Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

wolf-sheeps-clothingI’ve got nothing against wolves, they’re a noble and much maligned animal. However, the figurative ‘wolves’ that are implied by the common saying that is the title of this post are anything but noble. They’re deceptive, they lie, and they lead unknowing people down a path they don’t intend to go down. That’s the subject of today’s post. Contrary to my usual routine, I’m not putting this one in the queue to go up on a Wednesday far in the future, as I think this is a wolf that fortunately may be on its way to obscurity. At least their main website seems to indicate such, as it appears to not be actively maintained. However, they do have a recently active crowdfunding campaign going right now (click here for that, but for the love of the gods, don’t donate, please)–they seem to be woefully short of their $10,000.00 goal ($135.00 so far). But then again, they may have just moved to a new site (here), so this gnat may not have met its windshield just yet. Please have a look at the links I’ve provided before you continue reading to spare me the need to give an extensive backgrounder on these folks.

I’ve seen this group on-line before (in reference to their presence at the Burning Man festival), but had conveniently shoved it to the back of my mind until it was inconveniently brought back front and centre thanks to a post in an ex-Christian Scientist Facebook page. Now, I feel inspired to write about it, and deconstruct it a little bit, in my own special way.

Holy Ghost Global Ministries sounds like a feel-good, holy-roller Christian revival sort of thing to me with some anime, music, and hipster veneer thrown on (did I say they were at Burning Man?), as I look at it on its surface. I’m sure they’ve lured in more than a few mainstream Christians and lost younger souls unawares, so this post is as much a warning to those who are Christian or just looking for a church home (I think I have a few readers who are Christian) as it is a critique of this ministry. First off, it is NOT a mainstream Christian ministry, not in the sense that most regular Christians would think of one as. It IS a Christian Science church/ministry, run as far as I can tell by a young married couple; and I believe one or both are Christian Science practitioners. Now, I’m not going to debate here whether or not Christian Science is “Christian” (I think it is, in its own special way and that opinion is not subject to change anytime soon), but it is definitely not conventional or orthodox Christianity. But, Holy Ghost Global Ministries puts itself out there as a somewhat conventional mainstream Christian ministry, albeit they seem to sort of aim themselves at a more “street” or hipster crowd than perhaps the more staid old-line Christian churches might–they like to toss in some anime art, for example, and there appear to be “spirit wars” going on in West Los Angeles (be careful if you go there, I guess).

What really bugs me about this, and I’m not Christian by the way, is how this ‘ministry’ is deceptively packaged to look like a mainstream Christian ministry. If I were a mainstream Christian, I’d be incensed, and I’m sure some are. It’s a Christian Science ministry. It’s a re-packaging of Christian Science to make it appealing to a more mainstream, younger audience. If you need to package your product in fancy and frankly deceptive packaging, then I think there’s something seriously wrong with your product. A bag of shit is still a bag of shit, no matter how many pretty bows you put on it, and that’s what this is.

Holy Ghost Global Ministries is a larger than life example of some similar things I see happening in the mainstream Christian Science community/church. While Mary Baker Eddy told Christian Scientists they must “be separate” from the world (see Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 451); however, the Christian Science Church itself is trying its best to fit in to the world. It refers to Christian Science practitioners as being in the “healing ministry of Christian Science”. Christian Science nursing is also now often referred to as a ‘healing ministry’ as well. Sounds a lot like regular old Christianity eh? Many is the time I’ve heard a practitioner say they were ‘called’ to their ‘healing ministry’, just like you will often hear Christian pastors talk about being ‘called’. This is just another example of Christian Science being packaged as something it is not. It is not a mainstream Christian denomination, but it’s trying to sound like one. Rather than being separate, it’s trying to fit in. Likewise, Christian Science also tries to package itself as a form of healthcare, yet it really is not–but that’s another topic.

Christian Science and its adherents are a dying (almost literally) breed that’s desperately trying to find relevance and to put more butts in the pews. However, unless some miracle of God strikes down from on high, I don’t think its decline will abate. I just find it darkly amusing how Christian Science is trying to find relevance in today’s 21st century society, moribund as it is in its 19th century roots. As with anything else, buyer beware. Always read the fine print.

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13 thoughts on “Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

  1. Interesting post. I hadn’t ever heard of this group you referenced. I fail to understand though why you are so incensed by a group using common language to make their message relatable to the public. When molecular biologists write articles for public consumption, they adjust their language in order to make it accessible to non-scientists. Similarly, you or I might choose different words to describe something depending on our audience. It’s a normal function of the flexibility of language to do this, not misrepresentation or fraud as you suggest. Another example might be the tendency in past decades/centuries (and admittedly sometimes still today) to refer to Mary Baker Eddy as “Leader.” To our present-day ears, that sounds cultish because of contemporary uses of the word; however it did not have the same connotation when it was adopted by CStists in MBE’s day. Likewise, we may not see the words “calling” or “healing ministry” used by CS practitioners historically simply because those were not common phrases at the time. You might also look at the word “practitioner” and notice that we use the same word even today to refer to doctors (i.e. medical practitioners). It’s fine with me if you think CS itself is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but word choice can’t stand alone as the reason.
    Full disclosure, I am a CStist (but I’m not here to tell you that you should be or to challenge your reasons for leaving). Also, I know nothing of this aforementioned group, and am not writing in their defense.

    • Thanks for visiting my blog, and for your comments! My objections arise from what I see as an attempt to make Christian Science more palatable to the masses by making it seem like something it, to my perception anyway, is not. This is a furtherance of my issue with a trend I notice among Committees on Publication downplaying mention of “Christian Science”, “Mary Baker Eddy”, and other identifying factors when they write publicly in their capacities as Committees on Publication. It’s a “stealth” mode, as I’ve come to call it. Christian Science is anything but a conventional Christian ministry, and many a mainstream Christian will be happy to tell you that. I wonder what happened to the old attitude of “stand up and be separate”? Now, it looks like Christian Science is trying to look and be like everyone else.

      • Fair enough. Regarding your point about the Committees’ representation of CS, I would suggest that it is part of a larger strategy the includes first regaining public awareness, and then standing up to be separate. As you’ve probably notices, CS is disadvantaged by (though perhaps also benefits from) relative invisibility. And when you’re invisible, standing up and being separate probably doesn’t accomplish much, because no one is looking! And though you didn’t mention it explicitly, the common connection in committee writing between CS and health care to me is an oversimplification. I suspect you agree, though likely for different reasons. To me, one of the side-effects, if you will, of CS practice is improved health, but packaging it as alternative healthcare is off the mark. Again though, I think it is a strategy to get CS into mainstream dialogue so that it becomes a household name again. Once people know a (correct) thing or two about it, then we can work on the more complex details, I guess.

        Thanks for the reply!

      • I agree with you on the current strategy of the COP (I’ll just use the common acronym) regarding connecting to health care in their writing. It’s part of an overarching strategy that arose a number of years ago. In order to accommodate CS practice where it brushes up against legal/regulatory hurdles, they went the way of classifying it as “alternative” health care, and even giving it the veneer of health care (there are billing codes for CS services like practitioner services so you can get it covered by medical insurance in the USA). I even see the co-opting of medical terms sometimes (sorry, I can’t remember specific examples). I’m just always skeptical of deceptive packaging. Of course, I do disagree that improved health is a side-effect of CS practice… 😉

      • Although the billing codes may have come about earlier than 2010, I believe they amped up that work specifically in response to the ACA knowing that if CStists are not exempt from the individual mandate, it will be useful to have CS care covered by the insurance that they are required to purchase, and therefore need billing codes for it. It’s sure a complicated thing trying to integrate two totally different systems!

      • If you could design the packaging, what would it look like? (keeping in mind that the people advertising do actually want to sell their product 😉 , so labeling it as an irresponsible, nutjob, Krazy Sauce, won’t do the trick)

      • Well, first of all, The Mother Church would be foolish if they hired me…lol…and I used to work for them, ironically. I guess what always has spoken to me is plain, simple honesty. There are two, what I call “nouveau” Christian Science groups: one in St. Louis area, and the other in the Chicago area. I think their desire and aims are similar to the group I wrote about in this post. However, they are much more up-front about their “Christian Science”. They don’t bury it in mainstream Christian lingo. Yes, they package their church services with more appealing music, study groups, and things that other churches do, and that’s great. Even when I was at the height of my dedication to Christian Science, I never enjoyed the church services, so I think what these groups are doing is great. They are an example of how I’d design the packaging. I wrote a post about them awhile ago–I think I called it “Nouveau Christian Science”.

  2. Glad to hear that there are groups using a more contemporary format, such as Saint Louis and Chicago. Maybe it’s just my southern background, but the HOLY GHOST appellation brings tambourines and tents to mind. Happy New Year to each of you.

    • Yeah, the Holy Ghost thing made me think of that too, and that’s part of why I and many of my on-line ex-Christian Scientist friends had our objections. While I am not Christian myself and don’t care much either way about Christian stuff, I and my other friends just didn’t like the idea of someone getting out of Christian Science (or trying to), perhaps due to some trauma (that’s what often drives many of us out), who is seeking a Christian faith “home” falling for this. The groups in St. Louis and Chicago, while emulating many elements of other churches, are more honest and up-front about what they are, and I applaud their efforts to shed the 19th century shackles that hold back “mainstream” Christian Science. It’s not going to bring me back, however. 😉

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