Tuesday, November 30, 2021
It's Tuesday, November 30th, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Celebrity New Age Spiritualism: Emotional Resonation Over Truth —And It’s Not Cheap
Well, we are told that the future of the United States is in increasing number of those who identify as nones, that is N-O-N-E-S, those having no religious affiliation. We are told that this means an inexorably unavoidably secular future for the United States. And here's where Christians have to understand, even as there may be many people, even increasing numbers of people who reject Christianity or do not even know the truth claims of Christianity, the fact is that people are going to be spiritual. They're going to be religious. And in many cases, they're going to be religious in the most religious ways, even if most irrational. So what we're talking about here is just the recognition. Christians have to understand this from Scripture, that all human beings, every single human being is not only a physical creature, but is a spiritual creature. And there is a spiritual longing, and it is going to be met one way or the other.
But as we're thinking about this current context to spiritual confusion, I want us to think about the fact that in one sense, those Christians who know the Bible know that is not just looking at the future. It's back to the future. This kind of confusion is found and exposed and rejected in the very pages of Scripture itself. But right now it's being celebrated in the pages of The New York Times. Sunday's edition of the Times ran an enormous article in the print edition, including a half page color photo of a woman named Carissa Schumacher.
The story tells us, "In good spirits, Carissa Schumacher channels the dead for an impressive roster of celebrity clients, but she is most comfortable in the forest channeling Yeshua." The article's by Irina Aleksander and it is a very long article. It's auditor in the main, it includes some information, some citations from people who aren't buying this medium business. But nonetheless, this is a celebrity section of the paper, and it has found a spiritual celebrity in Carissa Schumacher.
Aleksander begins her report this way, "Last Saturday night, a group gathered at the Flamingo Estate in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles to meet the spiritual adviser Carissa Schumacher." Then we are told, "At the front of an open-air room, a seat awaited Ms. Schumacher under a large floral arch. Other guests, including the actresses Jennifer Aniston and Uma Thurman, filled the rows of chairs, others moved to the floor..." Let's just pause here for a moment. I think it's probably safe to say that The New York Times would not be concerned about this celebrity medium if it were not for the fact that two prominent female actresses identified here are a part of the story. That's the hook for the readers of The New York Times.
Speaking of celebrities, the article goes on to tell us that the actress and model Andy McDowell "reclined on a rug among a heap of pillows". The medium was expected to appear at 8:30. We're told that a gospel choir sang "while everyone sat around and glanced at Ms. Schumacher's empty chair and at one another".
Now, who is Carissa Schumacher? We are told that she has worked as a medium, The New York Times explains, "meaning someone who receives messages from people who have died". We're told that she doesn't have a website and she's so popular that she is booked for months in advance, "Her prices are another obstacle, with sessions going for $1,111 an hour." That's 1-1-1-1 an hour. The New York Times then says, "She likes the synchronicity." She probably also likes the money.
Offering some background, Irina Aleksander tells us, "Ms. Schumacher might fall under a category of so-called New Age practitioners. But spiritualism, the belief that the living can communicate with the dead, is very old, its popularity surging in times of high mortality rates." But in this case, of course, we're not talking about just any medium making just any claim. Carissa Schumacher claims to be channeling Yeshua. That is the Old Testament name for Jesus. She claims to be channeling Jesus Christ.
The actress Jennifer Aniston is quoted in the article as reflecting the fact that this is a rather outrageous claim. She said, "The Yeshua-channeling thing is way out there, and for some people, it’s going to be insane this idea of someone channeling Jesus, but it’s more about this message that she’s tapped into. Everything she’s communicated to me just resonates."
Now here's something we just need to note. And this is true when it comes to spiritualism of this form, whether it's very old or very new, it is very emotional and intuitive. It is not very cognitive. Well, just to say, it's not about truth claims. It's not about the fact that what this medium supposedly has said has turned out to be true in space and time and history, but rather that it resonates. That tells us a lot. It tells us that in our society, there are many people who are actually looking for resonance rather than truth. They want to hear something that resonates with them.
Now, it's also really interesting to note that this tends to be a group phenomenon. That's not really cited in this New York Times article, but it's clear, it's implicit. You're talking about a performance here. It's a performance that includes what has to be described as a mass or corporate experience. People sitting to gather in mutual awe and evidently in mutual resignation. Jennifer Aniston evidently is very much into this world. The New York Times says that she's been seeing Ms. Schumacher since 2019, but she "has a Rolodex of healers, astrologers and numerologists that she's acquired over the last 30 years." That must be one very strange Rolodex. By the way, for those of you who are younger listeners to The Briefing and have no idea what a Rolodex is, just think of a series of cards that amounts to something like the contact list on your iPhone.
When she finally entered the room, Ms. Schumacher said, "For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carissa. I knew my whole life that I would be a channel for Yeshua." The article tells us that Ms. Schumacher is not very much into Los Angeles, but let's just note. It certainly is not a coincidence that she is in Los Angeles, surrounded by so many Hollywood celebrities. This article actually only makes sense in a place like Los Angeles. Ms. Schumacher says that she tries to avoid the spotlight, "I say no to everything." Let me just pause here. She evidently didn't say no to having a reporter from The New York Times present and giving the reporter an interview. So it's absolute nonsense for The New York Times to her as being truthful when she says that she says no to everything, because the article has already made clear she doesn't say no to $1,111 per hour per session.
We're told that Schumacher has a new book coming out. Well, that tells you why this article has appeared just when it has appeared. And we are told that even though she didn't want to have a book party for her book, she was persuaded to do so by her friends, when her friend said it was really for Yeshua. In order to talk about her deep thoughts, as she tried to think these things through deeply, she cited a celebrity, Brad Pitt, the actor. She said he once said to her, "He never knew that the cost of having a public life would be his freedom. I've heard that in the back of my mind all this time."
But we're then told that the interview that took place with this woman who says she doesn't do interviews, took place out in the woods. And the reporter tells us that once they were out in the woods for this interview, Ms. Schumacher pulled a pipe out of her backpack and filled it with what's identified as a Native American smoking mixture. She then told the story of how she claims to become a medium for Yeshua saying, "People are like, 'Oh, it must be so amazing being Yeshua's channel,' and it's not," she said. "I meant it is, but it requires a huge amount of discipline." Discipline, she says, that evidently comes easier when you are smoking a Native American smoking mixture.
She was in the corporate world, but she left that world, evidently with at least some amount of controversy. And then she went into the elephant forest, "One day, she said, she returned home from a hike and felt a blue flame swirl down her spine. She heard glass shatter and a baby cry. She said this is when she first felt Yeshua’s energy." Now again, you just have to wonder what it means that someone is straightforwardly quoted as saying that in a walk in the elephant forest, she perceived, in this case, we are told she felt a blue flame swirl down her spine. How do you feel blue as in blue flame? Well, none of that's explained, of course. She said she had to prepare herself to be Yeshua's channel. "She meditated daily, cut out sugar and caffeine, and limited her diet to five foods: broccoli, cauliflower, turkey, chicken and watermelon." Evidently those are the five food groups for mediums. She then explained, "If someone's channel is diluted, there's a kind of film or gunk that the energy gets stuck in and can't push through."
We're also told in the very next paragraph that Ms. Schumacher "dated men and women in her 20s". She was trying to find herself and she discovered herself to be a medium. And then she says, she discovered that she is Yeshua's medium. We told in one session, Ms. Schumacher reported, "Yeshua spoke to her for the first time. Those who've witnessed it since then say that Ms. Schumacher's voice and body changed. Yeshua's voice is deeper, more measured and has a slight British accent." Yeah, a slight British accent, just like in the New Testament.
By last year, the fall of 2020 we're told the Ms. Schumacher had turned this into something of a business emailing recordings of Yeshua transmissions to her clients. And that included Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, who we are told eventually worked with Ms. Schumacher, that this would become a book with is now coming out from HarperOne with the title, The Freedom Transmissions. Just in case you wondered about the theological content, the article tells us, "Though there's some Christian iconography in it, the rest is a more neutral smorgasbord of divine power surrender, Buddhism, repairing the fragmented self after trauma, and accessing 'the God self,' a reference to Carl Jung."
Speaking of the life transformative power of these messages, Ms. Rudolph Walsh told The New York Times that, "Yeshua’s teachings changed her entire nervous system. 'I don’t react to the weather,' she said. 'I don’t report the weather. I am the weather. And the weather is always peace.'"
The article does cite one person who tries to debunk the entire story, the entire account. And this particular person is identified as a psychic skeptic. When asked if she believed there were any "legitimate mediums in the world", she said, I could give you the long answer about how we don't know all things yet. And science does not know everything, but I think you know my answer is: it's all..." I'm not going to repeat the word. "And the way I know this isn’t because I’ve been doing this for so long, and know many people who've been doing this for so long. But because," she said, "it is NOT possible to communicate with dead people. They are dead."
When confronted with the indictment of the skeptic, Ms. Schumacher pointed out that evidently the skeptic hadn't met her or read her book. "If people want to judge, it's their choice to do so." Later in the article, Ms. Schumacher insisted there is no indoctrination, no mind control, there's no shame, no shaming of anyone. "It's not going to be for everybody," Jennifer Anderson said. "But as long as it’s not harming anyone, I feel that to each his own. Whatever makes it easier to walk through this world with a lighter step, especially today."
Another person there simply pointed out, "Anytime you're looking to any one person for all the answers, that's a problem. Carissa," she said, "is human like the rest of us. So you have to take from it what resonates and leave the rest." Again, what resonates. This is the resonates theory of truth, but what's so important to recognize here is that this woman does acknowledge that Carissa Schumacher is only human, only human charging $1,111 per hour. Only human, but claiming to be channeling Jesus Christ.
‘Why Consult the Dead on Behalf of the Living?’: How Should Christians Think About (New Age) Mediums?
Now, what do Christians think about this? Well, for one thing, let's just look at the story as it is. This tells us once again, here we are presented with irrefutable evidence of the fact that human beings are going to believe in something, the religious impulse, that spiritual impulse is going to have some form. It is going to eventually direct itself to some object. If it is not the one true in living God, then by definition, it will be an idol. That is the clear teaching of Scripture. It's either the one true and living God or some form of idolatry. There is no middle ground. When it to spiritualism and mediums and claims about conjuring up the dead, again, this isn't new. If anything, folks in Hollywood simply need to be told, well, if you read the Bible, you're going to discover that there were those who claimed to be mediums channeling the dead millennia ago, all the way back in the Bible itself. But the Bible's also extremely clear that God ordered his people to have nothing to do at all with mediums.
King Saul, for example, was indicted for having sought a medium, a sorcerer to bring up the spirit of Samuel. And this was the infamous Witch of Endor. In 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 we read, "So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord and also consulted a medium seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore, the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse."
Going all the way back into the book of the law, Leviticus 19:31, God said, "Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God."
In the very next chapter, Leviticus 20:6, the Lord said, "When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritualists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?"
Now you'll notice the logic here that is revealed in these biblical texts. God has made very clear through Moses to his people, that there are two and only two alternatives. You seek guidance from him, or you seek guidance from an evil spirit, from an idol. And you see the outright condemnation of seeking to bring up spirits from the dead. That is repeated by the way, in the New Testament, in a passage like the Book of Revelation 21:8, "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." In other words, not just earthly, but eternal consequences.
This article tells us so much about fallen human nature, about what it means for the spiritual impulse that is a reflection of the fact we're made in God's image to be so severely distorted, about the objects of interest to which that spiritual impulse can be so directed, in this case, horrifyingly misdirected, but it also tells us something about the mainstream media's attraction to this kind of article. It's a dual attraction. It's an attraction on the one hand to celebrity. I'll go so far as to say this article would never have appeared without the participation of someone like Jennifer Aniston, but also it just points to the fact that when you are in a time, such as our own, the kind of religion The New York Times doesn't want to talk about positive is biblical religion that is based upon God's commandments that come right down to, for example, what it means to be male and female and how we are to order our sex lives. Don't worry, no such messages coming from the medium in Hollywood.
That's one of the reasons that in an increasingly post-Christian age, it's this kind of message that resonates, but the gospel of Jesus Christ does not merely resonate; it saves.
Mixture of Theological Clarity and Confusion From New Pew Study On Beliefs About Heaven and Hell Shared By American People
Next, along a similar line of interest, the Pew Research Center just before Thanksgiving came out with another major study of Americans on religious and spiritual issues. The headline is: "Few Americans Blame God or Say Faith Has Been Shaken Amid Pandemic and Other Tragedies." Well, the article starts out by dealing with the question of evil and suffering. The question of the odyssey, which comes down to how do we explain evil and suffering over against the biblical truths that God is all powerful and that he is loving, that God is good? This is an ongoing theological question. And of course, the Bible addresses itself to it, just consider as one example, the entirety of the Book of job.
But the Bible doesn't offer a simple pat answers, and the Bible doesn't tell us that we have access to even understanding the ways and purposes of God. Indeed, in Romans 11, we are told that God's ways are inscrutable. They are past finding out. The great reformer Martin Luther put it this way when he said it's as if God shows us his right hand, but never shows us his left hand. And it is our responsibility to take him at his word as he reveals himself with his right hand. But as the Scripture makes clear in a passage like Deuteronomy 29:29, there are revealed things and there are secret things. Our task is to believe and to obey the revealed things.
But leaving the theodicy issue, the question of good and evil and suffering, well, it turns out that much of this study also has to do with what happens after this life. And we are told, "Nearly three quarters of all US adults, that's 73%, say they believe in heaven, while a smaller share, but still a majority, 62% believe in hell." Now again, just a symptom of a spiritual confusion, but it's one that we as Christians can understand. We shouldn't expect in a spiritually and theologically confused age, anything other than some measure of confusion. If anything, one of the things we see in this article, one of the truths revealed is that biblical Christianity actually has more staying power, at least in the American imagination than people might think. Where do they even get the categories of heaven and hell, except from biblical historic Christianity?
Later, we're given some detail, "Among Christians, overwhelming majorities of all major subgroups express belief in heaven, but Protestants who belong to the evangelical and historically Black Protestant traditions are more likely than mainline Protestants and Catholics to express belief in hell." Again, nothing really to surprise there. The Catholic church, by the way, does teach the reality of hell, although after Vatican II, it has made it more difficult to explain why anyone would actually go there. It is indeed historic evangelical Protestantism, whether it is predominantly white or predominantly Black, that reflects that ongoing biblical belief in the reality of both heaven and hell. We're told that Catholics are more likely than Protestants "to say that people who do not believe in God can go to heaven". That's not even close, by the way. It's basically half among evangelicals as likely to be found as among Catholic: 68% Catholic, 34% evangelical. By the way, those 34% who identify as evangelical are just flat wrong. The Bible's very, very clear about this.
It is Jesus in John 14, who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me." By conscious faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, a truth that is affirmed in a passage such as Romans 10 conclusively.
Similarly, the Pew study tells us, "There also is wide variance among Christians on the question of whether many religions can lead to eternal life in heaven, or if their religion is the one true faith leading to heaven." We're told that Protestants are more than twice as likely as Catholics to say that their faith is the one true faith. Well, again, I'll simply say in reference to Catholics, that can be directly traced to the theological liberalization that took place after the Vatican Council known as Vatican II in the 1960s.
Of course, Christians understand that when we look at a survey like this, a research project like this, it tells us nothing about heaven and hell. It just tells us about the level of clarity and confusion found among the American people. And at least missiologically, evangelistically, that's good for us to know.
Revenge of the Fatbergs — Things You Didn’t Know (And Might Not Have Expected on The Briefing)
But finally, as we conclude today, thinking about things that are actually quite hellish in themselves, The Wall Street Journal tells us that there are 875,000 miles of sewer system in the United States. You heard that right. You know about the Interstate Highway System? Well, it pales over against the nearly 900,000 miles of sewers in the United States. And it turns out that that means 875,000 miles of potential trouble when you try to flush. The article in The Wall Street Journal was all about the fact that there is now big business in using drones to try to survey the relative, let's just say, health or unhealth of your local sewer system. And it turns out it is safer for drones than for human beings who probably ought never to confront some of the things likely to be found in a sewer system, including what is defined in this article as a fatberg. It can be massive. It can be miles long, and I'll simply say it is coagulated stuff that people put into a sewer system, and it is not going to be overcome except by extraordinary effort.
Christopher Mims writing the article tells us about an arsenal of means now being deployed in America sewer systems, "The arsenal includes flying drones, crawling robots and remote-controlled swimming machines. They are armed with cameras, sonar, lasers, and other sensors. And in some cases, with tools to remove obstructions, using water jet cutters, capable of slicing through concrete tree routes and the giant agglomeration of grease and other products known as fatbergs. 'Some can also fix leaking pipes using plastics that cure via ultraviolet light.'"
And while you're worried about things that go bump in the night, or maybe things that don't, one of the sewer authorities quoted in the article, and this concludes the article, said this, "If you drive under a bridge, you can see the spalling concrete and rusting gutters." But the article concludes, "Sewers are in many ways facing challenges, even bigger than America's notoriously fragile above-ground infrastructure, but their problems are often as invisible as they are severe until it's too late." So maybe there will soon be a movie coming to a cinema near you, "Revenge of the Fatberg." And in response to that, you have to say, "Bring on the drones."
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information go on my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.