“Listen, Do you want to know a secret,
Do you promise not to tell, whoa oh, oh.
Closer, Let me whisper in your ear,
Say the words you long to hear..”
(The Beatles, from ‘Please, Please Me’, 1963
Years ago, I heard someone make a statement about the gospel of Jesus that has remained, for me, both a fundamental understanding of the gospel, and a shaper of how I continue to interpret the gospel. Here it is: “If Jesus is the Truth, then what you say about him should be able to be said to anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances.”
That statement, if you accept it, effectively kills all the name-it-and-claim-it ministries on American television and radio. Just try to convince an orphan in the Sudan that if he will send a pledge to Pastor Billy Bob Dan Goforth, and his wife Jeannie Sue, of the Tulsa Mission Center, that that orphan can expect a “miracle his mailbox!” within the coming three weeks. (“Three” being the secret number which enables anyone to access the riches of God in heaven, here on earth, don’t you know..)
That statement of the universal Truth of the gospel, renders false and misbegotten almost all missions undertaken by American and European denominations during the 17th to mid-20th centuries. Those “missions” seemed always to be predicated on putting long pants and hard shoes on indigenous children and acclimating their parents to putting in long hours at the diamond/gold/chromium mine outside of town which always- amazingly- seemed to follow close on the heels of the missionaries.
If you can’t tell the gospel to a heroin addict in Saigon with exactly the same meanings you tell it to an attorney on the Upper Eastside in New York City, then it’s not the gospel.
That rule has made understanding the gospels, and being able to discern the nonsense spoken and taught about the gospels, a whole lot easier for me.
And now, being pushed by the newest American missionary trio of Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Larry King, comes The Secret. The Secret, “shared by Plato, Alexander the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin, and Henry Ford” can now be yours. Penned in 2005 by television producer Rhonda Byrne of Australia, after reading a 1910 book called “The Science of Getting Rich,” The Secret is based on something the author calls the “Law of Attraction.” The LOA “asserts that what you think creates what you feel, and these feelings flow from your body as magnetic energy waves over vast distances, which then cause the universe around you to vibrate at the same energy level as your feelings. If your feelings are negative, negative experiences will inevitably flow right back, positive feelings elicit positive experiences. Like attracts like.” (from The Skeptic, skeptic.com, 2007)
Now, all well and good? It sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Positive thinking is a good thing, yes?
Let’s use the same test that we used with the gospels. If the Jews of Poland, Austria, and Germany had had The Secret, could the concentration camps have been averted? Is it because the occupants of the Twin Towers on 9/11/01 were thinking violent thoughts, that violence happened that day? Would any of us dare to suggest that the same Sudanese child sitting in a Darfurian refugee camp could best be helped by running a copy of The Secret dvd for him?
Nonsense is nonsense is nonsense. That’s a truth you can tell with absolute confidence to anyone, anywhere.