The Rise of the Charismatic Movement will not let me post the video here. MTV has not quite figured out how to do things like YouTube or Vimeo. I encourage you to watch the video of Genesis’s song, Jesus He Knows Me BEFORE you read the following post.

This song is a particularly scary one for me, even though it was created as a parody of unethical, charismatic ministers such as Rev. James Bakker. Why? Because it typifies the kind of Christian theology that has slowly been creeping into most of the various religious denominations of Christianity. It’s called “prosperity theology”. When it came out in 1992, I thought it a particularly positive song and parody, because although I had recently (at that time) converted to Wiccanism, I had over 20 years of living in what I considered to be a fairly ‘rational’ version of Christianity. Little did I know at the time, that the version I grew up in was a particularly conservative version of Lutheranism (I grew up in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod [a.k.a. WELS], which many people have never heard of. When I explain it to them, I have to essentially tell them that the WELS tends to look at the Missouri Synod [usually more well known as a conservative form of Lutheranism] as those “evil liberals, and sees the ELCA as one step short of sheer Paganism).

It’s a particularly nasty part of the “Charismatic Movement” that has been creeping into the pews of somewhat more ‘rational’ denominations. What happened, as early as the 1960s, is that all forms of Christianity except for the radical fundamentalists were experiencing a bleeding away of their followers.

In a recent discussion with my father, in which I made a minor reference to the (to me) irrational way that many Christian denominations have fallen further and further from strictly Biblical teaching, he made a minor reference that it was perfectly understandable since most Christian denominations have had falling memberships particularly since the 1980s. The WELS didn’t start making those radical changes until after I left the church. Now, as I have gotten back in touch with many of my high school aquaintences, I’ve noticed that particularly those who have become ministers seem to espouse this particular part of the Charismatic Movement.

Soon enough, Ridgeway treated Jason as the Apprentice he would be when his powers settled at about eighteen, rather than the child that he was. Such treatment included one-sided “discussions” of Ridgeway’s observations.

“What do you think of people, boy?” The Master puffed on his pipe and regarded Jason speculatively.

“People, as in humanity, sir? Ordinary people, you mean?” At Ridgeway’s nod, the boy shrugged. “I don’t think of them much at all, sir. I mean, we’re so different from them. Why bother thinking about them?”

“People are sheep, boy.” The Master made this pronouncement with the finality of a physical law. “But it’s in our interest to protect the flock. If we don’t, the wolves will eat them up, and there’ll be nothing for us. Just because they’re sheep, it doesn’t follow that they have no value. Always remember that, boy. We aren’t the wolves. We’re the shepherds, and the sheep can be of great benefit to us.”

Cameron had never seen anything in all his years to contradict that particular piece of wisdom. Ridgeway had used that analogy often during Cameron’s education.

Once it had come up in an odd circumstance when a stained glass window in a church had caught Ridgeway’s eye. It depicted Jesus with a shepherd’s crook and a lamb over his shoulders, and Ridgeway had begun to laugh.

Jason had been puzzled at the reaction to a church window, and Ridgeway had been in a good enough mood to explain it to him.

“I have to laugh whenever I see the sheep talking about Jesus as ‘The Good Shepherd’ without thinking about it. What does the shepherd do?” Ridgeway waited for the obvious reply, smiling a little.

“He protects the sheep,” Jason had replied promptly.

“And why?” Ridgeway chuckled. “So he can take their wool twice a year, take their milk if he’s so inclined, and butcher lamb and ewe alike when the flock is big enough that he can afford some meat out of it. Do you think that’s the image those good people in there really have of their God?”

Even at ten Jason was far more aware of the illusions people cherished than most adults. “No,” he had answered promptly. “They don’t want to think of God that way.”

“But it’s a truer view than they know,” Ridgeway had replied, sardonically. “A truer image than they want to contemplate.” He chuckled again. “Barnes keeps asking me if the correct translation of that passage in the Bible ‘feed my sheep’, shouldn’t read ‘fleece my sheep.’”

Jason’s mouth twitched with amusement at the recollection. No doubt if anyone had overheard them, Ridgeway would have been publicly vilified, perhaps even attacked.

The Fire Rose

Mercedes Lackey

Chapter 7

Added emphasis is mine.

Honestly, even as a young Christian woman, I laughed at (and was encouraged to laugh at) the fringe forms of Christianity such as the Pentacostals and Assemblies of God, just as much as many people view the Mormons (oh, sorry, those who are of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were considered simplistic forms of Christianity for those who were of a somewhat “lesser intelligence” (see the above quote from one of Mercedes Lackey’s books).

So, essentially practices that were frowned upon in my teen years suddenly became more palatable simply because they slowed down the shrinking of church membership. There’s another whole series of Lackey’s books that takes a rather harsh view of what happens when a religion focuses more on giving their membership what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. I don’t remember which one specifically, but there’s quite a lot of discussion of the Karsite religion (that fairly clearly can be seen as a commentary on the Christian religion as a whole – even to the point of seeing the difference between those who worship that same god in Valdemar versus those who worship in Karse) in quite a few of her Valdemar books. I’m thinking it is either the books about Weaponsmaster Alberic (Exile’s Honor or Exile’s Valor) or the books in the Mage Storm trilogy (Storm Warning, Storm Rising, and Storm Breaking).

Can anyone else see why I might view the Charismatic Movement with a certain level of trepidation? These fringe thinkers want us to live in a theocracy, not a representative democracy. And, given that even though the Christian membership in America is still on the decline (Pew Research puts Christianity as representative of 70.6% of the population), they are STILL a rather large majority of our population.

We, in this country, experience many cycles, including cycles of those who want to legislate morality. I’ll make that it’s own post later. But I’m just not sure that this particular cycle will go away without us ending up with a fight on our hands.

Categories: General Contemplation, Political Opinion, Religious Ruminations | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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