By Clete Hux –
America is becoming an increasingly pagan culture. Many would say that this is easily seen in how fast homosexuality is progressing in society. This raises some questions for our consideration. What do paganism and homosexuality have in common? Is there a platform where promoting one promotes the other? Historically, what is their relationship? Although it may not be possible to always link the two, the Olympic Games as a reference point might be a good place to start.
In trying to answer these questions, the promotion of gay athletes has been on the rise. The media spends much time toward this and with the progressive LGBT movement it is sure to increase in the future. Indeed, it seems that more attention to gay athlete participation is seen from one Olympics to the next.
According to Wikipedia, the recent Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang had 16 out athletes participating. Notably for the U.S. were Brittany Bowe in speedskating, Gus Kenworthy in slopestyle skiing, and Adam Rippon in figure skating. Sources tell us that whether it is the winter or summer version of the games, modern history indicates there have always been gay athletes. Some records strongly suggest this is consistent with the earliest forms of the games which were basically homoerotic in nature due in part to the athletes performing in the nude. That might raise another question: Will it progress to the point where history comes full circle and athletes once again compete in the nude?
Putting things in context, we should take into account not only pagan trends in the modernization of sports, but understand the history of the Olympics and its Greek Pagan worldview. In modern times a tremendous showcase for the influence of New Age paganism came in the opening ceremonies of the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta on July 19, 1996. To anyone unfamiliar with New Age paganism or the historical background of the Olympic Games, such a charge may seem outlandish, even paranoid. It is fitting, therefore, to examine the history of the games.
To help with this examination, the following is offered from an article this author wrote for Watchman Fellowship just after the 1996 summer Olympics. The original title of the article was “Summoning the Olympic Spirits: Pagan Invasion in Atlanta.”
An Olympic History
“The origin of athletic games lies in the ancient world, where they were treated as a ritual festival,” especially in Greece. Modern historians have the games beginning in 776 B.C. or earlier. “They lasted well over 1,000 years, until A.D. 394.” Early in fourth century, Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire. In 394, Roman emperor Theodosius I forbade all pagan worship. Saying they went against the spirit of Christianity, he included the Olympic games in his prohibition (Chronicle of the Olympics, 1896-1996: DK Publishing, p.9. The Olympic Spirit: History of the Games and Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, “Olympic Day in the Schools,” Curriculum Guide, ACOG, Vol. 1, 1992-3, p.10).
“The earliest [games] of which any record remains were funeral games, [such as] the games at Patroclus’ funeral in the Iliad of Homer, book 23. Hence attempts have been made to deduce all Greek agones [games] from funerals or other commemorations of the dead.” However, sufficient evidence exists to conclude that “most [games] of any importance were held in honour not of underworld gods but of celestial gods such as Zeus, or Poseidon” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968 ed., Vol. 9, p. 1119).
“Olympia, the town where [the Olympic Games] were held, was devoted to the worship of Zeus,” who was the “sky and weather god of the ancient Greeks, whose name and functions correspond to those of the Latin Jupiter and of the Sanskrit Dyaus (pitar).” “The temple of Zeus at Olympia was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It contained a gold and ivory statue of the god that was more than 40 feet high” (The Olympic Spirit . . .,p. 11. Britannica, Vol. 23, p. 962).
In the beginning, the games were few, and were held in less than a day. However, by the sixth century B.C. there were 13 events, and the contests lasted several days. “The first day was devoted to worship and preparation….On the second day the contests began…Day three of the Olympics began with religious rites. A parade of judges, priests, athletes, and trainers marched to the sacred altar of Zeus. There, 100 oxen were sacrificed to the god. Their thighs were burned and their ashes added to those that had piled up over the centuries. The rest of the animals’ flesh was eaten at a banquet after the games” (The Olympic Spirit….,pp. 11-12).
Thus the Olympic Games were pagan festivals for believers in the polytheistic Greek pantheon. “By the fifth century B.C., Olympia was the holiest place of ancient Greece,” because so much religious ritual was tied to the games. “When an athlete won an event he was supposed to give public thanks to the deities” (Pursuit of Excellence, The Olympic Story, p. 24, 1979, published by Grolier Enterprises, Inc.).
MODERN OLYMPIC TRIBES
The opening ceremonies of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games proved to be quite an artistic and musical spectacle. The estimated $15 million production, “The Call to the Nations,” was watched by some 3.5 billion people around the world. Amidst this extravagant pomp and pageantry, the historical pagan religious connection unfold. Dick Enberg, NBC Sports commentator, began, “You’ll first see in the northeast corner of the stadium, the Olympic spirits that will call the tribes of the world to Atlanta.” Immediately following was a very loud OM-like sound as the five spirits, each representing a different “tribe” with its own unique color, streamed up from the top of the stadium by tunnels of wind (the same wind used in the motion picture Twister). Amidst each blowing color, hoisted on a tall, thin scaffold, was a golden sun-faced figure (a real person inside the costume) symbolizing each tribal spirit.
The five different colors of the five different spirits have significance. At least one color of the five Olympic rings is in every flag of every nation (Chronicle of the Olympics, 1896-1996; DK Publishing, p. 13). Enberg picks up, “So the Olympic Spirits have called the nations of the world with vocal calls and percussion to gather as a global family in Atlanta, Georgia.”
Responding to the tribes, the five Olympic rings enter the field. Each tribe (five groups of 100 people) assembles, accompanied by an unusual percussion performance. The arrangement was developed by Mickey Hart, long-time drummer for the musical group The Grateful Dead. The musicians performing wore almost hideous looking costumes (they, too, wore sun faces), and played strange-looking instruments creating the sounds of the Olympic spirits and tribes.
The tribes of the world in the middle of the field were followed by 450 children dressed in white to form the number 100 to commemorate the Centennial year of the Olympic Games.
While music composer John Williams and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra played “Summon the Heroes,” the white figure 100 changes. Enberg explains, “The young children now are transformed into the symbol of peace, the dove, flying tonight in Atlanta.”
Another transformation takes place as the tribes, each with different colors, intermingle into oneness. Again, Enberg comments, “As you can see, now, the people of the world are becoming a mixture of one family as they create a mountain of humanity. All the tribes are losing their identity and for this occasion, this Olympics, they become one!”
After several other musical numbers, including a Hallelujah chorus, an artistic tribute to the ancient Greek Olympics begins. Dick Enberg is right on cue as he says, “The unifying power of those ancient games, which called warring states and cities to pause for truce – all wars to stop – in order to engage in a spectacle of not just athletics, but of arts and music as well – The procession of athletes and priestesses – you saw the giant columns – they weigh 2,500 lbs. each and eventually they will form the temple of Zeus.”
As the athletes bowed down to Zeus, Enberg explains, “Now the tribute to the supreme Greek god in whose honor the Olympics were once held –as the athletes appear, magically, a 50 foot temple will be erected.” As the priestesses sashayed to the temple, they carried with them offerings for Zeus. After a rendition of the goddesses honoring the competitors with olive crowns, the lights dim and darkness represents the 1,500 years when the ancient games were forgotten.
As the loud OM sounds again, Enberg states, “And now the five Olympic spirits awaken calling for the rebirth of the modern games.” Then Bob Costas, another NBC commentator, explained correctly that Emperor Theodosius had banned the games as a pagan ritual because they were held in honor of the supreme Greek god, Zeus. [All quotes of NBC commentator Dick Enberg are from the Centennial Olympic Games’ opening ceremonies; tape on file with ARC.]
NEW AGE IMPLICATIONS
There are several possible pagan or new age implications that deserve attention. First, “according to the Arbatel, a magic ritual published in the 16th century, [Olympian] spirits…dwell in the air and in interplanetary space, each governing a certain number of the 196 Olympic Provinces into which the universe is divided…[These spirits were] also referred to as Stewards of heaven” (Frank Gaynor, ed., Dictionary of Mysticism, p.129). It was these occult Olympic spirits which the opening ceremonies portrayed as having power and authority to summon all the tribes of the world to the Atlanta Games.
Second, there is the issue of monism, the Gnostic-pantheistic world-view, which blurs the distinction between God and creation because “all is one,” and “Thou art that” (Mark Albrecht, Spiritual Counterfeits Journal, Winter 1984. “World Views in Contrast,” p.38). The personal Creator-God is discarded for “a principle, a universal law, vibration, or energy . . . an impersonal force” (Ibid), of which, the entire physical universe is but a manifestation. Thus God is everything, and everything is God.
This false deity is represented in Sanskrit by the single syllable word OM (AUM), “The word of glory.’ It represents the Absolute….OM is the Brahman, the universal spirit or consciousness, and meditation upon it leads to absorption, according to Hindu mysticism” (James Hewitt, Teach Yourself Meditation, pp. 164-5). Used as a mantra, OM is “believed to possess magical powers, and [is] held especially sacred by Hindus and occultist” (Dictionary of Mysticism, p. 130).
In the Atlanta games’ opening ceremonies, this OM (universal vibration or sound) was used in summoning the tribes of the world to assemble as a global family. As Enberg said, “So the Olympic Spirits have called the nations of the world with vocal calls…” This monistic oneness was further illustrated when the tribes, with their different colors, intermingled. Said Enberg, “…all the tribes are losing their identity and for this occasion, this Olympics they become one!”
Third, is the issue of religious pluralism. At the Games there were athletes from 197 countries, representing a wide diversity of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. In a politically correct world, where religious tolerance is the name of the game, it is thought incorrect to maintain that any one religion is uniquely true and that the others are, at best, incomplete or even false.
Pluralism, rejects “the idea that there is anything superior, normative, or definitive about Christianity. Christian faith is merely one of many equally legitimate human responses to the same divine reality” (Harold A. Netland, Dissonant Voices: Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth, p. 10) Since pluralism denies religious exclusivity, all religions must be considered alternative routes to God, salvation, or ultimate reality. True pluralism therefore, while contrary to Christianity, is nevertheless obligated to accommodate Christianity.
Thus, the multi-cultural, religiously pluralistic setting of the Atlanta games included tokens of Christianity along-side the other conflicting and competing religious pageantry. A choral procession of churchgoers came out and sang “Wade in the Water,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and the “Hallelujah” lines. The “100” symbol commemorating the modern Olympics centennial changes into a dove, the Christian symbol for the Holy Spirit.
What about the athletes themselves? Does any of the pagan or new age thinking influence them? In an NBC interview, Dan O’Brien, the gold medalist decathlon champion, said that he got his inspiration from a conversation that Zeus had with his son. Zeus told his son that he must ‘find and fulfill his destiny.” O’Brien says that is his goal as well.
During the events athletes could be seen dropping the knee, and appeared to be thanking God for victory. Michael Johnson, the terrific gold medalist in the 200 and 400 meters, was seen doing so. Other athletes from Eastern and oriental countries were seen, prior to competition, practicing meditation.
Eastern meditation and Yoga have been in the U.S. for quite a while, and some American athletes have been practicing them. One example is Kim Batten, the U.S. women’s hopeful in the 400 meter hurdles. On the July 31, 1996, broadcast Enberg told her story of competing. “Where would she find the confidence to win? She began to meditate.” The TV camera showed her in the yoga Lotus position (sitting), saying a mantra, while psychedelic lights were flashing.
Yoga is a word from Hindu Sanskrit, which means “to Yoke” or “union,” and has to do with “the development of the powers latent in man for achieving union with the Divine Spirit” of Brahman (Dictionary of Mysticism, p.206).
Finally, there is the issue of humanism, where man is the supreme end and measure of all things, and where human effort is man’s only hope for a better world. Just before the NBC announcer talked about the tribes losing their identity and becoming one, he said, “As you can see, now, the people of the world are becoming a mixture of one family as they create a mountain of humanity.” One can scarcely miss the parallel in antiquity, where the people of the world, all one language and one mind-set, sought to secure their own future by their own effort on their own mountain, the tower of Babel.
The “when the Olympic world will be as one” idea is based on the premise that “all things are possible,” as each athlete reaches “the power within” themselves. As Kim Batten concluded, “I know now it is my inner strength,” Perhaps it was fitting that the last singer for the ceremonies was Celine Dion, who sang, “Realize the power of the dream.”
Believers are called to be salt and light in the world (Matt.5:13-14). As such, we are to proclaim God’s message of good news (Matt. 28:19-20), and to declare Jesus Christ as the only legitimate way that leads to God and salvation. Most of the religious messages attached to the Atlanta games were quite contrary to this.
There is nothing inherently wrong with participation in, or enjoyment of athletic events. Many of the metaphors employed in Paul’s epistles assumed his readers’ familiarity with competitive sports. The danger for Christians is not in sports per se, but in idolatry. Unquestionably, many Americans have moved from simple enjoyment of sports to an outright obsession with them.
Even when this is not the case, however, there is danger when pagan religious ceremonies are attached to anything potentially charged with so much emotion as sports. In the excitement and enjoyment of the athletic event itself, maintaining religious orthodoxy is hardly on one’s mind. But without careful discernment Christians may indiscriminately assimilate pagan beliefs and practices when those beliefs are subtly portrayed and woven into a supposedly innocent but emotionally highly charged setting. This is as true today as it was in ancient times.
The instruction of Paul to the Christians at Colossae is especially appropriate when separating truth from error. He says, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). Christians are not to be “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind” through the world of God (Rom. 12:2). They are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” but instead even expose them (Eph. 5:11-17).
Undoubtedly, how these verses may apply to the issue of participating in Olympic games, or enjoying them as a spectator, is a matter of individual conscience. But at the very least Christians should be able to discern between Christian truth and the pagan beliefs and New Age philosophy portrayed and symbolized in the Olympic Games’ opening ceremonies.
Olympic spirits are not divine and can never create lasting world peace or unity. Zeus is not God, the universe is not God, and man is not God. The real God created the universe and man. They are distinct from Him. Man’s destiny, his noblest aspirations, and his own fulfillment will only be complete in worship of the true God. Therefore, Christians should glorify God with their bodies, presenting them as a living sacrifice, and run the race with endurance, pressing toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus ~ CH