Focus on the Family: Helping to Bring About a Generation of Parent Mystics?

A Lighthouse Trails Commentary

Next February, CCN (Church Communication Network) is presenting Beth Moore and Gary Thomas in a special Focus on the Family conference called Focus on Marriage. This is coming on the heels of a statement recently made by Focus on the Family that they only “occasionally” reference contemplative speakers such as Gary Thomas and Beth Moore and should not be accused of promoting contemplative spirituality. For Focus on the Family to say they only occasionally reference contemplative authors, all the while knowing they are about to present an entire conference with those same authors is not being up front. Such doublespeak should not be so. Beth Moore participated in the contemplative Be Still DVD and then later, through a ministry letter (see article below), acknowledged that she sees nothing wrong with the DVD or its subject matter. In addition, in her book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, Moore touts contemplative favorite Brennan Manning as having been “one of the most remarkable books” (p. 290) she has ever read. Gary Thomas tells readers to repeat a word for 20 minutes to enter the silence (Sacred Pathways) and points readers (throughout his book Sacred Marriage) to a woman who promotes and instructs on tantric sex.

One of Gary Thomas’ books that Focus on the Family sells, promotes (and defends) is Sacred Parenting. Thomas devotes an entire chapter to contemplative spirituality, calling it the “active discipline” of “true listening,” and says it is the way we can “seize heaven and invite God’s presence into our lives” (pp. 58-59). In that chapter, Thomas names two people who he says brought about the “biggest change in my prayer life” as “a result of reading” their material: contemplative mystic Teresa of Avila and Frank Buchman. Buchman was the initiator of Moral Re-Armament, now called Initiatives of Change, an organization working towards inter-faith globalization. Buchman was a controversial figure, partly due to his 1930s public statements showing admiration for Adolph Hitler’s leadership skills and stand against communism. Buchman was of the belief that if the world could find the right leader, even if he was a dictator, if he believed in God, he could change the whole world overnight. And according to cult expert Dave Hunt, Buchman was involved in both mysticism and the occult:

MRA founder Frank Buchman … embraced new revelations through occult guidance [and] helped to set the stage for the New Age movement…. He inspired thousands on all continents to meditate … decades before Maharishi Mahesh Yogi left India. (Hunt, Adaptation of Occult Invasion, 1998)

In Buchman’s book, Remaking the World, he talks about a “new world order” in which a “world-wide spiritual awakening” is the only hope with a “new illumination” for “everyone” (pp.4-5). Buchman describes his new world order much like the hope of some present day Christian leaders with dominionist views and a dream of a three-legged stool (religion, government, and business) as the world’s only chance of survival. Gary Thomas devotes three entire pages to Buchman in Sacred Parenting.

Teresa of Avila, also in Sacred Parenting, was a Carmelite nun who levitated during mystical trances, which indicates she was actually in touch with supernatural forces. In Sacred Parenting, Gary Thomas refers to Teresa’s book The Interior Castle, and he lays out the steps in contemplative prayer, including Teresa’s “prayer of recollection,” in which the mind “stop[s] thinking” with the use of repeating a mantra(p. 62). 2

All things considered, Sacred Parenting hardly seems like it will be a “tremendous help and a great inspiration to those moms and dads who choose to take advantage of its message,” as Focus on the Family insists.1

In addition to Focus on the Family’s promotion of contemplative authors like Moore, Thomas, and Larry Crabb, Focus on the Family’s own H.B. London has brought Richard Foster on board through London’s Spiritual Formation series. Lighthouse Trails believes Focus on the Family is helping to propagate the contemplative message, and in so doing will help bring about a generation of parent mystics. In light of the strong New Age basis of contemplative spirituality, what a disappointment this will be to the many families who have looked to Focus on the Family in matters related to the raising of their children.

From a recent letter from Focus on the Family (see link above for full letter):

Lighthouse Trails … assertion that Focus on the Family is “promoting” Contemplative Prayer and Spirituality is neither fair nor accurate. It is true that we have occasionally referenced speakers and authors who deal with subjects of this nature – individuals such as Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Larry Crabb, and Beth Moore. But this, in our opinion, is not the same thing as “promoting” contemplative prayer. The truth of the matter is that we have far too much else on our plate to become involved in any such activity. The heart of our outreach is practical family ministry.

Related Articles:

Beth Moore Gives Thumbs Up to Be Still DVD (and contemplative spirituality)

Serious Concerns for Focus on the Family’s Marriage Conference

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