Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hogwarts for Christians

On days when outdoor events are potentially imperiled by rain, or snow imperils a carefully planned meeting, I often lament to my wife that I never got around to taking Meteorological Interventions 475 back when I was in seminary. I mean, dang, I know I'm only a level 4 Presbyterian Cleric. But I yearn to muster more efficacious conjurations than Bless, Detect Evil, Remove Fear, Know Alignment and Chant. I needs me some more showy spells.

Evidently, my lack of skill in this area comes because I went to the wrong school. Here I was struggling through Greek and Hebrew and poring deeply through the Bible and the history of the church. Who knew there were more potent options? Instead of Wesley Theological Seminary, I should have gone to the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.

I discovered that interesting little institution yesterday during a meander through the website of a well known charismatic movement. A school that teaches you how to have supernatural powers? Finally, finally, an institution that can help me level up! Flame Strike, here I come! I immediately googled them. I was both surprised and not surprised by what I found.

There were two surprises. The first was just how slickity the school's web presence was. This is not a rinky dink operation. The web page is well constructed, if non-complex. But their iBetheltv subsite is strikingly well done. It's nicely assembled series of HD videos, all of which were professionally and seamlessly edited. It's a heck of a lot more tech savvy than most of the video efforts of the major denominational institutions. Folks clearly have 1) access to a Mac and 2) some skillz.

The second surprise was that the school's leadership did not appear to be visibly insane most of the time. Folks were almost invariably well spoken, well dressed, and in possession of all of their teeth. Speakers were funny and engaging. The musicians and artists who are part of the ministry are all quite gifted, and would be a credit to any congregation's praise/arts ministries.

There were also two not-surprises. For all of my hopes, there was absolutely nothing significantly supernatural going on at the Bethel School for Supernatural Ministry. I watched a video of a healing service, which seemed like the most likely place to see some Jesus Magic. Mostly, it was people talking, singing, chanting and juddering, and then telling us about how they were sure they'd been healed. There was lots and lots of talking and crying and talking some more. But withered legs were not being visibly restored. The blind were not seeing. The deaf were not hearing. Hair loss was not being notably reversed. Cure Critical Wounds is seemingly beyond them. They seem to think they're doing stuff, but the pesky thing about hi def video is that you can actually see what is going on. And it ain't discernably supernatural.

There was also video of a required spiritual training event called "The Fire Tunnel." Yes, thought I! Flame Strike is within my grasp! All that happens during the Fire Tunnel is that folks work themselves into a shamanic frenzy. I've got nothing against lying on the ground twitching and laughing hysterically in an ecstatic trance. It's good clean pagan fun for the whole family. But it isn't a manifestation of supernatural powers. Though it's a bit of a freakshow, it's not evil, per se. I cast Detect Evil, and I get a blank. But my Know Alignment tells me that this stuff is pure Chaotic Neutral. Just no-thing-ness. It can as easily lead to good as to bad.

The second not-surprise can be gleaned from the first. This school is not meaningfully Christian. It teaches that we can all have power by immersing ourselves in "the prophetic," which is sorta like the Force. A problem: seeking power is not something Christians do. We may receive strange, unexpected, and wonderful gifts. Some are intense. Others are gentle and subtle. But desiring supernatural power over the world is not the path of Christian faith, or the gift we are all to seek.

It is, instead, the heart of our human desire for magic. We want to be able to control our world. Honestly, there's no meaningful difference between what goes on at Bethel School for Supernatural Ministry and what goes on in the Sacred Groves of Oshogbo or on some mountaintop in West Virginia on Samhain. Jes' slappin' a Jesus label on it don't make it any different. Magick is magick. And though it's exciting to get caught up in it, it just isn't the thing we think it is.

Guess I'll have to look elsewhere to level up. Sigh.