No matter how much I shit talk many of the spiritual advisors, teachers, leaders of the world, there are some that I just really love.
One of my most beloved spiritual leaders from history happens to be Aimee Semple McPherson. The founder of the Foursquare Church, the creator of the Angelus Temple, and the subject of one of my favorite kidnapping stories in history.
Sister Aimee might have started her lifelong devotion to preaching, out of love for Jesus. I mean, there isn’t any other explanation, right? Or it could have been that our girl just liked the spotlight.
There isn’t anything wrong with liking the spotlight, even if you’re a spiritual teacher of some sort. The gods certainly don’t want us hiding our light from the world, so showing it off isn’t a sin, no matter how much folks want to say that it is.
However, it’s when people start listening, that you have to check yourself. Aimee didn’t have that, she didn’t have folks helping her check herself. Most of her family clung to her famous robes, her parishioners saw her as infallible, and the public ate up her persona, they loved the showmanship of her preaching style, which was only accentuated by her attention to her physical image, which she honed with the help of Hollywood.
So when nobody called Aimee on her power trip, she did what many cult or religious leaders do. Whatever she wanted.
Aimee was suspected of banging a few of her married parishioners, then she started being accused of all sorts of shit, and on May 18, 1926, she was ‘kidnapped‘ from a beach in Santa Monica, California, by a couple…held captive, but….just held captive. There was no ransom demand received by Aimee’s people, and one of her parishioners even drowned looking for Aimee’s body, while a diver died of exposure doing the same. She showed up a little more than a month later. She stayed true to her story for the rest of her life, no matter how many different theories popped up for why she’d disappeared for so long.
Even dickwad Robert P. Shuler weighed in and saw this as an opportunity to destroy his famous counterpart, saying that she was obviously guilty, whereas there has never been any way to disprove her claim. Many have tried.
But what’s interesting about this whole thing is not that she might have faked her own kidnapping. It’s her whole life leading up to, and after the kidnapping. She rose high, she preached at a time when hellfire and brimstone was all you heard in a church, but she preached love. She remained true, throughout her career and her life, to the belief that her god loved and accepted everyone.
Which of course, is true. He does. Even when you’re using Him to put your name in lights.
Aimee wasn’t preaching ugly. She continued to draw people in with love, not fear or guilt.
But all of that charisma and joy that she brought to her persona, the cult of personality which followed her, it all weighs heavy. When you know that most of the world now typecasts you, generally because you did such a fucking awesome job playing a role, you realize that it may be difficult to be anyone else…even yourself.
That weight spread over the power of that very cult of personality, often pushes one into that trap of getting too big, too famous, too arrogant, too hypnotized to believe that you could fall, that your own worshipers, followers, fans, may turn around and eat you when they realize that you’re human, when they catch you when you aren’t on.
Aimee fell into that. Her mother warned her, but she didn’t listen.
Power isn’t bad. It is what we do with it.
Aimee used it for good…nearly all the time. But when you are in the spotlight, if that power is even once, used for the proverbial dark-side, that same spotlight shows off everything…highlights all of your naughty bits. It becomes a reminder that there is always someone watching, and always someone who wants you to fail.
Make sure that you can live up to the expectations that your image and persona, has put in place.