Marianne Williamson And Pete Buttigieg Are The New Proselytizers Of Politicized Religion

By sowing contempt for cherished traditions and replacing them with nihilism and a theology of self-will, Pike’s legacy includes the growing spiritual vacuum in today’s America.

Pike is best known for the divisions he sowed into the Episcopal Church by injecting heresy. He seemed to invest his entire clerical career into remaking that church (and other churches) in his own image. His fiery sermons in the 1950s and ’60s increasingly accused the church of hypocrisy and attacked her central doctrines, including the Incarnation and the Trinity.

 

James A. Pike, a bishop of the Episcopal Church active in the 1950s and ’60s, was in many ways a footnote in modern American history. Yet he was an influential media figure in his time, an agitator of radical religion and politics. His legacy is still clearly visible today, 50 years later, both in the church and today’s growing vacuum of faith, and in today’s marriage of convenience between the superficially religious and left-wing politics.

Pike was first ordained as a priest in 1946, and later became increasingly extreme and outspoken in his politics and theology, which was often heretical. Then, to top it all off, he took a deep dive into the occult — publicly. More on that below.

Pike’s death was just as dramatic as his career. In September 1969, he wandered lost and confused in the Judean Desert, trying to replicate the footsteps of Jesus for a book he planned to write. He was ill-prepared for the trip, and there he died of thirst, heat stroke, and a 60-foot fall into a canyon.

Pike and the Episcopal Church as a Bridge to Nowhere

Pike is best known for the divisions he sowed into the Episcopal Church by injecting heresy. He seemed to invest his entire clerical career into remaking that church (and other churches) in his own image. His fiery sermons in the 1950s and ’60s increasingly accused the church of hypocrisy and attacked her central doctrines, including the Incarnation and the Trinity.

Much of the Episcopal leadership seemed too cowed by Pike to do very much about his heterodox preaching. Its House of Bishops was intimidated, at least in part, by Pike’s celebrity status. Ironically, news of Pike’s death came just as the Episcopal Church convened for its national convention in South Bend, Indiana.

Pike used his celebrity to promote various left-wing social issues, including strong support for Planned Parenthood and the LGBT agenda. At the same time, media outlets projected a positive image of him as a civil rights marcher and anti-war protester. While dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, Pike had his own weekly television show on ABC, where he gained a following that rivaled the popularity of Catholic Bishop Fulton Sheen’s show.

By 1958, when Pike became bishop of California, he went full throttle on preaching against central church doctrines. He was also a guest on many popular TV talk shows at the time, including “The Joe Pyne Show” and William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line.” Pike had enormous reserves of energy, but as an alcoholic and womanizer driven by his own agendas, he had little tolerance for views — religious or political — other than his own, and little time for his wife and four children.

After tearing away millennia-old traditions and beliefs, in 1966 he became obsessed with the occult after his estranged 20-year-old son committed suicide. I believe sliding into the amorphous world of the occult is far easier if one becomes unmoored from objective reality and objective truth. I think this was the case with Pike who, as a bishop, was steeped in the fog of moral relativism.

He held séances, consulted psychics, and publicly delved into the paranormal, expecting to resurrect his dead son so he could talk to him. Whatever Pike had left at the end of his life, one would be hard-pressed to describe it as a faith tied in any way to an enduring community or traditions.

These themes in Pike’s inflammatory tenure as a bishop — the elevation of his views over those established and sustained over thousands of years by the church, and the public replacement of traditional faith with a mix of leftist politics and the occult — have affected the state of faith in America today.

A Spiritual Vacuum Filled by Neo-Paganism

By sowing contempt for cherished traditions and replacing them with nihilism and a theology of self-will, Pike’s legacy includes the growing spiritual vacuum in today’s America. The reasons for this growth are complex.

They include interrelated developments of the breakdown of family, the sexual revolution, community breakdown (especially communities of faith), the decline of marriage, social isolation, the toxic effects of social media, and a growing population of aimless young men. All of this is a recipe for the loneliness epidemic that’s flooding the nation.

Pike’s influence notwithstanding, no one person caused this vacuum. But Pike played his role big time, and the decline of faith in America today is clear. Church attendance has been waning for decades. Episcopal Church membership in particular has declined by more than 50 percent in the decades since Pike’s death (from 3.58 million in 1968 to 1.68 million in 2018.)

The rate of “nones” — people who check the “none” box on religious affiliation — is growing rapidly, particularly among millennials. According to a Pew Research study, “nones” are now 23 percent of the overall population (up from 16 percent in 2007) and 35 percent for millennials.

But a faith vacuum does not mean people aren’t seeking some sort of fulfillment they believe to be “spiritual” in nature. Many unmoored souls are searching for a connection with the transcendent. Last year, a Pew Research poll noted that roughly 6 in 10 Americans hold at least one of four New Age beliefs (astrology, psychics, reincarnation, or animism, the belief that inanimate objects can be infused with spiritual energy.)

A fast-growing number of Americans are identifying as “spiritual but not religious,” especially millennials, who are increasingly interested in paganism and the occult. We see the rise of cults such as Scientology. We’re also seeing some newer cultish trends that appear to be politically incorrect, such as the growing popularity of an anonymous manifesto entitled “Bronze Age Mindset” that seems to beckon men back to a more tribal masculinity.

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