Monday, November 25, 2013

Back at the spiritual supermarket

"Simply love yourself." A slogan that endorses spiritual narcissism
I'd like to offer some brief impressions on the recent Mind Body Spirit Festival that I went to in mid November. I haven't been to this for many years, but the first thing I noticed was how much little had changed from previous years.

One section of the exhibition hall was set aside with rows of tables and chairs for people to receive tarot readings. Aside from this, there was an assortment of stands offering self help and positive thinking books, most of which frankly are not worth the paper they're printed on. A cursory glance of their titles and contents pages seemed to show that these books are full of vacuous platitudes and lacking in substance. To this can be added a plethora of alternative healing practitioners, which from a Christian point of view, need to be either used cautiously or avoided altogether, traders selling crystals that are purported to have healing properties, and others selling occult themed products sold by creepy looking women wearing long, flowing dresses made of velour.

My mind traveled back to my childhood. Before convenience stores and 24 hour supermarkets put them out of business, I sometimes went to the local milk bar and bought a small bag of mixed lollies with my pocket money. In more recent years my family and relatives occasionally visit a smorgasbord buffet restaurant for family gatherings. In a similar way, rather than confining themselves to one particular system of belief, people often pick and mix elements of different systems of belief to come up with their own.

On the whole, Australians may be disinterested in organized religion, but if this festival is any indication, interest in spirituality remains strong. The problem with the new age movement is that it makes spirituality a private matter. Its emphasis on individualism encourages selfishness. Based on what I saw at the festival, it is largely focused on individual fulfillment. It is a consumer driven spirituality that demands nothing of the practitioner. It is about taking and not giving. There is no notion of caring for others or alleviating suffering in the world, of the concept of sin, or of accountability to God for how one lives their life.

Contrary to human nature, which seems naturally inclined towards selfishness and narcissism, the Biblical ethic calls us to give of ourselves to others, time, money, hospitality, skills and abilities, in short, modelling the character of Christ by wisely helping others with whatever resources we may have at our disposal.

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