• Amanda Kennemore

How Not to be a Christian

I put anything and everything before God. But I was blind to this truth after being raised to believe I could claim to be a Christian while performing occult practices.

BY AMANDA KENNEMORE

Spirit Sanctified

 

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Three Generations of Christian Scientists

I was raised from birth into an esoteric worldview. New Thought is a 19th century version of Hermeticism, a first century melding of practical magic, Judaism, Egyptian religion, and Greek philosophy. My maternal grandparents were Christian Scientists. The Church of Christ, Scientist is a branch of New Thought melded into belief in Jesus. It was founded by a woman in 1879, has no pastors, does not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, nor that Jesus is a person of the Godhead, nor that God created matter and the universe.


My family read and talked to me about books by Edgar Cayce, who called himself a Christian but was a trance channeler who taught enlightenment, reincarnation, astrology, and Akashic records. My family was so committed to Christian Science that my aunt rejected surgical treatment for an ectopic pregnancy, opting instead to pray for spiritual healing. She died of her condition before I was born.


My grandmother taught me about the “power of positive thinking,” and encouraged me to concentrate away any illnesses. My father was raised Roman Catholic and did not share his in-laws’ beliefs, but my parents divorced when I was young. My father was pushed out of an active and influential role without much resistance.


A Childhood of Trauma and Demonic Manifestations

My earliest memories entail flagrant demonic manifestations. I saw demons, and they could physically touch me and move me. I was not always alone when I saw them, and I learned others did not see them. I was terrified to go to sleep, but I did not know why. When I closed my eyes, I would often see mandalas in motion, pulsing outwards and rotating.


As a child, I had a spontaneous out-of-body experience. I grew up with physical trauma, sexual molestation, little supervision, and hunger. My mother was depressed and my father was usually high. My mother, whose spiritual beliefs were even further afield from those of her parents, told me any suffering I felt was due to my own negativity. She taught me to blame myself. I deeply felt my mother hated me, and I felt unlovable. Ironically, my given name means “loveable.”


As a child, my mother and grandmother took me to a psychic physician. He used a pendulum to diagnose me with an as-yet unexpressed genetic illness and gave me a bottle of pills.


Following My Mother into a Large-Group Awareness Training Cult

When I was eight, my mother and two of my aunts became involved in a large-group awareness training (LGAT) cult, and by the time I was 15, I joined, hoping it would stop them from criticizing me.


The induction to this cult was a two-weekend seminar. It was notorious for minimal access to food and the restroom.


That did not bother me, because I was accustomed to skipping meals and public restrooms. The brainwashing worked on me regardless. The seminar coalesced into a profound experience of the meaninglessness of life, accompanied by a weird euphoria.


Choosing The "Path to Enlightenment"

I enrolled in a postmodern (Marxist) college and continued participating in the cult. My upbringing, postmodernism, and the cult all reinforced the message that my almost constant fear and depression were my own doing. In the words of The Smiths, "I deserved it, deserved it, deserved it."


I was capable of creating my own truth and my own experience. Life could have been amazing, but if not, it was only because I was a miserable failure. On some level, I never truly believed this, but I was like a sandcastle person: no identity, no self-worth, no anchor to truth.


I was capable of creating my own truth and my own experience. Life could have been amazing, but if not, it was only because I was a miserable failure. On some level, I never truly believed this, but I was like a sandcastle person: no identity, no self-worth, no anchor to truth.

Not believing a lie is not the same as knowing the truth. I did not know truth. I did not even know who I was. I was shy, but also brash. Sweet, but snarky. I became promiscuous. I acknowledged no authority. For my identity, I adopted astrology. As a way to navigate through life, I accepted the path to becoming enlightened.


Non-Duality and The Rejection of Sin

In my mid-twenties, I became a mother (a single one). When my baby was born, I learned some things. I learned life is precious. I learned love is real. I learned goodness is real — and so is evil. The God I had not quite believed in spoke directly to my heart.


Taking care of this sweet little creature was the only thing like happiness I had ever experienced. Even his tears seemed joyous. I was so changed inside, I began to gravitate toward Christianity. I wanted my baby baptized.


There was a pervasive condemnation of single mothers at that time, and I feared being condemned. I began to attend an extremely liberal Episcopal church, where no one would tell me I was wrong. Communion there was open to any and all. The sermons were similar to college lectures and sometimes contained advice about how to vote. I was there for many years.


With the blend of esotericism and Christianity, I was raised in combined with the watered-down church I attended, I continued to believe in astrology and my path to enlightenment. I committed to non-duality, a more evolved sensibility than believing in right or wrong, good or bad.


Sin is not possible in a non-dual worldview. So, I had no sense of my sinfulness or my need for redemption by Jesus Christ.


Sin is not possible in a non-dual worldview. So, I had no sense of my sinfulness or my need for redemption by Jesus Christ.

I still believed in the Jesus of Christian Science and Edgar Cayce, who was not God, but an example for enlightenment. I did not believe in the Jesus who rose from the dead to save sinners.


I continued to believe in reincarnation. Like Plato’s Symposium, I believed the Bible contained wisdom but did not acknowledge its authority, nor the authority of biblical morality and sexuality, which seemed laughably out-of-date.


I believed the only real commandment was “Do no harm.” Not only that, but I believed a lie that I was harmless.



Hope for Enlightenment Was my Downfall

I married in my late twenties. My husband was given to fits of violent rage. If my marriage was miserable and scary, I hoped at least it would push me to evolve past duality.


We had a beautiful baby. I treasured her as I treasured her older brother. At the same time, I was an emotionally unstable woman in an unstable marriage. I divorced. I remarried. I had another precious baby. I loved my three children so much, but I was not calm and steady for them. I toggled between dissociation and irritable anxiety. Our family was permeated with emotional chaos.


By this time, my path was well-worn into more occult study and activity, such as:

  • A Course in Miracles

  • Books by David R. Hawkins MD, PhD

  • Chinese medicine

  • A Law of Attraction blogger who specialized in abuse victims

  • My use of a pendulum

My second husband was quieter than the first, but I had the same indelible impression as I had with my first husband: This man hates me.


Life for my children was nothing like what I wanted for them, but I stayed laser-focused on my enlightenment as the solution. I thought if only I could level up my spiritual frequency, everything would improve.


What I looked to as my hope was really my downfall. My narcissistic obsession with myself, coupled with occult escapism, kept me depressed, dissociated, and adding to a miserable environment for my children. My enlightenment was going nowhere.


Treating God Like an Option

When I reflect on my pseudo-Christian walk, I was like the worst boyfriend you could ever have. I claimed God was the center of my life, but I had many other paramours I dated on the side. I treated God like an option. I took God for granted, believing He would remain near as I chased after shiny objects.


When I reflect on my pseudo-Christian walk, I was like the worst boyfriend you could ever have. I claimed God was the center of my life, but I had many other paramours I dated on the side. I treated God like an option. I took God for granted, believing He would remain near as I chased after shiny objects.

And if that judgment thing was real, and I was wrong, I believed God would “know my heart" in the end. Instead of reading what was important to God — the Bible — I read what was important to me. I spent only 90 minutes on the weekend with God.


I put anything and everything before God. But I was blind to it.


I was also blind to my obsession to “work on myself” so I could be a good person, a good mother, and a good wife. But working on myself actually took my focus away from others, and kept my focus obsessively on me.


Centering Prayer revealed God's love

Amidst the occult nonsense, I took up Centering Prayer, a practice developed by Fr. Thomas Keating, a Roman Catholic monk. Centering Prayer promised to cultivate the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). But in my mind, I heard Christian double-speak for my goal — spiritual evolution.


Father Keating’s books said Centering Prayer would dismantle false idols. He saw the primary idols for Christians (genuine Christians, not esoteric Christians) as security, affection, and control. I pursued this practice for over five years.


This time, a window opened in my perception. I realized when it came to my husbands, I was not the perfectly loving person who was victimized. It was not the same as the occult philosophy — that my suffering was my own doing. Or that being sad and angry in response to mistreatment was a dualistic choice, and I could as easily choose to be happy.


Rather, I understood that forming two miserable, distressing marriages was my choice. No one made me. There were red flags. Both relationships were birthed in lust and dissension. I did not enter sacramental marriages, but instead implicit deals: I demanded approval, and they demanded control. I did not want to give them control, and they did not want to give me approval. I was a broken person who married broken people, and I was not better than they were.


In spending 20 minutes twice a day waiting upon the Lord — even though my goal was wrong — the Centering Prayer changed me. Scripture began opening up to me. I finally knew God loved me, not intellectually, but in my being. Approval stopped being something I was desperate to attain.


I stepped off the merry-go-round of the co-dependent relationship. But I stepped off alone. I will not attempt to justify my divorces. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). I repented.


Satanic Signs and Wonders Confuse and Distract

In 2013, I married my husband. God blessed me with the most kind, gentle, and loving person I have ever known. I changed to his evangelical church. At my former Episcopal churches, I knew good people who loved the Lord, but at my husband’s evangelical church, I met people who were on fire for the Lord. The sermons were not like college lectures, but direct and authentic, providing a gospel-based framework.


Every other week, my husband and I went to a small group in a friend’s home where we studied the Bible and prayed for one another. This was a new life, and my faith was growing. I leaned into scripture, intercessory prayer, and fellowship with a close group of Christians who were clearly not conformed to the world, but seemed set apart.


The first time God graciously called me closer, my fear of seeing my own sin directed me into a lukewarm, liberal church. This time was similar. God was calling me into a more orthodox faith, but I began to have flashbacks of a traumatic childhood memory.


It was not a memory I had forgotten, but it became intrusive. The images, sounds, and emotions were disturbing, but even more so was the associated phantom pain. I had not been the person who was injured; rather I had been made to witness someone else being injured. But all these years later, I was feeling what was his pain.


A traumatic event tinged with the supernatural, or at least the paranormal, drove me to seek answers. At the same time, I kept seeing repeating digits via phone numbers, license plates, digital clocks, and the database I used at work. I kept seeing the same three to four repeated numbers.


I did not know anyone at my church that I thought could help. I never heard a sermon about the supernatural, so I did not think to talk with a pastor. I did not know where to turn, except back to the occult. Synchronicity reinforced that direction. I knew an occult practitioner would take my problem seriously. I went to a Reiki master.


The Reiki master had supernatural knowledge of things from my past that no one could have known. I left without answers to the problem that brought me in, but the false sign and wonder created confusion and delay from the path to Jesus. The trauma did not lift, but I was left wondering why God allows a little, tiny girl to be harassed by demons and unprotected by her parents.



Trauma Modalities Can Inadvertently Lead Survivors to The Occult

Even so, I continued going to church, reading the Bible, and praying. My pastor said it was okay to be angry at God, as long as you talked to Him about it, like David did in the Psalms. I gained a genuine thirst for scripture. My mind was being renewed to believe in the truth of the Bible and the relevancy of God’s commands.


My belief in reincarnation dissolved. My pro-choice stance melted away. Yet, I continued to box up, move, and unpack my occult books and accoutrements from one house to the next. I donated scores of books and knick-knacks over the years as I moved, but not those ones.


My marriage, church, and Christian fellowship were blessing me. But other areas continued in disarray. My former husband tried for years to get sole custody of our son, who fell deeper and deeper into confusion, sadness, and anger. My daughter began a pattern of going months or even years where she would not talk to me. She had severe depression and a severe eating disorder, bad enough to put her in the hospital.


In my work as a government bureaucrat, I was being promoted but dealt with malicious, unprofessional management. It felt like Survivor Island. I despaired that I could never be of any use to my children, nor to God. The demonic was re-asserting its presence. There were moments I believed my life was cursed.


I want to say, I did see psychologists and counselors over the years, and they did hold my hand and offer perspective through some really tough times. But talk therapy is not effective for trauma, even less for early and sustained trauma.


I confirmed my personal experience in The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, MD. What I took away from that book is there is no best practice in trauma recovery, but there are somewhat promising modalities. These include yoga, qigong, Reiki, and meditation.


In other words, vulnerable people who desperately need help are typically directed to occult practices. They may even be taught to blame themselves for what happened to them, as I was. EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is a trauma treatment that may be occult-free if the provider is occult-free.


In other words, vulnerable people who desperately need help are typically directed to occult practices. They may even be taught to blame themselves for what happened to them, as I was. EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is a trauma treatment that may be occult-free if the provider is occult-free.

Illness Broke Me, and I Cried Out to God

In the spring of 2019, I was overcome by a strange illness. One moment I was sitting in a chair in an office. The next moment that office became like a boat in rough water. When I stood to walk, I felt as if I were tossed on waves and would lose my footing and fall. I had terrible pain in my eyes. My feet and hands fell asleep. I had muscle weakness, tinnitus, and nausea.


I went to urgent care, which sent me to the emergency department. Over months, I went to different specialists and had various tests and MRIs. No physical cause was found. A neurologist tentatively diagnosed me with vestibular migraine, which has no known cause, and little is known about treatment.


The illness on top of everything else broke me down. There was a shadow over me. A pervasive sense of failure, a feeling I would never bear fruit. The fear I would always be broken. A constant dread.


Reading the parable of the talents made me cry. The unprofitable servant gets thrown into the outer darkness, and I felt he and I had a lot in common (Matthew 25:14-30). I believed in God completely, but in my heart, I felt unblessed, unprotected, and useless. Somehow I suspected it was not God, it was me. I cried out to God to show me.


There is no Harmless Occult Practice

The Holy Spirit responded by convicting me of my idolatry. In a moment, I saw I was breaking the first commandment for years. I had been trying to walk with one foot in Christianity and one foot in the occult.


But belonging to Christ is not compatible with following esoteric beliefs and practices. I was not walking by the Spirit. I did not put on the New Creation. I was not in the Kingdom of God. I was still in the kingdom of darkness. Some of my wrong beliefs had fallen away, but I never repented of them or renounced them. Other wrong beliefs I still held onto.


Over the years of being a so-called Christian, I went to channelers, psychics, occult teachers, and Reiki masters to learn truth. I used a pendulum to learn truth. I never learned anything true that way. I was barking up the wrong tree, because Jesus is the Truth.


I prayed in a Buddhist temple. I relied on Chinese medicine and yoga for healing, which brought temporary solutions or no solutions. I learned to read natal charts to understand myself, others, and my relationships, which never helped any of my relationships at all. All these practices ever brought was deception, darkness, and vulnerability to evil entities.


I was treating Christianity as if it were on a continuum, and I could move toward Christianity, moving toward the light, away from darkness, and maintain “spiritual” beliefs and practices that seemed harmless. But Christianity is incompatible with the continuum of dark to light.


There is no harmless occult practice. I tried to bring myself to God without letting go of my armloads of pollution and corruption. In the beginning of Leviticus chapter 10, two priests offered incense before the Lord that had not been commanded by Him, and the fire of the Lord killed them.


I believe now that attempting to blend Christianity with occult is an even worse affront to God than being straight occult, because it is putting what is abominable to God on His altar.


Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:

I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,

And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord,

And touch no unclean thing, then I will welcome you,

And I will be a father to you,

And you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.


- 2 Corinthians 6:14-18


I Released My Testimony, and All Hell Broke Loose

In early childhood, I suffered because my family, having authority over me, raised me outside the kingdom of God. God graciously called to me over the decades, but I perpetuated the family mistake of mixing the occult with Christianity. I had stayed outside the authority of my heavenly Father all those years. I had not been walking as His daughter.


When the Lord showed me this, I felt really ashamed and stupid. I destroyed books and artifacts, burning what I could, crushing what I could. Most of my occult books were easy to get rid of, but I did not really understand why my books on enlightenment were wrong. It hurt to get rid of them, but I did. I purged everything I could think of, even artwork that could have been sold.


I spent the next day fasting and praying, crying in repentance. In the evening, I watched and prayed along to a video to break generational curses. At the end, the preacher quoted Revelation 12:11, “They conquered Satan by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.” He said releasing my testimony was essential to break the curses. So, I wrote my testimony. I sent it to everyone in my email address book.


And all hell broke loose.


Enter Spiritual Warfare: Satan Wanted My Soul

Like the previous times I turned hard to the Lord, Satan came out swinging. The next day, a demon walked into my kitchen, and we had a brief chat as I cooked dinner. I did not know it was a demon and thought it was someone I knew. But that person was not really there.


I was in a double-minded state of confusion, feeling heavy and pressed down, like my knees would buckle. Later, I felt the presence of what was a long-gone familiar spirit, but one that was an almost constant presence throughout my child and young adulthood.


I was grateful I had a strong Christian friend whom I knew I could talk to. Jesus called her out of being a psychic medium. She told me to assemble and write out scriptures I could use in spiritual battle, like Jesus did when Satan came to tempt Him. She told me to keep them with me to read out loud when demons came around.


I needed those scriptures in the days that followed. My flesh was afraid, but I had confidence the Lord would protect me. My friend told me about a member of the worship team at our church who could help. In time, he came to our house and he, my husband, and I prayed, sang, and read scripture in every room and around the perimeter of the fence.


I was grateful the supernatural activity in our house stopped. But inside I was still unsettled. I was having demonic dreams. I knew God wanted to help me. I knew I was in His family. But I still struggled. I could not seem to break free of the darkness.


I researched for information about spiritual warfare and freedom from deception. Trustworthy information was hard to find. I listened to podcasts and took notes. I did a program from a pastor who wrote a book about deliverance. I went to church, read and studied the Bible, prayed. I sang worship songs and fellowshipped. I loved doing all of it for its own sake, but there was still a shadow over me, and none of the information I gathered seemed complete.


A scripture the worship leader left me with turned over and over in my mind:


"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
James 4:7

My question was, how do I submit to God? I followed the tenets of the Reformed faith, but I was still stuck. How do I abide in Jesus (John 15:7-8)? How do I acknowledge God in all my ways (Proverbs 3:6)? How do I seek the Lord (Psalm 34:10)? How do I be strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10) ?


These are more than concepts and ideas. Submitting, abiding, acknowledging, seeking, and being strong are all actions. But how do you do them, outside the space between your ears?


The Christianized Hermeticism I was raised in has seven basic principles. The first two are:

  • Mentalism: "The All is mind, the Mind is all”

  • Correspondence: “As within, so without”

I was taught that I could attain spiritual enlightenment with my mind, and when that happened, it would be outwardly evident through the awesomeness of myself and my life. Mentalism and Correspondence.


The evangelical message I understood was to believe in the Lord and be saved, and if I was saved, I would bear fruit. Belief means to accept something as true, to hold as an opinion, to hold as a fact. So, if I held the fact in my mind that Jesus rose from the dead for my sins, I was spiritually saved, and if I was saved, it would be outwardly evident through the spiritual fruit in myself and my life. Mentalism and Correspondence. The general Protestant approach is too esoteric for someone who already struggled with that.


Maybe philosophy is not that important, but I still had concerns. Verses like “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13) speak to Christians being tested by deception, lawlessness, betrayal, and persecution. Would a thought I had in my mind keep me strong enough to face persecution? To be one of those who “loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11)?


I was frankly worried that my thought-based faith, if put to the test, would not hold up to extraordinary events. Truthfully, it was not even holding up to everyday life, because I was stuck in pervasive fear.




The Holy Spirit Led me to Orthodox Christianity

I knew I needed to make a change for my faith to grow, but I did not know where to go. I fasted for three days and prayed to the Lord for direction. Within a few days, my YouTube feed showed an evangelical pastor I admired, interviewing two leaders in the Orthodox Christian faith.


I was astonished by the interview because the pastor complained about churches I had just written about in a blog post; namely, that Christianity was becoming as changeable and unstable as the rest of the world.


My only experience of Orthodoxy was a wedding I went to in the 1990s. I thought it was one of the weirdest things I ever saw. But since I asked for the Spirit to lead me, I believed this video might be the nudge I asked for. I researched on my own and found Orthodoxy is the uninterrupted line back to the apostles.


Ultimately, the history of the church gave me the confidence I could go all-in, dropping my rebellious theological mix-and-match. I began attending an Orthodox church in November 2020.


If I were planning to run a marathon, I would want to train for it. I would want to be coached by an expert marathon runner. I would not want to be casual about my training, doing whatever came to mind, whenever I had a mind to do it.


Orthodoxy is training for sanctification. The expertise comes from the Holy Spirit through the apostles and saints, based on God’s intimate knowledge of who we are. There is a schedule. There are physical actions and motions. There are objects to tangibly interact with. The Christian marathon training program includes the Eucharist, confession, twice-daily prayer, daily Bible reading, fasting, and giving alms.


Because the sacraments are physical representations of a spiritual reality, my faith walk encompasses my whole person: body, mind, and spirit.


In Love with God

I have Protestant friends who are disappointed by my conversion to Orthodoxy, which they see as a conglomeration of dead rituals to try to earn salvation. First, that is a vain imagination of another person’s motives.


Second, I indelibly remember my first moment of real happiness. It was when I was in love with, and responsible for, a tiny helpless human. There was a schedule. There were prescribed physical actions. There were obligations. Sometimes changing a diaper feels like a chore (like confession)! None of these were dead rituals. None made my love dead.


On the contrary, they brought my love to life. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).


I am in love with God. My love has a reality outside my mind. More importantly, God’s love has a reality outside my mind. God loves me through scripture, through the Eucharist, and through His forgiveness and blessing which is tangibly expressed through the words and actions of a priest.


I am in love with God. My love has a reality outside my mind. More importantly, God’s love has a reality outside my mind. God loves me through scripture, through the Eucharist, and through His forgiveness and blessing which is tangibly expressed through the words and actions of a priest.

Closing Thoughts

I am amazed that being a pseudo-Christian as long as I was, I have only been a genuine Christian for about three years. My conversion to Orthodoxy took a year and several months, and I have only been Orthodox for about one month.


I am fully committed to this walk with Jesus now that I have no blurry areas. I am not playing a game of spiritual Twister, because I am not trying to blend incompatible beliefs.


I guess in a testimony I am supposed to have a sales pitch for why you, too, should be a Christian. I do not have a sales pitch. But if you are a Christian who is blending Jesus with the occult or the esoteric — Please Stop. You are grieving God and hurting yourself.

 

About the Author


Amanda Kennemore grew up in an occult family. She attended parish school from sixth through ninth grade, where she learned about Jesus. As an adult, Amanda became Episcopalian for 20 years but finally dropped the occult baggage as a congregant in an evangelical Calvinist church. Today, she and her husband are newly-minted Orthodox Christians. Amanda has three grown children and two grown step-children. She received a BA from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and an MA from the College of Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has worked as a waitress, actress, paralegal, teacher, heartless bureaucrat, and middle manager.


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