Beyism: An Old Religion in a New Age

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The first time I learnt of the Atlanta-based National Church of Bey (or “Beyism”); I figured it was more than just a celebrity obsession gone awry. Some have dismissed the group as a joke, but if history is a reliable witness, new religions founded by self-styled gurus whom many thought were comical farce have gained much influence and spread across nations.

While Beyism was greeted with widespread criticism and public outcry in 2014 for mimicking some elements of Christianity, one of its members Taniya Hattersfield, committed suicide beside an altar erected to Beyoncé in her basement. In her suicide note, she offered herself to Beyoncé whom she addressed as her “lord and savior”.

Cults usually revolve around a false deity, false scripture and a worship structure that diverges from the general, orthodox expression, and Beyism meets up with this criteria. Ergo, it’s more than a satirical fringe group.

Cults and new religions don’t just spring up from the blues; they are built on the foundation of pre-existing ones.

For instance, the origins of Freemasonry, Wicca, Eckankar, Grail Message and New Age spirituality demonstrate that they have their roots in ancient Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Indian, Celtic, and Native American religions.

Similarly, Beyism has its spiritual dynamics. The founder of the group, “Diva” Pauline John Andrews said:

Deity’s [sic] often walk the Earth in their flesh form. Beyoncé will transcend back to the spirit once her work here on Mother Earth has been completed. As our congregation continues to swell, we ask that you consider what is more real; an invisible spirit on high, or a walking, talking breathing Goddess who shows you her true form daily? Beyoncé spirit is entrancing. We know that she was sent to this place to spread love, peace, and joy. While we do not believe Beyoncé to be the Creator, we recognize that she still sits among the throne of Gods.

Four years after this statement was made, a church in San Francisco, Grace Cathedral held a mass to honour Beyoncé on April 25, 2018.

The service featured “hymns” of Beyoncé music, Bible readings, prayer and communion. Rev. Yolanda Norton, a black feminist theologian, says that the service “uses Beyoncé music as a tool to engender positive, empowering conversations about black women.”

These folks are simply repeating old concepts with new words. The worship of “the divine feminine” is not novel; it’s a concept crystallized into various cultures for centuries.

Bey devotees may couch their version with modern feminist clichés but the weight of cultural signification attached to feminity underlies it:

(1) Pagan cultures viewed women as a metaphor for life and were believed to uphold social balances with physical activities. They are considered to have an intuitive knowledge of how physical and metaphysical energy can be manipulated to change things in the world [1].

Thus, supernatural connotations were attached to women’s bodies. Their womb was believed to symbolize creation of life and the breasts, motherhood.

Artemis of Ephesus is pictured having many breasts symbolizing the regenerative power of nature. Asherah, often depicted nude, was said to nourish kings “from her breasts as they had been by the goddess in Sumeria and Egypt.” [2]

Most images of African goddesses like Oshun, Idemili, Onishe etc. are also shown with accentuated breasts. In some traditional occult mysteries, like the Ogboni society, members ritually suck the breasts of the brass images (edan) of their mother goddess to receive “blessings.”

(2) Women’s bodies were deemed symbolic of the cosmos hence women’s fertility was also linked to fruitfulness of the land. Ritual sex with women was presumed to stimulate the gods to favour the people with fertility.

From this delusion emerged fertility cults with ritual prostitution and wild orgies which made ancient and modern goddess worship appeal to many.

According to a reference work, “By joining in the activities of the cultic sexuality, common people could participate in ‘stockpiling’ fertility energy, which ensured the continuing stability of agricultural as well as human and animal productivity. Archaeological excavations in Canaanite locations have uncovered temples with chambers where sexual activity took place.” [3]

It must be noted however, that Beyoncé stage persona has already presented the triple forms of the great goddess to her audience: as maiden, mother and crone. That isn’t a coincidence.

Her sensual lyrics, erotic dances and flagrant display of her voluptuous (“bootylicious”) body convey the image of a wanton, seductive maiden.  Her identification as the “queen bee” which feeds and rules over all bees in the hive gives off a motherhood mien. Her introduction of “Sasha fierce” – her alter ego – to the public reveals the dark form of the goddess.

Carl G. Jung, an occult psychologist postulated that there are archetypal images or formularies which existed deep in the subterranean unconsciousness of people – “the Collective Unconscious” – from which humans derive their images of deities. Thus, the Goddess archetype can emerge in any form in the minds of the devotees if it exists in humanity’s consciousness. [4]

He also believed that myths have a life of their own and that even if they weren’t literally true, if enough people believed in them, they were invested with a formidable, archetypal power of their own.

Carl Jung is regarded as a “patron” scholar of Neo-Pagan/New Age movements, because his writings provided much of the philosophical underpinning for modern occultism.

So, it’s common to find initiates of goddess religions claiming to have initially encountered an archetype of the goddess in someone they knew at some point in their lives: a mother, teacher, mentor or a celebrity they loved.

That’s why persons can evolve from their devotion to the Roman Catholic “Virgin Mary” to that of the Yoruba Yemoja or Voodoo Erzulie or vice versa – and in some cases, combine them in syncretic adoration. One archetype makes way for the other.

Thus, it can be deduced that Bey’s devotees worship an archetype of the old pagan goddess.

Beyoncé herself has poetically talked of crowning three goddess forms: Yemoja, Oshun and Nefertiti. In other words, she offers them her devotion, dedication and loyalty.

In some pagan systems, “Few goddesses and gods were confined to a single mode of manifestation, since they were immanent [present and involved in all of nature] divinities and could appear in any context that called them forth.” [5]

Since these deities are believed to symbolize universal principles, processes or life forces, ten different god or goddess forms can emerge from a single one.

This is why no limit can be set to the forms of expression the occult takes. It is like “the adulterous woman” in the book of Proverbs, “her ways her unstable, that you cannot know them” (Prov. 5:5).

As you are pinning it down at one point, it morphs into another one. In a bid to trap more souls, Satan keeps creating newer versions of false worship suited for each generation. Talk about old religions for the new age!

They have been here and they will emerge again in another form. The names their objects of worship will take is immaterial, the real deal, as Pauline Andrews puts it, is that “invisible spirit on high” that “walking, talking and breathing” demon goddess that turns many souls away from the Living God and drags them into eternal perdition.

Notes

[1] Abimbola Adelakun, The Ghost of Performance Past:  Theatre, Gender and Cultural Memory, Religion and Gender Vol. 7, no. 2, (2017), p. 13.

[2] Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess, Penguin Books, 1991, 454.

[3] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, Vol. 4, p. 100.

[4] Janet and Stewart Farrar, The Witches’ Goddess, Phoenix Publishing, 1987, 57.

[5] The Myth of the Goddess, 254.

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What About those who never heard the Gospel?

People have asked, “What’s the basis of God’s Judgement of those who never heard the Gospel?” This is a good question because there is an erroneous belief adhered to by many people that those who have never heard of Jesus Christ in this life will have an opportunity to be saved after death. Some even teach that they will have this chance when they resurrect to life during the 1,000 millennial reign of Christ which they call “judgement day.” These are untrue.

1. God has spoken to all mankind through nature, but many have rejected the voice of God that spoke to them. “Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

2. God will judge on the basis of the Law. “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Heb. 10:28).

3. God will judge their character and conduct on the basis of the light they had. “To those who by persistence in good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. But those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” (Romans 2:7-8)

4. God will judge those who didn’t have the Law according to their living up to the conscience. Every person has an inner conscience and is reflective of the laws of God. When one goes against his conscience, he violates the moral law of God.

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares” (Romans 2:14-16).

This vs. 16 raises another point: the gospel has been given to all alike. Even before Jesus came in the flesh, the gospel had been preached to Abraham (Gal. 3:8) and to Israel (Heb. 4:1-2). Even Abel, Enoch, Noah etc. had the gospel (Heb. 11). Christ, as the pre-existent Word, revealed Himself to them at different times — as theophanies.

What is a theophany? This can be defined thus: “It is the Second Person of the Trinity who appears thus in human form … The One of the three who is called LORD, or Jahweh, in the incident recorded in Genesis 18, is to be taken to be the Second Person of the Trinity.” (J. Oliver Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962, 1:33).

However, in cases where men have not had the law or the gospel, God will judge them on the basis of the light they have had and their conscience.

“Christian” Hoaxes and Urban Legends (I)

The work of a Christian apologist centres on combating cultic doctrines, theological, philosophical and moral errors which enslave and prevent many from believing and living out the truth of the gospel.

Every Christian dedicated to truth has a moral responsibility and obligation to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5). Many people trapped in dangerous religious groups have been cruelly deceived and they need the truth. This is one of the reasons we must uphold the banner of truth in what we present to them.

There’s a biblical standard of honesty, faithfulness and credibility to which we are expected to adhere. We are to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse [us] of doing wrong, they may see [our] good deeds and glorify God” (1 Pet. 2:12). We are to “put off falsehood and speak truthfully” to people who listen to us (Eph. 4:25).

Unfortunately, when one examines some books, write-ups, videos, stories and personal testimonies being widely circulated among contemporary Christians – ostensibly to present the gospel to unbelievers and convey an apocalyptic message – they are found to be no more than cheap hoaxes, urban legends and fantasies all dressed up to look “Christian.”

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Hoax: to trick (someone) into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous.

Urban legend: an often lurid story or anecdote that is based on hearsay and widely circulated as true.

“Christian” hoaxes and legends may well function as barometer of collective anxiety. They may ignite people’s emotions and even serve as props for their faith (or lack of it), but these do not make them any less false. In fact, such tales are often tools of exploitation, manipulation, slander and spreading doctrinal errors.

The rapidity with which such unfounded stories and claims circulate (especially via social media) and the fervency with which they are believed are quite alarming. This is why critical thinking is a vital tool in evaluating materials. Here are some examples of such hoaxes and urban legends:

Christian woman buried for 15 days

This was a story of a Muslim man in Egypt who killed his wife (according to a version, because she was reading a Bible) and buried her along with their infant baby and 8 year old daughter. He reported to the police that an uncle killed the kids. But 15 days later, another family member died and when he was about to be buried, they found the little girls under the sand – alive!

The older girl when allegedly interviewed on Egyptian national TV, by a veiled Muslim woman news anchor, said: “A man wearing shiny white clothes, with bleeding wounds in his hands, came every day to feed us. He woke up my mom so she could nurse my sister.” Then the Muslim woman exclaimed, “This was none other than Jesus, because no one else does things like this!”

The anonymous writer ends it by reminding us how Jesus is still turning the world upside down and appeals to the reader to share the story. I first read this story in December 2004, in a magazine called Christian Alive. Actually, the story started making its rounds on the Internet in April of that year.

But there is no news report from Egypt about this tale. It contains no dates, no name of persons, city or institutions to corroborate it. Its origin has been traced to an anonymous e-mail received by a woman and her pastor husband in the U.S. It’s a hoax!

Nigerian baby born with a message

The story says an infant was born at a General Hospital in Kubwa, Abuja with her hands clasped together as though in prayer. The doctors eventually conducted an operation to separate the fold of skin joining her hands. When her hands were separated, the message written therein was “Jesus is Coming Back!” Then she died.

This is a recurring hoax, because I’ve been hearing this story since 1998 with variations in location, details and gender, yet not a shred of authenticity has been provided to support it. It’s understandable why the baby in the tale had to die. It makes for easy burial of hard evidence.

The Corpus Christi movie

This came from an alarmist message that has trended online.

I can’t believe it,” says its opening line, “There is a movie that is coming out saying Jesus and his disciples were gay! … Maybe we can do something! Please send this to ALL your friends to sign to stop the movie from coming out. Already certain areas in Europe have started to ban it from coming to their country and we can stop it too! We just need a lot of signatures and you can help! … Show your faith and respect for our Lord and Savior.”

I first came across this rant in a letter by a reader to a newspaper editor in 2004. In fact, the rumour about a “gay Jesus film” has been on since 1984 in the United States – stirring many Christians to spill much ink writing protest letters. The fact is there is no Corpus Christi movie!

In 1998, Terrence McNally did a promotional stage play by the name Corpus Christi. Though it played in some theatres, it was never released as a movie.

The vanishing hitchhiker

The story goes that a couple on their way home from a crusade gave a stranger a free ride. As they drove on, he declares: “Rapture would have taken place some minutes ago. I am an angel and I just came here to warn you” (another version: “Only 12 people in that crusade would have made heaven”) and when the couple turned to look at him, he had disappeared.

There are different versions of this Vanishing Hitchhiker legend: the American versions and Nigerian versions. The words of this angelic hitchhiker also seem to change each time the story is narrated, but no one knows (and will ever know) the identity of the couple to whom he appears.

Originally, this was an old legend about a stranger foretelling war, death and pestilence to some folks. Now, it has become a “sanctified” legend wielded on some pulpits. The story dates back to 1948 and be rest assured, it’s not going away any time soon.

They dug into Hell

This was a story about a team of geologists in Siberia who were drilling a hole in the ground, but they went too deep and ended up punching a hole through to hell.

Their drill began to rotate wildly and the geologists measured a temperature of 2000⁰C in the deep hole. So they lowered super sensitive microphones to the bottom of the well and they heard the sounds of thousands, perhaps millions of suffering souls screaming.

I read this story for the first time in year 2000 in a Christian bulletin about hell. It made a lasting impression on me. I now believe the intent of the “well to hell” tale (which is curiously similar to the pit to Purgatory tale in the medieval era) was to paint a scenario of atheistic scientists screaming from a digging site in terror when they found the proof of hell and mass conversion to Christianity taking place as a result.

Actually, the tale was an embellished account of a 1984 experiment in Russia’s Kola Peninsula (published in Scientific American). The Kola well reached 12km into the ground, where scientists encountered rare rock formations, flows of gas and water, and temperatures up to 180⁰C. There was neither a digging into hell nor screams recorded.

But somehow the story of “scientists digging to hell” in Russia aired on TBN and it reached Norway and from there gained a life of its own. There are even some websites with audio clips purportedly of screams of the damned. A friend in Lagos informed me that his pastor played this clip for them during a church service.

You may be wondering why some folks would resort to myth-making to convey a Christian message. The reason: there is power in storytelling. Stories have the abilities to shape minds and act as vehicles for ideas – whether true or false. Those knowingly spreading such urban legends believe they are justified since they have benign intents, but they are wrong.

People make up legends because they want the world in their own form rather than what is reality. This is the root of deception. Many Christians believe such hoaxes and legends without double checking to see whether there’s any validity to them mainly because they fit with their worldview.

Actually, there is nothing wrong in believing credible stories and testimonies, but just because a thing is possible doesn’t always mean it is true. Fiction should be termed fiction. Legends shouldn’t be called true stories and hoaxes shouldn’t be presented as reality.

Continue in part 2