There’s been controversy in recent days, after a few Christian sites–including Pulpit & Pen and ChurchWatchCentral– both reported that people associated with Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., and others who are part of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) have been using “Christian” Tarot cards, called “Destiny Cards.”
One couple, in particular, was identified as promoting the use of these cards–Ken and Jenny Hodge.
The Hodges lead an Australian organization called Christalignment, which takes teams of undercover Christians to New Age festivals. These teams set up booths, that look like psychic booths, and seek to evangelize New Agers by offering Christianized versions of psychic services.
Their services include “Destiny Card” readings, modelled after Tarot cards. The Hodges report that many former students from Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry have joined them in offering these card readings.
In response to these reports, Kris Vallotton–a senior associate leader at Bethel Church and co-founder of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry–wrote a lengthy post on Facebook condemning the use of these cards and urging anyone using them to “repent.”
He insinuated that the use of such cards by any Bethel graduates would be a misapplication of Bethel teachings.
Sounds good, right? A prominent NAR leader condemns an unbiblical practice [of Tarot Cards.]Not so fast.
Kris Vallotton’s Major Flip-Flop
Soon afterward, Vallotton retracted his condemnation. His scathing post mysteriously disappeared from his Facebook page, without an explanation. But you can still read it here. Today, he wrote a new Facebook post–completely reversing his previous denunciation of the Destiny Cards. He described the Hodges as “amazing people trying to be destroyed by the fake news media.”
So now he acknowledges that they are using the cards and approves. What caused Vallotton to flip-flop–going from urging anyone using the cards to “repent” to describing the cards’ proponents as “amazing people”? What changed his mind about the cards?
Apparently, he was persuaded when Jenny Hodge wrote him a message on Facebook, opening with some major name-dropping. She revealed that she and her husband, Ken are the parents of Ben Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is a former, long-time pastor at Bethel Church and a graduate of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. He now leads a prominent NAR organization called Awakening Europe, which maintains a formal partnership with Bethel Church. The Hodges’ close relationship with a Bethel giant surely caught Vallotton’s attention.
Jenny Hodge also told Vallotton that the card readings they do are similar to those offered by other NAR organizations and that the cards are not Tarot. She said that they have taught their “card reading” method of evangelism in many Australian churches and have even taught it to students at Bethel Church when the Hodges visited Redding, Calif.
Jenny Hodge also posted a public video statement on her Facebook page defending the use of Destiny Cards and seeking to clear up “misunderstandings” about them. In short, she says that Destiny Cards are not Tarot Cards because they are original decks of cards, created by “prophetic artists” working with Christalignment. And, unlike Tarot cards, Destiny Cards do not predict the future, according to Hodges. Rather Destiny Cards provide “destiny revelations,” which she says simply reveal “giftings you are born with in your life.”
She goes on to show some of the different sets of Destiny Cards her organization uses to provide readings. These include a “Love Destiny” set, which appears to be used to reveal an individual’s spiritual giftings. They also include animal and color sets, which purport to reveal the meanings of certain animal or color impressions people may receive during an encounter with God at a New Age festival.
In short, Hodge attempts to downplay the similarities to Tarot cards. Yet, check out this advertisement that her organization, Christalignment, posted for their booth at a New Age festival. Take note of the types of questions they claim their “seers” will answer, including questions about “life issues, jobs, and relationships”:
Going into new realms: This year Christalignment are offering you amazing encounters from the Third Heaven realm together with highly accurate destiny revelation using our own cards in the one service. As we guide you through the encounter,our seers will also answer your questions on life issues, jobs & relationships. The following modalities are also offered: Dream interpretation, Spiritual cleansing,Emotional Healing, Animal & Colour card readings.
This advertisement makes it sound as if their seers make predictions. Yet even if the cards don’t make predictions, they purport to provide revelation into present situations. So the similarity between Destiny Cards and Tarot cards may be closer than Jenny Hodge cares to admit.
Despite Jenny Hodge’s portrayal, Tarot cards are not used only to predict the future. They’re also used to provide revelation into the past and present, as this beginner’s guide for reading Tarot cards explains. And types of information Tarot cards are used to reveal include an individual’s talents and special abilities. For example, that’s the purpose of this five-card spread of Tarot. But this seems awfully similar to the “Love Destiny” set used by the Hodges.
Tarot cards also contain many symbols–including symbols of colors and animals. And Tarot card readers are encouraged to learn what messages the symbols are communicating to them. But doesn’t this sound a lot like the color and animal sets included in the Hodges’ Destiny Cards?
What Makes Tarot Tarot?
What makes a Tarot card a Tarot card is not just if it predicts the future. Tarot are decks of cards that are used for divination. Divination is an attempt to obtain information by supernatural means, apart from God–not just about the future, but also about the past and present. And divination is explicitly forbid in Scripture (Deuteronomy 18:10).
For those who might object by suggesting that there’s nothing wrong with Destiny Cards because their users are seeking information from God–and not from other spiritual entities–consider this question. Where does Scripture support seeking information from God in this manner? And if there’s nothing wrong with so-called Christian divination, what’s to stop Christians from making their own version of the Ouiji Board?
In a future post, I intend to tap into a larger problem with NAR, which is the common teaching that Christians need to “reclaim” many practices that have been stolen by New Agers.
Update: Destiny Cards Are Predictive, After All
Shortly after I published this post, I was contacted by a reader who found the following statements made on the Christalignment website about their Destiny Cards: “Our cards lead the way,” and “We believe they are more predictive and higher than most tarot, and can address a current life question that you may have.” Read the statements here. The reader said, “I don’t understand how they can say they are not like Tarot, yet compare them to Tarot, and say they are ‘more predictive,’ but they say they don’t predict the future?”
Very good questions, indeed. I’d like to see Jenny Hodge answer them.
Also take note that the Christalignment website descriptions of the Destiny Card sets are very different from the descriptions Jenny Hodge provided in her Facebook video. Not only do the cards serve predictive functions, according to the website, but they appear to have other things in common with Tarot cards. For example, in the Facebook video she indicated that the Psalm Card Readings are merely Scripture verses. But look at the following description from the website:
Psalm readings are similar to tarot in that cards are counted out according to your birth date date & year [sic]. Only three cards are used and these will represent your past, present and future.
The description of the Animal Card Readings set sounds eerily similar to the animal totem spirit guides found in Tarot cards.
Many people are connected to animals and in a reading using these cards 3 will usually appear in the encounter. The meaning of the animal will have great significance to the client and could give deep insight to life issues.
And, finally, consider this description of the “Destiny Readings” set, which sounds like the set she called the “Love Destiny” set in her Facebook video.
Our unique Destiny cards, which we have developed, are so accurate, that even if your life circumstances change dramatically, on your return to do them again years later, you will find the results identical, such is their accuracy. They are able to give profound insight into relationships, career and spiritual life.
How are these not like Tarot cards again?
Since writing this a couple of hours ago, I noticed that Christalignment has altered their website descriptions of their Destiny Cards, removing the word “tarot” and making other significant changes to the wording I cited above, including distancing themselves from animal totems and their claim that their cards will certainly predict the future. See an archived image of the page as it appeared just a few days ago, on December 13. Then compare it to the current page, after they altered it.
And here are screen captures from the original page.
Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.