The Rise of Paganism in Western Culture

I have been thinking a bit about the increasingly obvious presence of paganism in our culture. Buddhists, Wiccans, and New Age philosophies seem to be catching the attention and souls of many. One hears so often of “mindfulness.” When listening to speakers on this topic they invariably refer to Eastern pagan religions as their sources.

I am left wondering, “Doesn’t anyone read the Christian writers anymore, writers who for centuries have developed and described and explained everything that these others are now trying to explain as if it were something new?”

Our Christian forefathers have written about all of this and done so convincingly and fully. These include Augustine, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius Loyola in the more distant past; Thomas Merton, Mother Teresa, Henri Nouwen and others of recent vintage. Yet so many today look outside our Christian faith tradition for what can be found within it.

At the core is a real spiritual battle that can only be described as self-rejection. This is fertile ground for the devil to work his devices powerfully.

Henri Nouwen wrote, “Here lies the core of my spiritual struggle: the struggle against self-rejection, self-contempt, and self-loathing. It is a very fierce battle because the world and its demons conspire to make me think about myself as worthless, useless, and negligible. Many consumerist economies stay afloat by manipulating the low self-esteem of their consumers and by creating spiritual expectations through material means. As long as I am kept “small,” I can easily be seduced to buy things, meet people, or go places that promise a radical change in self-concept even though they are totally incapable of bringing this about.” —The Return of the Prodigal Son, pg 107.

That last sentence is key. Being kept small sets us up to be seduce by the evil one, and misled into paganistic practice. Think of the temptation in the Garden of Eden. The devil made Adam and Eve believe they were “small” and they could become “like God” if they would only disobey God who had already revealed to them that they were great in his eyes, i.e., his beloved son and daughter made in his image and likeness.

As Nouwen alludes, much of paganism seems to promise spiritual rewards from material entities.

That which is limited cannot given what it is not in itself. Materialism is ultimately corrupt for matter is subject to limitation, only to be redeemed by God.  Our human bodies will be transformed one day, and all of creation renewed, but only because of divine intervention through the life, death and resurrection of his Son Jesus, and not because of any inherent attribute or quality matter has of its own.

Those of us ordained to preach must preach the immeasurable dignity that is ours as sons and daughters of God. We need preach that our smallness is swallowed up in our divine adoption, that our dignity is immense in God’s sight.

Christ is the way and the truth.  He is our light and our salvation.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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