New age opportunities?

Sally Coleman, a friend involved in reaching New Agers, recently did an interview with Premiere Radio. In her blog she outlines some of her responses to the key points raised – it’s valuable stuff.
Part of my comment revolves around the way we reinterpret alternative, eastern and new age practices as ways of engaging with people and so sharing the gospel. If you’ll excuse the indulgence, I’ll repeat it here, slightly modified.

I agree with the comments of others responding to Sally’s post regarding the offer of one-to-one talking time to people who are already prepared to pay to visit a therapist. It’s what many people are crying out for and actually the church has a (mostly) excellent track record and understanding of helping people through various talk therapies – if only we’d make it available to those beyond the church. In the field of youth work, many Christian schools workers now include some kind of pastoral support for students as part of their work.

I’m intrigued by the possibilities of reinterpreting some practices from alternative spiritualities and worldviews (Reiki, Tai Chi, Tarot…) as a way of sharing Christ with people. One consideration to bear in mind is the way people interpret these practices for themselves and the way this then influences their experience of Christian practitioners. I’m currently reading ‘Understanding Generation Y’ which explores the idea that young people derive spirituality from contemporary media. Contrary to what the researchers were expecting, it appeared that such spirituality is hardly recognised by the young people because their framework of interpretation remains that of their peer experience of the cultural form. It is we who ‘read’ movies, songs and art in Christian ways. They ‘read’ through the lenses of their own cultural engagement. I suspect this may also be true for Gen X-ers as well.

I wonder whether there is a danger that using practices from alternative spiritualities and worldviews could too easily be interpreted by seekers as an endorsement of a syncretistic approach to the Christian faith that misses the uniqueness of Christ and his call to dicipleship.

Just in case you get the impression I’m a bit of a naysayer, as someone who, in 2002, helped to establish the ‘Journey into Wholeness’ Christian stall at the Colchester Mind, Body Soul exhibition I’m all for casting off a knee jerk reaction to these things and testing them again for their evangelistic potential. Just as long as people see Jesus through the practice.

But giving people time to talk, to reflect and be prayed for… that has to be a no-brainer move for the church.

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4 Responses to New age opportunities?

  1. philjohnson says:

    Tim
    Glad to hear of your collaboration with Sally in ministry in exhibitions.
    I noted your remarks about how Christians read into movies Christian symbols, themes, and messages, yet the Gen Y youth do not necessarily interpret things in the same way.
    I feel that there are a few ingredients in this that could be teased out and elaborated on. Perhaps the problem you have noted is a reflection on both disciples of Christ and those who are not Christian. That is, in some of the pop cultural products in novels, comics, films, TV there are indeed elements present that are shaped by (or maybe intentionally drawn on) from the Christian tradition. Those things are easy to recognise if you know your tradition; which prompts me to suggest that while a peer influenced hermeneutic is undoubtedly important to Gen Y, is it perhaps also the case that (as with many other people who are not Gen Y) there is a tremendous ignorance about the Christian tradition? That is the extent to which people know next to nothing about Christianity and the bible increases the problem of “recognising” Christian materials in pop cultural products.
    This is a problem that also manifests itself in tertiary settings. I recall listening to a lecturer in English literature who lamented the fact that so many of his students could not grasp the allusions to Christian or biblical things in Shakespeare, Dickens, etc.
    There is another side to the coin though. The question we Christians should be alert to is: am I in tune with those elements outside of Christianity that also appear in pop cultural products?
    An example of this I noted was when the first Matrix film was screened. There was much excited shop talk about Neo as a Christ figure and so on. And there was no doubt that some very obvious biblical allusions were in the film. However what I noted on a lot of web chats by Christians is that those “bits” which were not from the Bible were either overlooked or misunderstood. The gnostic and Buddhist elements for example were not always understood by the Christian fans who expressed their interpretation of the film.
    Great care is what is needed on our part to recognise what is “not” from the bible and Christianity, when interpreting today’s TV stories, films, etc.
    Blessings

  2. Matt Stone says:

    Tim
    On the subject of reiki, tai chi, and the spirit you may find some of my recent blogs on the subject of interest, this one in particular:
    http://mattstone.blogs.com/eclectic_itchings/2006/07/moving_meditati.html
    Matt Stone
    http://mattstone.blogs.com

  3. Matt Stone says:

    Tim
    On the subject of reiki, tai chi, and the spirit you may find some of my recent blogs on the subject of interest, this one in particular:
    http://mattstone.blogs.com/eclectic_itchings/2006/07/moving_meditati.html
    Matt Stone
    http://mattstone.blogs.com

  4. Matt Stone says:

    Tim
    On the subject of reiki, tai chi, and the spirit you may find some of my recent blogs on the subject of interest, this one in particular:
    http://mattstone.blogs.com/eclectic_itchings/2006/07/moving_meditati.html
    Matt Stone
    http://mattstone.blogs.com

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