Pagan Spirituality

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, increasingly 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 chemicallyinduced highs, were the first stirrings of a radical redefinition of God and Man. But not to worry! Those marginal hippies who threw off the yoke of authority, sexual boundaries and traditional religion, along with their grubby coats, would surely disappear from the social radar screen as quickly as hoola hoops and bell-bottom pants, right? Wrong!

Thirty years later we can easily see that our sodety has gone through possibly one of the most radical sexual and spiritual revolutions in human history. 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. Just a generation ago our nation was the bulwark of conservative, familybased, monogamous, heterosexual values, and a modem 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, we must see it 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. Two repentant Berkeley revolUtionaries, David Horowitz and Peter Collier, members of the ultra-radical Students for a Democratic Sodety, recognize how destructive their movement was. They entitled their recently published account of the movement they helped lead, Destructive Generation. True to revolutionary form, the sixties first sought to destroy the old by rejecting: (1) authority, (2) sexual boundaries, and (3) traditional piety.

Revolutionary Destruction

Authority
Behind the revolution has been 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. Postrnodernism 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 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.

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.

Sexual Boundaries
While the above represents a theoretical undermining of a biblical worldview, God, morals, and sodal structures, the spedfic destruction of biblical sexual boundaries involved practical transgression. St. Paul calls sexual sins “sin against one's own body.”1 In Romans 1 he describes the same process, how idolatry in the mind gives rise to sexual perversion of the body.2 "If it moves, fondle it" became the “liberating” mantra of sexual freedom. Radical feminists demanded their sisters be “sin articulate” 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.3

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.4

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. “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.

Since pagan spirituality faces an immediate glittering future, we need to understand what makes it tick.

Revolutionary Reconstruction

Given this commitment to highprofile, 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—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.

Why did the sixties go East? The utopian longings could find no religious warrants in biblical orthodoxy. Hence the imperious necessity for hippies with troubled consciences and hungry souls to take trips eastward to exotic places like Katmandu. 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 legitimization 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 ageold warrant to Westerners striving to be free from the God of the Bible and still remain “spiritual.” All it took was a massive change of worldview.

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.5 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 onedimensional 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.6

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 turned 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.

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. Stripped clown, Buddhism's 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.7

This understanding of God, that fits so well the sixties' demands for freedom and spirituality, explains the great appeal and stunning missionary success of Buddhism in the West in the present time. Ifyou were able to point to a similar Christian phenomenon happening in, say Japan, you would speak of a profound Christian revival. But this infiltration of Buddhism 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 the 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 no one can deny you your right—which takes us to the next logical point, namely, pagan sexuality.

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 is 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 movements' ideology with that of orthodox Christianity, she transparently wondered, “Maybe we’re talking about a different god.”

The original American pagan of the early nineteenth century, Ralph Waldo Emerson, already saw and enthusiastically welcomed the spiritual option articulated by a Japanese Zen master who said of the famous liberal theologian, Paul Tillich (a serious devotee of Buddhism) that, “He was not yet enlightened because he still made the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘evil.’”8 Emerson echoes, “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.”9

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 of homosexuality in certain pagan cultures, and the ever-present phenomenon of homosexual priests in pagan religions throughout the world through most of recorded history.

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.”10 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 person experiences ecstasy, literally, out-of-body transport of the soul. One becomes convinced of ones 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 mindbending high, issues of right and wrong, or of gender identity, are thoroughly relativized and trivialized, for through mystidsm, one has been liberated from the creation's implacable grip. Indusiveness and tolerance are no longer civic virtues here but deep elements of anti-creational spirituality, the “right” and necessity of divine beings to do and be whatever they please.

Revolutionary Goal Elimination of Guilt

The Bible is right. Sin is real. Transgressions produce objective consequences, specifically the dull, throbbing pain of real guilt. For this reason, the goal of pagan spirituality is dear, and is stated dearly—to stifle guilt. The English never had 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 revolutionary goal of contemporary pagan spirituality 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.”11

Behind all the social and educational programs prohibiting harassment and hate, and promoting love, oneness, inclusiveness, tolerance, and, acceptance, is the goal of obliterating guilt. Anything that reminds one of guilt must be eliminated from the throbbing heart of the nation, and the public square. All those speaking of guilt, as Christians do, must be denied access here, for, in the topsyturvy 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—liberation from the Creator. This is not salvation buta powerful diabolical illusion and delusion. The culture this pagan spirituality spawns will one dayinevitably implode—from the untreated disease of sin. Ironically, this Destructive Generation will, sooner or later, self-destruct.

How different is Christian salvation (and hence Christian spirituality) which satisfactorily deals with guilt and grants to sinful creatures bothreconciliation with the Creator nowand future life for evermore, world without end! But that is another wonderful story—of Gospel truth.

This article is reprinted from Equip, April/2000.

Dr. Jones is Professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California. He has authored a number of books on the theme of this article including: The Gnostic Empire Fights Back; Spirit Wars, and most recently, Gospel Truth, Pagan Lies: Can You Tell the Difference?

Footnotes

1 1 Corinthians 6:18.

2 Romans 1:18–27.

3 bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (New York: Routledge, 1994). The author spells her name without capitals in order to transgress the rules of grammar.

4 An insightful phrase I borrow from Rev. Steve Schlissel, a Reformed pastor in New York City.

5 Tony Schwartz, What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America (New York: Bantam, 1996), vii–x.

6 David Miller, The New Polytheism (San FranciscO: Harper and Row, 1974), vii. Such a declaration of independence has brought us to the inevitable rendezvous of the Clinton impeachment trial. Beyond all the partisan politics, we are witnessing the public showdown of two competing worldviews. How interesting to note that on Public Radio on January 26, 1999, the commentator Margot Adler (who is also a witch and author of Drawing Down the Moon) discussing the Senate impeaching hearings of President Clinton, noted the clash of two views of truth and morals, one univocal, the other pluriform. The guests on the program noted Congressman Henry Hyde’s appeal to “the universal standard of truth,” and the president’s counsel, Sherry Mills speaking about ten versions of the truth. Further it was noted that while Republicans believe our leaders should be role models, Democrats want leaders who are our equals not father figures. Who said theologians and their ideas have no impact on everyday, practical life? It just takes about twenty-five years!

7 Surya Das, Awakening the Buddha Within (New York: Broadway/Bantam Doubleday, 1997), 16.

8 Hannah Tillich, From Time to Time (New York: Stein and Day, 1973), 24 and 223.

9 Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance (1847), ated in Eugene Narrett, “‘Proud Ephemerals’: Signs of Self Made Men,” Culture Wars (December, 1999), 4.

10 Hermann Bavinck, Methodist Review (1901).

11 Helen Shucman, A Course in Miracles (New York; Foundation For Inner Peace, 1975), 47 and 262.

 

 

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