03: From Marginal Cult to World Civilization
I write this newsletter from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, a teeming, sophisticated city of 3 million, with high–rises, traffic jams, and out–door cafes. It has a Parisian flavor to it. Brazil is surprising me and Christians here are deeply concerned by my message, for they see the new spirituality everywhere. But this is a travelogue with a difference.
In March and April, I lectured in Australia, where airport posters of “The Dreaming” (ancient Aboriginal spirituality) welcome visitors. One woman who attended my lectures just wrote that she attended “a business seminar in Sydney where new age spiritualism was being promoted as an essential ingredient for business success.” I also spoke in New Zealand, where they have just legalized prostitution and where Maori religion is gaining respect. In June I was in Chile, where the new spirituality blends with Roman Catholic syncretism. I have spoken in Spanish–speaking South American countries, in Canada, and in several European countries. Everywhere the same “spiritual” phenomena are occurring. A Russian church leader who attended my lectures in Melbourne, begged me to go to Russia where paganism has blossomed since perestroika. Yesterday I received an e–mail from an Indian pastor in Sri Lanka whose neighbor on a train ride was reading my book, Spirit Wars. He borrowed the book, read it, then e–mailed me to say that he was facing the same spiritual problems in Sri Lanka, even in his church. I am witness to the world–wide reality of neo–paganism.
Wherever I go, people ask me where paganism is the most powerful, and I answer, without hesitation: “America.” Why do I say this, when America still has a huge Christian population? I say it, because when Americans get hold of ideas they use all their pragmatism, gusto and inventiveness to push their agenda to its logical limits. Radical feminism, militant homosexualism, aggressive deep ecology, abortion rights and New Age spirituality all incubated in America, in spite of its Christian population.
What was “born in the USA” is going global, because globalism is part of the theory. For instance, a new political organization brought together by Marianne Williamson, Neale Donald Walsch, Deepak Chopra, and other best–selling New Age authors, is appropriately called the Global Renaissance Alliance. Think about that name. There needs to be a rebirth; it must be global; it will come about by the common political efforts of like–minded spiritual people. Their website appeals to the spiritual potential of the pagan “circle,” which invokes “the harmony of the universe,” for the “psycho–spiritual evolution of humankind.”
I read Shirley MacLaine’s Going Within in the late 1970s, when the New Age was seen as an exotic California sect — hippies seeking their higher selves through drugs, crystals and chakras. Christian colleges still treated the New Age in a course on the sects. Dissatisfied with this definition, I wrote the Gnostic Empire Strikes Back (1992), attempting to show the movement’s deep theological connections to the classic and wide–ranging heresy of Gnosticism. But that analysis did not go far enough.
In one generation the sexual, philosophical and spiritual “liberation” of the Sixties cultural revolution has undermined the moral structures of society. The book Culture Wars, a sociological study on the deep conflict in American life, did not go deep enough either. In Spirit Wars: Pagan Revival in Christian America I wrote of the connection between radical social agendas and a religious worldview. A movement affecting a nation’s entire moral and spiritual values can hardly be called a sect!
In November 2002 I saw first–hand that the new paganism is no sect. I attended a pagan conference in Berkeley, CA, entitled “Transforming Worldviews for the Planetary Era.” Three hundred intellectuals (mainly American, apostate Christians) joined their skills and passion to create the theory and practice of a pagan worldview for the “new civilization” of the coming planetary community. The extent of their project is breath–taking. They call for new poetry, music, spirituality, sexuality, psychology, ethics, science, philosophy, legal theory, ecological action, educational theory, religious syncretism, and a geo–political planetary organization–all “new” because re–interpreted from the perspective of religious neo–paganism. This is paganism at its most potent.
My religious travelogue began in Brazil but ended, appropriately, in Berkeley, CA. On my trips, I am witnessing the success of a program someone called a “new American wisdom tradition” that will save the planet. The New Age California cult of a generation ago has become an all–inclusive cosmology for a new world civilization in which there will be no place for biblical Christianity. I believe that this new spiritual/political empire represents the most powerful threat to the Christian faith since the Roman Empire. Such an agenda, which truthXchange is committed to help identify and challenge, can be ignored no longer if the church is to survive and speak meaningfully in the 21st century.