Course in Miracles is not a Christian teaching

Byron Shire Echo, April 11, 2000
by Rev Chris Lockley (Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby Uniting Churches)

The recent coverage and correspondence regarding the Endeavour Academy and A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is a sad reflection on the potential for abuse in spiritual and religious organisations.

Although I have no personal knowledge of this particular situation, or the individuals involved, and therefore cannot comment upon it, we in the Christian church have had to learn from experiences of abuse of power by those in leadership positions - from prominent televangelists to pastors in congregations.

What we have learned was best expressed by M. Scott Peck: that evil, being deceptive, tends to hide under the cover of what is good and sacred; and being manipulative, develops powerlessness and dependence in those who are vulnerable.

Cult leaders from both Christian and other spiritual backgrounds tend to have similar characteristics: grandiose codependency bordering on sociopathy, which encourages religious/spiritual addiction in their followers.

Control by such leaders is usually all pervasive, and devotees are discouraged from intellectual questioning of their teachings. Should followers escape from such cults, they are often so scarred that they reject any spiritual path.

I have friends who have done ACIM elsewhere. Some have found it helpful, others have not. To suggest that it is a 'Christian' teaching, however, is highly suspect, as many of its principles are completely at odds with the teachings of the first century Jesus, and, as has been written elsewhere, seem to draw heavily on teachings based on Hinduism.

Kenneth Wapnick, who I understand is a significant spokesperson for ACIM, admits that he only uses those Biblical references consistent with the course, and ignores those which contradict it.

There is a great deal of spiritual diversity within the Byron Shire - something I personally find stimulating. The Christian and Hebrew scriptures, though often misrepresented, recognise that God communicates and relates to humanity through cultures other than Judaeo-Christian ones (eg. Amos 9:7, Romans 1:20).

Surely, at the very least we can exercise tolerance of the spiritual experiences of people from different practices and traditions, while feeling confident enough to maintain our own beliefs?

On the whole I have found people respectful of my Christian spirituality, even if they do not agree with it. I hope that recent events surrounding the Endeavour Academy do not undermine this openness to spiritual searching and dialogue in our area.

However I also hope that people of goodwill will continue to make known the dangers of 'cultism', which is antithetical to this spirit of dialogue.

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