Understanding the Spirituality of Sue Monk Kidd (author of The Secret Life of Bees)

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by Ray Yungen
Sue Monk Kidd’s spirituality is spelled out clearly in her book When the Heart Waits. She explains:

There’s a bulb of truth buried in the human soul [not just Christian] that’s “only God” … the soul is more than something to win or save. It’s the seat and repository of the inner Divine, the God-image, the truest part of us. (emphasis mine)1

Sue Monk Kidd, an introspective woman, gives a revealing description of her spiritual transformation in her book God’s Joyful Surprise: Finding Yourself Loved. She shares how she suffered a deep hollowness and spiritual hunger for many years even though she was very active in her Baptist church.2 She sums up her feelings:

Maybe we sense we-re disconnected from God somehow. He becomes superfluous to the business at hand. He lives on the periphery so long we begin to think that is where He belongs. Anything else seems unsophisticated or fanatical.3

Ironically, a Sunday school co-worker handed her a book by Thomas Merton, telling her she needed to read it. Once Monk Kidd read it, her life changed dramatically.

What happened next completely reoriented Sue Monk Kidd’s worldview and belief system. She started down the contemplative prayer road with bliss, reading numerous books and repeating the sacred word methods taught in her readings.4 She ultimately came to the mystical realization that:

I am speaking of recognizing the hidden truth that we are one with all people. We are part of them and they are part of us … When we encounter another person, … we should walk as if we were upon holy ground. We should respond as if God dwells there.5

One could come to Monk Kidd’s defense by saying she is just referring to Christians and non-Christians sharing a common humanity and the need to treat all people well. Yet, while respecting humanity is important, she fails to distinguish between Christians and non-Christians thereby negating Christ’s imperative, “You must be born again” (John 3:7), as the prerequisite for the indwelling of God. Her mystical universalism is apparent when she quotes someone who advises that the Hindu greeting namaste, which translates, I honor the god in you, should be used by Christians.6

Monk Kidd, like Merton, did not join a metaphysical church such as the Unity Church or a Religious Science church. She found her spirituality within the comfortable and familiar confines of a Baptist church!

Moreover, when Monk Kidd found her universal spirituality she was no teenager. She was a sophisticated, mature family woman. This illustrates the susceptibility of the millions like her who are seeking seemingly novel, positive approaches to Christian spiritual growth. Those who lack discernment are at great risk. What looks godly or spiritually benign on the surface may have principles behind it that are in dire conflict with Christianity.

Since the original edition of A Time of Departing came out, two major discoveries have come to my attention. First, Sue Monk Kidd has become a widely known author. She has written a bestselling book titled The Secret Life of Bees, which has sold millions of copies [and now is made into a feature film]. Her latest book, The Mermaid Chair, is also on the bestseller list. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I found even more profound evidence that my conclusions about her worldview were right. It seems that just a few years after she had written the book I’ve quoted, she wrote another book on spirituality. This one was titled The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. If ever there was a book confirming my message in A Time of Departing, this book is it.

In her first and second books, Monk Kidd was writing from a Christian perspective. That is why the back cover of God’s Joyful Surprise was endorsed by Virtue, Today’s Christian Woman, and (really proving my point) Moody Monthly. But with her third and fourth book, Monk Kidd had made the full transition to a spiritual view more in tune with Wicca than with Christianity. Now she worships the Goddess Sophia rather than Jesus Christ:

We also need Goddess consciousness to reveal earth’s holiness…. Matter becomes inspirited; it breathes divinity. Earth becomes alive and sacred…. Goddess offers us the holiness of everything.7

There is one portion in Monk Kidd’s book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter that, for me, stands out and speaks right to the heart of this issue. I want my readers to grasp what she is conveying in the following account. No one can lightly dismiss or ignore the powers behind contemplative prayer after reading this narrative:

The minister was preaching. He was holding up a Bible. It was open, perched atop his raised hand as if a blackbird had landed there. He was saying that the Bible was the sole and ultimate authority of the Christian’s life. The sole and ultimate authority.

I remember a feeling rising up from a place about two inches below my navel. It was a passionate, determined feeling, and it spread out from the core of me like a current so that my skin vibrated with it. If feelings could be translated into English, this feeling would have roughly been the word no!

It was the purest inner knowing I had experienced, and it was shouting in me no, no, no! The ultimate authority of my life is not the Bible; it is not confined between the covers of a book. It is not something written by men and frozen in time. It is not from a source outside myself. My ultimate authority is the divine voice in my own soul. Period.8

This is an excerpt from A Time of Departing, chapter 7, “Seducing Spirits.”)

Notes:

1. Sue Monk Kidd, When the Heart Waits (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1990), pp. 47-48.
2. Sue Monk Kidd, God’s Joyful Surprise (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1987), p. 55.
3. Ibid., p. 56.
4. Ibid., p. 198.
5. Ibid., pp. 233, 228.
6. Ibid., pp. 228-229.
7. Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1996), pp. 162-163.
8. Ibid., p. 76.

See also: Film Warning: The Secret Life of Bees May Leave Dangerous Sting