columns from the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 5: Number 2, 1992.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
Sociologists, Retailers, and Pollsters Say the New Age Movement Is Thriving.
A number of articles have been published in recent months that seem to indicate that the New Age movement (especially the commercial aspect) is thriving in the United States. For example, the March 23 San Francisco Chronicle reports that "sales of New Age-related products 'are way over $1 billion,' said Marilyn McGuire, president of the New Age Publishers and Retailers Alliance, a national association of 450 booksellers and shopkeepers."
The Chronicle also reports that "New Age enthusiasts are a retailer's dream, according to readership surveys conducted by Goodfellow Publishing Representatives in Berkeley, [California] which sells advertising. Most New Agers are in their mid-40s. Seventy percent are female, and their household median annual incomes hover between $40,000 and $60,000. Eighty percent have a college degree."
The growing popularity of the New Age movement is also reflected in the growing attendance at the Whole Life Expo, a New Age convention. "Kenny Kaufman, producer of the Whole Life Expo slated for the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco next month, said he expects to gross $600,000 between ticket sales and booth fees -- up 20 percent over a year ago," the Chronicle reports.
Popular New Age writer Marilyn Ferguson recently reviewed a book entitled Heaven on Earth, by Michael D'Antonio, for the February 16 Los Angeles Times. Citing D'Antonio's research, Ferguson said: "Sociologists at UC Santa Barbara...estimate that as many as 12 million Americans could be considered active participants [in the New Age movement], and another 30 million are avidly interested. If all of these people were brought together in a church-like organization, it would be the third-largest religious denomination in America."
Reeling from Back-to-Back Attacks on ABC's "Prime Time Live" in Late 1991, Prosperity Televangelist Robert Tilton Has Been Hit by a Series of Probes and Legal Actions that May Threaten the Future of His Ministry.
Tilton is reportedly under investigation by the IRS, the U.S. Postal Service, and the FBI. On March 18 a federal judge ruled that the Texas Attorney General could investigate whether Tilton's Word of Faith World Outreach Center has maintained the requirements of its nonprofit corporate charter. Meanwhile, the Dallas Central Appraisal District has quietly begun a review of Tilton's tax-exempt status on some of his property.
Tilton also faces at least four civil suits. One was filed by the widow of Tom Crowley, who was still receiving fundraising letters from Tilton five months after her husband's death -- including one that said: "God spoke to me this morning specifically about you, Tom, and He's going to heal you." Crowley had paid Tilton a $100 "vow of faith" in the hopes of recovering. His wife is seeking $40 million in damages.
Tilton's church has lost more than 1,000 members since "Prime Time Live" aired its initial report. Still, his "Success-N-Life" program is reportedly seen on over 200 stations in the U.S. and Canada, and his church brings in about $65 million a year in revenue.
The Christian Science Church Will Sell or Shut Down Its Money-Losing Cable Channel Due to a Severe Financial Crisis.
The March 10 issue of The Wall Street Journal notes that many church members have questioned whether the TV media venture has caused church leaders to lose sight of the church's true mission. "Initially," the Journal reports, "critics said the push into television drained resources from the highly regarded Christian Science Monitor newspaper. The paper was started in 1908 by church founder Mary Baker Eddy as a nonsectarian outreach effort. She hoped that by providing an unbiased source of news in an era of partisan newspapers, the church would draw respect for itself -- and thereby adherents. The Monitor Channel, which specializes in news, culture, and public-affairs programming, was intended to extend the newspaper's mission onto the air waves."
However, the Journal reports, dissent grew dramatically following disclosures that the broadcasting effort was far more expensive than initially expected, draining the church's treasury. "To prop up the operation -- which has already cost $250 million and is losing $4 million a month -- the church conceded last week that it borrowed $41.5 million from pension funds for cash needs." This action angered many church members.
To make matters worse, critics have charged that the church has published a heretical book in order to win a $97 million bequest -- an action that has caused a major split in the church. Last year, the board of directors decided to publish The Destiny of the Mother Church, written by deceased church member Bliss Knapp. The book was initially rejected by the church some 45 years ago because it deified church founder Mary Baker Eddy, a view considered heretical. However, under the provisions of the Knapp family wills, the church was to receive approximately $97 million if it published the book as "authorized" literature by May 1993.
The financially burdened church finally did publish the book, and the fallout has been heavy. Besides causing a major church split, the March 23 issue of Newsweek magazine reports that "last month four respected editors of the church's religious publications resigned in protest."
Ironically, the church may never get the money. Stanford University and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art -- alternate claimants -- "have challenged the church's compliance with the will, saying the book has never been widely distributed. A probate court in Los Angeles will rule on the dispute in May," Newsweek reports.
Marianne Williamson, Author of the Best-selling Book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, Preaches a Metaphysical Gospel to an Ever-Growing Audience.
Williamson recently appeared on the popular "Oprah Winfrey Show," and Winfrey said she loved Williamson's book. "Loved it so much, in fact, she gave it a grand Oprah-size plug...announcing she'd personally bought 1,000 copies for distribution to the spiritually needy. That was enough to send the book soaring to the top of The New York Times 'how-to' heap, where it has lodged for four weeks running," the March 23 issue of Newsweek magazine reports.
Williamson draws most of her material from A Course in Miracles, a best seller in New Age circles. Williamson claims this course was her personal "path out of hell." Since its first publication in 1976, this hefty three-volume set -- including the text, a workbook, and a teacher's guide -- has sold some 800,000 copies and has spawned over 1,000 study groups in the United States and abroad.
The source of unhappiness, the course teaches, "is the mistaken sense of separateness from others imposed by the illusion of our bodies....That, in turn, causes us to hate and condemn others. The way to happiness -- the 'miracle' -- is the change in perception that lets us replace fear and loathing with love and forgiveness," Newsweek reports.
Some have noticed an inconsistency between Williamson's book and her personal life. "Marianne is a tyrant. She's cruel -- unnecessarily -- and very controlling," said one former associate in a March 9 People magazine article. "It doesn't mean that her works aren't great. They are. But her own ego is going to destroy her." Another (anonymous) employee said that "Marianne's ego is all over the place....When she's mad, it's like watching a 3-year-old throw a tantrum. I've seen her reduce a volunteer worker to tears and swearing that he'd never come back."
Despite such allegations of unloving outbursts, Williamson's A Return to Love continues to be a hot seller.
East Bloc Update
Recent news reports ominously reveal continuing aggression by the cults in Europe's former communist lands. The cults are focusing their attention on "education" and relief work.
Scientology: The April 13, 1992 issue of Time magazine reported that "journalism students at the 237-year-old Moscow State University have been studying in the newly renovated L. Ron Hubbard Reading Room. Scientology propaganda in dozens of languages lines the walls, and video equipment is available....Students, who have only the vaguest idea who Hubbard is, are impressed by the lavish appointments. But Western scholars in Moscow are outraged that the cult has gained such influence. With an outpost in an established university, Scientologists plan to launch a college of their own in Moscow this summer."
Transcendental Meditation: According to the February 3, 1992 issue of Newsweek, TM announced that it would open a "Vedic university" in Moscow in February, with another school to follow in Naberezhniye Chelny in March. More than 300 students had reportedly signed up to study "Vedic management," among other subjects.
Hare Krishna: The cult's March/April 1992 Back to Godhead magazine reported that in one month, 17,000 Russians mailed in to buy a copy of the Bhagavad-gita in response to a newspaper item. "Even months later, orders were still coming in -- hundreds a day." The article also claims that shoppers at Moscow's massive GUM department store bought 50,000--100,000 "Krsna conscious books" every week last December, and that "Russian TV has been broadcasting the glories of Krsna," with TV ads for the Bhagavad-gita showing nightly.
Mormonism: The sect announced in February that it had established three new missions in the former USSR, with 106 missionaries working in Russia, Ukraine, and Estonia. The LDS church has also sent shipments of food to Russia. The Mormon church has sent both missionaries and medical supplies to Albania, and its missionaries have been performing "humanitarian service" in Romania.
Atheism: In the midst of Eastern Europe's spiritual explosion, atheism is far from dead. The February 8, 1992 Washington Times reports that "Eastern Germany's economic free fall and cultural upheaval have been accompanied by a paradoxical plunge in religious worship, experts say. 'Usually, tough times are good for religion, but for now and the foreseeable future, East Germany is a de-Christianized society'" where nearly 75 percent don't believe in God. "When someone wanted to criticize the government, they came to church....Now, they have other outlets. They don't need the church."
End of document, CRN0045A.TXT (original CRI file name), "Headline News" and "International" release A, June 30, 1994 R. Poll, CRI
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