“No one has the right to erase Christianity,” says the indignant Greek orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos, reacting to the Preamble of the new Constitution for the European Union. The bureaucratic birthers of the New Europem declare that the present richness of the emerging union derives from “the civilizations of Greece and Rome, [from the] spiritual impulse always present in its heritage and [from the]…the philosophical currents of the Enlightenment…” Christianity as a major formative influence on Europe for sixteen hundred years is passed over in total silence. If it is in the document at all, it is merely part of an amalgam of “spiritual impulses” that would also include, on the same level of importance, the European paganism of Druidism, the Norse gods and Germanic folk religion.
We were warned. In the Sixties, the ethical and spiritual structures of traditional Western Judeo–Christian society began to fall like a house of cards. New Ager Marilyn Ferguson spoke of the inevitable “confusion gap.” Ferguson believed confusion constituted a necessary stage from which would emerge a new era of human understanding. Pisces would give way to Aquarius. The broken Humpty Dumpty society would be “put together again” by a new, more elegant, all–inclusive spiritual glue. The prophets/profits of Hollywood sold this mythological vision to the confused masses through brilliant propaganda pieces such as Star Wars and Lion King.
For most people confusion still reigns. Everywhere I travel I see spiritual confusion, no more evident than in Santiago, Chile, where I taught for a week in June, 2003. A massive, brilliantly–white statue of the Virgin stands on a hill overlooking the booming, sophisticated metropolis of Santiago. Under her foot is the head of the serpent! Below to the left, stands a much smaller, hardly visible crucifix, with the true seed of the woman, Christ, hanging on the cross, bearing our sin, where he effectively crushed the head of the serpent. At the very least this Roman iconography undermines the clarity of the Gospel. Allied with various forms of liberal and liberation theology, and animistic practices, such syncretism has produced religious confusion. Into this weakened and confusing situation has come the practices of the new spirituality, born along by the general belief that some spirituality is better than no spirituality, and that, in the end, all spirituality is the same, and will produced betterment for all. Talk about the “confusion gap”!
Change hemispheres, but the confusion is the same. I received an e–mail last week from a couple doing research in the progress of the new spirituality in Marin County, CA.
My husband and I have been visiting all of the alternative churches in Marin to find out that so–called Christians are going to Gnostic/Pagan churches. Churches are being run by women who hold a Bible in their hand on Sunday morning and then confess to being a Priestess in a local coven.
That’s California, I heard you think! But it is the USA. Stanislav Grof, an expert in trans–personal (occultic) psychology, proposes for the mentally disturbed [and actually for everyone] initiation into experiences of pagan oneness via the time–honored consciousness–altering techniques of occultic spirituality. Grof too promotes spiritual confusion. He argues that there are two forms of religious activity, but only one form of spirituality. Of these two religious forms, one is based on dogmas and hierarchical institutions [bad]; the other, characterized by a deeply personal, spiritual quest [good], is to be found at the throbbing heart of all the religions. There is no recognition of two, opposed spiritualities, what the apostle Paul calls “the truth and the lie.” Christian theism, centering on the Bible’s revelation of God as the distinct creator, is dismissed as “dogma.” The genuine spirituality arising from a theistic world view is somehow lost in the shuffle, or rejected as “inadequate.”
With Episcopal Bishop Shelby Spong, the confusion begins to lift. There is an adequate spirituality. “I do not think that atheism is the only alternative to theism.” Today there is good news for atheists and Christian apostates. Strategically, Spong would not use the term “pagan,” but his definition is pagan to the core: “I prefer to think of God as the Source of the life that flows in all of us…The[se] are words that are designed to carry us beyond the sterile debate between atheism and theism and into a new way to make sense out of our experiences of the transcendent, the holy, God. This “new way” is what he calls “a new Reformation.” But this is not “reformation.” It is a “palace revolution,” with heads rolling.
When that happens, there will be great clarity, for then theism will not only be “inadequate.” It will be intolerable.