Universalism: Gospel Message of Emergent & New Age Spirituality

by Sola Sisters

One of the greatest misconceptions today is that the New Age Movement of the 80’s and 90’s is (1) a thing of the past and (2) has nothing whatsoever in common with Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth on either count. Let me explain.

Most Americans today have sort of an eye-rolling, amused response to the phrase “New Age.” Perhaps their minds are conjuring up an image of Shirley MacLaine on the beach, talking to the sky, a spiritual eccentric who became the punch line of many jokes for her interest in reincarnation and channeling. Perhaps they think that, like Shirley MacLaine, the New Age has passed gently into history, much like the rubix cube and Duran Duran. Well, the truth is that the New Age is still very much with us today. It never really went away, it just went mainstream. New Age practices or beliefs that were once considered borderline occultic or kooky are now widely accepted and embraced, including yoga, mantra meditation, muscle testing, acupuncture, reiki, sustainable living and going green. Don’t believe it? Just pick up any newspaper or popular magazine today (Reader’s Digest, Ladies’ Home Journal, Parade) and you will most likely read at least one, usually multiple articles, on the benefits of these practices. Heck, even my husband’s Golf World had a lengthy article in the February 2010 issue on how golf courses around the country are trying to “go green.”

So just how did this New Age worldview get so powerful so fast? The short answer is that although it’s actually been around for a very long time, it got its greatest push into the mainstream through America’s most beloved talk show host, Oprah Winfrey. For some reason, people think that this New Age Spirituality direction that Oprah has taken is a new thing. It is not. I know this because I was on the same path that she was for a very long time, and at about the same time. Along with Oprah, I became completely immersed in New Age beliefs and practices, about 20 year ago, and yet at the same time used Christian terminology for all that I was doing. But the catch was this: all the Christian terminology I used had been redefined to fit the theology of my New Age belief system. And this is exactly how Oprah has made the New Age worldview palatable to the average Americans who were watching: she was using the same terminology that many Americans were. We were still, at least at that time, a “Christian” nation, and by that I mean, the majority of Americans made some kind of Christian profession and had at least some knowledge of the Christian faith. So although Oprah was going in a distinctly occultic, eastern direction spiritually, she was using words like “Holy Spirit,” “God,” “Jesus,” “atonement,” and “salvation.” And because Oprah was using terminology that everyone was familiar with, everybody’s guard went down….and that’s how the deception flooded in. Not to get too creepy about it, but this is exactly how many cults “reprogram” their new recruits. Same terminology, redefined terms.

One example of these redefined terms is a teaching from A Course In Miracles on the “atonement.” For those not familiar with A Course In Miracles (ACIM), it is a book that was originally published in 1976. The teachings of this book were channeled by a demonic entity to a woman named Helen Schucman who transcribed them. New Age author Marianne Williamson brought the teachings of ACIM into the mainstream after being enthusiastically endorsed on the Oprah Winfrey Show in the early 90s by writing her own book about ACIM and helping to explain its principles in laymans’ terms, sort of “A Course In Miracles for Dummies” (its real title: “A Return To Love”).

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Stay tuned on this issue, as an upcoming interfaith conference called Sacred Awakenings features Marianne Williamson (mentioned above as the New Ager who brought A Course In Miracles into the mainstream) and John Shelby Spong, both espousing more of the all-paths-lead-to-God view of Universalism. Since this also seems to be the view held by Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt and other emergent leaders, one has to wonder: how long before New Age Spirituality and Emergent officially merge together?

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