Constance Cumbey

A controversial Detroit lawyer has hit the lecture circuit with an end-times message.

“Be forewarned! The end is coming. The Antichrist is already in the world, and a network of thousands of organizations and millions of people all over the world is preparing to introduce him. He will appear to have the solutions to all the world’s pressing problems and will be accepted as a world leader. But eventually his true colors will show, and he will demand the worship of Satan and submit the church to the greatest persecution it has ever known. So beware. Don’t take the mark of the beast.

Is this the message of another fiery-eyed backwoods doomsayer trying to frighten his listeners into a firmer resolve for God? Not quite. This is, in sum, the message being advanced by an aggressive, urbane, 39-year-old Detroit lawyer named Constance Cumbey. And hundreds of thousands are taking her message seriously. Having spoken at more than a hundred churches throughout the United States in the last year and a half, Cumbey remains in near constant demand as a lecturer. She has been endorsed in church bulletins and newsletters and featured on numerous television programs and radio talk shows, including KDKA in Pittsburgh. WLAC in Nashville, and WXYZ in Detroit. Phones rang off the hook the night she appeared on Chicago’s WCFC-TV, whose potential audience of 11 million makes it the largest Christian television station in the country. Cumbey’s book, The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow (Huntington House), sold 30,000 copies within three weeks of its release in June, and is now in its second printing with a huge backlog of orders.

The conspiracy she speaks of is called the New Age movement. Cumbey says its leadership is tightly organized, although most of its masses are involved innocently. The movement is rooted in Eastern religion and occult philosophy. It purports to be building a world of peace and harmony, but its hidden agenda is evil. Cults like the Hare Krishnas and Moonies, and causes like holistic health and nuclear freeze, are all doors through which the unsuspecting are recruited. The conspiracy includes the establishment of one world religion and a single government with a centralized food authority, all of which the Antichrist will use to come to power.

Cumbey says the movement has infiltrated Christianity. She likens Tom Sine of World Concern, Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, and other “wolves in sheep’s clothing” to Adolph Hitler. She calls Sen. Mark Hatfield’s Between a Rock and a Hard Place a “New Age classic,” and accuses Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship missions specialist and author David Bryant of hypnotizing his audiences.

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Organizations she attacks include Bread for the World, Inter-Varsity, Calvin College, and World Vision International. World Vision has received hundreds of letters from all over the country requesting clarification of its involvement in the movement. Bread for the World has discovered that some pastors, on the basis of Cumbey’s message, are urging their parishioners to terminate their financial support. Cumbey says that although these people and organizations espouse Christianity, their political programs and their vocabularies give them away.

She maintains that the New Age movement meets all the biblical predictions for the end times. One of the “bibles” of the movement, written in the 1930s by Alice Bailey, an occultist who claimed to have transmissions from a “divine master,” calls 666 a sacred number. (In Revelation 13, 666 is called the number of the beast.) The popularity of the rainbow as a symbol is suspicious to Cumbey. She sees it as a fulfillment of Isaiah 24:5, which states that the earth is defiled because its inhabitants have broken the everlasting covenant. Cumbey holds that the beast that was dead and came back to life (Rev. 13) is nazism. Her list of parallels goes on.

Cumbey’s presentation is girded by the mountains of facts she has gathered. She impresses listeners by citing not just New Age books and authors, but pages and even paragraphs. Add to this the polished courtroom demeanor of an experienced lawyer, and Cumbey’s powers of persuasion are formidable. But her persuasive abilities have fallen far short of convincing those familiar with her area of study. Cumbey has not won the full endorsement of a single respected Christian scholar or cult-watching organization. Experienced cult watchers acknowledge that there is a movement and that it is widespread. Among its chief spokesmen are Theodore Roszak, Willis Harman, George Leonard, and the late Buckminster Fuller. But far from being a tightly organized conspiracy, the cult watchers maintain that the movement is better understood as a philosophy, a type of “Westernized Eastern mysticism,” syncretistic, with elements of humanism and the occult.

Cumbey responds to her critics by claiming that either they have not done enough research or they themselves are a part of the conspiracy.

For years, organizations like Spiritual Counterfeits Projects and the Christian Research Institute (CRI) have been monitoring the activities of New Age groups. Their research has revealed some cult-like groups that seem to glorify the teachings of Alice Bailey. Other groups, like the New York City-based corporation Planetary Citizens, are dedicated to creating a “new global society.” CRI researcher Elliot Miller, who has studied the movement for nearly a decade, applauds Cumbey for helping to uncover attempts at organization by some groups in the movement. But a statement issued by the CRI is representative of the cult-watching world’s unfavorable analysis of Cumbey’s message. It reads in part: “It would be counterproductive for the Body of Christ to respond to this movement with hysteria resulting from a belief that the Antichrist is about to be revealed, or by making public declarations that the New Age movement is involved in conspiratorial activities that cannot be factually substantiated.”

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One of the logical inconsistencies of Cumbey’s conspiracy theory is the unlikelihood of cults like The Way International, Children of God, and the Moonies all being a part of the same movement. “Can anyone familiar with Rev. [Sun Myung] Moon’s theology seriously believe that he anticipates a Messiah other than himself?” writes cult researcher Eric Pement in Cornerstone magazine.

In addition, scholars question the legitimacy of Cumbey’s method of interpreting Scripture. She has no formal theological training. (For this Cumbey offers no apologies since she believes the New Age movement has penetrated many of the nation’s seminaries.) In any case, Allan Johnson, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and author of the article on Revelation in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, maintains it is a mistake to try and read today’s specific events into the Book of Revelation.

Dispensationalist theologian Craig Blaising of Dallas Theological Seminary elaborates: “If the words of Revelation were meant to be applied to a specific movement today, it makes it impossible for Christians throughout the centuries to have understood God’s Word in Revelation.” He adds, “Logically, it doesn’t work.”

Blaising says that American premillenialism is plagued by a “hangover” from an earlier period in which some premillenialists sought to identify present-day events on the basis of end-times prophecies. Blaising believes that dispensationalism does not allow for such an approach. While he acknowledges that some would disagree, he feels he is in the mainstream of respected dispensational scholarship.

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Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s George R. Beasley-Murray, considered an authority on eschatology, agrees with his colleagues that the Bible is not to be used as a guidebook for anticipating specific events. He adds the warning that “people need to be wary of those whose treatment of prophecies relating to the end times is not based on sound exposition of the Word of God.”

Though they believe that much of Cumbey’s message is absurd, many of her critics believe also that because of the large following she has gained, she cannot be safely ignored. Even some who have sponsored her appearances say that she is generating unnecessary panic and dividing the body of Christ.

Cumbey is particularly vehement toward Sine and Sider, both of whom she says are selling the New Age movement’s political program to the church. “They know exactly what they’re doing,” she says, “or else they’re incredibly naive or stupid.” She hastens to add, “And I don’t think they’re naive or stupid. They could probably tell you more about the movement than I can.” Cumbey’s suspicions of Sider are based largely on his support for a nuclear freeze and his advocation of regular redistribution of wealth as put forth in the Old Testament’s Jubilee principle.

Cumbey’s case, as presented in her book, is marred by questionable reasoning and poor documentation. At one point she equates concern about the earth’s growing population with lack of faith in God. In another place, she writes that the New Age movement has the technology to produce a three-dimensional image in the sky that can be seen by a third of the world at a given time. (They intend to produce the image, thus fulfilling a prophecy found in Rev. 13:13–15.) The movement also has the sound technology to make this image speak in the languages of the people in the areas to which the image is beamed. The only support she offers for this claim is that the information was gleaned from “lighting experts.”

Cumbey’s case against Sine is based on his book, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, which was named Logos Book of the Year in the inspirational category. The book is used widely at Christian colleges and seminaries. Sine is unaccustomed to defending himself against charges that he is part of a satanic plot. Nevertheless, he assures, for the record, that his Christianity is not fake, as Cumbey alleges, and that he is not steeped in Eastern mysticism. Says Sine, “I would not hesitate to have my book examined by any respected evangelical scholar.”

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Part of Cumbey’s case against Sine is his alleged use of New Age “buzz words” such as vision, incarnational, global, network, new age, and spaceship earth. Sine, who is a futurist, explains that he has incorporated into his vocabulary terms commonly used by futurists. “Nobody owns these words,” he says. “The same vocabulary is used by humanists, atheists, and Christians.”

Those she has accused point out that Cumbey made no attempt to seek their perspective before going to press. Cumbey charges that Bread for the World (BFW) has lobbied for a centralized world food supply. Paola Scommegna of BFW acknowledges that the organization has supported the building of food reserves in many nations so that they could handle food emergencies. She says, however, that BFW has never lobbied for a centralized food authority. And she believes the controversy would have been avoided had Cumbey been willing to talk things over.

But those who have taken the initiative to talk with Cumbey have found the going rough. Says Tom Getman, a legislative aide to Hatfield, “She berates you and deluges you with so much information that by the time she’s finished, you feel like an idiot.” He continues, “To treat a potential brother with such disrespect, disdain, and intellectual arrogance is not loving.” Others who have attempted to talk with Cumbey have expressed similar frustrations. Getman concludes, “Her methodology belies her message.”

The Christians Cumbey has implicated in the movement are convinced that her popularity will fade. But they remain concerned—especially those planning for the future—about the damage that could be done in the meantime. Reflecting this concern, Pement writes in Cornerstone: “Conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen, and none of them should cause us to put down the sickle and take up the spyglass.”

If A Woman Could ‘See’ Her Unborn Baby, Would She Get An Abortion?

Two physicians, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, have suggested that a mother’s viewing of an ultrasound image of her unborn baby can change her mind about abortion. The doctors, John C. Fletcher and Mark I. Evans, say that seeing the image accelerates the bonding that otherwise would not take place until the baby begins to move (at 16–20 weeks). They cite conversations with women intending to abort, who, after seeing images of their babies, changed their minds.

One woman, at a high risk of delivering a seriously defective baby, chose birth over abortion. “It made a difference to see that it was alive,” she said. “I am going all the way with the baby. I believe it is human.”

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The physicians said that ultrasound, a relatively new technique, has the potential to become a weapon in the moral battle over abortion.

Most abortions, however, are done before the tenth week of pregnancy, when, Evans believes, the ultrasound image is not clear enough to wield influence. But he said that imaging produces clear pictures after the twelfth week, when roughly 10 percent of all abortions are performed.

Fletcher is a bioethicist for the National Institutes of Health; Evans is a George Washington University obstetrician.


Former president of World Vision International, Stanley Mooneyham, has joined the staff of the Larry Jones International missionary group as minister-at-large. Mooneyham has written several books, including For Those Who Struggle and Sea of Heartbreak. He has a broad background in missions and evangelism. Having directed the 1966 World Congress of Evangelism, Mooneyham was one of the founders of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism.

Wesley G. Pippert, Washington reporter for United Press International, has been appointed chief Israel correspondent for the wire service. Pippert and his wife, Rebecca, who is an author, speaker, and national consultant on evangelism for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, will live in Tel Aviv. Pippert covered Watergate, three presidential campaigns, the Carter White House, and Congress during his 16 years in Washington. He is the author of The Spiritual Journey of Jimmy Carter.

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