Prominent neo-Pagan becomes a Christian

Teo Bishop, a prominent neo-Pagan–a celebrity among Druids and Witches–has announced his conversion to Christianity.  He now says, “I’m overwhelmed with thoughts of Jesus. . . Jesus and God and Christianity and the Lord’s Prayer and compassion and forgiveness and hope. … I don’t know what to do with all of this.”

From Mark Oppenheimer,  An Ex-Mouseketeer’s Journey Back to Christianity From Paganism – NYTimes.com:

Teo Bishop, while keeping up a career in pop music, accomplished something less predictable and altogether curiouser [than his start as a Mousketeer]. Beginning about three years ago, he began a rise to prominence in the Pagan community. Then, last month, he shocked the Pagan community by re-embracing Christianity.

“I’m overwhelmed with thoughts of Jesus,” Mr. Bishop wrote on Oct. 13, on his blog, Bishop in the Grove. “Jesus and God and Christianity and the Lord’s Prayer and compassion and forgiveness and hope. … I don’t know what to do with all of this.”

For American Pagans, Mr. Bishop’s defecting to a big, bad mainstream religion is bigger news than winning a Grammy, bigger than shooting a Vanity Fair cover. If you’re a Druid, a Wiccan or any of the nature-religion followers grouped under the label Pagan, you’re not talking about Britney, JT or Xtina. You’re talking Teo Bishop.

But for you Disney fans, we’ll take a step back. The Mouseketeer you knew from 1991 to 1995 went by his given name, Matt Morris. He was a clean-cut Episcopalian from Denver. After the show ended, he worked as a songwriter, his compositions recorded by big names like Ms. Aguilera, Mr. Timberlake and Kelly Clarkson.

In 2010, Mr. Bishop — we’ll get to the name change in a moment — released his own album on Mr. Timberlake’s record label. As Matt Morris, he performed on “Late Show With David Letterman” and on Ellen DeGeneres’s show, where Mr. Timberlake joined him for a duet.

But away from network TV, he was developing a second identity. For several years, ever since his husband had suggested that he explore Druidry, Mr. Bishop had begun quietly to learn about that neo-Celtic tradition. He joined the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, a British order. In 2009, using the pen name Teo Bishop, he began blogging about his new spirituality, and in late 2010, he kicked off what became his main site, Bishop in the Grove. . . .

Bishop in the Grove became popular with Pagans of different traditions, its comments section a virtual meeting place. At its peak, Mr. Bishop said this week, the site got as many as 10,000 unique visitors a month. At Pagan gatherings and conventions, he was a treated like a celebrity — and more so because in July 2012 Teo Bishop came out as Mr. Morris, merging his two public identities. He also changed his name legally.

By 2013, Mr. Bishop made the cover of Witches & Pagans magazine. That issue was still on the newsstands on Oct. 13, when Mr. Bishop wrote online about the new Christian complications in his spiritual life.

In that post, Mr. Bishop told of an encounter with a woman, probably homeless, sitting next to her shopping cart. He gave her some food. “God bless you,” she said to him. That exchange stayed with him, and he soon felt himself called back to God — to a Christian conception of God.

About three weeks ago, he attended an Episcopal church in his hometown, Portland, Ore. He decided beforehand that he would hold nothing back, that he would pray the liturgy despite lingering misgivings about Christianity. “ ‘I am just going to give myself over to it, not intellectualize it,’ ” he told himself. “It was an amazing experience.”

“His husband.”  So he is gay too.  Note the role of liturgical worship.

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About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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