1. THE GREAT AMERICAN REVOLUTION
The Red Coats stole your taxes but the “no–coat Hippies” have stolen your soul. In other words, the most radical American Revolution took place not in 1776 but in the last generation of the twentieth century. In these last thirty or so years we have witnessed the First Great Awakening–of Paganism, which has deconstructed Western Christendom and produced a radical transformation of once “Christian” America. How can a culture so blessed with the Gospel go so haywire in so short a time? Vast numbers of red–blooded Americans, including many in prominent positions such as Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley, President Bill Clinton and Vice–President Al Gore, all claim a past “born again” Christian experience, and are now deep into Deepak Chopra, goddess spirituality, abortion, homosexuality and religious syncretism [all religions lead to God]. Christians had better understand what has happened lest we too be swallowed up in this great delusion. And what about evangelism in our over–evangelized nation? How can we speak meaningfully of the Gospel to a culture which still claims to be Christian, even “born again,” but is, in practice, more and more apostate and pagan?
Woodstock, which celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 1999, was not merely a sophomoric orgy in the mud. It was also a spiritual search for the Garden of Eden. Behind its anti–war rhetoric, its shameless nakedness and public copulation, and its chemically–induced highs were the first stirrings of a radical redefinition of God and Man. But not to worry! Those marginal hippies who, along with their grubby coats, threw off the yoke of authority, sexual boundaries and traditional religion, would surely disappear from the social radar screen as quickly as hoola hoops and bell–bottom pants, no? Wrong!
Thirty years later we can easily see that our society has gone through possibly one of the most radical sexual and spiritual revolutions in human history. Just a generation ago our nation was the bulwark of conservative family–based monogamous heterosexual values and a modern fortress of the Christian faith. Today the culture boldly embraces many forms of both sexual perversion and pagan mysticism. Many fail to realize that the two–sexuality and spirituality–are intimately related. Indeed, to understand contemporary pagan spirituality, it must be seen in the context of a complete worldview, a total package that affects the whole of life.
For revolutions to succeed, the old regime must first be destroyed. The French beheaded Louis and Marie Antoinette, the Bolsheviks shot the Czar and his family. Radical student protester Tom Hayden stockpiled guns in his apartment–but he never had to use them. He is now wielding power as a State Senator for California! The revolutionaries have cleaned up their act–everyone wears coats now! Two repentant Berkeley revolutionaries, David Horowitz and Peter Collier, members of the ultra–radical Students for a Democratic Society, do recognize how destructive their movement was. They entitled their recently published account of the movement they helped lead, Destructive Generation. Hardly a shot was fired, because the real destruction was ideological. True to revolutionary form, however, the Sixties first sought to destroy the old by rejecting: 1. authority, 2. sexual boundaries, and, 3. traditional piety. This was a revolution of ideas, that appeared to lose, but actually succeeded beyond its wildest dreams, by taking control of the media, the educational system and the democratic process.
2. REVOLUTIONARY DESTRUCTION
Behind the rejection of landlords, the police, university senates, the War and the State, was the rejection of authority per se. Feminism deconstructed the authority structure of patriarchy–the responsible leadership of fathers–by demonizing males, and fathers in particular. Postmodernism deconstructed any and all claims to authority and truth, including, in back of everything, the God of the Bible, removing from the culture any intellectual support for moral values and traditional social structures. These movements come together in the title of a feminist book, Changing of the Gods, by a Jewish scholar, Naomi Goldenburg, who has since become a witch, and in the feminist war cry: “We women are going to bring an end to God.” Ultimately God the Father has to go. This has been attempted in all kinds of ways. In a recent catalogue on alternate spirituality, I noted a series of novels about a fictional character, Corri Farblood, “a young girl–thief who battles for the Goddess” and opposes “the evil onslaught of the [male] rulers of Frav…and the worshippers of a condemning god.” Notice that the hero[ine] is a young woman, a noble transgressor, in the service of the Goddess, opposed to male authority and to the God of the Bible.
How interesting that during the Sixties a few radical theologians began to speak of the Death of God, though, at the time, most people found their arrogance mostly amusing and their theories far–fetched. But behind the laughter, the movement became a stunning success, for, though they would never say it this way, the God of the Bible, who, they claim, once gave them “new life,” is effectively dead for the likes of Messrs. Bradley, Clinton and Gore.
B. Sexual Boundaries:
If the above represents a theoretical undermining of a biblical worldview, of God, of morals and of social structures, the specific destruction of biblical sexual boundaries involved practical transgression.
St. Paul calls sexual sins “sin against one’s own body.” In Romans 1 he describes the same process, how idolatry in the mind gives rise to sexual perversion of the body. “If it moves, fondle it” became the “liberating” mantra of sexual freedom. Radical feminists demanded their sisters be “sinarticulate,” have the “courage to sin,” and “liberate the inner slut.” A popular book on pedagogy among teachers of religion in America has the provocative title: Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom.
Sexuality was first “liberated” from its traditional conjugal confines, with the inevitable explosion of the divorce rate–now over fifty per cent–and thus the destruction of normative marriage and the two parent family. Now we have a whole generation of liberated sluts and cads, freed from the chains of marriage, responsible to no one–democracy gone nuts!
In recent years, the normativity of heterosexuality has been destroyed by the rise of state–protected and promoted homosexuality and bi–sexuality. State–sponsored, legalized homosexual marriage will put the final touches on the social destruction of biblical, creational marriage. If things continue as they are, perversion in all its forms will come out of the closets, and opponents will be locked in them.
C. Traditional Piety:
The last thirty years have witnessed a profound change in the way many look at the church. People have been leaving the religion of their youth in droves. “Organized” religion and official creeds are out. “In” is the personal, autonomous spiritual quest. Journalists Richard Cimino and Don Lattin document in their 1998 book, Shopping For Faith that “religious experience is replacing religious doctrine.” Many mainline churches have quickly and naturally adapted to the trend by effectively eliminating any significant role for orthodox creeds and church discipline. “Doctrine divides, the Spirit unites,” is not only a mantra of liberal ecumenism. Large sections of the evangelical church have made “experience” the touchstone of orthodoxy.
Napoleon III, grandson of a revolutionary icon, is reputed to have said: “One never really destroys a thing till one has replaced it.” In place of that old time religion, a full–scale religious replacement is now on offer, replete with a new view of God, of man and sexuality, and of the practice of religious life–all conveniently inaugurated at this propitious millennial moment and remarkably suited for the new global reality.
Since pagan spirituality faces an immediate glittering future, we need to understand what makes it tick.
3. REVOLUTIONARY RECONSTRUCTION
Much to everyone’s surprise, the Sixties revolution did not include atheistic humanism. The Generation of Seekers, as UC Irvine sociologist W. C. Roof calls “boomer” Americans, has drawn to itself a perfectly adapted religious mantel–a paganism that joins together the Western/American “human potential movement” and its dazzling material and technological success, with Eastern, self–denying and matter–denying pantheism. This promises to be the best of all possible worlds, having your spiritual cake and eating as many real ones as you wish too. With barely suppressed nationalistic pride, one journalist, Tony Schwartz, has called this bizarre spiritual hybrid “an emerging American wisdom tradition,” which, we are assured, will save the planet. It turns out, however, that this “new age” religion is merely a rehash of age–old paganism, in attractive and alluring modern dress.
Given this commitment to high–profile, earth–focused spirituality, our time is thus much more comparable to the world in which the apostle Paul preached the Gospel–a world of pagan religious syncretism and mystical spirituality–than it is to the modern materialistic and atheistic Marxism we all thought was coming. There is an advantage. Paul’s definitions of and answers to pagan spirituality fit our situation so well. How useful his description of the sophisticated Greco–Romans of his day–those who “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed for ever” (Romans 1:25). There is deep religious worship here, and obvious spirituality, but the object of devotion is the creation, not God the Creator. This is piety turned on its head, with disastrous results.
Why did the Sixties go East? The particular freedoms and utopic longings of this second American Revolution, so unlike those of the first, could find no religious warrants in biblical orthodoxy. Transgression can only bring nagging guilt. Hence the imperious necessity for individual, unheralded, hippies with troubled consciences and hungry souls, to go on trips eastward to exotic places like Katmandu –as well as for the much heralded Beatles, on their magical mystery tour, to visit the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, perhaps for the same reasons. There were also successful trips West by Eastern gurus teaching mystical meditation. These comings and goings were essential for the religious grounding and the eventual global legitimation of the movement. The transgressions and mystical highs of Western hippiedom found their “theological” justification in the age–old belief systems and practices of Eastern paganism.
The hand had met the glove.
The answers from the East gave age–old warrant to Westerners striving to be free from the God of the Bible and still remain “spiritual.” What price the sense of liberty and inner peace? All it took was a massive change of worldview.
A. A New View of God.
At the funeral of the God of the Bible at the beginning of the Seventies, Professor David Miller triumphantly announced the rebirth of the Gods and Goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome. This professor of Religion at Syracuse University stated with great foresight and unabashed glee what would happen at this liberating moment:
…the announcement of the death of God was the obituary of a useless single–minded and one–dimensional norm of a civilization that has been predominantly monotheistic, not only in its religion, but also in its politics, its history, its social order, its ethics, and its psychology. When released from the tyrannical imperialism of monotheism by the death of God, man has the opportunity of discovering new dimensions hidden in the depths of reality’s history.
It took a generation for the implications of this to dawn. Radical feminist theology, as it developed in the Seventies and Eighties, was read by many unsuspecting Church moderates as a relatively innocuous religious version of the contemporary agenda of civil rights. On the contrary, it turns out that these feminist theologians were worthy successors of the Death of God theologians, and effective proponents of a deep, pagan spirituality which has nothing or very little to do with civil rights. Showing that the message finally got through is the title of book on theology by a Roman Catholic scholar, that appeared in 1995–When God Becomes Goddess: The Transformation of American Religion. The good news is, God does not have to die: he simply has to undergo a sex change. The bad news is, he has to change religion–and we along with him–, and take up his humble abode in the pagan pantheon of all the gods!
The new, triumphant goddess is not the Creator of heaven and earth, but a powerful symbol of the divinity of the earth, and of all those who live on it. You do not necessarily need the goddess to effect this replacement of God and justify your Sixties life–style. You can find it in all the non–Christian religions–witchcraft, Hinduism, American Indian shamanism, and supremely in peace–loving Buddhism,. Stripped down, its ancient teaching proposes the same view of God:
You’re not going to find truth outside yourself…You become a Buddha by actualizing your own original innate nature. This nature is primordially pure. This is your true nature, your natural mind. …it is always perfect, from the beginningless beginning. We only have to awaken to it.
This understanding of God, that fits so well the 60s’ demands for freedom and spirituality, explains the great appeal and stunning missionary success of Buddhism in the West in the present time. The modern Buddhists exult in their achievements: “Who but the enlightened Buddha could have imagined that yoga, tai chi, and meditation would be taught at the local “Y” [what used to be the Young Men’s Christian Association–addition mine], the local synagogue, church, senior facility, and adult–education class? Who could have imagined the spiritual bookstores and book clubs, graduate programs in Buddhist studies, and more than two thousand Buddhist centers in the US alone?” If you turned this on its head and were able to point to similar Christian phenomena happening in, say Japan, you would speak of a profound Christian revival. But this has happened under our noses, in Christian America in this last generation, on our watch.
The ultimate state of freedom from authority is to crown oneself as that ultimate authority. Revolutionaries take power. The Sixties revolutionaries have taken over the power and being of God. As Shirley MacLaine intoned to millions watching her TV special: “I am God, I am God.” With power like this, you can do whatever you wish, and don one can deny you your right–which takes us to the next logical point, namely, pagan sexuality.
B. A New View of Man and Sexuality.
The freedom and serenity to transgress the laws of the Creator can only be achieved by changing one’s god. Ordained Presbyterian minister Janie Spahr, magnificently proves the point. Spahr, a well–known lesbian actively campaigning through PLGC (Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns) as a “missionary” [her term] for the inclusion of homosexuality in the ordained ministry of the Presbyterian Church USA, contrasting her movement’s ideology with that of orthodox Christianity, transparently wondered, “Maybe we’re talking about a different god.”
Paul Tillich, the radical German theologian of the last generation, fascinated by Buddhism, attempted to change his god and his worldview, but never quite succeeded. After a life of sexual infidelity and debauchery, he declared to his wife Hannah at the beginning of his stay at the hospital at the onset of death: “My poor Hannachen, I was very base to you, forgive me.” Hannah explains: “Much earlier in his life a Japanese Zen master, sitting with him in earnest confrontation, described him as “not one of the enlightened yet.” He was not yet enlightened because he still made the distinction between “good” and “evil.” Hannah Tillich continues: “The Zen master had banned good and evil in his world, acquiring physical immobility and perfect quietude. He listened with the inner ear and would not permit demons to enter his five orifices. He was not tortured by nightmarish dreams….Paulus lived in fear. His nervous body was tense; his desires, many. His fingers would fiddle with a pebble from the beach, a silver coin, or a paper clip. He breathed unevenly and sighed heavily, an ever guilt–ridden Christian in distress.” The original American pagan of the early nineteenth century, Ralph Waldo Emerson, already saw and enthusiastically welcomed this spiritual option. “No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to this or that.”
When you are god, you can do as you wish, including heterosexual fornication and adultery. However, this joining of good and evil, often, in pagan theory called the “joining of the opposites,” as in the yin and the yang, has a sexual embodiment, the joining of male and female in the same person, otherwise known as androgyny. Hence the idealization in certain pagan cultures of homosexuality, and the ever–present phenomenon of homosexual priests in pagan religions throughout the world and through mostg of recorded history. The reason? The homosexual has sacramentally destroyed the creational distinctions, by being in his body both male and female. His body becomes the temple of unholy spirits. This is a deep “sin against the body.” Besides this spiritual rootage, nothing else, it seems to me, more adequately or completely explains the seemingly unstoppable normalization of sodomy in these recent years of pagan revival.
C. A New View of Spirituality.
Writing at the turn of the last century, the Dutch Reformed theologian, Hermann Bavinck, stated: “…the twentieth century…[will] witness a gigantic conflict of spirits…between the old and the new worldview.” Though modern journalism often lumps together as a particular social group “people of faith,” the Bible knows nothing of a conflict between spiritual people on the one hand, and materialists on the other. In the Bible, everything is spiritual. So the real conflict is between two forms of spirituality, one inspired by the Spirit of God who gives life, the other by unholy spirits from the domain of death. And make no mistake about it, that unholy spirituality, though counterfeit, is powerful—like the powers of darkness who inspire it. Pagan ideas are backed up by a power–packed religious experience that captivates and eventually takes captive those who choose to come under its spell. Whether through drugs or various methods of mystical meditation, the adept experiences ecstasy, literally, out–of–body transport of the soul. One becomes convinced of one’s deep belonging with the whole of reality, and of one’s sharing in the divine essence of all things. At that moment of the unio mystica [mystical union], Man becomes God. On such a mind–bending high, issues of right and wrong, or of gender identity, are thoroughly relativized and trivialized, for through mysticism, one has been liberated from the creation’s implacable grip. Inclusiveness and tolerance are here no longer civic virtues but deep elements of anti–creational spirituality, the “right” and necessity of divine beings to do and be whatever they please. Richard Alpert, now Ram Dass, an ex–Jewish Hindu guru, and colleague of Timothy Leary, describes his experiences with LSD as gaining a knowledge that relativized everything in his “normal” world: “I felt a new kind of calmness. I had just found … . a place where ‘I’ existed independent of social and physical identity. And something else–that ‘I’ Knew–I really Knew.” This is not tolerance. This is not religious pluralism. It is intolerant religious absolutism. As Stephen Hoeller, bishop of the Ecclesia Gnostica claims, “direct, personal and absolute knowledge of the authentic truths of existence is accessible to human beings [through Gnostic mysticism].”
4. REVOLUTIONARY GOAL–ELIMINATION OF GUILT
So, what is the real goal of pagan spirituality? If the Bible is right and sin is real, then transgressions produce objective consequences, specifically the dull, throbbing pain of real guilt. For this reason, the goal of pagan spirituality is clear, and is stated clearly–to stifle guilt. The English never has this in mind in 1776. Like the IRS, they only wanted to make you feel more guilty and get their hands on your taxes. But this goal redefines everything, turning good into evil, and evil into good. This is why the free–love hippies went East. This is why the Hollywood stars of the West love Eastern Buddhism and the Dalai Lama. This is why the occultic “Jesus” who channeled messages to Helen Shucman, author of the best–selling New Age text, A Course in Miracles, says to the reader: “Do not make the pathetic error of clinging to the old rugged cross…Your only calling here is to devote yourself with active willingness to the denial of guilt in all its forms.” Not surpizingly, Marianne Williamson, a popularizer of the Course is known as the “guru to the Stars.”
If this is the goal, then all means must be deployed to bring it about. Behind all the social And educational programs prohibiting harassment and hate, and promoting love, oneness, inclusiveness, tolerance, and acceptance is the attempt to obliterate guilt. Anything that reminds one of guilt must be eliminated from the throbbing heart of the nation, the Public Square: all those speaking of guilt, as Christians do, must be denied access here, for, in the topsy–turvy world of paganism, the Gospel is the ultimate form of “hate speech,” for it tells us who we really are.
This “guilt–free” mystical experience of oneness with the divinity of all things is the essence of pagan salvation. For religious pagans, salvation is liberation from the Creator. Alas, this is not salvation but delusion, a powerful diabolical illusion, like going to a charlatan who soothingly charges you for expensive sleeping pills to ease the pain, instead of going to a physician who could cut out the cancerous growth and solve the problem at its root. As merely the latest version of the original lie, the culture this pagan spirituality spawns will one day inevitably implode–from the untreated disease of sin. Ironically, this Destructive Generation will, sooner or later, self–destruct.
How different Christian salvation, [and hence Christian spirituality], which satisfactorily deals with guilt and grants to sinful creatures both reconciliation with the Creator and life for evermore, world without end. But that is another story–of Gospel truth.