Drumming into Darkness

Rob Schwarzwalder
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Posted: Jan 18, 2010 3:13 PM
Drumming into Darkness

A Google search of the phrase “drum circle” comes up with some interesting entries. It’s linked to such things as “occult meet-ups,” “PaganSpace” and “New Age Connections.”

“Drumming” is an occult practice used in pagan rituals. Designed to connect people with “earth spirits” and other demonic forces, such “circles” are associated with witchcraft and shamanism. Put simply, this practice is not Christian.

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While that might seem obvious, consider the case of a woman at the University of New Hampshire who, according to the Boston Globe, “is in critical but stable condition at a Massachusetts hospital (after ingesting) anthrax spores released from animal-skin-covered drums” (“Drummer’s Anthrax Case Spurs a Public Health Hunt,” Boston Globe, January 4, 2010).

Having worked closely with then-Secretary Tommy Thompson at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the 2001 anthrax crisis, I know something of the grim horror of this disease. It strikes fear into the most seasoned public health professionals. It is a gruesome malady not to be taken lightly.

That’s one of the reasons why the report of this young woman’s illness is so troubling – but not the only one. The drums around which she danced were provided by the United Campus Ministry (UCM) in Durham, N.H. The UCM is a self-described “ecumenical Christian ministry” sponsored by several old-line Protestant denominations. Its Web site says that it is “committed to the teachings and model of Jesus Christ” while also being “a ministry of inclusivity and openness.”

Given that Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God was exclusive, “inclusivity” in the sense this group means – “open” not just to anyone but, apparently, virtually any idea or belief – is an odd way to describe a supposedly Christian ministry

And sadly, what is missing from this organization’s lengthy “Mission and Ministry” statement is any reference – any – to the Bible. No mention of Scripture. Or, for that matter, of the cross of Christ. Of His atoning death or bodily resurrection. Of historic Christian teaching of any sort.

To offer commentary on this descent from Christianity into demonic ritual is almost too painful. Spurning the miracle of the Incarnation for the devil’s false promise, the new pagans are lulled into the artificial, undemanding spirituality of darkness. They revel in the folly of “drumming” and other pagan rites, not knowing that they are inviting the embrace not of God but of His sworn Enemy.

The probably very nice people of UCM have jettisoned orthodoxy for what seems to be good feeling (in their own words, they are for “hospitality, inclusivity, justice and love”) and thus, based on their Web site, espouse neither revealed truth nor saving grace.

Instead, they drum. In fact, they even have a “drumming teacher” named Julie Corey, who claims that drumming is “positive and healing and uplifting.” It is no doubt cathartic and, based on its pagan origins, darkly spiritual.

But it is not Christian.

There is something very telling about the University of New Hampshire episode, something almost overtly symbolic: Just as spores of anthrax have been found in the hides of the primitive drums used to summon demonic forces, so spores of spiritual bondage take root in those who turn from the living God to the powers of darkness.

Departing the “faith once delivered” (Jude 3) leads to myriad evils. If the Bible is not the infallible and authoritative Word of God, its explicit teachings become a matter of subjective approval, a theological smorgasbord from which one can select what one finds most soothing or momentarily appealing.

From this launching point, it is not hard to deduct why professing Christians abandon biblical teaching on the sanctity of life (just the musings of ancient mumblers who didn’t understand the tensions of modern life), homosexuality (Paul the Apostle was a homophobe), the purpose of government (not to protect God-given rights but to exercise God-like power) and so forth.

Even the extreme environmental movement reflects a theology run amok. “Creation care” becomes an end in itself, reflecting not prudent stewardship of God’s creation but the virtual worship thereof. “Gaia,” the goddess of the earth in pagan teaching, receives worship instead of the Creator Himself.

There is only one Way to have peace with God – making a decision to trust solely in the saving grace of man’s only Redeemer, the Prince of Peace Himself, the God-man Jesus Christ. It is He Who calls us “out of darkness and into His marvelous light.”

One need not chant, drum or reach out to the “rhythms of the earth” to find Him. In Him we live, move and have our being. He, and the salvation He offers, are only a prayer away.

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Schwarzwalder, senior vice president of the Family Research Council, is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and graduate of Western Seminary (Portland, OR).