Thursday, June 09, 2005

Religion mugged by consumerism

There's lotsa wisdom over at Patrick O'Hannigan's Paragraph Land -- enough to make a person wise in faith and life, if heeded. But this post was just too good to pass up. I had to bring it over here.

O'Hannigan references an incisive quote from Giles Fraser, who lectures in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford. Fraser highlights the manner in which the Western world has sold out true spirituality.

Yes, spirituality is religion that has been mugged by capitalism.

Of course, spirituality has been around for a very long time. With all its beads and symbols, ancient wisdom is part of the appeal to the spirituality shopper. Except what they take to be spirituality is a distinctly 20th century invention. As Professor Denys Turner rightly pointed out: "No mystics (at least before the present century) believed in or practised mysticism. They believed in and practised Christianity (or Judaism or Islam or Hinduism), that is religions that contained mystical elements as parts of a wider whole."

...The idea that spirituality represents some innate human aspiration to the ultimate is a piece of modern candyfloss that neatly accords with the desire to participate in religion without any of the demands it makes upon you. It's religion transformed into esoteric self-help for those "with something missing" -- could it be a Porsche, could it be a new man, could it be God? For the Christians of the early church, spirituality -- not that they would have called it that -- was about the death of the old person and the emergence of a new identity modelled on that of Christ. It's not something that one can dip into or an intriguing and unusual fashion accessory for the person who has nearly everything.

Wow. Lord have mercy upon me. To borrow from the prophet Isaiah: 'I am a man of unclean lips living among people of unclean lips...'

We've made spirituality marketable, proud and loud -- a nice accesory to a self-centered life.

But real faith goes begging, to the silent and undeveloped corners of our world, where people still pray for daily bread...and yet feed on the Bread of Heaven.

God have mercy upon your people. Spare your self-addicted American people, Lord!

For your Name's sake,

Amen.

2 comments:

winston7000 said...

Loy, this is an old pattern that dates back into ancient Israel's constant betrayal of the Lord. It seems to happen whenever we get smug, complacent, comfortable, and not challenged by anything more than our portfolios and new gimmicks.

But the Lord is patient up to a point, and our society will not breeze along nor will our churches sell out to the latest fad that seduces our ministers, priests and rabbis.

Sooner or later, the well will dry up, however it happens. And then the rush back will occur along with lamentations and breast beating.

And you can kiss progressive Christianity and Reform Judaism along with the secular sillies goodbye.

As Jesus said so many times, "Stay awake, be on guard! You never know when the Master of the house will return."

God bless you.

John hetman

Allen Patterson said...

I was immediately reminded of Calvin Miller's book. "Into the Depths of God", where chapter 7 is titled, "Centering: Avoiding Sterile Fascination with God."

He says, "For a good many evangelicals, the deeper life movement began in the '70s. Those Christians became so fascinated with God they had no time for serving him. There is no human merit in worship, however ardent. Worshipers must lay aside their hallelujahs and put on the apron of service. It is ever a temptation to want to see Jesus transfigured for the mere joy of building tabernacles, settling down on the mount, and becoming useless ascetics."