We forgot to mention that anyone whose name and address appear in our Contact List receives certain, ah, freebies.
Exhibit 1: the catalogue from Ozark Book Publishers of Springfield, Missouri. The catalogue includes such hot titles as The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk ("The most horrifying disclosures by a nun who escaped from the nunnery"), The Vatican Against Europe ("Edmond Paris . . . shows with absolute proof that the papacy has been largely responsible for the two great World Wars"), The Suppressed Truth about the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (whose death "was instigated by the 'Black' pope, the general of the Jesuit order").
Is the Middle East crisis really Armageddon? Lots of folks think so.
Evangelist Greg Laurie told 25,000 people in Orange, California that Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi menace to Israel fulfill biblical prophecy. Across the continent, in Miami, Joseph Coats, pastor of Missionary Baptist Church, told his 4,000 members that the last days are here. Even Billy Graham told crowds on Long Island that "spiritual forces at work" make the situation in the Persian Gulf "far more sinister and far more difficult" than Korea or Vietnam. (Graham didn't go so far as to predict an imminent Armageddon, but he's keeping his options open, apparently.)
Don't think only "Bible Christians" think along these lines.
New Age leader Elizabeth Clare Prophet (she heads the Church Universal and Triumphant) and her followers have built a bomb shelter in Montana in anticipation of a nuclear war which will lead to the end of the world. (The process is supposed to have begun last December 31.)
Hasidic Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, whose followers are known as the Lubavitchers, have their own "shelter." It's in the Israeli desert and is a replica of his Brooklyn offices, and it's for him and the Messiah. Schneerson's followers think the Messiah's first coming is imminent, and some of them think the Messiah is none other than Schneerson himself.
One of our subscription postcards came back with a sticker which reads: "JFK will reappear & is the 1st 'beast' of the revelation. VATICAN is 'great whore.' Rome is the 'city of 7 hills.' 666- KISSINGER/Don't take mark."
You figure it out.
This disclaimer appears on the inside front cover of the Panpipes Magickal Marketplace catalogue: "All items sold as curios only. We do not guarantee any supernatural qualities attributed to any of these products. Their names and alleged powers have been gathered from ancient books and folklore."
Well, that's not quite true. They've been gathered from the fertile imaginations of New Agers, people who follow what they call the Old Religion, which is really a New Religion with no traceable connection to any ancient cult. But not to worry. The proprietors of Panpipes Magickal Marketplace, which claims to be "one of the largest occult supply retailers in Southern California," say, "We do not condone any negative practices." That means you can't use their "voodoo oils" (13 delightful kinds available) for nefarious ends.
But what you can do is dress up. Gentlemen can obtain a basic robe with hood for only $99. The fabric is a cotton/polyester blend, and the sleeves, hood, and yoke are lined. Select black or white. If you select black and sport a beard and long, scraggly hair, you'll look just like Rasputin. For an extra $250 men can get a full circle cape, collared with a chain closure. Choose from black, white, or red.
Ladies can purchase robes too, either plain or with a cutout in the bodice. The cutout features a pentagram. Prices to $135.
More interested in oils? There are hundreds to select from: high holiday oils, planetary oils, spellcasting oils, elemental oils, essential oils, ritual working oils, and love oils. Included in the last category are Animal Attraction, Love Master, Satyr, Warlock Seduction, and 33 others. Price for one dram: $3.50.
Perhaps you want a certificate verifying your powers? On their walls physicians and lawyers have certificates attesting to their expertise, and now, for just a buck and a half, you can have your choice of the following certificates: astrologer, clairvoyant, fortune teller, guru, high priest, high priestess, magician, master exorcist (no, there is no certificate for apprentice exorcist--you have to start at the top), metaphysician (you don't have to read Aristotle's Metaphysics to qualify for this one), mind reader, palmist, prophet, psychic advisor, sorcerer, spiritualist, voodoo priest, witch, and witch doctor (to care for sick witches?).
Need a modern amulet? Then you need a "filled mojo bag." (A mojo bag is square, made of flannel, and has a drawstring.) Now you can buy a mojo bag "stuffed with the correct magickal articles for your purposes. Hand assembled and charged by a priest or priestess of the art. Carry with you always in purse or pocket, re-anointing with the proper oil once weekly."
Six styles are available: protection mojo, love mojo, law stay away mojo, court case mojo, jinx removing mojo, money drawing mojo. (New Agers seem to get haled into court frequently.)
Perhaps you need something more visible, such as a hand-crafted wand or staff. "No two will ever be exactly alike. Can include crystals or stones if desired. American Indian medicine sticks are crafted with feathers, fur, beads, etc." (There is no outcry yet from New Age animal rights people.)
Perhaps you're interested in something more distinctively feminist. How about Snake Power, the "journal of contemporary female shamanism"? It's published by the Motherpeace Institute of Oakland, California.
The statement of purpose says "Snake Power refers to a power and autonomy that belonged to women before the development of patriarchal culture and the dominator model of society. This power-from-within a woman was the primary expression of religion and spirituality, and it was the basis of self-government among all early peoples. At the center of these ancient peaceful societies was the figure of a Great Mother Goddess--Creatrix of the World--who gave birth to male and female and loved them equally."
The publisher's letter, written by Vicki Noble, is at once an apology for being a white shaman (her critics say people of "European descent have no earth-based traditions") and a condemnation of Christianity.
"The 'discovery' of America came about at a time when the Church had essentially wiped out all the earth-based shamanic roots in Europe through the brutal force of the Inquisition. For four centuries, women were burned at the stake for being 'witches,' because they healed and participated in tribal (peasant) social politics and government. The approximately nine million women who were murdered during those four centuries in Europe are some of my ancestry."
This is very poor history.
First, there is little evidence of any "earth-based shamanic roots" existing in Europe during the Christian era.
Second, witch hunting came into vogue after the Reformation and in Protestant countries. Alleged witches were burned in England and the American colonies; burnings were extremely uncommon in Catholic countries.
Third, several thousand people--not millions--died during the Inquisition, almost none of them accused of witchcraft.
Fourth, witches didn't participate in "tribal (peasant) social politics and government" because there weren't any witches and because there was no tribal politics. Besides, medieval peasants weren't members of "tribes."
What was the source of Vicki Noble's New Age attitudes? Her religious upbringing.
"The Protestant church that my parents took me to was never real for me. . . . My mother, who was almost completely unreligious except in a kind of superstitious way (if you do something wrong, God will probably punish you), taught me to wish on white horses and believe in good fairies."
That was her Christianity. She gave up white horses and good fairies for a lower form of nature religion. Her movement's symbol: the snake. Or, as a Christian would be more apt to say, the Serpent.
Are Catholics mainly old fogies--or, if not fogies, at least old? Is the average Catholic an elderly woman fingering her beads?
Not at all, according to the book American Mainline Religion, which says that 40 percent of Catholics in America are in the 18 to 34 age group, compared with 35 percent of "conservative Protestants," 31 percent of "moderate Protestants," and only 27 percent of "liberal Protestants." The disparity has nothing to do with differences in birth rates, since the groups' rates are about the same.
It's easy to confuse people inadvertently. Example: a recent answer in the "Dear Padre" column that appears in parish bulletins. The column is written by Fr. Joe Morin, C.SS.R. and is distributed by Liguori Publications.
A questioner asked, "My grandfather seems obsessed with whether he'll be saved. I tell him he's already saved and needs only to stay good, but that doesn't satisfy him. Can you help?"
Fr. Morin notes, in part, that "many older people worry inordinately about whether they'll 'make it' Through no fault of their own most were brought up in a negative theology that emphasized the fall from grace to sin over a more positive theology that starts with the love and magnanimity of God. . . . Keep reassuring your grandfather. He really has nothing to worry about. He is already saved."
This can leave people with the impression "once saved, always saved," which is Fundamentalist theology, not Catholic. The Catholic position is that anyone, of any age, can damn himself through sin. Yes, God is merciful, but he's also just. He won't prevent us from going to hell if we insist on going there.
Old age is no guarantee of sinlessness. Granted, some sins are said to be more common of youth than of age (lust, for example), but some are more common of age than of youth (say, avarice), and any one of the Deadlies can do you in.
We aren't saying Fr. Morin was wrong in his answer--which was much longer than these excerpts might suggest--but that readers could go away confused. The writer's grandfather may suffer from scrupulosity, which is the tendency to see sin where there is no sin (the result being spiritual paralysis), but he shouldn't go away with the opposite error of universalism, which says everyone will be saved no matter what.
Sorry we're so late with the news. Maybe you can make next year's "Building Pagan Culture" conference. This year's, held in Seattle from August 30 through September 3, must have been great.
You missed "workshops, panels, presentations, and Pagan leaders from across the country." You even missed a stage show, "Pagan Follies," and the "premier performance of James Gagne's Cantata for Beltain, a classical music setting of a Pagan rite."
Just remember that in registering next year you must include not only your name, address, and telephone number, but the name of your coven.
One of the better summer films was The Witches, based on Roald Dahl's children's novel of the same name.
The plot in brief: witches are women who look like ordinary women (their disguises are good), who hate children (they can't stand the smell), and who have gathered at a resort in England to plot how to turn children into mice (by enticing them into candy shops where the goodies are adulterated with a secret potion). When the witches are safe from prying eyes, they take off their disguises and reveal themselves to be--ugly as witches.
But this is a caricature, say "real" witches and warlocks. Christian L. Shea, writing to the Los Angeles Reader, a free weekly, asked, "Why do you accept advertisements for a motion picture which cannot do anything for worshippers of the Lord and Lady [he doesn't mean Jesus and Mary] except portray them as horrific beings worthy of the rack, the pillory, the stake, and the ovens?
"Is it because Wiccans don't control an entire U.S. state (in spite of the fact that there are probably more Neo-Pagans in the United States than Mormons)? Is it because Neo-Pagans do not control big-budget advertising corporations that anxiously strive to control people's minds and mold them to suit the desires of white, male capitalists?
"Please adhere to your own editorial policies and yank the advertisements for The Witches."
Another correspondent, David Ratliff (who lists his alias as Forest River), says "the film begins with about fifteen minutes of non- action, strictly verbal indoctrination as to the nature of 'real witches,' as the grandmother repeatedly tells her grandson. . . .
"At least to people of the religion Wicca this film cannot be seen in any other light than that of a bigoted, malicious, and slanderous attack merely guised as a supposed fun-filled kid's movie.
"No matter what your opinion is of religion in general or Wicca in particular, it is a pure simple fact that Wicca is a bona-fide and legally-recognized religion, no less than Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism. . . .
"The stereotyped image of Witches/Wiccans was purposely created by Roman Catholic priests for specific reasons, and the truth of the history of the persecution of our faith is easily accessible in any public library."
If someone held a contest to see which Jack Chick publication contained the greatest number of anti-Catholic outrages, our guess is that the winner would be the comic book Ivan the Terrible.
"Ivan" is a Soviet official who has lunch with a Christian. He thinks he's going to show the Christian how foolish Christianity is, but the Christian turns the tables and shows how communism is nothing but a plot by--the Vatican!
"Ivan, communism was born out of religion. It is nothing but a baby of the Vatican."
"That's a lie! Marx and Engels were Jews."
"That was before their secret conversion to Catholicism. The Jesuits guided Engels back in the 1800's to create socialism."
[A side note says: "The Jesuits also worked with Lenin and Stalin to bring them into power (both of whom were of Jewish and Catholic extraction)." Another note says: "Engels, Marx, Lenin and Stalin were all members of the Club of Intellectuals."]
"Start from the beginning," continues Ivan.
"Then we must go back to when the Emperor Constantine became the first pope. The `new' religion came out of ancient Babylon using the same old gods, but with new names. Jupiter became the apostle Peter, and Venus became the Virgin Mary."
Chick's mouthpiece explains there was a rivalry between Rome and Constantinople. "As long as the Orthodox Church was protected by the czar, it was almost impossible to destroy. So battle plans were prepared in the Vatican. The Jesuits knew that they could not, under any circumstances, let it be known that they were involved. So they worked with Engels and Marx to develop the Communist Manifesto."
Of course, all this time Rasputin controlled the czar's family. "No one suspected that the magical powers Rasputin used were the Spiritual Exercises of Loyola. Rasputin was a faithful Jesuit working undercover." When Lenin "arrived in Moscow crowds of Orthodox civilians and soldiers greeted him with banners and icons (religious pictures) of the Virgin Mary."
As it turned out, the papacy was doublecrossed, and the communists set up their own state. To get even, the Vatican "built a new machine called the Nazi party. The pope and his Jesuits launched their Catholic Nazi crusade against Russia. His hero, Adolph Hitler, failed him."
How's that for history?
Yes, many Catholics lack a solid foundation in their faith, but sometimes a bigger problem is their lack of confidence.
Even knowledgeable Catholics can be hesitant about showing their Catholicism publicly, and the first thing we try to accomplish in our seminars and debates is to inculcate a sense on confidence. We tell Catholics, "Yes, you're where Jesus wants you to be, in the Church he established. Stay here, even if you can't answer all the questions thrown at you."
The pat on the back seems to do a lot of good--and sometimes a lot more good than we could have hoped for. A case in point:
A few months ago Karl Keating gave a seminar in Ridgecrest, California, a small desert community next to the China Lake Naval Weapons Station. The town is isolated, and one of its few attractions (if that is the right word) was Pastor Jim Blackburn, an ardent anti-Catholic. He wanted a debate with Keating, and he got it.
The debate was held at the local community college, and many of Blackburn's congregants were in the audience. To say he was harsh in condemning Catholicism is to understate matters. His bitterness overflowed, and it overflowed right into the laps of his congregants.
In the days following the debate Blackburn lost half his following, but he didn't lose his animosity. He volunteered to write a column in a neighboring town's newspaper. The column was crassly anti-Catholic.
David Jones, Tony Dorsey, and other Catholics living in the area asked the editor to yank the column. He refused, since he liked Blackburn's opinions.
So they showed the column to the newspaper's advertisers, asking, "Is this the kind of newspaper you should be advertising in?" Most of them didn't think so, so they removed their ads. The next week the column was gone.