Do the recent deaths at a Sedona, Arizona New Age spiritual retreat have a lesson for anyone on a Christian journey today? It may seem far-fetched to think that anyone calling themselves âChristianâ could learn anything from a group of âstupid peopleâ following a charismatic cult leader into an unventilated sweat lodge with 65 other âstupid people,â yet this could be a wake-up call for some emergents, ecumenists and âpropheticâ charismaniac âstupid people.â (tongue-in-cheek, of course)
For those who havenât seen this story in the news, on October 8, 2009, motivational speaker James Arthur Ray completed his week-long âSpiritual Warriorâ retreat with a Native American ritual in a sweat lodge – a sort of sauna utilizing hot rocks doused with water. Ray âallegedlyâ took a group of 65 participants into the 415-square feet lodge for two hours, barring them from exiting, into his makeshift dome that was covered in plastic tarps and blankets. Three people died and 20 others fell ill from a lack of oxygen. None were allowed out until they had passed out. All the dead and injured were toward the back of the lodge where oxygen was in least supply. This conference cost each of the participants close to $10,000.
James Ray was in Rhonda Byrneâs âThe Secretâ and on February 8, 2007 he joined her and other directors of âThe Secretâ onto Oprah Winfreyâs program, bringing their collective new age spirituality to her receptive audience. Byrne introduced the subject of âThe law of attractionâ as âthe most powerful law in the universe by which we are creating our lives.â
Oprah added, âWe all, human beings on earth, create our own reality…It means that everything that happens to you, good and bad, you are attracting to yourself, that the energy you put out into the world is always going to be coming back to you.â
New age educator Jack Canfield agreed, âeverything is energy and what controls the flow of energy is thought and feeling.â
Ray chimed in with, âeverything happens by principles and laws in our universe.â Apparently the principle in the universe that humans canât breathe without oxygen is a law he didnât quite understand. Those principles no doubt will be used to put him behind bars for manslaughter and will be used by the victimsâ families to separate him from the filthy lucre he made in deceiving many âstupid people.â
Good Catholic Girl
One of Rayâs victims was Kirby Anne Brown, 38, from Westtown, New York whose brother and cousin expressed their disgust with Ray on CBSâs Early Show. Her cousin Tom McFeeley said that Kirby made assumptions about Rayâs qualifications based upon her confidence in Oprah. So she didnât object when Ray required her and the other participants to go on a 36-hour fast, be deprived of sleep, and then in a weakened state to be held as willing captives in the sweat lodge.
One would think only new age âstupid peopleâ would fall for such a dumb thing as that. But Kirby Anne Browne was a Roman Catholic who regularly attended mass with her family at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Otisville, NY where her funeral was held. Monsignor Larry Hinch who officiated at the internment was the victimâs own âgodfatherâ and had personally introduced her parents to each other. Hinch lovingly referred to Kirby as âa spiritual seeker.â
On the outside it seems like a baffling contradiction that a âgoodâ Catholic girl would seek spiritual power at a new age retreat in Sedona. But upon closer scrutiny, things begin to come clear. Her own mother, also a Catholic in good standing, had attended one of Rayâs week-end retreats with her daughter before and she read from the works of mystic poet Khalil Gibran at her daughterâs funeral. It would seem it might be more appropriate to read from the Gospels one would think at a so-called âChristianâ funeral.
Throughout the history of the Roman Catholic Church, Rome has merged her warped Christianity with the religions of the world as a ruse to help new converts adapt to Catholicism. The RCC had its start by merging Christianity with paganism and Judaism while sharing in secular government with Roman emperors. Pagan holidays were baptized in Christian jargon while retaining pagan tradition. Using Old Testament Jewish concepts such as a mediating priesthood, a golden tabernacle with a veil, and the ritualistic use of candles and incense created an ancient mystical mystery religion that is still alive today in every Catholic church. As Catholic Spain spread to the New World, native Indian shamanism was also adapted to assist in missionary efforts to bring all under Romeâs authority. Prayers to so-called âsaintsâ replaced ancestor worship and Catholic shrines were built on the ruins of indigenous altars where human sacrifices were once held.
So it comes to no surprise that in modern-day Catholic monasteries and hermitages new age divination has found a home. One Catholic retreat center called âClareâs Wellâ in Annandale, Minnesota is run by nuns of the Franciscan order. One report described it as place to study âalternative faiths.â It has âa rustic labyrinth, bodywork services, and a tiny chapel for individual meditation and prayer. Thereâs even an on-site sweathouse, a structure typically used for purification in native spirituality.â The nuns defend their on-site library filled with books by Zen monks, the Tao Te Ching and Thich Nhat Hanhâs walking meditation by saying they complement their Catholic faith.
This isnât the only Catholic center that utilizes sweat lodges. Another Franciscan, âFather Richard Rohrâ has been successful in getting non-Catholic âChristiansâ to join him in his Zen practices at The Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He promotes his center as âa place to be still,â no doubt to attract pro-contemplative Evangelicals like those who esteem Richard Foster and Beth Moore. Rohrâs influence among emergent âChristiansâ is seen in his promotion of red-letterism, the idea that the red letters of Jesus in the Bible trump all other passages in the rest of the New Testament. Rohr also, like emergents Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren, supports moral relativism and is a defender of gay âChristians,â supporting a homosexual advocacy group called Soulforce.
One critic of Rohrâs book, Adamâs Return, pointed out that in the index he gives an outline of various rites for men that include pagan initiations. Bryce Sibley noted, âRohr argued at his conference that the rites that inspired him are Native American. Most disturbing was Rohr’s description of crawling around naked on all fours with a group of men in a Native American sweat lodge. He gushed about what a powerful experience it was for him.â
The new age movement has come into our churches via men who have crept in unnoticed and the leadership that should have tossed out the vessels that brought this stuff in – such as Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, have instead been welcomed them with open arms. We believers who take a stand against this garbage are the ones being called âstupid.â Men calling good evil, and evil good, have risen up in the ranks of Evangelicalism under the banner of liberty.
The global harlot religion continues to advance. Otherwise good churches are using some of these retreat centers with the labyrinths and sweat lodges for their menâs or womenâs retreats. We even hear those who call themselves charismatic Christians using the very same lingo and arguments for a Force they call God and many are attending their seminars. They use unbiblical terms such as âquantum physicsâ to describe God and hold conferences like Quantum Leap dressed up in Star Trek costumes. One recent prophetic conference played space noise and the leader instructed the people to worship God with the stars.
So-called prophets like Kim Clement also use the idea of the âlaw of attractionâ and in his book, Call Me Crazy but Iâm Hearing God, he identifies the law as God. (See past Reflection for details.)
This trend in seeking invisible laws and principles to determine oneâs life brings this scripture to light:
âBeware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.â (Col. 2:8)
Even as I finish up writing this Reflection, Iâm watching a live stream from the âDream Bigâ conference being held at Ignited Church, the church pastored by Stephen Strader, where tattooed scandalized evangelist Todd Bentley stirred demonic spirits in what was called the âLakeland Revival.â Featured speaker Patricia King used the ideas of the âlaw of attractionâ to sell the viewers on her prosperity gospel, ending of course with the condition of giving big in the offering. Her rhetoric would fit in at any new age conference center when she gives the crowd this motivational pep talk:
âWealth attracts wealth. Get the spirit of wealth inside of you…the rich donât pay for anything because wealth attracts wealth and poverty attracts poverty…Someone with a poverty spirit attracts poverty unless they understand kingdom economy. Any believer can live in the spirit of wealth…we have a real need for prosperity…where you have enough to worship your god with a large offering.â
The promotional email from Strader boasted about Thursday nightâs message from Patricia King in which she promised the older people that an angel is being dispatched to get them wealth. The focus on getting wealth by these charismaniacs is no different than the emphasis on money promoted by the sweat lodge killer. Yet when most Christians see this on Oprah theyâre horrified, but when it comes dressed in Christianized terms and words like âmysticalâ are replaced with âspiritualâ they get sucked in.
The common denominator in all these modern-day mystics is unity. Mankind must come together – âpeace, peace, and there is no peace.â Stupid people are following the piper who is leading them blindly over the edge. Hopefully this sweat lodge tragedy will be a wake-up call for those who are drawn to the mystic journey to change course before itâs too late. The devil laughs at all these blind followers and sings along with the Beatles his personal theme song:
Here come old flattop
He come groovinâ up slowly
He got joo-joo eyeball
He one holy roller
He got hair down to his knees
Got to be a joker
He just do what he please
He got early warning
He got muddy water
He one mojo filter
He say “One and one and one is three”
Got to be good-looking
âCause he’s so hard to see
Come together, right now
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
- Romans 1:22-25