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Summary: How to engage the "New Spirituality" that is prevalent in our culture.

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Engaging Today’s “New Spirituality”

(The following was shared in part on April 27, 2008 by Brad Bailey as part of the series entitled:

Holy Conversation. The extent of material could not be shared in full so one will find more here

than was communicated in that message. A more developed presentation to serve those exploring

today’s ‘new spirituality’ is hoping to be developed soon.)

Introduction

Over the past few weeks we’ve been considering how to engage in Holy Conversation… that is..

how to talk about God in everyday life. One aspect that deserves some consideration…is that of

engaging some of the increasingly popular ideas regarding spirituality.

Several years ago… these may have been referred to as related to the New Age movement. But

what might initially have appeared as simply a new trend has become a more dominant cultural

shift that I would refer to as simply the ‘new spirituality.’ Some are calling it ‘postmodern

spirituality.’

The new spirituality I’m referring to is reflected in countless popular books and teachers that have

arisen over the recent 25 to 30 years … sharing perspectives on spiritual reality that tend to draw

upon a more eastern worldview and esoteric mysticism that only feels new to westerners.

Part of what may draw western lives… is the idea that it is a more progressive spirituality. To

westerners this may appear true… but it isn’t ‘new.’ (I use the word ‘new’ in quotes because most

of the ideas are reflections of an ancient eastern worldview being re-presented to the modern

westerners. The concepts are most associated with Buddhism… which is a more philosophical

offspring of Hinduism.) Nobody in India or Thailand is opening these books and being presented a

new worldview. It is the west being presented with ancient worldviews shaped by fresh perspective

and western desires. The key has been to see that all spiritual sources as saying essentially the same

thing.

A. Popularized through Popular Figures: From the Beatles to Oprah Winfrey

Naturally western got sparked in the late 1960’s during the counter-cultural era.. and pop culture

became interested when the Beatles took an interest in the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

founded “Transcendental Meditation.” Many different authors and teachers have followed that

shared particular ideas or practices that shared the same eastern concepts of reality…some reaching

more notoriety than others and particularly if there is a celebrity who is exploring and promoting it.

Many today are recognizing a whole new level of popularization through the influence of

Oprah Winfrey. (Below from USA Today –5/11/2006 and article by John Jalsevac March 7, 2008

(LifeSiteNews.com))

• She has about 50 million viewers each week in the USA and more in the 122 other countries

to which the show is distributed. Considered by many to the world’s most influential woman.

• “Oprah Winfrey has risen to a new level of guru. She’s no longer just a successful talk-show

host worth $1.4 billion, according to Forbes’ most recent estimate. Over the past year

Winfrey has emerged as a spiritual leader for the new millennium.” -

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• "She’s a really hip and materialistic Mother Teresa," says Kathryn Lofton, a professor at

Reed College in Portland, Ore., who has written two papers analyzing the religious aspects of

Winfrey. "Oprah has emerged as a symbolic figurehead of spirituality."

• She has become increasing committed to offer the world a more unifying spirituality. As she

has recently stated…

o “The new spirituality is that you are your own best authority as you work to know

and love yourself, you discover how to live a more spiritual life."

o "While Christianity is a valid way to achieve high states of spirituality, it must not be

considered a unique way, or a "correct way".

To share more of what is espoused would be to get ahead of ourselves. What becomes clear is

that Christ gets recast and what lies central to those who have come to know the Christ

revealed in the Scriptures… the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John… is that most of

what is central is set aside. There are many ways we might respond. Some simply decry it or

demonize it… some may be drawn and developed by it. Our purpose in this series is to

consider how we can engage in conversation… to actually dialogue… to talk about God and

spiritual truth.

B. I want to qualify my limitations in representing the breadth and depth of so much teaching.

I will not be able to give the thought that so many teachers and teachings deserve. I certainly believe

it is fairest to have read ideas in full… and to present ideas in full. (Note: I know what it is like to

have someone assess Christianity and decry many things that I do not actually believe or adhere to.

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