WHEN FANATICISM LOOKS LIKE FUN
Although there have always been false prophets of all kinds my theme is especially a new species sometimes calling themselves The New Mystics, title of a recent book from one of their number. They are currently enjoying such a field day in America and across Europe it’s troubling. A good deal more troubling and subversive than anything that occasionally comes to your front door with tracts and that you dismiss with hardly a thought.
And curiously, despite the flamboyance of these “mystics”, it isn’t always so easy to spot them at the ideas level because they manage to insinuate via trends and expectations more mainstream within minds and churches, and perhaps because we’ve all become a bit “post-modern” and relativized where truth is concerned. Recent controversies around the phenomenon of healer/evangelist Todd Bentley who has been so improbably kicking and hissing the Holy Spirit’s power into the sick before audiences of thousands per night for months, is an interesting example of just how far many have gone beyond normal discernment in the area of beliefs. Before the Bentley bubble burst in mid August known names in religious circles like Wendy Alec of GodTV were so inappropriately enthusiastic they discouraged criticism of someone supposedly “anointed” by God with threats of divine retribution for the presumption.
NEW MYSTICS OOZING OIL AND ASTRAL TRAVELLING ARE MORE THAN A MORAL PROBLEM
Typically the scandal round Todd Bentley’s Lakeland crusade has been subject to a lot of silly in-church waffle about purely moral failings like a broken marriage and calls to pray for and not judge a “poor” stressed preacher. A failed marriage seems almost minor against the scandal of a healer over-indulging in the bars of Lakeland and the cruelty of booting a fourth degree cancer patient in the stomach, supposedly kicking the Spirit’s healing into him. (The man didn’t report healing, only pain! – you can see it on You Tube).
It’s doubtful there’s been anything quite like what’s going on since the medieval St Vitus dance and there’s a touch to it of “signs and wonders to deceive the elect if it were possible” (Mk 13:22). People are now actually following the likes of John Crowder and Benjamin Dunn whose “tokin the Ghost” (pretending to smoke the Holy Spirit like grass) and rolling in “the drunken glory” of God, making holy chaos and sacred mess, looks like a Billy Connolly comedy or (when they’re dressed in religious habits), a Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence act from Frisco. But, no, these are actually ministries, movements engaging healings and exorcisms actively promoted and eagerly sought after. Devotees are brought to heightened belief by “impartations” so that some claim they see (or commune and dance with!) Jesus and the angels in glory love fests and “Holy Ghost rave parties”. It’s all too good, or bad, to be true and some of it can seem little short of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Heresy was rarely so clownish and/or perverse as what some call the “post-modern” brand of “emergent” Christianity being peddled. Crowder claims to have been converted to Jesus in the course of an acid trip.
Even those apparently more reverent and normal in style - relatively normal if you know my opinions re the Patricia King look! - can be distinctly extravagant and strange. Religious media figures in King’s eXtremeProphetic, a US TV programme you can watch streamed on the Net, report on the likes of Joshua Mills who oozes oil from his hands and (in something like an extension of America’s prosperity gospel!) keeps receiving gold dust on his face or jewels from angelic realms and who, when his own ring was stolen, supposedly astral travelled to the thief’s bedroom to regain it. The Spirit has allegedly taught Josh how to play electric piano – it’s remarkable how bland his gift sounds when demonstrated!
Ms King, founder of EP, said to be a former witch but whatever her past, now “crazy in love with Jesus”, has travelled with angels in fiery chariots and reports making up lost hours in driving time getting teleported to conferences and so on. She wants to raise the dead and her mentoring of Bentley may be responsible for his unsubstantiated claims to have resurrected 27 souls. Despite her extremes Pat King, like others in her line, has done apparently admirable down-to-earth work with street people.
GAY’S THE WORD (OR IT’S THE SACRED DANCE)
Ms. King favours ecstatic trance dance worship which the likes of Crowder have developed big time and which at XP is in the hands of Caleb Brundidge an “ex gay” and if anything the least gay looking of some of Ms King’s new mystic friends some of whom might be felt to give a rather gay/bi vibe though smilingly locked into their de rigueur marriages. Caleb’s style in dance events look like…well… much like any Saturday night at gay disco or perhaps we might think bisexual disco…. and “holy chaos” if done in the more drunk and druggy looking style of the buddies in "holy" ecstasy, Crowder and Dunn.
[Comment added Jan 2010 - Caleb seems guilty of much and, a proof how little seemingly righteous and far seeing prophetic people really "see", he has been named as one of the three "evangelicals" whose travels and opinions have influenced the unacceptable views and recent plans of the Ugandan Church that have become an international scandal seeking to push a whole variety of draconian, unprecedented anti-gay laws through the national parliament. These laws include death for gay relations and requirement on pain of imprisonment or fine that schools, churches etc report anyone they think might be gay to the authorities. The scandal is now so widespread those concerned now say they never intended to cause what has happened but the fact is it has happened. Christ's saying about a bad tree not bringings forth good fruit (no puns here!)seems relevant. These people are simply outside the divine will and cause trouble accordingly.]
Only when the desire for change that’s sweeping Obama’s America is also sweeping religion could there be the kind of openness that lends some credence to the healers, “New Mystics”, the “Joel’s Army”, the “Elijah Generation”, “The Joshua generation” etc geared up to reform the world and set churches on a more last times or new age course. It’s undeniable there is a new age like and shamanistic style dimension to Christianity and conservatives and liberals with respectively their cessationist theologies (miracles for Jesus’ time only) or outright skepticism, aren’t necessarily correct to deny the faith this side. It’s more a question of how far should one go with it and what spiritual forces or just silliness one might be opening oneself up to, if, say, you start trawling people’s dreams for revelations, something which has become almost an obsession leading to an interpretation industry in some quarters. Yet even this can be (sort of) justified by the claim of Pentecost that “your young men shall see visions”…. etc.
Theoretically, Christians are supposed to believe in visions and miracles and there’s been a widespread shift among all churches during the last decade towards the charismatic (in South America it has been said nearly half the Catholic churches have gone charismatic). Among specifically Pentecostals there’s memory of a forecast of 1908 by one of their founders that in roughly a century a greater, more global movement would hit. So, if a colourful figure like Todd Bentley sets himself up as visionary healer and the likes of Benny Hinn and Bob Jones (see below) endorse him and declare the new wave has begun people wonder is prophecy fulfilled? And if things seem a bit different might that be the great change desired? It follows that if people won’t exercise caution (“discernment”) there’s a vulnerable, expectant audience waiting to be exploited.
Also facilitating things to the extent America is centre of these trends, is the operation of a national values system which allows some individuals (inside the churches and out) to get away with murder provided they don’t upset buddy feelings of the group and have sufficient good causes to promote and scapegoat figures to condemn to deflect criticism from the failings and subversions they themselves represent.
A PERVERSE WILLIAM BRAHAM LEGACY AND A BOB JONES INFECTION
It’s clear where the New Mystics descend from and it’s a certain breakaway (heretic) Pentecostal, a noted healer and mind reader, William Branham (1909-1965). Towards the end of his life he taught he was the reincarnated Elijah and the seventh angel of the Revelation as per Rev 10:7 and that the Trinity is a “demonic” doctrine. Branham was by any standards excessively in touch with angels, his own healer angel plus a variety of “ministering angels” who have subsequently been in touch with Todd Bentley and John Crowder. Declining from mainstream beliefs about apocalypse (which are admittedly somewhat varied and disputed!) Branham taught a Latter Rain and Manifest Sons of God doctrine which meant that a last times generation would produce unprecedented miracles that would hasten Jesus’ return to the world and cause an elite to come forth and be realized as semi-divine figures on earth. In practice this means that new mystics tend to be Dominionists, seeking to intervene in secular laws and ready if need be to rant, rail and get weepy like Lou Engel at special rallies, assemblies, fasts, against the evils of modern society in order to make the world Christian, not least by law, in ways that will help institute the Millennium for Jesus. They are thus in some ways heavily political and close to the Christian Right.
Branham followers (none are exact) are effectively a loose cult group which have nonetheless sufficiently ignored or modified Branham’s extremes to stay within the churches under the influence of especially the controversial Bob Jones, who was in touch with Branham’s main disciple, Paul Cain, and the Kansas City Prophets. Depending upon your view Bob Jones is either someone who has prophetic gifts … "of true biblical stature…..when Bob comes to a church or city almost every person he encounters is left functioning on a higher spiritual level.” (Rick Joyner) - or he’s the perfect fraud. What’s undisputed is that Jones was rejected by the Anaheim Vineyard church in the early nineties for “improprieties”, most notably encouraging women to kit off in his office to receive prophecies from God in the nude - one gathers women have since been asking for protection against Bob’s apparent tendency still to make unwanted appearances when they undress. (Letter of Rev Jesse Star of Texas reproduced at:
The unwanted visitations could represent gossip or hysteria but then one also reads his own associates have sometimes asked blessed Bob after he has appeared in their dreams is he really doing that and Bob has admitted he does sometimes appear. Whatever the truth it’s clear both that Bob is one of the more heterosexual mystics (it was his Emma angel supposedly launched the Kansas Prophets’ movement) and that he will go almost anywhere in the universe at the drop of a hat, even taking friends to the third heaven including Bentley. All they need to do is sit in a restaurant or wherever with him and he will take their hands so they will rise there – a procedure which recalls “rising on the planes” in occult circles. (New Age visualization exercises have a lot to do with Ms Todd and Ms King’s heavenly trips otherwise).
When Jones was young he was an alcoholic bar room brawler and womanizer. Following a breakdown during which, he relates, Jesus improbably told him he would need to kill or forgive twelve people, Jesus also showed him heaven and hell and people dissolving into him. When Jones converted the devils that he said talked to him so often amid drink were exchanged for angels - some of them Branham’s. But were the devils still speaking under different guise? It’s certainly peculiar that Jones claims to visit heaven, see Jesus daily and have prophecies galore yet has remained unhealed of kidney problems for which he’s on dialysis. God apparently told Jones (contrary to the rather strict biblical standards in the area) it didn’t matter if prophets got things wrong, prophets needed to be about 65 per cent right. It’s a fact Jones is himself quite often right for which it seems people will forgive him almost anything. His forecast God had chosen a “burning Bush” to rule America was a gift to the religious right.
THE FALSE PROPHETS CLUB
What is becoming a bit of a new and exclusive prophetic club-cum-mafia all seems to connect somewhere to the dubious granddaddy of so many things, Bob Jones, who has been spiritual mentor to such as Todd Bentley and a guide, justification and “father” to many others – Pat King considers sitting at his feet next to doing the same before Jesus! All the following names who enjoy a certain respectability in charismatic circles they shouldn’t have, show connections with Bob Jones and/or the Kansas City prophets or with Patricia King and Todd Bentley. They include such iffy writers, preachers or campaigners (many promoted on Steve Scultz's Elijah list on the Net)as:
Rick Joyner, Mike Bickle (first and chief defender of Bob Jones in Kansas City), John Crowder, David Herzog, Ryan Wyatt, Francis Frangipane, Bill Johnson, Chuck Pierce, James Goll, Stacey Campell, Bobby Connor, Jill Austin, Lou Engel, Randy Clark, Shawn Bolz (in touch with God’s angelic minister and angels of finance), Peter Wagner. Also Kathie Walters (angels have let her ride a golden motorbike round the skies because God wants believers to have more fun), Barbie Breathitt of Breath of the Spirit Ministries (is there a name connection here?) who will sell you Tarot like cards to interpret your dreams and know why you have an illness, John Paul Jackson (chosen by an angel before birth) and the wayward, Paul Cain, (periodically condemned and restored for a mixture of alcoholism and gay sex. He absurdly considers Branham “the greatest prophet who ever lived”). Cain originally helped promote the ever smiling and filmstarrish Matt Sorger who takes two healing angels with him wherever he goes and invokes revival angels almost anywhere.
Personally I don’t believe any of these people can be trusted, and certainly not as long as they are in any way identified and friendly with especially Jones and/or the memory of Branham and also so hot on the money. More innocently, perhaps ignorantly, occasionally connected with either Jones or King are Bonnie and Mahesh Chavda and sweet smiling Jason Westerfield. But Jason is another of the many-angels-to-help-him boys.
How to spot traits and ideas of false prophets inside or out of the mentioned club I'll list in Part Two.