Wednesday, August 29, 2007

MOTHER TERESA: SAINTHOOD RUNNING ON RELIGIOUS EMPTY

DARKNESS LESS THAN A GIFT

Dark Nights of the Soul shouldn’t last forty years. If they do they are less spiritual crises than marks of something else like clinical depression, personality disorder or sickness. The Vatican and advocates of the canonization of the "saint of the gutters”, Blessed Mother Teresa, are both right and wrong to maintain that all the doubts and struggles in effect don’t matter because they are all part of the faith path and only attest to this singular nun’s brave saintliness. Teresa's ultra negative spiritual journey is now revealed from diaries and notes to confessors. These are admittedly records she wanted destroyed but they got saved and are now collected in Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk's recently appeared, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. The effect of this virtual autobiography is almost embarrassing to ideas the world has of this iconic figure.

So we can only say “yes but” to Teresa's apologists because while spells of depression, dryness and silence traverse even the most triumphant path of faith there is supposed to be such a thing as a holy joy and communion with God that is just not in evidence in Teresa’s case. It even appears she died in doubt and had ceased to pray. The extremes of doubt and misery emerging from Mother Teresa’s writings (she describes herself as "in hell") and now popularized via Time magazine: Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith, are quite special, quasi atheistic and also rather modern. The nearest notable, i.e sainted, equivalent would be the near modern St Therese de Lisieux (d.1897) who died young and suffered such health problems and ill treatment from associates it would be natural enough she should experience much darkness.

The scale and time length of Mother Teresa’s struggle with divine absence, with darkness and despair certainly proves her heroism (and perhaps actor’s skill to put on a good show) but little more. The original stated aim of Christianity is “that they may know you the only true God” (Jn 17:13). These days when religious leaders record experiences of divine absence and not knowing, there are increasingly theological spin doctors to sell us the idea (in so many words and perhaps influenced by the heretical medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart) that the less we know the better believers we may be and the more it shows we know about God really. It is even suggested that in the case of Teresa the darkness was somehow God’s “greatest gift”. But was it and should it be?

It’s said Teresa herself came – almost - to love this darkness, the stoniness of heart and mind “my soul like an ice block”, the inability to pray or to find a conventional Catholic comfort in the eucharist. Helped by a favourite confessor, Fr Neuner, she even came to imagine all this was the mark of experiencing (but for a rather longer period!) Jesus’ earthly suffering, his hellish but atoning separation from the Father on the cross and was thus the greatest possible test of faith. At one point Teresa even controversially wrote: “Jesus can’t go anymore through the agony but he wants to go through it in me”.

ALTERNATIVE READINGS OF A SAINT’S PROBLEMS

While I won’t categorically deny the possibility Teresa was specially chosen to undergo her extreme mental confusion and suffering and that it should be thought of as representing an almost unique mystery within the history of Christian mysticism it’s rather unlikely. And it’s unlikely because even saints (as even St Therese de Lisieux) could expect to be given some intimations at their vocation of a calling to be so pioneeringly unique. By contrast we find that the Jesus who, if Teresa wasn’t deceived from the first about him, was early self-revealed to her but who after her main career began inexplicably “disappeared” seems to have given this nun a difficult but needed and quite straightforward task to serve the poor as a missionary. It was a task from which in some respects she then arguably fell away making everything unduly complex through imposition of a number of questionable aims and attitudes.

So there could be other answers/perspectives than the experts are presently supplying and supplied Teresa during her lifetime to the perceived limitations of this candidate for sainthood now exposed as one of religious history’s most quirky exceptions whose un-faith felt like a dirty secret. I shall propose four perspectives of which I think the fourth is probably the most important and spiritually relevant in this remarkable case.

1) TAKING ON TOO MUCH AND NOT KNOWING WHEN TO STOP
The simplest of alternative explanations would be just to say that the conditions in which Mother Teresa laboured would drag almost anyone down. She had volunteered for the extreme in despair city Calcutta and she experienced it. Jesus didn’t laugh on the cross. Agony is agony while it lasts. But Teresa made her assumed burden more burdensome by developing rather bizarrely extravagant aims Jesus had never proposed to her. Once she began to suffer in her work, (as quite inevitably she would), she decided she would like to have loved Christ’s passion more than any individual throughout history. This could be noble but it could also be merely self aggrandizing and actually pride seems to have been an issue for her and with her confessors. Teresa also decided the Passion was the only aspect of Christ’s story she wished to share in. This too was outside the normal line of Christian practice of even saints (St Francis who wished to know Christ’s passion more than anyone and was supposedly allowed to, also experienced great joy and built his life around various facets of Jesus’ life).

The original Christian message was not composed of details of the passion but principally the resurrection and the miracles and believers were meant to share in these. The Passion narrative which could so easily have been filled with morbid facts was treated with a certain discreet distance by the gospel writers. Teresa’s minimalist, Passion Only emphasis arguably represented and also hid a falling away from the evangelical impulse with which - to gather from the alleged “conversations” with Jesus reported to confessors - she had begun her career and in ways that echoed the other saintly Teresas, Therese de Lisieux being patron of missionaries. Jesus supposedly says: “The thirst you had for souls brought you so far – are you afraid to take one step more for your spouse - for me -for souls”? In the crucial call by Jesus in September 1946 to go to the streets there was similar emphasis. Teresa will serve the poor so that they will realize his love and come to know him according to Kolodiejchuk, compiler of this latest shock book. In short, Teresa was to be a missionary to the poor and outcast. But she never really was.

Teresa’s programme of mercy missions and well documented record of personal mental suffering increasingly seemed to ignore this missionary aim to the point that according to Sam Wellman’s Mother Teresa: Missionary of Christ, p 114 "when it was said “ There will be rumors you are converting them [the dying] into Christians in their dying moments. " … she replied, "We do convert people. We convert Hindus into better Hindus. Muslims into better Muslims." If this is true report - presumably it was as even this latest book records: "no faith.. no zeal...[The saving of] souls holds no attraction - Heaven means nothing" - was Teresa ever quite doing what Jesus intended her to do or the gospels rule, which is to preach Jesus? By contrast she as good as re-wrote the Bible. What if St Paul had gone to Ephesus to tell Ephesians to worship their many breasted Diana better? And there is no doubt Teresa’s example here has been devastating for Catholicism which has almost abandoned “preaching the word” in imitation of this because Teresa seemed such a saintly example, how could we need or do more? But the question this raises leads to the next point about Teresa’s general character and motivation.

2) POTENTIAL CHARACTER FLAWS
Since no one, not even saints are perfect and I am not a scholar of Mother Teresa issues to have all the facts to make judgment I offer the following critique with due caution (and respect). But we need to consider if behind the charity it’s possible there could have been serious flaws to Teresa’s character and motivations so that the Jesus who allegedly gave her a vocation but then “disappeared” could be seen as trying to warn her or obliged to withhold blessing accordingly.

There was a cruelty in Mother Teresa amid the charity. One thinks for example of the remarkable judgmental attitudes towards those quite justly claiming compensation for the inexcusable Bhopal disaster. She actually accused them of being unforgiving and misguided as though there was no related corruption in India to deal with or suffering to mitigate. Talk about blessing with one hand and taking away with the other and avoiding the prophetic role which is often to denounce! But then it's as though she was almost content to have people suffer: at any rate she refused gifts of furniture and modern medical equipment that would have improved conditions for patients at her centre. Ambulances that were donated were used to transport the sisters around town, (Calcutta Corporation had to supply ambulances for cases of actual need). The sisters though pampered for transport were nonetheless not favoured with even basic dental care while "Mother", declaring she wished to die among the poorest, regularly received treatment in the best international hospitals flying there as everywhere for everything first class. It was a situation redolent of the behaviour of Indian gurus.

Vast amounts of money donated abroad in charity were not used for medical or other immediate charity purposes in India they could well have served but, if used at all, to set up more religious houses overseas often not serving the poor unless by exercises of prayer. Some visitors reported Calcutta inmates, the very young and the elderly, existed in unnecessarily even controversially dirty and uncomfortable conditions. This situation was long covered up and dismissed because immediate associates were so overcome by the assumed holiness of their leader they could barely face reality, certainly not engage criticism. Again a case of "Mother", (a name she gave herself) managing to oversee something half way to Indian style guru cult and in love, perhaps, with the trappings of poverty for its own sake or to impress. (This is not unknown among people in religion born like Teresa to comfortable circumstances).

In contrast to this austerity at the everyday level were Teresa's periodic associations with dubious rich and corrupt people like Baby Doc Duvalier of Haiti. Surprising in another way was how she cheerfully advised Princess Diana to divorce while opposing divorce for other persons less privileged – she actively opposed permitting divorce in Ireland which meant including for Protestant minorities there which represented blind disregard for common human rights in the area. But then, what was she really telling people as regards religion beyond the imposition of certain laws as against abortion by secular governments?

Surprising too was the already mentioned (apparent) lack or loss of all evangelical spirit. The gospels link charity such as Mother Teresa practiced to specific witness to Christ. While obviously sufferers and the dying are not to be exploited and badgered in the way some fundamentalists might do and that we don’t see Jesus doing amid his healing work, that people are supposed to be made at least aware that the assistance they receive is through, for and because of a Christ who is available to them is a point scripturally stressed. (Mark 9:42 even speaks of giving a cup of water in Christ’s name). By contrast Mother Theresa would become the saint to justify a modern policy of compassion only which throws such specific witness to Christ out of the window. Though it is possible there was complicity by her nuns in the surreptitious baptism of infants (which if so would be rather superstitious) so far as one can see the idea seemed to be that if people were sufficiently impressed by what the nuns were doing and curious about Christian faith they could ask and get instruction but otherwise witness was reduced to being available to people. It’s very modern and PC but it’s against the gospels which warn that “not everyone who says Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom even if they claim to do good deeds and wonders in his name (Mt 7.23), In short (apparently) the way of works alone is not necessarily acceptable to God where believers are concerned.

So..how much could Mother Teresa expect to please and have communion with the Jesus of her alleged visions for a work he supposedly wanted her to do for him in his name ? What if Jesus wanted people to know specifically he cared as he had apparently informed her he did? People, it seems, were half forbidden to even know this, encouraged instead to pray to their own gods in line with the desire of the surrounding Hinduism opposed to all singular truths. So it’s a tough question to ask, but among the good works was Teresa maybe displeasing God, betraying somewhat the very lover she was always saying she longed for? I am not trying to suggest like a few extremists that Mother Teresa was a lost soul but are the greater saints of India those Christians who are actually proclaiming the faith and being threatened and harassed and occasionally killed for it today by a vicious resurgent Hindu nationalist movement that beats believers mercilessly and threatens even children in Christian orphanages? This is a very different picture from that of nuns like Mother Theresa who receive worldwide praise for an ecumenical “tolerance” that scarcely mentions Jesus in any challenging way. What was the character and motivation of this woman?

3) REVELATIONS OF MOTHER TERESA’S HIDDEN HOROSCOPE
Mother Teresa’s character was undoubtedly highly individualistic and strong but also by nature unhelpfully disposed (with or without religion) to be skeptical and socially alienated. We can rather graphically know this, if by unusual means, namely the astrological which we can usefully examine since Mother Teresa herself once did so - she let a visiting American read her chart (she had no conventional religious objections to this). But we don’t know if the astrologer informed her that she would tend to feel permanently wounded (Chiron, the wounded healer, opposes her sun from “suffering” Pisces) and that she had the potential to be a depressive with her horrible Saturn square Venus affliction (hard on a woman and sometimes a bit of a suicide’s aspect) and at that a Venus in Leo normally needing a lot of attention and romance, a theatrical presence. Since under the rules of conventional astrology this same Venus “ruled” her sector of career/destiny/reputation it is certainly a clue and testimony to the pride issue for this nun admitted by herself and confessors. It seems there would be, and was,constant unresolved conflict between a Saturnian side of personality that demanded she be “nothing” and even felt guilty of her achievements (or felt they were worthless without Jesus’ presence) while her Venusian side struggled to be very much more than this nothing - even Christ’s greatest lover of all time! - an actor on a large stage such as Mother Teresa did somewhat become. She appears to have performed the role of lover of poverty while the declarations concerning this rather easily combined with regular first class travel and association with wealthy friends while the sisters back home got on with scrubbing the floors and patching their old habits till they fell apart.

The quite specifically religious factors in Teresa’s chart are almost, but perhaps suitably, peculiar. The ruler of her religion sector turns out to be an afflicted Mercury (thought, intellect, communication) in her natal sun sign of Virgo and the insatiable last degree of same. She would worry about everything especially her relation to Ultimacy and things divine (Pluto) given the Plutonic affliction to her thought processes. Her already mentioned difficult Saturn was in materialistic Taurus and the earthy emphasis of her natus (a huge six out of ten planets in earth) though practical has more affinity belief-wise with the patterns of atheists like Hume and Marx and John Lennon than the saints. So the doubting of God and heaven (“imagine there’s no heaven” sang the Saturn and Jupiter in Taurus Lennon) wasn’t too unnatural.

However, in profound contrast to this the saintly side of things for Teresa is also well mapped. The religion planet, Jupiter (her “ruling” planet within the total pattern) is placed in the religion house conjunct the destiny/reputation Midheaven and conjunct the Jesus asteroid. The latter is nevertheless opposed to the Christ asteroid which amazingly too is conjunct Kenos (empty) which is exactly how her Christ made Teresa feel - out of touch and with no divine presence "within". From the Jesus/Christ opposition there could easily arise potential confusion around (not to say separation from) Jesus as person/lover and the Christ of faith such as again her opposition of the mystical planets Neptune and Uranus would likewise favour. Indeed, since Neptune rules any visions and Uranus is shocks and surprises and things of the Spirit in religious contexts, the sudden visionary appearances and later shocking “disappearance” of Jesus are hinted at here.

Beyond even these sufficiently tell-tale signs the reported tormented longing for God as spouse, a longing “repulsed” as she claims, is exquisitely reflected in overwhelmingly powerful do or die Pluto in the house of relationships and marriage opposed to Teresa’s ascendant (her persona) in cheerful, optimistic faith sign, Sagittarius - exactly the situation of the cheerful “mask” she wrote she put out to the world while she was in torment about God and her relation to him to the point it all seemed like hypocrisy.

Where religion was concerned it looks like Teresa needed what any astrologer would call “a lot to work on herself”, a work she had probably refused in crucial early years when she had more opportunity for it so that like a return of the repressed things took their toll later.

Insulting suggestions were made by people like the guru, Bhagwan, to the effect she needed sex but she certainly needed more love in her life and could be expected to feel depressed and limited without the demonstrative shows of it no convent would be likely to provide even if and when it approved her. So it looks like she made super ambition and history defying levels of Jesus love its substitute (expansive Jupiter “bloats” her destiny/career Midheaven). Celibacy gives a helpful independence to especially missionaries but it doesn’t always help the individual and shouldn’t be felt to be the condition of doing great works of mercy. However arguably capping all the more conventional astrological observations I’ve made here I have to wonder (and I say this uniquely since no astrologer to my knowledge has explored this), is the fact that Teresa has an asteroid of hellish malignancy conjuncting her natal sun almost to the minute, namely Vipera. My findings on this asteroid incline me to suppose it could well be taken as symbol for original sin and the snake of Eden itself. I suspect this is the source, or at least symbol, of the hellish “darkness” of which Teresa complained and I seriously doubt she had it as a unique favour from God. Anything to do with Vipera is what one would want to reject, resist or exorcize but it seemed Teresa had no means or method to do this. This perhaps approached another failing.

4) REFUSING THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
According to a saint of the Russian Church St Seraphim of Sarov, the entire point of mysticism, religious exercises, waiting on God etc is or should be one thing: obtaining the Holy Spirit (On the Acquiring of the Holy Spirit, which you can read on the Net). It is a fact that there is scarcely a notable figure in the Bible who doesn’t seem to claim special access to the Holy Spirit force. Arguably you cannot be a saint without this, certainly not a person capable of heroic, miraculous tasks or even a person who can communicate easily with God. The Spirit is said directly to assist weakness, to assist above all the prayer hardest to articulate, to give the famous “speaking in tongues” from which Teresa was so very far removed she complains “the tongue that moves [in prayer] does not speak”. She cannot utter and come to terms with her pain. Working helpless in the void in this way is however what some of these modern Catholic saints in contrast to earlier ones (like Teresa’s forebear, Teresa of Avila who did believe the Holy Spirit descended upon her), are trying to do. But it can’t be done. It’s too much for human strength to bear and so Mother Theresa is like a humanist martyr for her heroic efforts just to keep going. Modern Catholicism is nevertheless encouraging this.

When he went to South America earlier this year Pope Benedict, a bit in the Mother Teresa tradition, met with leaders of different faiths but caused offence by singularly refusing to meet any Christian charismatics whom he simply dismissed as a “sect”. This was felt to be an insult not simply because a form of Protestant Pentecostalism is increasingly widespread in Latin America but because up to fifty per cent of practicing Catholics in South America (from what I recently read on the Net) consider themselves to be Charismatics and have been changing the very forms of liturgy and mass because of it.

I am not trying to suggest that everything charismatic today and in Latin America is good and wonderful (my earlier articles on Brazil and on Christian Manners pointed to some problems) but I think one only has to look at some of the brighter figures of the movement internationally to see where Mother Teresa may have got it very badly wrong by comparison. There is a Protestant Charismatic Mother Teresa equivalent (and there may well be more) and her name is Heidi Baker who has worked amid flood and drought and appalling disease in Asia and the worst parts of Africa, mainly Mozambique and Sudan. Like Mother Teresa she has had visions of Jesus telling her to do this work and only this year she writes:

Jesus has mercifully allowed me to not only sip from the cup of suffering, but also to drink fully from His cup of joy. After the challenges of feeding 50,000 people a day, the flood relief, bombings and monster cyclones, Jesus has brought me joy unspeakable and full of glory this June.

Heidi has also had visions that no Catholic saint could beat for sheer strangeness if you want and like that kind of thing. For example when she was at the end of her tether and assuring God amid a national crisis she could not possibly take in another lost African child, Jesus showed her he would always provide because he was limitless and drew bread to give her from his own body. Heidi feels and draws strength from the love Teresa never felt or found. She speaks of a Jesus whose love is so overpowering and infinite beyond words that just to see his face only once is to be helpless for ever, hostage to a compelling force that makes one do the impossible. Remarkable miracles of provision, apparently miracles of healing including of the deaf and blind (some claim raising from the dead) have accompanied Heidi. There have also been exorcisms as she risked her life challenging aggressive tribal leaders hostile to her work and to the name of Jesus because of devotion to animistic faiths that to Heidi are demonic and certainly haven’t helped anybody in need as she has done but are oppressive authority systems. Heidi has pushed her faith everywhere she has gone and there have been countless conversions of the kind Mother Teresa never saw.

Unless one cares to say and prove against widespread testimony that everything to do with this woman is lies Heidi’s has to be the nearest thing to original Christianity in its Book of Acts power form. And though there is anguish, exhaustion and doubt there is also joy and overcoming, certainly not years of agonized doubting even to the point of wondering if Jesus, God, the soul or heaven exist which is truly radical and/or depressive. In passing I could mention that, (though one wonders how she even has time for it!) Heidi is married so she is not so hampered by the potential loneliness and depression of the celibate Teresa.

Whatever, Heidi’s experience compares radically with a God who supposedly “repulses” Teresa’s need for love the more she longs for him, who throws her away “like an unwanted thing” and seemingly couldn’t even speak to her nicely from the first anyway. I have to question whether some or all of Teresa’s original visions and conversations were much more than products of overheated imagination, mere convent vapourings. It sounds very suspicious that Jesus “gives himself” to Teresa on the cross whatever precisely that means - it would be more appropriate if she had given herself to him. It hardly sounds very Jesus-like or even polite to tell Teresa “you are, I know, the most incapable person [nothing could be less true, Teresa was always super capable and organized!] weak and sinful but just because you are that I want to use you to my glory”. Well, perhaps Jesus said something of the kind and he did give her the vocation but if so he is not getting much “glory” for it. It was perhaps the pride she always condemned yet perhaps somewhat fed, that got the glory, as the world began praising Mother Teresa to the skies and gave her prizes and plaudits few missionaries have ever received not least for an ecumenism that didn’t bother really to preach Jesus at all. Far from being “glorified” Jesus becomes first privately, and now publicly, like some mean minded traitor who treated his would-be greatest lover, very ill indeed.

Teresa’s advocates want her to be seen as a holy example to atheists but one is tempted to ask what person in their right minds would want to know Teresa’s kind of Jesus? What sort of divine “friend” would he be for the knowing?. From a certain point of view the doctrine and message Teresa purveys is quasi demonic, fit for a romantic poet like Baudelaire. Teresa declares if ever she becomes a saint ( she had evidently been thinking about it!) it will be “a saint of darkness continually absent from heaven”. She says she is prepared to be the saint excluded forever from the divine presence, willing to suffer this for all eternity. It’s really too strange - too sick even - and despite the spins about “greatest gift” of divine absence it’s not as though Teresa herself didn’t feel need for a deliverance from it. But instead of invoking the power of the Spirit her solution was to pray to a deceased Pope who allegedly gave her five weeks deliverance in 1959 within her forty year tunnel of horror. Somehow none of this sounds or feels right !

THE NEO-CATHOLIC RATIONALISM THAT CONFUSES MYSTICISM

The kind of monastic mental torment Mother Teresa got caught up in (but which a combination of Virgoan “masochism” and the attention loving Venus in Leo perhaps liked just a little to perform and draw attention to) is aided and abetted by a line in modern Catholicism which, while not openly abandoning the popular forms of devotion based on saints and stories of the miraculous at its core, is strongly, even snobbishly rationalistic. Pope Benedict’s recent Jesus of Nazareth book about which I will write more later and which does have good points nonetheless takes the position that Christianity represents a vast “exorcism” of the world which facilitates the extension of ratio (reason) over everything. But this is clearly not exorcism through the Spirit and the whole visionary, prophetic core of faith is thus subtly set aside and with it any communion with the Spirit (which Benedict dismisses as the business of mere sects) that could have empowered the likes of Therese of Lisieux and Mother Teresa who didn’t partake in the greater powers of Teresa of Avila. The devout self examining Catholic religious can indeed get left, much as one is left in the liberal sceptical German Protestantism of an Albert Schweitzer, with a purely self propelled heroism as he or she seeks to improve themselves and the world. Mother Teresa deeply “longs” for God but she never finds him near or present or notably assisting (whatever happened to even Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God in Catholic circles?). This is surely a tragedy and a serious fault of religious technique (or belief) and if there are even meant to be saints defined and canonized in the Catholic fashion this surely is some disqualification for it where Mother Teresa is concerned. Unless perhaps one wanted to make her out to be the patron saints of depressives - because she almost certainly was suffering from a heavy dose of untreated depression.

The gospels advise we take thought about what we commit ourselves to. I have no idea how much Mother Teresa prepared herself but I suggest if one tries as she did to take on super large spiritual tasks without the power of the Spirit to assist, the result could be more than difficult. It’s like trying to run a car on near empty. I think I am correct to say that is what Mother Teresa – who was great, saintly and loving in her way but also pathetic- was doing.




Sunday, August 12, 2007

THE UNEXPECTED KATHLEEN MCGOWAN

AUTHOR FACTS STRANGER THAN FICTION

I have read The Expected One but am less interested in the novel than its author, Kathleen McGowan, who claims she’s descended from Jesus and the Magdalene, and who employs the medium of fiction to explain how she arrived at these beliefs. The novel itself, the first of three - the next volume is The Book of Love about a gospel Jesus supposedly wrote - was at least sometimes more attractive to me than the inevitable comparison, The Da Vinci Code.

Yet I still periodically wondered if I would be able to get through the novel. The second half is more polished than the first which contains some odd sentences and clich├ęs so that I was not surprised a critic took exception to sentences like one from the first chapter I had noticed like: “History hung heavy in the rarified and holy air as the faithful hurried to houses of worship in preparation for their respective Sabbaths”. Anyway, I feel the writer’s skill developed in the writing and editorial advisors were asleep or overly polite about some passages (and the spelling of some French phrases).

But as said, ultimately it was the mystery of the author and her mind that kept me going. However much I disagree with what McGowan proposes I remain intrigued by what she imagines she’s dealing in, namely major new/alternative information about Jesus. Also how she got this material to the public after allegedly years of struggle is something that naturally interests me after years of experience of the same kind of effort. It seems her Irish Catholic musician husband (McGowan herself has a Baptist background) helped considerably.

Nevertheless by now the Irish American, Hollywood born McGowan has more than overcome any difficulties. While she loudly defends her “Truth against the World” position and protests the injustice of those who demand more academic, written, standard evidence from her, in fact she is very much being heard on her own informal terms with publishing backing her and putting out Expected in at least fifteen languages. Despite the unusual and for some even offensive claims McGowan is making there was not a paper or magazine I applied to in Ireland ( mainly Northern Ireland where McGowan is supposed to have worked in journalism and first report of her claims came through) was interested to have any comment from me. This is from someone published, an Irish national, a doctor of religious studies and himself similarly, if on a very different basis, claiming original information on Jesus at variance with McGowan’s. So she’s well defended and supported for alternative Jesus cults and clearly Ireland is changed or changing.

FICTION, FACTION AND NEW GOSPELS THROUGH FRANCE

The title “The Expected One” refers to prophecies in the traditionally Cathar regions of France that at some point one of the Magdalene’s descendants (she has a special representative in each generation) will present to the world her true story along with a gospel she wrote. The novel includes excerpts from this Magdalene gospel discovered through France - but paraphrased and adapted for the modern reader according to the important Afterword. If you accept the much disputed record of what McGowan has been doing and writing in France and Ireland – there’s no record she was editor of a paper in Ireland though she seems to have been some kind of freelance journalist - then she has been researching her subject for nearly two decades (since 1989) and is very much in touch with some Zeitgeist besides. Necessarily so because if the book cannot be seen as remarkably anticipating both The Da Vinci Code and publication of The Judas Gospel then you will think it has managed to ride in on their coat tails. (However we must allow coincidences – Slavoj Zizev’s The Puppet and The Dwarf of 2003 makes Judas out to be an “ethical hero” and anticipates the Gospel of Judas's line).

Whatever, although Expected is similar to Code for its Magdalene theme, for its French secret societies (and even its murder theme opening ) plus its trendy Gospel of Judas style desire to excuse Judas (and quite a few other people) the novel still contradicts and varies upon claims of DVC and Gnostic gospels considerably. Yes, Jesus was married and had children but he was still divine, crucified and was resurrected even if his project amid this wasn’t to redeem the world (he only died because his good friend Judas bungled some plans!) but rather to give an example and messages of especially forgiveness. For this the Magdalene was Jesus’ true mouthpiece, his real apostolic successor, not the other disciples. It’s incidentally an idea of the book, and a rather Gnostic one, that if one just accepts this forgiveness one will never suffer again. Indeed even Jesus himself didn’t really suffer on the cross and Annas and Caiaphas who realized they made a mistake about Jesus felt bad about it but could have stopped their agonizing over it and got happy if they would have just let go the guilt.

KATHLEEN MCGOWAN’S VARIOUS SOURCES

McGowan’s sources for what she is revealing are threefold and are:

1) Various Gnostic and apocryphal sources like The Gospel of Pilate which make Pilate and his wife virtual saints. Anything approaching the given gospel story of Jesus McGowan recalls in interview having first warmed to at ten years old following attendance at the (itself largely apocryphal and based on Judas’ view of events) Jesus Christ Superstar musical. She began singing its Magdalene’s song repeatedly, her first identification with the Magdalene so she “blames” her subsequent obsession with MM on Rice and Webber. Overall McGowan is biased towards any alternative sources having developed what’s called “a hermeneutic of suspicion” as a result of living in the Ireland of the Troubles. This made her realize the extent to which there's bias and contradiction in the reporting of events. And then there was simply her experience of being a woman. Put the two together and history itself is something to be doubted, especially woman’s.

2) Oral traditions and a variety of private sources in mainly France, sources McGowan cannot or will not reveal because they supposedly compromise people’s safety or secret society rules. This could at least in some instances be true though her information lets down credibility in some places rather badly. Her Magdalene Gospel of Arques is named for and linked in the novel to the Arcadia tomb at Arques, allegedly portrayed in the centuries old famous Poussin picture Et in Arcadia Ego. In fact this tomb, now demolished to keep trespassers away, was only built in 1933 and its Poussin associations belongs to the hoax invented by M. Plantard that the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail took up.

3) Visions McGowan has had and which supply her unique perspectives. Near the beginning of the novel Maureen goes to Jerusalem as McGowan did and is suddenly overcome by a vision of the Magdalene on the way to the crucifixion, a Magdalene who asks for her help. McGowan also claims that she was years trying to process the revelation (i.e. vision ) that MM was first married to a very reluctant John the Baptist (who was a bit of wife beater and who got executed because the really well intentioned Nazarene follower, Salome, in defending Mary tried to get John imprisoned, not as happened, executed!)

However misguided (and even opportunistic) she might be at a certain level I detect McGowan is sincere in her way. I doubt she would quite write the following if she didn’t mean it:

There were many, many times when I wondered about my worthiness to tell this story. I don’t think I’ve slept through the night in more than ten years as I have agonized over the details in this book and its potential repercussions. (p.439)

Also perhaps the admission:

“It literally took years for me to process that revelation [about John the Baptist’s marriage to the Magdalene and his abusive behaviour] before I was prepared to write about it. (p.437)

The first of these statements gives a framework for composition of the book. A bit over 10 years even if not the more contestable approximately 20 years that she tried to persuade her publisher was the case. Before 1997 she had certainly been looking into alternative histories of famous, often maligned people especially women; but something more definite started around 1997 and we can know what it was, namely a trip to Israel. The big question is whether it was a trip for or about the book and the Magdalene story we now have or if a vision about the Magdalene in 1997 was the source of the book. Indelibly inscribed at the Linda-Goodman.com site for 1999 at

http://www.linda-goodman.com/ubb/Forum5/HTML/000100.html

we find a message from Kathleen McGowan describing her movements and interests.

She says that in 1997 she visited Israel to study the Essene mysteries, stars, plants etc. This journey was influenced by reaction to her friend, pop astrologer Linda Goodman’s passing, which makes it sound as though it occurred that year rather than 1995. No word here about seeing, studying, or fictionalizing the Magdalene but plenty about the occult and tarot (which McGowan says she has practiced since childhood) and numerology. Supposedly under Goodman’s influence (she was a fan who had only spoken on phone to Goodman but knew rather better Goodman’s confidante, Crystal Bush) she got to preparing a set of star cards to teach a form of numerology. The same site contains an angry letter from “Donna” who tells about legal arguments with a publisher over McGowan’s alleged attempts to erase her contributions to McGowan’s work.

AN ISIS WORSHIPPING, TAROT PRACTICING JESUS DESCENDANT

In December 1998 in honour of Linda Goodman (who had supposedly spoken to McGowan from the other side about a problem with her numerology work) McGowan records that she performed her annual promised secret ritual to Isis and Osiris. While McGowan is entitled to follow whatever beliefs she likes it is, to put it mildly, ironic that someone claiming descent from Jesus and the Magdalene with discoveries of their true teachings for the world should want or need to be worshipping Isis. It would however be consistent with claims elsewhere on the Net that McGowan has been changing personas (in a style fiction writers often do, blending truth and reality, re-writing their own and other people’s histories) at one time back in the nineties putting herself out as descendant of Celtic high priestesses. If so, presumably she wasn’t so deeply if at all into the Jesus dynasty theories as long ago as portrayed. Ten years at most. Or perhaps there wasn’t any clear starting point for specific research ….it was a matter more of precisely vision.

Just as she allowed the deceased Linda Goodman’s voice to illumine her numerology commentary, I should say McGowan is strongly clued into the occult and her visions act as authority with other data a rather minor second. And I would guess that whatever else may be true or false about her McGowan does have these visions ( she has insisted in interviews that the novel's story of vision of the Magdalene in Jerusalem is absolutely authentic as are other reported visions). Her novel’s heroine is Maureen Paschal, a family name she discovers is a Cathar one linked to Magdalene claims. This name and theme fictionalizes issues McGowan portrays as important to her like discovering facts about her father and forebears she would never have imagined like the involvement of her Baptist grandfather in Free Masonry and the esoteric generally.

If McGowan’s forebears had these esoteric involvements then without there being anything so dramatic as a Jesus lineage she could have, as in wicca linked families, inherited spiritual connections of another sort. I am aware that the concern some Christians have about believers dividing their faith with secret societies is because of the sort of legacy (“contracts”) this supposedly sets up, not simply a case of intuitional or psychic sensitivity such as anyone might possess on a genetic basis but contact with spirits which especially arts like Tarot that McGowan has practiced bring into play. Divination as of Tarot is believed to be linked to a specific Spirit of Divination.

A STRANGE SPIRIT STORY

Here I shall make brief digression to tell a story linked to the difficult subject of familiar spirits such as – possibly - McGowan inherits and communicates with when she hears Goodman beyond the grave or sees the Magdalene all over the place. Some years ago someone I knew in astrology circles was recommended to a supposedly very expert Tarot reader whom she visited out of curiosity. This person told me she could never forget and never explain how and why at some point into the session with the pleasant and accurate consultant, suddenly terror overtook her. So as not to seem offensive to the reader or personally ridiculous she had to prevent herself from screaming and running from the room because there, standing above the reader was this terrifying, ugly, salivating monster. I said I couldn’t explain the incident any more than herself unless to say it could have been she had seen a spirit of divination, a “familiar spirit” such as gives the occult such predictive success as it enjoys amid the deceptions and errors and the reason divination is scripturally under ban. (Please note divination is what is based on intuition or working with spirits, not what is empirically derived as in the case of astrology which fundamentalists, but not Jews, like to lump with the black arts).

LINDA GOODMAN, THE MCGOWAN GURU

Even if this peculiar story is irrelevant Linda Goodman, a sort of occult guru to McGowan, isn’t. Goodman is so important for McGowan’s worldview and for modern New Ageism more generally that we aren’t surprised to learn that like St Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc and most people of any significance, she’s a Jesus descendant too! The only trouble is that Goodman isn’t quite in a league with the others. The book Linda Goodman’s Star Signs whose numerologies McGowan took so seriously surely deserves a prize for whacky occultism (when I read it parts of the book had me nearly falling off my chair for laughter). Inspired by some spirit who materialized to her in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in the course of the book Goodman theorizes she, and in effect no one, needs to die but can live indefinitely on air as a breatharian. She even supplies a diet towards gradually reaching that stage via vegetarian and fruitarian stages.

Whether or not Goodman followed it herself and it contributed to her premature decease the fact is she died in 1995, officially of diabetic complications and staged no resurrections as might have been appropriate given her beliefs re alleged ancestry. She also wrote a huge quasi- autobiographical novel-cum-epic called Goobers about mainly love and reincarnation all in a sort of poetic doggerel. It’s a work that is near Bible to McGowan who admits in her Afterword always to have it to hand. If I rightly recall from my cursory look through the book years ago it included some rather derogatory remarks regarding the Holy Spirit whom Goodman didn’t seem to deem too reliable in marked contrast to the number of the Beast/Antichrist which she speaks of in her numerology in Star Signs. Again this is a pretty poor showing from an assumed Jesus descendant and a spiritually bad vibe too, but McGowan evidently hasn’t taken any warning signals from it (rather like someone I know who had an affair with somebody claiming Jesus descent and who regrets the experience because this person was too much into the dark side).

But McGowan’s trust was perhaps inevitable. The lesson you would learn from Goodman’s esoteric obsessions is to defy all obvious fact and call it something like McGowan’s “Truth against the world”. Another Goodman blind spot had been refusing to accept her daughter was disappeared, dead and would never return. Police finally closed the case as suicide, accidental or deliberate. For years and until the end of her life Goodman was forever invoking power and faith at a personal altar to make her daughter return. It was astrology that gave her the pretext but then her astrology was itself strange. She used a system of houses that most astrologers consider pretty unworkable though this would again fit some “truth against the world” policy as would her insistence against all the facts that Marilyn Monroe had to have been born under Aries two months before the given date under Gemini.

What perhaps most unites Goodman and McGowan is their birth under the Ram of Aries, the sign strong on ego awareness and the battle. McGowan’s story so far and to judge from the tales floating around, is a history of spats, confrontations with people and legal disputes and beyond that a major argument with the world as given, a battle against fact and history. Sometimes McGowan regrets the (biblical) record she subverts and supplants as when she declares John the Baptist to have been an unsatisfactory abusive first husband of the Magdalene and progenitor of yet another special lineage through his one son. (This one son “Little John” whom Jesus adopts when he married the Magdalene is then the source of the idea of a “Beloved Disciple”!). It’s all heady stuff and just possibly having presented the world next year with a gospel Jesus wrote, McGowan will live to regret a few more “revealed” facts. It would be appropriate if publishing and media shared a few regrets about the promotion of this kind of material but it’s not too likely - originally self published it’s gone way beyond any Irish cottage industry by now.

Finally…..I see there is a McGowan Blog if you want to follow further developments and declarations. You may be surprised that for Magdalene’s day July 22nd this year along with prayer to this saint and insistence she was in France and can be felt around the St Baume area McGowan writes as easily as a rationalist about “legends” of the Magdalene. Is there a rationalist side to McGowan?. Who knows? But it does seem likely there will always be an unexpected side.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

THE BAD MANNERS OF GOOD CHRISTIANS

(This is Part Two of an article whose Part One was published beginning last month. The article only scratches the surface of years of experience attempting impossibly to distill the essence of a problem through a few examples. But beyond merely personal issues I insist we are looking at something symptomatic of a spiritual problem of major proportion because as maintained at the outset manners and their implied concern are fundamental to religion itself).

THE SPECIAL MANNERS OF CHRISTIAN JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA PEOPLE

A neighbour of mine when I lived in Melbourne and who had worked in TV and wanted to help me thought to mention me to a noted religious journalist who sits on a leading church council. She tried more than once to approach her but gave up because she found the woman’s known ill temper and tantrums so impossible as to make her intimidatingly unapproachable when she tried. Such behaviour though no compliment to Christian lifestyles is perhaps something I should ignore and dismiss as the exception - but is it? It seems duplicated elsewhere….

One can read on the Net, for example, stories like how a religion correspondent for one of Britain’s leading papers was publicly condemned by the secretary of former presiding Bishop Griswold of the American Episcopalian church, as an insufferably rude person to deal with. But of course public tantrums or abusive talk don’t have to be the problem, just absence of Christian courtesy in the form of basic honesty and reliability. Some years ago I had dealings with a religious journalist (near the time he got rightly or wrongly accused of pedophilia!) and I remain convinced I was lied to about something by him and certainly a feature article he was supposed to put out about my work for Christmas and over which I’d been put to a lot of trouble by him never got out.

More recently I was needlessly inconvenienced by a religious journalist who by emails promised to ring and interview me and didn’t and didn’t later apologize for keeping me more than once at home waiting for the non event. The assumption is the rather dismissive and unchristian one but common enough in secular media that everyone’s a nobody who’s privileged to have any contact so any treatment will do. The editor of the paper to whom I complained virtually said as much. Clearly most Christian journalists write but don’t meditate or assimilate their faith, it’s purely cerebral, just another subject to scribble about. However….

Such irritations are the merest storms in a teacup I might well forget if I weren’t rendered half media allergic following the never apologized serious undermining I suffered and suffer from to this day as a result of behaviour at the time I received my doctorate. In this instance a Catholic journalist, who took ultra conservative exception in interview to my mentioning James was the brother of Jesus, in Christian charity went on to issue the shocking disinformation that I’d been government funded to research Jesus’ sexuality. Nothing of the sort was the case but word went global.

When I protested at this item’s further shocking popularization by the religion writer of another Australian paper (to the effect I’d supposedly taught Jesus incarnated to have sex with his disciples!) his editor told the surprised Press Council I had no reason to complain and he hoped I’d never be heard of again. Certainly I’ve never been reviewed or interviewed by any religious journalist in Australia adding to one of my publishers’ difficulties in getting one of my books distributed.

Instead of Christians in media coming to my aid and giving me opportunity to set things to rights, or just convey more of the real substance of my discoveries when these were finally published even the common decency of good manners absents itself. Yet inevitably perhaps. As an internationally leading writer on spirituality told me as regards the religion editor of a leading Australian paper, it’s his experience this person is adept at intrigue and back stabbing and best avoided. Certainly this person was rude. He had personally requested a copy of my Signs for a Messiah whenever it would appear but didn’t acknowledge receipt of it when it was delivered and then in three months never replied to my publisher’s repeated efforts to contact him. His omission to review my book contributed to my publisher’s difficulties in getting the work more widely known to its intended international audience in and beyond Down Under.

Note however the criticism from the mentioned spirituality writer didn’t proceed from, say, charismatics, who colourfully propose press and media in Australia compose a special pernicious case ruled by the spirit of the coming Antichrist. However mentioning charismatics and the high ground they like to declare from is in turn an occasion to state that while I have found individual charismatics to be people of genuine integrity and spirituality so far I find little good to say of those with media pretensions. There I find only the same boorishness as the rest, a trait incidentally not duplicated in my experience of atheists from Iris Murdoch to Andre Malraux, various politicians and members of royalty all of whom have by comparison positively spoiled me by replying. Perhaps like the insufferably truculent and arrogant Benny Hinn (to whom I’ve never written and wouldn’t) some Christians imagine they themselves are some form of royalty beyond the existing kind!

For example, after several attempts to contact the editor of Charisma Magazine including a request just to check mail hadn’t been lost/deleted, I have never received a word of reply related to issues involved with my Behind and Beyond the Latest Jesus Mystery, which should engage the concern of almost any Christians, nor to my unusual Lennon articles which had directly linked to issues he had himself been raising, the sole reason I originally wrote to him. Since this is not a major magazine likely to be so overloaded with correspondence I would get lost in it, it’s extremely likely this editor is another who just ignores people at his convenience. Rather more importantly, and as somewhat expounded toward its end in last month’s story on Michael Glatze, I’ve received no acknowledgement from the leader of Extreme Prophetic about quite serious views questionably conveyed by that media outlet and which I am more qualified than many writing in to comment upon.

The talks and opinions I had questioned comprised the sort of thing I could, but in kindness wouldn’t, apply about to sites and people concerned with discrimination laws. While I didn’t wish to cause trouble I did expect important issues to be at least registered and I included paste from an article by a Christian writer showing how over a third of all people on the streets in America are gay,any thousands of these are young people kicked out of “good” Christian homes encouraged by the “abomination” talk of closed mind preachers whose notions of “homosexuality” are wilfully limited to the most extreme expressions of gay parades. But small wonder after weeks I haven’t received one line of acknowledgment from charismatic journalists and media people they are too often complicit in a sort of Christian censorship machine…...

I didn’t include, as I could have done, words of a South African charismatic in his university thesis to the effect that. The possibility of being a witness to the fact gay people are accepted by God and the Spirit of God dwells in a gay Christian did not seem to be an option to these men [ he had been interviewing] within the confines of the traditional Pentecostal/charismatic churches. Both Nicky and Andre revealed they had had conversations with prominent leaders in the Pentecostal movement who appeared to be aware of the fact that interpretation of the clobber texts were in some instances questionable, but who were not prepared to “expose” their membership to these facts. This was apparently necessary to “protect” members…” In other words……the faith stories of gay Christians don’t count and the leadership represents a degree of moral cowardice, willful censorship and incongruous refusal to be open to what the Spirit might be saying to the churches. It is quite prepared to let people’s lives be hurt so that others (heterosexuals) can sit unchallenged in their pews in the same way that for centuries Christians accepted slavery and apartheid. And the easy acceptance of a dismissive rudeness towards people helps to keep this ship of ignorance and bigotry afloat.

THE SPECIAL MANNERS OF RELIGIOUS PUBLISHING IN THE ERA OF PC

The main reason I’m uneasy, despite known liberal views in some areas, with complicated new anti hate laws in the EU that won’t allow religious organizations to refuse or discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation is because I’m already unhappy with the kind of people religious organizations are refusing to “discriminate” against (not choose) and are hiring. There are sensitive and complex issues for freedom of speech and personal rights involved in these laws. If they are strictly applied I can see there won’t be a shred of the spiritual left in religious organizations amid their pragmatism. One might as well be ringing up night clubs when dealing with them. (This is probably the situation secularists are aiming for and why they vigorously support the rights of people like gays they are not necessarily otherwise much interested in).

Religious associated publishing houses have been a good case in point for some time now. They can be so “generous” in their views they won’t inquire about ideological affiliations – after all Christianity is about unconditional love – right? I suppose they could have been ardent converts but the attitude, the names and accents I have sometimes encountered in religious houses suggest I was dealing rather with bored Muslims and Hindus than engaged Christians. (I’m probably correct. A Muslim even organizes religion for one of England’s leading TV channels, a privilege his family’s country of origin would never permit - it’s currently looking into instigating execution for men and lifelong imprisonment for women who convert out of Islam!)

Whatever….actual house attitudes are not about unconditional love or truth when it comes to everyday procedures for religious publishing and one can imagine that those most guilty of what I question here would probably think Jesus quite “rude” for criticizing the Pharisees since no one should be “judgmental”. (That’s anyway pretty much the line of modern liberal historical Jesus studies. Jesus would never have said those things about church leaders, or he didn’t quite mean them if he did!).

As only one example I had six months wasted by a religion publisher in England for the most appallingly unprofessional and rude behaviour. I had applied to this house with a book on the Creed at a time when following certain controversies it, or my take on it, was very topical. For this and other reasons like I was dealing with media at the time, I requested if at all possible the ms could be given relatively fast assessment. It was agreed it would be but the promise meant nothing. (In publishing promises rarely seem to mean much but Christians are supposed to be reliable and if a subject is topical if they’re at all Christian in feeling commercial interests might combine with evangelical concern to promote the faith).

I was told whom I could contact about the proposal. The name proved valueless; the person was never available at any time (one had to waste money calling from overseas – emails would likely be ignored) and if one finally received a message from the person via a secretary it was a promise they would email or ring back. Which they failed to do so or you yourself were supposed to ring them at a certain time which they then would not honour.

To say you’re “busy” is the excuse for almost anything in business today. But for Christians with integrity? After some struggle to have attention I was assured I would definitely have an answer before Christmas and didn’t. Later I would be told I would definitely have one before Easter. When I did obtain some kind of answer it was so peculiar I questioned aspects of the reading by the single reader ( had they even read the text?) to whom it was so belatedly sent and decisions are usually made with more than one person or reader involved. I was told the problem would be dealt with but unsurprisingly it wasn’t and by this time I had neither desire or intention to insist. Clearly I was caught in Vanity Fair, not some place of any genuine religious enterprise.

THE WONDERFUL MANNERS OF THE COMMERCIAL CHRISTIAN

The commercial attitude is everywhere in religion especially in America infecting everything. I won’t enlarge upon the scandal of the promotion of anointing oils, baptismal water and the endless array of DVDs from sites dedicated to spiritual growth or my experiences of how they won’t give you a reply if you query whether some statement or prophecy was ever certified or, in the interests of accountability, point out it had been proved false. It would presumably compromise PR or worse the sales pitch to concede anything was not perfect and if you’re not another buyer or contributor you can be safely ignored anyway. One very specific example of the kind of manners this section of the religion supports will suffice for many.

Recently someone connected with an organization usually (and usefully) protesting persecution of Christians in the world wrote a review of an apparently exceptional visionary book parts of which its author believed had been directly given him by Christ and intended as a warning message to the world. The author supposedly had not only suffered enormous difficulty being published but even getting the book printed. Strange events experts couldn’t explain had occurred at the actual printing.

As it happened this rare report corresponded closely to things that had occurred to myself at first printing of Signs for a Messiah. (I could almost wonder had my report on these matters been read and used). I wrote to the reviewer/promoter of the work assuming he would either be personally interested in my own story or like to hand it on to the author he was writing about. After failing to receive a response I wrote again and received the dismissive comment that the book was well worth reading. Period. I wrote back to say I now had second thoughts about buying and reading the recommended book at all since if disinterest and sympathy regarding what I had to say was so total it was hard to believe the review and perhaps the book too hadn’t been done for purely commercial reasons.

I didn’t expect and didn’t obtain a response. Maybe ten or more years ago I would have done so. Some effort to pacify hurt feelings or a difficult customer would have been made (“the customer is always right” used to be an accepted idea in business for even secular business people). But the new style post modern Christian, ego driven and in America apparently as completely commercial as money changers in the Temple, thinks solely of his or her own feelings and, resisting all criticism however justified, will walk away if they don’t return abuse. But obviously there’s not a shred of anything spiritual left in this kind of attitude.

TO SUM UP: MANNERS NEXT TO GODLINESS

What am I saying? That I think all Christians are a bad lot? No, and I don’t expect them to be saints either though in obscure places such can be found and I’ve met them, perhaps another reason I’m prepared to be so scathing of those Christians better placed. Another reason is that as indicated above unbelievers and more distinguished than the more socially ordinary Christians cited here have shown me greater consideration. Among the Christians the most polite and generously minded seem to have been the Catholics, like Anne Rice, and the late Jeane Dixon from whom I have a whole collection of letters. (Protestants by comparison seem too often boors, pompous if they’re liberals, dismissively rude if they’re evangelicals).

Overall I do however believe that in modern Christianity quite simply and as the saying goes “the scum has risen to the top” (someone remarked to me this should be this feature’s title). The practice, or rather mantra, of unconditional love by the non saints has meant just any old thing goes. Perhaps it always somewhat did but today the problem has reached crisis point so that the negative vibe now continuously radiates. Those in positions of authority and influence don’t simply lack spirituality, (a reason so many people have retreated to New Ageism and other faiths), but they even lack the preliminary to spirituality which is basic reliability and simple good manners and I am tired of being victim to all this. I identify with those abused by those in the church because, though not sexually abused, I regard myself as consistently mistreated by those I should be able to count on for help. If ever I or many others will have any claim to sainthood it will be for the amount of toleration and forgiveness that will have been required of us dealing with the wounds inflicted by unworthy Christians who maybe aren’t Christians at all.

The bad manners widespread in modern society is something we have to suffer. Etiquette has flown out of the window. People today inside business and out don’t reply or reply rudely to those they don’t want to reply to and even though big businesses could easily devise some computer system of automatic brief reply. People don’t keep promises, whatever is selfishly convenient or self advancing is what’s done, the elderly are not just not respected they are often abused, the social system is foul. But Christians are supposed to be a light to the world against this, not to copy it (as clearly some religious businesses imitate the system). We would therefore be right to distrust most of those who today presume to speak for the religion they don’t basically manifest. If you have dealings with rude Christians tell them they’re not of the faith, because they aren’t. Their righteousness is supposed to exceed that of the Pharisees and Sadduccees if they are to belong to the kingdom (Mt.5:20). Today, their righteousness just doesn’t so exceed in matters big or small.

Today it’s not surprising there is what is called an underground Out Of Church movement by many believers. However questionable this is its spirit and motivation are understandable. Christians just don’t want to be associated any longer with the failures of institutional churches and their too glaring errors. If they can have church in home, street, country or wherever these protestors will have it. If things get much worse I can see this could be needed.