is less scripture than philosophical formulae according to Thomas Aquinas and scholasticism.
It is hardly surprising that in recent ecumenical decades evangelicalism has become almost Catholic on abortion. It used to be some exceptions like rape were deemed permissible. Now for pro-lifers every women is supposed to preserve life at all costs as though before modern times the number of women and foetuses who died in childbirth was not truly enormous in the course of just nature. If God could allow so much infant mortality that medicine alone has diminished, God is surely capable of excusing termination of life in the case of the traumatized, the life threatened, or those who feel contaminated by sexual abuse whose effects may well be lasting for the future child anyway. Is it Christian charity to want to jail doctors or victims for doing the practical or merciful?
This irrational absolutism has prevented true and just laws being instituted because the whole subject becomes polarized into either/or, “murder” against life alternatives rather than a matter of proper exceptions. (I accept that abortion on demand and for convenience is against life but that’s another matter).
Given that the Spirit (who is said to lead into all truth, Joh 16:13) is not a vivid part of the evangelical’s Trinity, it follows that we will often find conservative believers absent from common sense or charity not to say any exalted Truth. Many conservatives would even deny the Spirit any place in the life of the church and are vehemently opposed to charismatic trends of whatever sort. It can even be heresy to assume the Spirit is present beyond the times of the apostles.
And so we have the contradiction of “born again” Christians dubiously claiming colourful conversations with Jesus yet without aid from the Spirit or hearing God’s voice (memorization of bible influences the substance of many “conversations”). I, like many, was (unnecessarily given his background) surprised to learn that even Billy Graham denies having ever heard God’s voice. While I don’t believe anyone, short maybe of extreme saints, will hear from any member of the Trinity on a frequent basis, as per my Cosmic Father (https://goo.gl/o7YqtJ), I do believe one can and even should hear from God….now and again and with real communication, not just repeating a believer’s remembered scripture verses.
So here one touches on the blindspots, contradictions and even cruelties which American Christianity can manifest. But rather than continue as one could, to change the subject, what about the positives?
America of the adverts is also the America of evangelism. Beyond all the potential abuses, caring enough about people and beliefs to go out and preach to strangers and argue for one’s convictions is to a degree commendable. It’s because some churches like The Church of England seem incapable of persuasion, apologetics, dynamic preaching that they cannot recoup their massive losses and confront indifference. Even a former Archbishop of Canterbury has recently opined his church will be extinct in around a generation. This isn’t good enough, including because to preach the gospel, to make disciples, is part of Christ’s own parting commission to followers (Matt 28:19 ). Not everyone can evangelize any more than they have a voice to sing a hymn (St Paul calls evangelization a gift) but many could and can reach out and they should make some effort if they are to call themselves Christians.
A SENSE OF SALVATION
It may be expressed and described in different ways, but what is preached by many American churches, especially the more traditionally revivalist, is a form of “salvation” which involves a deliverance from potential damnation. This means that if persons aren’t sidetracked into prosperity gospels and even if and when believers need to recall a few social and political issues, still the religious issues will remain primarily spiritual and visionary. They need to be that whether to make a real impression or to be at all close to the gospel as originally preached. Social and political gospels may satisfy for a while, but ultimately people want and expect to deal in ultimate issues, life, death and the beyond.
Like it or not,Jesus referred to loss of soul and the threat of hell quite frequently (45 gospel verses refer to it). Not of course in the style of the hell fire sermon of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist which is morbid/obsessive, but nonetheless succinctly and firmly. Quite how and why hell could and should exist at all and if and how it belongs to justice is a major issue. I explore it in my Cosmic Father (https://goo.gl/o7YqtJ) not always supplying regular answers and not Calvinistic ones; the subject is beyond present scope but I would say this much here. Ideas and attitudes essential to Christianity begin to weaken outside of a view to an eternal loss. It is for example more possible and just reasonable to forgive to the uttermost if absolute hell is the prospect of your worst enemy. It is at the time that American Christianity is beginning to weaken and youth abandoning it that you will read books like “evangelical” Rob Bell’s Love Wins which preaches a certain universalism and disposes of more dire possibilities around the soul.
A SYMPATHY FOR ISRAEL
Far from universal among American churches though it is, and sometimes exaggerated into a kind of Zionism where it appears, nonetheless few national churches have as much feeling as America’s whether for the Jewish origins of Christianity or the importance of modern Israel in the larger spiritual picture of things. It is as though American Christianity had to make up for the history of western Christian anti-Semitism. Certainly somebody needed to make up for it because it was never acceptable and was a serious heresy when it swerved with Augustine and others into what is called supersessionism or replacement theology. This makes out that OT prophecies regarding Israel are either invalid or apply to the Church instead.
Surely nothing could be further from the intended truth. If replacement were the case Jesus would have rejected more than date setting when, for example, he is reported in Acts 1:6 as refusing the disciples’ question about when he would see to the re-establishment of Israel, i.e. political Israel, the messianic kingdom, the Millennial reign he had not set up during his ministry.
Christians are not obliged to agree with everything modern Israel says and does, but they should perceive history and providence, prophecy and the turning of the ages in the establishment of modern Israel. Anything else risks becoming, as it has done among some Eastern Orthodox Christians and others, a kind of unacceptable anti-Semitism with refusal of a proper witness to God’s purposes in history.
In certain respects some traditional churches are closer to the Muslims (whose Koran is strongly against all Jews) than Christian doctrine and it may be their fate is to be swallowed up by Islam if they can’t distinguish themselves more in some areas of belief. (Let’s not forget that Pope John Paul 11 astonishingly, perhaps just ignorantly, kissed the same Koran which often declares against the Jews with whom, like Christians, one should never be friends and [according to Surah IX, v. 30] Jews are simply “perverse” so that Allah is opposed to them.
A SENSE OF IMMEDIACY AND APOCALYPSE
Americans have little sense of history, but less anchored to tradition and the past they are more open to the possibilities of the future. This includes embracing the much misunderstood, too little considered issue of apocalypse and Second Advent. Again it is anyway supposed to be only Christian to be awaiting the Advent which is awaited two ways, first archetypally in a state of general readiness (because there is a sense in which the divine is always coming to us and we are to be ready for it) but, more literally, there is a point in time in which God absolutely intervenes in history and returns.
Although liberal scepticism has it Jesus wrongly expected to return within a generation this is not really so likely, especially not if he told his disciples on leaving he would be with them till the end of the aion (era). What era? For American Christians it is the end of “the Church age”, but for some of us (inevitably charged with heresy, divination or whatever!) this could plausibly alternatively or additionally be the end of the age of the current age of Pisces with whose beginning the birth of Christ and the arrival of the Magi (astrologers) corresponded. Accordingly, though plainly some people keep date setting, dreaming Second Advent and rapture (itself a rather American obsession but with surely some basis in otherwise incomprehensible or ignored claims of Jesus and Paul about a sudden disappearance), it is not wrong per se to look at world events and ask questions about where we may stand in terms of history and possible last things…. Which leads me to a related point which is re “prophetic” perspective.
A “PROPHETIC” OUTLOOK
There are always two kinds of prophecy, the prophecy which seriously foretells (this tends to be rare and is a gift and vocation) and the prophecy which is more like commentary on events from the religious/biblical standpoint and there is not enough of that in the churches. Whether one agrees with what was said or not, an interesting recent example has proceeded from Billy Graham’s daughter Ann Lotz Graham who has been saying that God “allows” – not the same as positively wishes and wills – terrorist attacks and natural disasters because they are also wake-up calls for people.
The point is an important one, (again reaching into theology beyond present scope) but believers and even the world do need to be told, and in a way that voices for the traditional and liturgical churches rarely if ever do, that spiritual forces are at work in events and must be engaged. In an evil world God’s so-called “wrath” is more like his withdrawal of a degree of protection that must always be prayed for and sometimes earned by suitable personal and social reform (repentance). “Ah Assyria, rod of my anger” (Is 10:5) says Isaiah about what is to occur for a faithless Israel. This kind of discernment needs to have a greater part in contemporary religious discourse.
It is of course something that risks misuse and ironically Ann Lotz’s less imaginative brother Franklin Graham can be a leading abuser. He works a bully pulpit which doesn’t seem to have understood the kind of principles his sister refers to. For example, instead of being open to the possibility that Obama is a rod of God’s anger and that the shocking Christian American history of violence and discrimination against gays is being allowed, judged or repaid when Christians defending their business rights against gays now get (unjustly) treated in the courts, nothing is ever seen except insults to God and Christians who are being or who will be shortly persecuted.
But supposing God will be deaf to conservative prayers until real repentance and changed outlooks are evinced? Franklin G’s perspective has been shockingly, inexcusably wrong when he can even praise Putin of Russia’s treatment of the gay issue (fascist gangs freely roam the streets attacking and torturing those who might be gay). Could God possibly approve Graham’s wrong minded, ill informed bully pulpit nonsense? Addressing every issue, hurling threats in all directions, his poorly disguised egotism should relent and let others prophetically speak about any judgement God might intend upon America.
EXPERIMENT AND DEMOCRACY
Not all experiment works and not every novelty is valuable, but we should be open to the new or at least not be stuck in a rut. The gospels constantly challenge to new and radical perspectives, to ongoing self and social criticism. One would hardly imagine so to judge from the appearance, style and practices of much Christianity, some of which is even stuck into the Catholic motto, semperidem (always the same). It is the American churches which are really prepared to experiment, change and adapt, and not just to obtain more funds but at least sometimes to discover what spiritually works, what occasions success, influence, a change to lives, a healing of mind or body. Such things matter or they should do to churches. Religion is not just about eternal security but a few temporal risks and what I would call “spiritual efficiency” and letting faith work.
In certain respects tradition, so valued in some churches, is almost religion’s greatest enemy preventing the church from hearing “what the Spirit is saying to the churches”, that refrain in the early chapters in Revelation, and meaning. what the Spirit is saying now and into the future, saying without only quoting previous scriptures or repeating familiar prayers and chants of the centuries. While main traditions of the faith may not be wholly disregarded or excluded just as the bible cannot be denied in the general direction and essence of its meaning, some variation on a theme and development is also required. The openness of America religion can be risky but is meaningful. Of course it needs to be part of and interact with a degree of democracy too, and here we come back to a potential American weakness.
Yes, the people and culture are democratic but not quite so much as they imagine. There is something polarizing and polarized about American society as in its history of race relations and there is something which seems to encourage situations in which, as the wife of someone in politics in America once said to me, “everyone persecutes everyone else in the end”.
So, I admit the possibility that such as the new secularism and emphasis upon gay rights may create a situation of discrimination for Christians (who once reckoned to discriminate against all and any sexual variation). I touched on this in McCleary’s Additions and the article, Something Wrong with American LGBThttp://wp.me/p4kNWg-8a . True democracy must always go a fair way to tolerating what it doesn’t particularly like, want or approve. Otherwise it’s not democracy but sharia or fascism under another name. But to the extent American Christianity is able to find the grace to tolerate, then, as against the increasing cynicism and dismissal that American religion is generating around the world, I do think it still has some lessons to teach us.