Secret book attracts Christian fire

The Secret is out, promising everything from bigger bank accounts to a spiritually fulfilling life, but it’s a message that some mainstream Christian leaders are labeling as “blasphemous” and “false teaching.”

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne — released last spring as an Internet video, rushed out a few months later as aDVD and by February in book form topping the best-seller charts — preaches the simple three-step message “ask, believe, receive.”

To live the abundant life of your dreams and get the tangible objects of your desires you must train your mind to think positive, it says. It’s called the “law of attraction” in Secret lingo. If you want, say, a million dollars, you must first think it. If you want to get out of debt, don’t think “debt.” It just attracts more.

The Secret

“There is a downside. If we attract good things, then we can also attract the negative. So this means that if you are robbed, assaulted, or if your car is stolen, etc., then you attracted that to yourself. This has hideous implications if you apply this theory to horrific events like the Holocaust and 9/11.” – Marcy Montenegro

 

“You are God in a physical body,” according to the book. “You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as You. You are a cosmic being. You are all power. You are all wisdom. €¦You are the creator and you are creating the creation of You on this planet.”

“It’s a heresy of heresies,” said Don Whitney, a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. “Her secret is nothing less than Satan’s original lie in the Garden of Eden, ‘You will be like God.’ ”

Devotee Tyra Hargrow, a home-schooling mom in Murfreesboro, says the message has already made a big difference in not just her physical life, but her spiritual one, as well.

“The first time I saw it, I believe the movie was going to finally help me be able to figure out the life I want and deserve,” said Hargrow, 37, who applied the principles of The Secret to start her own home business, a Web site devoted to the divine feminine.

Debate not a suprise

The popularity of The Secret and its condemnation by some Christian leaders are no surprise to Shayne Lee, a sociologist at Tulane University and an expert on the so-called “prosperity Gospel” — which Lee defined as a message that Jesus Christ died not only to secure salvation for believers, but to secure a certain victorious-ness in life, even in material things.

“I think many Protestant leaders see this as a pervasive threat,” Lee said. “It’s all about the individual’s desire, not sacrifice. It’s almost as if you had a genie, as if God is at your personal disposal reinforcing your own capitalist desires.”

Harnessing a Christian message — The Secret quotes the Bible — through the “power of positive thinking” message is not a new phenomenon. Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 book of the same name has sold more than 20 million copies. Televangelist Joel Osteen, who preaches a God-wants-you-to-be-successful message, has the largest church in America, Lakewood Church in Houston.

The same basic principles underlie Unity churches, which have embraced The Secret, offering free viewing and lessons on the “law of attraction,” such as last week’s talk at Unity Church of Life in Murfreesboro, one of three Unity churches in Middle Tennessee.

Earlier this month, the church sponsored a showing of the movie and a workshop on “The Laws of Attraction.”

“The whole philosophy of Unity churches is based on the idea we live in an abundant world,” said Felicia Searcy, the church’s pastor. “Our creator created us with the ability to experience love and joy and abundance and the things that we long for. The only thing keeping us from that is our own fears.”

Goals aren’t material

For some people, the first step may be in seeking material things, Searcy said, but that’s not the ultimate goal.

“Some people need to start there,” she said. “They need to know its okay to have the things they want and live life abundantly. And then they realize that’s not what life is really about. Once they realize stuff is not what’s going to bring them happiness, they discover it’s really about sharing their blessings and using their abundance to give back to the people around them and contribute to the world at large.”

Hargrow said that was true for her.

To put The Secret into practice, Hargrow first spent time doing “creative visualization, seeing myself and feeling the feelings of having this way to get income which won’t take away from my joy, which is staying with my family.”

Hargrow said by focusing on that vision, a fortuitous set of circumstances came her way. She happened upon a Web site and found a professional Web hoster, things that helped her, she said, to realize that her answer was to create a Web site devoted to the “divine feminine.” She hopes the site eventually will generate income.

But the lesson is not simply that she can use the principles of The Secret to find material happiness, Hargrow points out.

“More than using the laws of attraction to create things, I use the laws to get the God qualities I desire in life, such as peace, love and harmony. I believe it is a natural thing to use the law of attraction to create the things that we want, but the things really represent some quality of life that a person desires.

“I desire to have a business, sure, but what I’m really working on is courageousness.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday April 26, 2007.
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