Touched by An Angel: But Which Kind?





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by Berit Kjos

"We see the angels as a common denominator among the religions of the world and focusing on what we have in common rather than our differences will help unite all peoples spiritually.

“I am one with God, I am one with all men, I am one with all life.” (Della Reese, who plays angel Tess on TV’s Touched by an Angel). 

“We see the angels as a common denominator among the religions of the world and focusing on what we have in common rather than our differences will help unite all peoples spiritually.” (Linda Vephula, Publisher, Angel Times).

“Jordan DuBois, I’m an angel sent by God to bring you two things,” announced Tess in the November 30, 1997, episode of the popular sitcom, Touched by An Angel. “A child will be born to you on Dec. 25, Christmas day.. and second .” (she hands him a board).

“A piece of wood?” Jordan stared at the short plank.

“Think of it as a violin yet to be played. It is a gift from God, as your son is a gift from [the] Creator. Each has a beautiful tune to play. Each. begins its life tonight.”

The episode’s main story then starts, thirty years later. The promised child has become a lawyer who volunteers his free time. When he returns home for the holidays, his family welcomes him with open arms. But the joy fades when Tony shares his news: he is gay and has AIDS.

After a painful encounter with his father, Tony collapses coughing outside in the snow. He is taken to a hospice managed by Tess. Near death, he hears a chorus singing “Angels we have heard on high..”

“I’d like to see one of those angels,” he tells Tess.

“If you saw one of those angels, what would you say?”

“I’d say, ‘Tell God I’m sorry for turning out the way I did.’ I know I’m a disappointment.”

“No you’re not. In God’s eyes you are His beautiful child.. I am an angel. I was sent by God to bring you a message: God loves you.” 

“That’s not what I’ve heard.”

“What you’ve heard were someone else’s words of hate and confusion. But God is not the source of hate and confusion. God is the source and the completer of your faith. And that’s what you need right now, faith that God really knows who you are.. No one’s perfect, Anthony, but God.”

Tony had seemed close to confessing his sin, a step that has brought countless repentant sinners into the loving presence of our forgiving Father. But Tess, played by veteran actress and singer Della Reese, stopped him with a seductive mix of truth and New Age sentiment. Her gospel sounds Christian but denies our need for the cross, the only way to lasting life and peace.

Della Reese’s words fit the church she founded in 1983, called Understanding Principles of Better Living. Its logo, a hot-air balloon, symbolizes “understanding the principles of positive thought.” She explains, “This is a spiritual, metaphysical situation. What makes the balloon go? The fire. The spirit is the fire” (“Della Reese Says TV Angels Fill Real Need,” Note: Article removed – URL kept for reference). She sees God, not “in the sky with a beard like Neptune’s, sitting on a throne watching me,.” but as “one spirit” who “disperses himself in various bodies.. There’s a piece of God in you. That’s how you can breathe” (“Reese’s Thoughts on Race and Religion,” Ibid.).

While Tess shares her faith with our gentle hero, the fledging angel Monica, played by Irish-born Roma Downey, works on Jordan. His unloving attitude toward his son makes him an effective villain – a persuasive public illustration of the “hate” schools and media often link to “fundamental” or “extremist” Christianity.

“God wants you to accept your son for who he is,” says Monica.

“He’s gay,” argues the father. 

“He is your son.”

“What is an angel from God doing on the side of a queer?”

“Nothing that is made by God is queer. God loves all his creations. Neither of you is perfect, for many reasons. But you don’t have to be perfect to receive God’s love. In fact, no one ever is.”

The father rushes to his son and assures him of his love. Once again Tony hears heavenly music. Then he dies, but moments later he revives and stands with the angels looking strong and healthy. The heartbreaking story ends with joy and resurrection. Resurrection without Christ? The happy ending feels good, and few dare challenge the dubious theology. Who wouldn’t want to defend kind, sensitive Tony who had been crushed by his father’s rejection? Suggesting that God calls the homosexual lifestyle sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:21-27) might seem judgmental, even criminal – especially in the wake of President Clinton’s conference on “hate-crimes,” televised a scant two weeks earlier. But in the absence of sin, God’s forgiveness becomes irrelevant. Who needs Christ and the cross when the angels tell us we are all good enough already? 

Like sin and the cross, the holy angels of the Bible who brought people to their knees in fearful humility clash with the new theology. In today’s culture it sometimes seems that being male is the only handicap without federally guaranteed special rights and protections, and the only “sin” worthy of censure is making someone else “uncomfortable.” Such a culture requires sweet feminine angels who radiate love and affirm our human nature.  “I felt that the wonderful thing about angels is that they are non-judgmental and they come from a place of love, and if they come through the Source of love, that can’t be compromised” said Martha Williamson, producer of the show (Unita Belk, “Touched by an Angel: An Interview with the Stars and Executive Producer of the Series,” Angel Times Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 4; Note: Article removed – URL kept for reference).

Comments by Berit Kjos:

Perhaps one reason most of today’s popular angels have feminine faces, human natures, and “minds of their own,” is that feminism is changing the culture to view masculine references to God, male leadership and “patriarchal churches,” as inherently oppressive. As Touched by an Angel producer Martha Williamson says, “angels have free will.” Her expressions of that “free will” match New Age visions of a “crossless Christianity” which must:

1) Re-invent God to fit feminist demands.

2) Twist biblical angels into permissive female deities.

3) Ignore sin (could sound judgmental).

4) Omit Jesus Christ (irrelevant without sin).

5) Purge the cross (too exclusive and violent).

6) Redefine words such as truth, love, and hate.

7) Imagine spiritual unity among all religions.\

Everyone wants an accessible God who loves people as they are. The true God fits that need, but the “evil one” tells us otherwise. Masquerading “as an angel of God” (1 Corinthians 11:14-15), he continues to twist God’s Word, hide the gospel, and offer counterfeit promises that blind Christians and pagans.

God calls Christians to bring His love to the hurting, lost, sick, and broken. But feel-good affirmations won’t heal the pain of sin and separation. Freedom comes through faith in Jesus Christ who died to set people free. His love compels Christians to share the whole gospel, not the pleasing counterfeits that are far more deceptive than obvious evil. Unfortunately, our culture has turned God’s values upside down. Nothing so effectively silences conscience or justifies rebellion as to invent “one’s own ‘spirituality.'” Most of today’s angelology appears to be of human and less than Divine invention.

Jesus came to bring forgiveness, not to tell sinners they were “okay.” Forgiveness is needed because sin is real. Indeed, Jesus said the world hated Him because He testified that its works were evil (John 7:7). As the chasm widens between the world and the true Church, every Christian will be challenged to make a choice: follow God or conform to the world. Those who would rather die than compromise will find a joy and peace in the arms of their Father that the world cannot even imagine.

Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure (1 John 3:1-3).