About Richard Abanes — Biography/History —
(This material is adapted from the Wikipedia article)
Richard Abanes (born 1961)—known as Richie Abanes during his days as a professional singer, dancer, and actor (c. 1976-1987)—is an award-winning American author/journalist specializing in the area of cults, the occult, world religions, pop culture, and the entertainment industry (see Curriculum Vitae). Since 1994 he has authored/co-authored twenty books on a broad range of topics: near-death experiences, racism and hate crimes in America, children and video games, children’s fantasy literature, Mormonism (both its history and doctrines), Easter, The Da Vinci Code, the New Age Movement’s as it relates to Oprah Winfrey/Eckhart Tolle, and the Religions of the Stars: What Hollywood Believes and How It Affects You. He also has written for most major Christian magazines including Christianity Today, New Man, Charisma, Moody Magazine, and Christian Research Journal.
In 1997, Abanes won the “Higher Goals In Christian Journalism Award” from the Evangelical Press Association for his article on various non-Christian faiths that appeared in Moody Magazine. Also in 1997, he was awarded The Gustavus Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America for his work on intolerance in North America (American Militias: Rebellion, Racism, and Religion). His bestselling volumes, according to Christian Booksellers Association listings, are Harry Potter and the Bible and The Truth Behind The DaVinci Code.
He has been a guest speaker at various institutions, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, CalTech, Mensa, California Baptist University, and Biola University. Abanes also has been interviewed on hundreds of radio/TV programs and networks including BBC, MSNBC, CNN, The 700 Club, Extra!, and The Bible Answer Man as an authority on cults/religion, pop culture, and the entertainment industry. He serves a lay minister at Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, California), pastored by Rick Warren (bestselling author of The Purpose Driven Life). He served on staff as Saddleback’s Creative Arts Director from 1998 to 2000.
Abanes began his career as a professional singer, dancer, and actor in local theater (Rockford, Illinois) at the age of thirteen. He began doing semi-professional theater within a year, and during his high school years he was featured in many productions throughout Northern Illinois. He also became a featured dancer in the Rockford Dance Company, while studying dance in Chicago with professional companies such as The Hubbard Street Dancers and Joel Hall Studios.
After graduating, Abanes moved to Nashville, where he worked at Opryland U.S.A. (eventually starring as George M. Cohan in For Me and My Gal). During the next two years, he also appeared as a dancer in several Nashville-based TV specials such as “Merry Christmas from the Grand Ole Opry” in 1980, “Opryland: Night of Superstars and Future Stars,” and “The 14th Annual Music City News Country Music Awards.” He was also a featured dancer for the weekly NBC variety series Nashville Palace (1981).
Abanes subsequently moved to New York, where he landed a role in the “International” and “Bus & Truck” companies of the Broadway hit musical A Chorus Line, (official revival site and original cast site) which became the longest running Broadway show of that era. Soon afterward, Abanes was given a featured dance role on Broadway in the musical Dreamgirls.
While in New York, he continued his studies in dance with American Dance Machine, Alvin Ailey Dance Center, American Ballet Theater, Luigi’s Jazz Center, Rick Atwell, and Ann Reinking. In the years that followed, Abanes was featured in national television commercials, played the lead role in two ABC After School Specials, co-starred in the film Rappin’, and starred in the Bill Moyers PBS special “The Constitution.”
Abanes left show business in 1987, and in 1989 began working as a mail clerk at the Christian Research Institute, a nonprofit organization. In 1994, he left CRI to pursue a new career as a full-time freelance journalist. His first book, co-authored with three other writers, was Prophets of the Apocalypse: David Koresh and Other American Messiahs, published in 1994 (Baker Books).
Abanes is perhaps best-known for his criticisms of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels via his bestselling Harry Potter and the Bible (Horizon Books, 2002) and his follow-up volume on the subject, Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings (Harvest House) in 2005.
Contrary to the allegations of his critics, Abanes has never advocated book banning or censorship in relation to the Harry Potter novels. In fact, he has always been an outspoken critic of such extreme actions. His consistent position has been that the Harry Potter series may simply be problematic for some young children because the books present certain real-world occult practices, viewpoints, and lore in an appealing way (e.g. divination, alchemy, and spiritualism) and because he believes the series offers moral relativism as its ethical foundation.
Abanes’s first concern is that some children might become so curious about real-world occultism that they will seek to emulate the occult practices they see in Harry Potter. His views are based on child developmental studies and the patterns of copycat behavior that have been exhibited by children/teens in the past in response to popular books, films, and TV programs.
Abanes’s second concern is that some children might also begin to emulate the subjective morality he sees being exalted in the books by the “good” characters. According to Abanes, the unrelenting “bad” deeds of so-called good characters could be confusing to young children and ultimately set up an unclear sense of right and wrong for them.
In 2009, it was none other than MTV that confirmed what Abanes had been asserting all along—i.e., that Harry Potter had affected some children raised on it during their impressionable years. MTV made this observation in an in-depth investigation of young neopagans. The article stated: “A surprising number of young witches MTV News spoke with also said that they became curious about their faith through misguiding pop-culture fare like the camp Neve Campbell vehicle “The Craft” and the “Harry Potter” series. (Guess a few conservative Christian groups were right about that one)."(see Far From Devil Worship And 'Harry Potter,' Young Witches Explain What They're Really About)
The LDS Church
Abanes has written two books on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormonism:
Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st Century Mormonism (2004), which was later re-titled in a subsequent printing as Inside Today's Mormonism.
These works, particularly One Nation Under Gods, have been attacked by members of the Mormon Church for allegedly relying primarily on questionable material from websites, secondary/tertiary sources, and anti-Mormon literature.
Abanes has also been criticized by Mormon defenders for labeling all anti-Mormon source as “excellent,” but all pro-LDS sources“biased.” For example, in One Nation Under Gods, Abanes states that “scholarly sources” from a particular pro-LDS website run by an organization called FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) are not reliable:
“FARMS, under auspices of BYU, a highly scholarly site, seeks to validate Mormonism on an academic/intellectual level, [but is] highly biased, very unreliable, can be confusing to the average reader due to the use of technical terminology—often misleading due to its use of historical, archaeological, and linguistic arguments unverifiable by persons not possessing higher education.”
What critics of One Nation Under Gods fail to mention, however, is that Abanes has substantiated his claims repeatedly and that they are echoed by a number of others who have examined the material from FARMS. Moreover, One Nation Under Gods actually uses as its primary sources of documentation a wide array of official writings from the church and unofficial Mormon writings from well-respected leaders throughout LDS history. These sources are quoted extensively and form the bulk of references:
Book of Mormon (original 1830 edition),
Book of Mormon (modern edition),
Articles of Faith,
Book of Abraham,
Doctrine and Covenants,
A Comprehensive History of the Church,
Documentary History of the Church,
Journal of Discourses,
Internet sources cited in the endnotes of One Nation Under Gods are websites of the above resources that can be accessed by the general public.
Becoming Gods (aka Inside Today's Mormonism) heavily cites many of the same sources used in One Nation Under Gods, but pays more attention to the doctrinal statements they contain. Becoming Gods also includes hundreds of quotations from contemporary defenders of Mormonism based at Brigham Young University (i.e. LDS scholars connected to the FARMS organization) and lay Mormon apologists connected to FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research). Abanes attempts to interact from a theological perspective with the latest LDS arguments that support Mormon theological views. The book's appendix includes an essay written by one of Mormonism's most notable apologists from BYU, Daniel Peterson (professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic), titled “Why I Am A Mormon.”
Abanes has produced three inspirational albums featuring songs he wrote with his wife Evangeline and performed to orchestral arrangements. His first album was released January, 1999 and received critical praise from both Christian and secular reviewers, such as CBA Marketplace and South Florida’s music magazine RAG. His follow-up album was released in April, 2001, and his third CD, Jesus Loves You, is a compilation of the best songs from his first two albums.