By Jim Kent
No, this isn't a new version of the Catholic Mass, nor is the man a Catholic priest. He just "digs" the Catholic religion, "respects" its history and culture and finds himself inexplicably "drawn" to all things Vatican. He wasn't born Catholic; never attended Catholic church or schools. But this recent hub-bub about Jesus Christ and the DaVinci Code has grabbed his "inner spirit." He's thinking that's because "way back" his ninth cousin on his father's side may have been 1/16 Catholic. He just feels it.
So, he did some research, sat in on some masses, picked up an abridged version of the Bible and decided he'd start his own congregation. He calls it "The Cody Two Bear Church of the New Holy Grail." Visitors "donate" $100 minimum for this unique spiritual experience that will bring them closer to the Knights Templar, Christ and Mary Magdalene while discovering the healing capabilities of candle wax--long used in the church, but with little awareness of its true powers. Retreats are available at a higher cost.
Yeah, I'll be surprised not to get e-mails from someone upset just by the mention of this fictional scenario. Imagine the reaction if it actually took place, regularly, across the country. It does; just not with the spiritual teachings of Christianity, Judaism, Islam or any of our other "major" religions.
But just suppose it did. There'd be hell to pay. From the local diocese to the Holy Land, the earth would tremble with accusations of blasphemy and calls for eternal damnation. Yet, it's perfectly all right for anyone to practice, preach and sell the spiritual ceremonies of the Native American cultures--and with little or no repercussions; even when it results in death.
Although James Ray doesn't use any Native terminology stronger than "Spiritual Warrior" on his website, he's incorporated vision quests and sweat lodges into his practices. As we've seen in photos, his retreats use hogans and teepees as well as sweat lodges. So yeah, he's ripping off Native culture and religion.
Actually, I bet people practice a lot of bastardized versions of Catholicism without getting hate mail. The difference is that these versions exist on the fringe, not at the center of a money-making machine. People don't promote them on Oprah or in bestselling books and videos as the true path to happiness. No one is deceived about which is genuine Catholicism and which is a cheap knockoff invented by some fool, fanatic, or fraud.
For more on the subject, see Giago: Native Religions Don't Work and New Age Sweat Lodge = Honor?