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