Health care workers in our hospitals offer us the thoroughly New Age - and medically unsubstantiated - Reiki, therapeutic touch, aromatherapy, and reflexology. Yoga and tai chi have taken over the gym and our schools have been invaded by mindfulness practices. Parishes host "Christian yoga" classes and retreat houses offer labyrinths, Enneagrams and Christian Zen. It's even in the vet's office where a pet owner can get their anxious animal some relief through" integrated energy therapy."
Why is this happening?
Researchers such as myself believe it’s partly due to the removal of the Christian spirituality from our society. Whether he realizes it or not, because man is both a physical and spiritual creation, he will consciously or subconsciously yearn to satisfy his spiritual hunger with some other kind of spirituality and the New Age with its vast assortment of occult, pagan, pseudoscientific and Eastern spiritual practices, has plenty of exotic spiritualities to tickle the seeking soul.
The Church document on the New Age offers another reason for the rapid spread of New Age. " . . .(I)t is significant that New Age has enjoyed enormous success in an era which can be characterized by the almost universal exaltation of diversity. Western culture has taken a step beyond tolerance - in the sense of grudging acceptance or putting up with the idiosyncrasies of a person or a minority group - to a conscious erosion of respect for normality. Normality is presented as a morally loaded concept, linked necessarily with absolute norms. For a growing number of people, absolute beliefs or norms indicate nothing but an inability to tolerate other people's views and convictions. In this atmosphere, alternative life-styles and theories have really taken off: it is not only acceptable but positively good to be diverse." (Sec. 2.5)
This certainly explains why Christianity never seems to be "tolerated" by the so-called tolerant. Christianity is associated with the normality that has become anathema to the social and political elite of our time which is why the current standard of diversity is so blatantly selective and will never include us.
Unfortunately, this is true when it comes to the Christian belief in the devil as a personified being bent on the destruction of human souls. Even though this is an objective truth backed by centuries of testimony from exorcists, this idea of evil doesn’t jive with today’s tolerant crowd who does more than just demand its distorted concept of tolerance, but goes so far as to almost divinize is.
As the late Rev. Michael Scanlon once said, “The result is a myopic view of life which holds that everyone – indeed reality itself – must be cooperative and tolerant. Thus the concept of an evil entity bent on one’s total destruction doesn’t find much room in Western thinking. The concept gets dismissed as lacking in logic, propriety, and the ‘modern way.’ Because Western man has decided that malevolent forces shouldn’t exist he concludes that they actually do not exist.”
As this divinized version of diversity proliferates, even Christians tend to see nothing wrong with dabbling in this or that New Age spirituality which enjoys a wide market on the internet and social media.
Although not everyone gets involved to the point of joining a New Age commune, “This fits perfectly into the patterns of consumption in societies where amusement and leisure play such an important part,” the Church document explains.
The New Age movement has indeed thrived on consumerism. As the document points out, there will always be a way of profiting from people's perceived spiritual needs - and profit they have.
Estimates of the number of people who identify with the New Age movement in the U.S. is said to be as high as 20 million, with a significant number of these being middle-aged baby boomers who left established religion in the 60's to chase after the Age of Aquarius and a Harmonic Convergence that never happened. We also happen to be the generation with all the money at the present moment.
There's a lot of money to be made in the New Age. For instance, becoming a Reiki master can cost as much as $10,000 and Masters charge anywhere from $175 to $500 for their services.
Psychic readings are another goldmine (for the psychics). Prices with an average psychic reader range anywhere from $180 to $240 with megastars like George Anderson charging $1200 for a 60 minute phone session and the late Sylvia Browne earned $750 a session. The New Age book market is another boom (for New Age writers). More than 10 percent of all total sales of adult books are in the Body/Mind/Spirit category which is dominated by New Age writers. That amounts to billions of dollars a year in sales.
I could go on and on but I think you get the point - the New Age industry is not in danger of bankruptcy.
As Christians, we need to be aware of these trends and hone our message accordingly. Above all, we must never forget our marching orders: " . . .Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own liking, and will turn away from listening to the Truth and to wander into myths" (2 Tim 4: 2-4 RSV).
Let us keep one another in prayer as we continue to fight the good fight!
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