This is an era in which we find ourselves swirling in conflicting messages and confusing reports. If one were not confident in God’s ability to enforce the perseverance of His truth and, subsequently be the faithful Shepherd of His sheep that He claims to be, one would wonder if authentic Christianity could survive.
Take as a “for instance” the Christian tendency to listen to voices that espouse a “feel good” spirituality yet fall short on truly communicating that which is true. I know, for example, dozens of people who closely follow the Oprah Winfrey Show and hang on her every word. She’s smart, successful, sincere, and seems genuinely interested in bettering herself and catalyzing the “betterment” of her audience.
Millions of viewers and radio listeners watch her show and who can question the impact that her book picks have had on the publishing industry? When Oprah recommends a book, one can expect that book to instantly be on the bestseller list.
So imagine the harm that can be done if someone like Oprah Winfrey were to be quietly led astray. I specifically refer to her show’s promotion of the book entitled “A Course In Miracles”. Someone recently mentioned to me that her show has not only endorsed it, but has also begun to broadcast lessons from it on her radio program, hosted (evidently) by Marianne Williamson. I have since researched the matter and have found it to be true. I am, quite honestly, horrified. I have long been aware that Williamson espouses a non-orthodox (and I might also add non-authentic) Christianity, originally stumbling onto her philosophical and spiritual positions when I found a children’s book by her on prayer.
While it should never be one’s goal to spread aspersions about another (and this commentary isn’t doing that), it is imperative, however, that we clarify the issues at hand and the claims being made, and take a look at the persons who have made those claims – even in the limited space that a newspaper column affords.
In a nutshell, the Course (or “ACIM” as its proponents often refer to it) is an alternative interpretation of deity, humanity, and reality using the language of the Bible as a means by which those who have grown up in the church may be wooed and led astray if unwary or unlearned in the Scriptures. It has at its core the teachings common to a movement made very popular in the 1960s (generally referred to as “New Age”), but originally introduced to the United States and England in the late 1880s as the West became more connected with the various religions of the Far East (Hinduism and Buddhism in particular).
The Course teaches that the Christ Spirit (the Son of God) is separate from the historical figure of Jesus (this was a teaching introduced into the early Church also in the fourth century and was a part of a heresy called “Gnosticism”). It further teaches that the cross of Calvary has no meaning and that sin is merely an illusion. The basic premise of the Course is that all of reality is, in fact, an illusion (a basic tenet of Buddhism). Sadly, its usage of common Christian lingo makes it so confoundedly confusing that most Christians are not prepared to defend themselves from its aim: which is to elevate self as god and worship created things instead of their Creator (see Romans 1:25). The Course teaches one to discover the divine within us (a non-Biblical teaching called pantheism) and promises that as we uncover our true divinity all our social ills and problems will go away.
In addition to my hastening to point out that this was the original lie straight from the King of Lies’ own lips (Genesis 3:4, “… you will be like gods”), it has ever failed to deliver the promised goods. Even Hugh Prather, an advocate for the Course, said in July 1999 (over twenty years from his taking of the course) that its effect was “the opposite of what I (Prather) expected. With two or three exceptions, everyone I saw at the gathering (a reunion of participants in the Course) was far more separate and egocentric than they were when I first met them. In fact, their egos were so large that many of them had lost the ability to carry on a simple conversation. They made pronouncements and listened deeply to no one. I was appalled.”
It may interest you to know that the Course has as its founder, Helen Schucman, who “scribed” the Course as a mysterious voice that claimed to be Jesus spoke to her, giving her these messages. For anyone who might make the mistake of comparing this to how God spoke in the Scriptures (the Bible) to His prophets, keep in mind that what God said to His prophets was aligned with what He had already been saying. In other words, the prophets were consistent with one another and Schucman's "revelation" is not. And remember also that the Bible records that there were at times some who proclaimed to be speaking for God yet were not doing so and that their error was ultimately and invariably judged by God.
Helen Schucman, though the Course’s primary prophet, seems even to have not found the peace that the Course promised: while she was dying, “she cursed, in the coarsest barroom language you could imagine, ‘that book, that *curse word* book.’ She said it was the worst thing that ever happened to her,” according to Father Benedict Groeschel, a priest who had at one point been fascinated by the claims of the Course but, in the end, had concluded that it “effectively undermines authentic Christianity”. He also noted that the Course’s co-founder, William Thetford, was “probably the most sinister person I ever met”. Thetford worked with Schucman in the Psychology Department at the Columbia University Medical Center.
It is also very telling that Victoria Hardy of the Los Angeles Chronicle reported in December 2007 that while Thetford was at Columbia (and while Schucman was his graduate assistant), Thetford was also working for the CIA on a top secret project called Project BLUEBIRD (a program to develop and perfect techniques of mind control and manipulation).
Its origins aside, one of the most disturbing statements made in the Course is that the Crucifixion of Christ was pointless and without value. Not only does such a conclusion fail to understand the true nature of humanity (that we are fallen from our Creator and riddled with sin), but it also holds in disdain the awesome love shown us of our perfect and holy God condescending to die as a perfect sacrifice in our place for our sin.
After considering its self-serving and ego-centric ideology and when reflecting on the disturbing origins of the Course (as well as the ultimate conclusions of some of its chief adherents after having “benefited” from it over two decades), one must conclude that if we are truly desiring something more in our spiritual lives than that which we’ve found, we simply need to turn our attention to the God of the Bible, the Revealer of truth. It isn’t sufficient to simply dabble in Christianity, we must turn wholeheartedly to Him and allow Him to transform our thinking, our hearts, and our lives. But the only way to do that is to recognize that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 3:23, 6:23).
I HAVE SAID THIS BEFORE AND I REPEAT IT NOW. EVERYTHING YOU HAVE SAID IN YOUR ARTICLE IS TRUE, HOWEVER, I DO BELIEVE THAT WE AS BELIEVERS SHOULD BE PRAYING FOR OPRAH's SALVATION. SHE APPARENTLY IS ACCEPTING A LIE AS TRUTH AND IS DECEIVED AS MANY ARE. SHE HAS A VERY PROMINENT PLATFORM FROM WHICH TO SPEAK TO MILLIONS AND THAT IS A TREMENDOUS RESPONSIBILITY. I DO THINK WE NEED TO EXPOSE THIS TYPE OF DECEPTION, BUT I ALSO BELIEVE OUR GOD WOULD APPRECIATE OUR PRAYERS ON HER BEHALF.
Thank you, Connie, for your feedback. I also agree that we should pray for Oprah as well as all those who are influenced by her and other cultural trends as well.
I hope that you noted that the article was careful to not attack her (or even the proponents of the ACIM), but to instead briefly bring its origins and its claims into the bright light of the Scriptures.
I lament what I believe to be the easily exploitable spirituality of Christians today, mostly due to a rather casual approach to the Bible (and the subsequent contempt of God's holiness, His power, and most of all His love).
I appreciated reading your remarks as well as your brief biography. Yes, there is so much about Jesus that people don't yet see or comprehend... so much they're missing!
Thank you again!