RNB Clippings: Scientology, Paganism, and Phil Keaggy

RNB Clippings is a collection of clippings, snippets, links, commentary and other items that, in one way or another, relate to the topics normally covered in Religion News Blog. Like so€¦

What’s in a name?

The November/December issue of Mother Jones notes:

THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY holds trademarks on “Hubbard,” “celebrity,” “flag,” “high winds,” “purification,” “key to life,” “the way of happiness,” and “truth revealed.”
– Source: What’s in a name? Mother Jones, November/December 2006

Seeing “Church of Scientology” and “truth revealed” in the same sentence should bring xenu.net to mind. As the site says, Operation Clambake has been “Undressing the Church of Scientology since 1996.” Operation Clambake? Uhuh. The name is explained here. And that’s merely the start of a revealing trip through the world of Scientology.

Apologetics Index includes additional research resources on Scientology. See also RNB’s Scientology news tracker. We’ve even got a Scientology RSS news feed.

Halloween, Witchcraft, and Paganism

Here’s a scary headline for those who believe in the separation between Halloween and Religion: “As ‘goblins’ knock, evangelicals answer the door.”

Halloween, long associated with pagan traditions, is now high season for an old American tradition of evangelizing through tracts. The nation’s four major publishers of tracts say they sell more at Halloween than at any other time of year, including Christmas and Easter. And the push is on to grow the seasonal market. This year, thanks to new glow-in-the-dark tracts, the Texas-based American Tract Society expects to set a new Halloween record by shipping out more than 4 million tracts.

Buoying tract sales, observers say, is a rising tide of evangelical passion for Halloween rituals. Four years ago in Frisco, Texas, for instance, most churches either shunned the holiday as a perceived festival of mischief or staged their own alternative event. This year, at least 11 congregations are equipping members with tracts for doorbell-answering adults and trick-or-treating kids to hand out.
– Source: As ‘goblins’ knock, evangelicals answer the door, The Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 30, 2006

Of course not all Christians are as easy-going…

A small evangelical Christian church that has tried to reach out to the witch community says it was dropped by its national organization for getting too close to local pagans.

The Gathering at Salem, which was scheduled to give free “psalm readings” at a Halloween celebration, has been relegated to the status of independent Christian church after being removed last March from membership in the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, a worldwide evangelical movement based in Los Angeles, according to Phil Wyman, pastor of The Gathering.
– Source: Church severs tie with branch over pagans, The Salem News, via the Cushing Daily Citizen, USA, Oct. 31, 2006

Interestingly, as Chuck Colson reported in a recent BreakPoint commentary, many Wiccans grew up in Christian homes. He cites a book titled Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality, by Christian journalist Catherine Edwards Sanders.

What was it about Christianity that led these folks to reject it in favor of such bizarre beliefs?

Spending a year talking with Wiccans all over America, Sanders discovered that many feel that Christianity, as practiced in the twenty-first century, failed them. For example, many Wiccans care deeply about the environment and believe that the Church has largely ignored the command to care for God’s creation.

Second, women who embrace Wicca say that in churches, all too often, their gifts were confined to teaching Sunday school and making coffee. So they came to believe that Christianity was a patriarchal religion that demeaned the status of women.

Third, the followers of Wicca say that they are looking for a spirituality that is real. In their religious practice, they want to feel that a supernatural transition is going on.
– Source: Church Colson, Casting A Spell, BreakPoint Oct. 28, 2006

In a follow-up commentary, Colson writes:

Art Lindsley of the C. S. Lewis Institute says that Wicca and other forms of neo-Paganism are a result of “the unpaid bills of the church.” The Church is supposed to be a place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Our whole worldview is built on the idea of a loving God who created every person in His own image. When we fail to put that worldview into practice, people lose interest in Christianity. Many of them go off in search of a religion built on self-fulfillment, not love of God—a religion like Wicca.

So how should we as Christians reach out to Wiccans? For one thing, we can take time to study and understand what they believe and the issues that are really important to them—issues like the environment. We don’t have to worship the earth to understand why many Wiccans are so concerned about it. But even more importantly, we must live out our own worldview through our actions, treating all people with love and respect. He whom you would change, remember, you must first love, as Martin Luther King, Jr., taught us. And if we do this, we will start paying some of those unpaid bills ourselves.
– Source: Chuck Colson, ‘The Unpaid Bills Of The Church,’ BreakPoint, Oct. 31, 2006

Information about Witchcraft can be found in this Apologetics Index entry.

Phil Keaggy

There’s a long-standing rumor that, during a “Tonight Show” appearance, Jimi Hendrix proclaimed Phil Keaggy to be the greatest guitarist of all time. The folks at Snopes.com have declared the rumor to be false, saying:

If you said “Phil who?” you’ve captured the essence of this legend. Phil Keaggy may be revered by legions of guitarists for his superlative instrumental artistry and appreciated by Purple haze, runnin’ round my brain millions of fans worldwide who enjoy his Christian-based recordings, but he’s still far from a household name, even after his more than thirty years as a professional musician.
– Source: Phil Keaggy, Snopes.com

That said, Phil Keaggy is a legend in his own right, and if you’ve ever heard him play you know why. Guitar Player puts it like this:

Keaggy’s playing skillfully blends elements from just about every imaginable style, as well as incorporating volume-knob swells, slapped harmonics, dramatic glissandos, tasty bends, and various textural tricks. His looping abilities—as showcased on Roundabout—rival those of anyone.
– Source: Barry Cleveland, Righteous Guitar, Oct. 2006

In the interview Keaggy sets the record straight on how he lost his middle finger, and on the Hendrix rumor:

How did losing a finger as a child affect your playing?

I lost my middle finger before I began playing guitar in fourth grade, so I never missed it, because it wasn’t there. I could still hold a plectrum. The only thing I had to get over was the embarrassment of playing in front of people, because, as a kid, you’re self-conscious of things like that. But I began to accept who I was as a person, and, in 1970, I became a Christian, and God helped me see that it’s okay to be me. That’s when I accepted who I am, and I found total joy in playing in front of people and just being myself. The only thing I can’t do is that wonderful flamenco tremolo stuff, but I’ve found ways to compensate. By the way, I lost my finger in a water-pump accident. I might as well get the story straight, because there are some wild stories out there.

Yeah, I read somewhere that you lost it in a cutting match with Hendrix.

That’s one of the stories! Glass Harp recorded in his studio two weeks after he died, but I never met him, and I don’t think he ever heard my music. But I sure did admire him.
– Source: Barry Cleveland, Righteous Guitar, Oct. 2006

You can sample Keaggy’s music on PhilKeaggy.com, and buy his albums from Amazon.com.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday November 1, 2006.
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