Blogs
What Comes after Protestantism in the States? Magick
Next Post

Press {{ keys }} + D to make this page bookmarked.

Close
Photo: photo: ucla.edu

What Comes after Protestantism in the States? Magick

83

The [u]nited States, with few exceptions, are Protestant nations par excellence.  If, therefore, one understands something of the nature and essence of that religion, he will also understand something of the course the States will probably follow. 

One of the fundamental elements of Protestantism is change.  It resists settledness with all its being.  Early in the Reformation, John Calvin laid down some important markers regarding it:

“The reformed and ever-reforming Church.”  This was John Calvin’s response to the Latin accusation that he and the other Protestants were innovating.  He articulated in his The Necessity of Reforming the Church that this process of reform is the work of God in the Church at all times, and is to be done “according to the Word of God” . . .(Archpriest Josiah Trenham, Rock and Sand: An Orthodox Appraisal of the Protestant Reformers and Their Teachings, Newrome Press, 2015, footnote 210, pgs. 145-6).

The Protestant obsession with innovation, with the ‘new’, is a major tenet of modern life in the States.  One can see its ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ side in this article about the latest megachurch fad, the Crossroads Church:

The fastest-growing congregation in America is one you may never have heard of with a name you hear everywhere: Crossroads Church.

Crossroads are about as common as First Baptists among today’s non-denominational, contemporary churches. But this particular Crossroads, based in Cincinnati, could have a location near you in coming years if all goes according to plan. It has set out to take on nationwide influence, leveraging data from its app and streaming services to choose where to launch new campuses.

“There’s something in the whole package that comes together,” said senior pastor Brian Tome, whose preaching is broadcast from Crossroads’ campus in Oakley to more than a dozen other sites. “God gets the glory.”

Just over two decades old, the booming church still functions like a startup—for good reason. Described by Cincinnati Business Courier as both “an entrepreneurial church and a church for entrepreneurs,” its business mentality has been key to its growth so far and shapes how it will expand—essentially, franchise—in the future.

In 2017, Outreach Magazine and LifeWay Research named Crossroads the fastest-growing church for the second time (the first was in 2015). With 14 campuses and 38,000 in attendance, Crossroads added around 6,000 members in 2016—growing at a rate of 25 percent.

Taking ministry out of the box

While keeping focused on Scripture and the Spirit, leaders at Crossroads pride themselves on rethinking the standard tone of church life. They favor catchy language and marketing, powerful messages, and exciting programs. They credit the church’s growth to an entrepreneurial willingness to break the mold—even their own.

“We don’t set out to intentionally disrupt anything,” said Brian Tome, senior pastor of Crossroads, who mingles business metaphors and spiritual allusions.

“But Jesus said he works in new wineskins. He’s not against old wineskins. But he said he has come to do a new thing. The Holy Spirit is active in our church, causing us to do things other churches aren’t willing to do.”

Tome cites the Holy Spirit’s leadership in everything at Crossroads—from their vision to expand beyond the Midwest to how they organize their programs to why they placed beer kegs outside a prayer tent at a recent men’s event, drawing thirsty participants in for prayer.

While he has a seminary degree and a ministry background, Tome has surrounded himself with business leaders, out-of-the-box creatives, and entrepreneurs. Most of Crossroads’ founders (who invited Tome to the city to be their pastor 22 years ago) were executives at Procter & Gamble, the Cincinnati-based marketing behemoth behind brands like Tide, Febreze, Crest, Gillette, Charmin, and Pampers.

 “We’re taking risks we wouldn’t take if we were preoccupied with sustaining ourselves,” Tome said. “I think that’s the call of discipleship … We have to be willing to take the risk and be hurt if we’re going to take new ground and be formed into being the disciples Jesus asked us to be.”

Jenn Sperry, far right, leads the church’s media team as it shifts to a national focus. “we’re open-handed right now to where God is stirring up energy,” she said.

Founded in 1996, Crossroads has always built on its business background. Only a small fraction of staff members have seminary training, because the church seeks diverse staff to fill roles that go beyond preaching, music, youth, and children’s ministry.

While in-house graphic design and branding are nothing new for megachurches, Crossroads has a team that functions like an ad agency—stocked with designers, copywriters, project managers, public relations managers, and social media strategists.

It’s these initiatives and strategies that set the church apart, rather than Tome himself as some kind of celebrity pastor. (When he showed up recently at a pastors’ conference in Silicon Valley, he said no one recognized him.)

The church embraces conversational and edgy lingo, what it deems “culturally current communication.” In its manifesto, Crossroads celebrates authenticity because “hiding sucks.” The church takes a strong stance on biblical truth but points out that it doesn’t care if members wear socks with sandals or how they pronounce “GIF.” They adopted a “beer test” for leaders on stage each weekend: Anyone speaking should be approachable enough that you’d want to tip one back with them.

Tome predicts American churches will soon look radically different from what Christians have expected and experienced for the past few decades, though he doesn’t know exactly how.

To stay ahead of whatever changes might come, the church employs two full-time market researchers, as well as a sort of research and development division. The “skunkworks” team borrows its name from the corporate-world moniker for a group that operates autonomously and often secretly to pioneer new ideas. Crossroads’ leadership entrusts the skunkworks team, full of young Christian entrepreneurs, with building ideas for the future.

They aren’t supposed to play it safe. These days, for example, the high-tech team is looking into ways Crossroads could use artificial intelligence in ministry and worship. “Their task—figure out a way to put Crossroads out of business,” Tome said. “Anything short of sin is up for grabs.”

Source:  Kelly Carr, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/may/crossroads-cincinnati-america-fastest-growing-church-start.html, opened 30 May 2018

This constant change in forms of worship is a real point of trouble for the post-Schism West (both Roman Catholic and Protestant) that touches on something much deeper than matters of taste:  the acquisition of the Grace of God.  If one rejects the Orthodox forms of worship, he also cuts himself off from God’s Grace.  Leonid Ouspensky explains:

In Catholicism, church architecture and decoration are marked by great variety, and the architectural style is sometimes radically different, depending on the spiritual traditions.  The Orthodox world, by contrast, has always been guided by a faithful search for an architectural, artistic expression that best translates the meaning of a temple understood as a symbolic image of the Church and the universe.  Unlike in Roman Catholicism, regardless of the richness and diversity of architectural solutions, when a suitable expression was found, it was definitively adopted, at least in its main features.  In conformity with a sense of the Church, its program of decoration also remained the same in its principle, regardless of the type of church and its purpose, whether a cathedral, a monastic or parish church, or even a cemetery chapel.  This system of decoration reflected not so much the functioning of a building linked to a practical purpose:  its very changelessness corresponded to that of the essential function of every Christian church—to be a place of the Liturgy.

 . . . Indeed, it is in the Liturgy that the significance of a Christian church is fully realized.  Its architecture and decoration have acquired all their meaning from the union of the heavenly and the earthly Church in the person of its members united by the spirit of love in living communion with the Body and Blood of Christ.  It is in them and through them that the union of all is actualized.  Thus the temple acquires the fullness of meaning which the Father-liturgists of the pre-iconoclast period had already detected in it:  it is an image of the Church rising towards eschatological fulfillment.  In reality, as in image, it is a component of the Kingdom of God to come.

All this is centered on man so as to place him in conditions most favorable to the exaltation of knowing God and of communing with Him.  In an Orthodox church, all efforts are aimed not at creating a place that calls for “solitary meditation, a turning inward, a prolonged private conversation with one’s own secrets”—but at including man in the catholic unity of the Church so that in its entirety, earthly and heavenly, it may acknowledge and praise God “with one mouth and one heart” (Theology of the Icon: Vol. 2, Anthony Gythiel, trans., St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992, pgs. 223-4 and p. 223).

Cut off from God’s Grace by their rejection of Orthodox worship and dogma, which together form a unity that cannot be broken- to change one is to change the other, the Western confessions jump from one innovation to the next - clown masses, beer fests, video screens, rock and roll ‘praise bands’, etc. - in a vain search to fill the void left by the departure of the Holy Ghost from them.

In the Protestant States, the desire for a ‘spiritual experience’ of any kind by these famished soulsnow trumps all:

Rather than traditional worship services, many megachurches say they have “experiences.” What kind of experiences are INC [Independent Network Charismatic--W.G.] churches trying to create?

Christerson: The traditional megachurch uses music and exciting preaching from great communicators. But we found that wasn’t the case with these INC-lings. They are actually not very exciting preachers. That really surprised us. For them, it’s all about encountering these supernatural manifestations. That’s the exciting experience.

It’s very spontaneous. We went to a conference where a number of apostles were speaking and Bill Johnson was doing a Bible teaching. He had probably talked 20 or 30 minutes, and you could feel the restlessness in the room. He said, “I know you are just waiting for me to stop preaching because you want the power. But just hang with me here.” People weren’t there to listen to him. What they wanted was for him to lay hands on them.

Source:  Bob Smietana, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/august-web-only/bethel-church-international-house-prayer-prophets-apostles.html, opened 1 June 2018

And this takes us right into the area of occultmagick, which likewise promises power and experiences, but without the intermediary of any Church hierarchies, be they people, books, etc.  Jason Louv, one of the main promoters ofmagick in the u. S., writes,

If the Reformation sought to remove the Catholic Church as a mediator between the individual and God, then Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, and operative magic sought to go one further, and provide models and techniques to give individuals a direct connection to the source of scripture.   . . . with the right techniques, mankind could seek not just to talk to God but find that God talks back, outside of institutional or scriptural bounds, and that this process could be put on an empirical basis (John Dee and the Empire of Angels: Enochian Magick and the Occult Roots of the Modern World, Inner Traditions, 2018, p. 64).

MrLouvadds elsewhere,

All religions have an exoteric shell—a system of rules and dogmas for laypeople—along with smaller inner esoteric groups focused on mysticism, individual experimentation with spiritual techniques, and, very often, apocalypticism.  Examples include the tantric schools of Hinduism and Buddhism, the Holy Orders of Catholicism, the Kabbalists in Judaism, the Sufi schools of Islam, and many more.  Though Protestantism in its many varieties is only five hundred years old, it is, of course, no different.  Esoteric Protestant groups like the Rosicrucians, Freemasonry, the Golden Dawn, and indeed, the collective of scientists that became the Royal Society—are­ the esoteric core of Protestantism.  Protestantism’s often aggressively “bland” approach, even approaching open secularism in the case of many modern denominations, makes it easy to assume that it possesses no depth and to miss what is (or at least was) hiding in plain sight (p. 32).

These religious subcultures [Freemasonry, etc.--W.G.], in the final summation, do not exist in opposition to mainstream Protestantism but are, instead, its esoteric component—in some cases affirming and upholding it theology by acting as its shadow (p. 31).

No longer able to discern truth from falsehood, many folks in the several States are being drawn into the fold of the magick community.  The Harry Potter craze was one of the first large-scale manifestations of this spiritual sickness:

https://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/halloween_e.htm#_Toc44548704

https://artsandculture.google.com/project/harry-potter-a-history-of-magic

Great effort is made to insert traditional Christian practices like Christmas celebrations into the world of magick to normalize the latter:

https://blog.bookstellyouwhy.com/christmas-as-portrayed-in-the-harry-potter-series-part-i

https://blog.bookstellyouwhy.com/christmas-as-portrayed-in-the-harry-potter-series-part-ii

Now there is the use by some Christian sects of tarot cards(‘destiny cards’):

https://www.christianpost.com/news/bethel-church-responds-christian-tarot-cards-controversy-212796/

And witches are beginning to practice very openly in some places, like New York:

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/12/08/modrn-day-witchcraft/

Magick will not be only road taken by folks in the post-Protestant u. S.  But considering its close kinship with the post-Orthodox Western mindset (individual empowerment/autonomy, rejection of hierarchy and tradition, and the quest forexaltedspiritual feelings and experiences), and its actual practice by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike over the years (Popes, monks, kings, etc.; e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alchemy#Medieval_Europe and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alchemy#Renaissance_and_early_modern_Europe), it is very possible, unless deep repentance takes hold and a return to the Orthodox Church, that its practitioners and its influence will grow fairly dramatically in the years to come.

Author: Walt Garlington