August 28, 2007

Rocking the Boat with St. Jackie

In the past week there have been three shocking stories in the secular press involving church women who have brought a reproach upon the Gospel in the eyes of the world. I have warned the church many times concerning these three women and challenged their ministries by the Word of God, as have other discerning voices in the church, yet mainstream Christendom’s Public Relations’ policy of nonrockaboatus (as the late Bible-Answerman Walter Martin used to call it) lives on in the 21st century.

The first woman in the news this past week is Juanita Bynum, who touts herself as a prophetess and is often featured on TBN’s Praise-a-Thons demanding viewers to give sacrificially or face severe consequences from God. Back in 2002, her shameful 1-million-dollar wedding to Bishop Thomas Weeks III was televised on TBN, though that was not her first trip to the altar.

Last Thursday that fairy tale union came to an end without the cameras rolling as Bishop Weeks allegedly choked Juanita and kicked and stomped on her in the parking lot of the Renaissance Concourse Hotel in Atlanta. According to the Associated Press they had met there to talk about a reconciliation after a separation for an unknown length of time. I had noticed that Bynum had not hosted TBN’s Praise the Lord program in quite some time. TBN’s website still lists her weekly program, "Weapons of Power," but with the notation: "No show times are scheduled in the next two months, please check back later."

The second woman has a lot in common with Juanita and that is Paula White, another fast-talking female fleecer of the flock seen raising money for TBN via spiritual extortion techniques. Like Juanita, Paula White changes her appearance frequently by way of expensive cosmetic surgical procedures.

Paula White and her husband Randy pastor a 23,000-member mega-church in Florida called Without Walls International. On the same day as Juanita was being kicked around in the parking lot, the Whites announced to the Thursday evening service that they are getting a divorce. They had been married for nearly 18 years, both on second marriages. They told the gathering that the breakup was a result of lives going in different directions. I wonder what chapter and verse they can find for that one!

But neither of them intend to miss a beat in their "ministries" – Randy says that "church attendance ‘will take a hit’" but he intends to keep right on going pastoring the church in Florida while commuting from his fine beachfront dwelling in Malibu, California. And Paula will keep up with her ventures at her new "Life by Design Empowerment Center" where she teaches a secular sanitized version of the false prosperity gospel.

The third woman in the news this week is dead, but her memory and influence lives on. That would be Mother Teresa, one who has become the role-model of Christian service and self-sacrifice by Catholics and Christians alike. A Nobel prize winner, Mother Teresa’s road to Catholic sainthood is moving faster than any canonization process in the 1,000+ history of the practice. The beatification of Mother Teresa was conducted Oct. 19, 2003 by Pope John Paul II, which is the first step toward sainthood.

So it came to a real shock to many (me excluded), when Time Magazine ran a story in their August 23, 2007 issue called, "Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith." It reports:

"A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, ‘neither in her heart or in the eucharist.’"

The article goes on to quote Mother Teresa from the new book telling her confessors horrible things about her lost spiritual condition.

"Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine and author of "My Life with the Saints," a book that dealt with far briefer reports in 2003 of Teresa's doubts wrote, ‘I've never read a saint's life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented.’"

One of her confessors said that her mystical experiences were "so deep and violent." Mother Teresa wrote down some of her words to Jesus at the suggestion of her confessor. She wrote:

"So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?"

Those do not sound at all like the words of a blood-bought, Spirit-filled believer in Christ Jesus. Certainly all Christians at some time or other go through spiritual dry times, but Mother Teresa is reported to have been in her condition for the last half of her life. The article describes its intensity:

"For these confessors, she developed a kind of shorthand of pain, referring almost casually to ‘my darkness’ and to Jesus as ‘the Absent One.’ There was one respite. In October 1958, Pope Pius XII died, and requiem Masses were celebrated around the Catholic world. Teresa prayed to the deceased Pope for a ‘proof that God is pleased with the Society.’ And ‘then and there,’ she rejoiced, ‘disappeared the long darkness ... that strange suffering of 10 years." Unfortunately, five weeks later she reported being "in the tunnel’ once more. And although, as we shall see, she found a way to accept the absence, it never lifted again. Five years after her Nobel, a Jesuit priest in the Calcutta province noted that ‘Mother came ... to speak about the excruciating night in her soul. It was not a passing phase but had gone on for years.’ A 1995 letter discussed her ‘spiritual dryness.’ She died in 1997."

That is pitiful. The only relief she got from her spiritual oppression was temporary and a result of praying to a dead guy. And yet it is reported that she predicted that after her death the Catholic Church would try and canonize her quickly and she wrote a letter saying, "If I ever become a Saint -- I will surely be one of 'darkness.' I will continually be absent from Heaven." 

Not surprisingly, the Vatican told the press that "her path to sainthood will not be affected by the controversy." 

The fruit of Mother Teresa’s lips belie her position as a role-model for Christian women. True Christian women have testified throughout history of the Lord’s peace in the storms of life. In fact, the presence of the Lord is so much more tangible in the middle of troubles than at any other time in a believer’s life. The darkness that Mother Teresa describes is found among those who are still in darkness and have not yet entered His light or had their burden of sin lifted.

Ecumenical Compromise

However, Mother Teresa is a sacred cow in the Evangelical world as well as within Catholicism. Those who criticize her are tarred and feathered. Both Christianity Today magazine, as well as Charisma, have done many popular stories on Mother Teresa, heralding her as the personification of Christianity lived out. Don’t trouble those publications with the fact that Mother Teresa is known for saying she "never tried to convert to Christ the dying people for whom they cared. Instead, "Mother’ Teresa declared: ‘If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are. ... What God is in your mind you must accept’ (from Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, by Desmond Doig, p. 156)."

In spite of many positive stories of her in the past, CT reported in 2001 that "Mother Teresa Received Exorcism." The article stated:

"Archbishop of Calcutta Henry D'Souza says Mother Teresa had an ‘exorcism’ performed on her when she was hospitalized for heart trouble in 1997… she received a ‘prayer of protection’ from demons when doctors couldn't find a medical reason for her sleeplessness. "I wanted her to calm down and asked a priest, in the name of the church, to perform an exorcism prayer on her. She happily agreed. After he performed these prayers, she slept very well that night,’ D'Souza tells Reuters...’I cannot believe they would have allowed that to happen,’ Notre Dame theology professor Richard McBrien tells the Associated Press. ‘They could have performed the rite of the anointing of the sick. That's one of the sacraments. Exorcisms aren't sacraments.’ Fordham University sociology professor Michael W. Cuneo, author of the new book American Exorcism, is also incredulous. "The official Roman Catholic position is that you're supposed to approach an exorcism with a great deal of skepticism,’ he tells Time. ‘One of the weirdest things about this story, if the article is correct, is that there was no evaluation on the part of the Archbishop. The order for the exorcism was just off the cuff.’"

Just last week, Christianity Today came out with an editorial blasting discernment ministries that dare to be critical of false teachers. David Aikman in his article "Attack Dogs of Christendom," in the August 23, 2007 issue of CT, rails against those who expose ecumenism. "The angriest websites are those belonging to small, but disturbingly visible, fundamentalist Protestant groups outraged that fellow Protestants appear to be holding out a welcoming hand to Catholics or Orthodox Christians." He laments that Christian watchdogs are hurting the effort "to bring grace and savor to a crumbling civilization" "when the Christian influence on contemporary culture today is so weakened."

Aikman came to the rescue of several false teachers and singled out a particular watchman ministry’s rhetoric that used some colorful language in classifying some of the popular errant ministers. "Schuller and the late Norman Vincent Peale are "the devil's duo," he wrote. "Richard Foster (a leading Quaker writer on Christian spirituality), Brian McLaren (a leader in the emerging church movement), and Joel Osteen (pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston) are "vipers of new evangelicalism" and "whitewashed tombs."

I would agree that the name-calling is a bit over the top, but he leaves his readers with the impression that anyone exposing the false teachings of these men are attack dogs that should be ostracized. And he is angry at discerning Christians who are not ecumenical with Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. That is probably because in CT’s PR manual, churches who bow down before statues and teach a sacramental-works-righteousness form of salvation have full support of the magazine. This is all done in the name of [a very false] unity with the justification that there’s power in numbers, not to mention more subscribers.

Undoubtedly, when Mother Teresa is canonized, CT’s stylebook will require them to refer to her as "St. Teresa." If you read any article in CT, you’ll notice that when referring to a historical figure that has been canonized, they will use that title "St." for the historical figure. They will call Augustine "St. Augustine" and Anselm "St. Anselm." Yet, when referring to William Tyndale or John Bunyan, true saints, they will not get the "St." designation before their name. Isn’t something wrong with this picture? After all, all true believers, living and dead, are saints of the Lord, and that includes yours truly!

This nonrockaboatus epidemic that Walter Martin noted back in the 1980s is now a full-blown pandemic. I’ll conclude with wise words from Dr. Martin in his last TBN appearance, circa 1986, on Praise the Lord that was hosted that night by elusive Bible prophecy teacher Doug Clark.

"Part of the problem of church historically has been if you don’t have any movers and shakers and nobody dissenting and nobody pointing things out, then you don’t have any teaching ministry in the church because you teach by contrast… There’s nothing wrong with controversy for the sake of truth. It’s controversy just for the sake of controversy that’s a sin… I know the liberals are bankrupt; I know the cults are bankrupt; I know the world religions are bankrupt… What’s happening – this is true – what’s happening is a marked reticence on the part of the professing church to call a proverbial spade a spade. We see Christian leaders on television and they’re asked direct questions… and they won’t answer them. You have such leaders as Norman Vincent Peale, big power of positive thinking image, and Peale goes on the Donahue show… and Donahue asked him point blank, ‘Is the only way to get to heaven Jesus?’ ‘No, after all if you’re sincere’… What’s going on here?… Doesn’t anybody ever anymore get excited in the presence of evil?"

♥♥♥

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