The New Age has a few key principles that appeal to people living in a secular culture. For example:
1. The only spiritual authority in the New Age is the self, which is very appealing to those turned off by the “hierarchy” of today’s mainline churches.
2. Even more appealing is that there is no such thing as sin in the New Age – it’s just a matter of good and bad choices.
3. The source of all good is not God, or someone we have to relate to in some way, but an impersonal “energy” force.
4. For those who have a taste for power and control, the New Age offers a philosophy based on the idea that the universe has an intelligence that people can tap into. We call it the Human Potential Movement and it encompasses a wide variety of “self-help” programs and books such as The Secret that claim one can better themselves via access to special knowledge contained in the universe. New Agers believe human beings can perfect themselves with these means, thus eliminating any need for God or grace.
5. Perhaps the biggest lure for New Agers is the rejection of the need for suffering, something they can accomplish by stripping Jesus of the Cross and His title of Redeemer. He is reduced to just another prophet, thereby eliminating any need to embrace the sufferings of this life. Escaping all pain and suffering is the MO of many a New Age movement, particularly those that incorporate Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism.
Estimates of people identifying with the New Age movement in the U.S. tend to run anywhere from 10 to 20 million, but this is not surprising when you consider the attributes of the average New Ager – white, middle-aged, college educated and with a middle- to upper-middle-class income.
A significant number of these people are baby boomers who rebelled against the “establishment” in the 60’s and went chasing after “spirituality” rather than religion. Traditional religious beliefs were replaced with obscurities such as “life force energies” and “spirit guides”. They embraced the Age of Aquarius which never dawned and the Harmonic Convergence that never happened.
This “chase” left many a soul feeling empty and the search to fill that emptiness has become a multi-billion dollar industry for all kinds of paraphernalia from Bioelectric Shields to Kabala bracelets.
The good news is that only a small minority of adherents actually take it seriously enough to try to incorporate its teachings and practices into their lives. For the most part, it’s a movement of dabblers who attend workshops, read books, or otherwise toy with New Age ideas in their spare time.
This is why experts say the New Age is much more of a consumerist movement than a religious trend.
But these people are genuinely searching – they keep buying, keep hoping to find something that will fill the void of what they left behind long ago when they threw away Jesus Christ for what they thought was a more meaningful and contemporary spirituality – but that turned out to be little more than thin air.
This is why it’s so important for Christians to be ever-vigilant when it comes to evangelization. Don’t condemn the New Agers in your life. Telling them that they’re going to hell just doesn’t cut it.
I try to give them a few facts about the practice they’re involved in (energy medicine is the easiest because it’s been proven a kazillion times to be nothing but abject quackery) to put a seed a doubt in their mind about what they’re doing. Once done, I begin to sow the seeds of truth, very gently and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, dropping a comment here and there and leaving plenty of room for Jesus to work by not “brow-beating” or otherwise turning them off.
In due time, they’ll come around and realize that Jesus really does have everything they need to lead the free and peaceful life they crave.