Disney's "The All New Mickey Mouse Club" churned out an array of cast members in the 1990s who went on to become highly successful teen -- and adult -- stars. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling are just a few of the names from the TV show's talented roster.
Teo Bishop (Credit: Twitter User @TeoBishop)
Among these kid stars was musician and songwriter Matt Morris, a lesser-known performer who, after being on the show from 1991 until 1995, found behind-the-scenes success as a writer for big acts like Kelly Clarkson, Timberlake and Aguilera.
While his professional life has remained relatively consistent, it is his spiritual walk that has evolved and is currently capturing attention.
Morris was raised in an Episcopalian home, but he officially abandoned Christianity in 2009, as documented in a New York Times profile published on Friday. Morris, who is openly gay, left the faith after his husband suggested that he explore Druidry.
If you're not familiar, Druidry is a religion of the ancient Celts. A Druid is defined as "a member of a pre-Christian religious order among the ancient Celts of Gaul, Britain, and Ireland."
Today, some sects continue in the tradition of these ancient faith leaders. Morris joined one of these groups -- the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids -- and began blogging about his experience in 2009 under the pen name Teo Bishop and on his Blog "Bishop in the Grove."
For those not involved in the Druidic tradition, it is somewhat difficult to discern what this particular order believes, but a "beliefs" section on its website attempts to distill its goals and practices.
"Since Druidry is a spiritual path -- a religion to some, a way of life to others -- Druids share a belief in the fundamentally spiritual nature of life," the site explains. "Some will favour a particular way of understanding the source of this spiritual nature, and may feel themselves to be animists, pantheists, polytheists, monotheists or duotheists. Others will avoid choosing any one conception of Deity, believing that by its very nature this is unknowable by the mind."
Christianity and Druidism are sometimes considered difficult to reconcile and, based on what's written about Morris, he didn't enter the Pagan realm in an effort to bring together the faith of his childhood and that of his adulthood. History and central elements of both theological systems make it difficult for them to mesh.
Consider the sect's views on death and rebirth: "While a Christian Druid may believe that the soul is only born once on Earth, most Druids adopt the belief of their ancient forebears that the soul undergoes a process of successive reincarnations – either always in human form, or in a variety of forms that might include trees and even rocks as well as animals."
Despite leaving Christianity behind and spending years subscribing to this order, something profound happened to Morris back in October. He randomly published a blog post entitled, "Overwhelmed With Thoughts of Jesus." In the post, rather than touting Druidic sentiment, Morris offered an admission that likely stunned his spiritual brethren.
"I'm overwhelmed with thoughts of Jesus," he wrote. "Jesus and God and Christianity and the Lord’s Prayer and compassion and forgiveness and hope and judgement and freedom from judgement and all of the things which made (and make) me feel connected to the Sacred. I don’t know what to do with all of this."
Credit: Bishop in the Grove Facebook Page
He added, " I don’t think I’m becoming a hard-core or born again Christian, or even a Christo-Pagan. But there is a softening inside of me that feels directly connected to Jesus and to the language of mystical and contemplative Christianity."
These admissions are somewhat shocking, because, since 2009, Druidry has consumed Morris' life. He was treated as a celebrity at various Pagan gatherings and his website was a rallying place for the community, the Times noted.
In fact, Morris legally changed his name to Teo Bishop in 2012 when he merged his public and private lives. In 2013, he was even on the cover of Witches and Pagans magazine.
Morris said he isn't quite sure what exactly he's experiencing spiritually, but the Times reported that he went to an Episcopal church in Portland, Ore., a few weeks ago. Despite his lingering qualms about Christianity, the musician decided to have an open mind. In the end, he said that it was "an amazing experience."
According to more recent blog posts, he's continuing to visit the church and is once again studying the Bible.
See one of Morris' Mouseketeer performances from the 1990s below:
Morris' faith journey isn't over -- and he hasn't quite embraced a definitive label. While some Pagans might say that he's abandoned them by rejoining Christianity -- a force that some Druids and Pagans believe alienates them -- Christians might see his perceived return as coming full circle back into the biblical fold.
"Neither of those rings true to me," he said.
His Twitter bio currently reads, "Cradle Episcopalian who became Pagan, only to rediscover God through Jesus." Clearly, he's still on a journey. Rather than focusing on his Druidic past, his blog now documents a journey back to Jesus and the Bible's impact on his life.
(H/T: NY Times)