Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Everything old is new

Mystery religions are still practiced in contemporary Western culture. “… The New Age movement’s grown, and … with it an embrace of the supernatural often expressed in an anti-intellectual manner with crystals, palm readings, star signs, psychics, and the like.”[1] Some promote goddess worship, singling out the feminine attributes of God.

Ancient and pagan beliefs are incorporated “into modern society … to recapture what technology and science have stripped from the contemporary world,[2] exemplified by the “Force” in the “Star Wars” series. Luke Skywalker was urged to rely on the Force and not his computerized targeting system; thus destroying the Death Star, and saving the day.

Scientology is another cult that has become increasingly high profile, claiming to be an “applied religious philosophy.”[3] Several famous actors and actresses live by and promote it. Mother Earth is worshipped by others in their quest for what is natural. Whatever the form, there is a “new search for the transcendent, anything beyond the empirical realm.[4]

These religions have a great deal of influence on contemporary secular culture. There has been gravitation to religions that do not promote absolute moral standards. One cannot assume previously acceptable behavior as opposed to that once discouraged; coarse language, sexual permissiveness, couples living together and having children without benefit of marriage. This is no longer looked upon as unusual.

We have no right to condemn any behavior, including that of homosexual/lesbian couples. “Morality must allow for people to operate within what is natural for them …. Take, for instance, an issue such as homosexuality. Postmodernity would view the state as a person’s ‘nature.’ … Nature, as opposed to any external moral system, must stand pre-eminent as that which directs life.”[5]

The effect on sacred culture is that there are more alternatives for those who want spirituality without Christ. In postmodernism, anything is ok. Your story, whatever works for you is sacrosanct. Without absolutes, the God of the Bible is one among many options. It seems very narrow minded to many to claim that salvation is through Christ alone.

This inward look has produced a greater realization of the spiritual capacity of human beings. Likewise, it’s cultivated a deeper sense of the mystic element of life … this is a backlash against modernity … Postmodernity embraces a wider perspective of reality, taking into account the spiritual and intuitive aspects of human existence.[6]

Our challenges have multiplied regarding methodologies and means necessary to present the gospel in a way receptors will understand. In modernism, it was important to appeal to one’s intellectual struggles with faith. Postmodernism is not so rational, but more emotional. We must reach out to people where they live. Jesus’ example is par excellence in this respect. Most importantly, Jesus had compassion on the hungry, demonized and sick (Mt 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34 etc.). He fed, delivered, healed and shepherded them (Mt 15:32-38; 14:14; 9:35-38 and so on). The felt need of wholeness is one we can address with the love of Christ.

[1] Graham Johnston, Preaching to a Postmodern World: A Guide to Reaching Twenty-First Century Listeners (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 45.

[2] Ibid., 45.

[3] Wikipedia. Scientology, 2007. Online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientology [31 July 2007].

[4] Johnston, 45.

[5] Ibid., 46.

[6] Ibid., 44-45.

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