ASS Syndrome: The Problem With New Age “Religion”

To pick-up where I left off with My Answer to the New Ager Who Claims to Know God … the primary problem I have with New Age “religion” is the problem of absolute spiritual superiority. Or, for short, the ASS syndrome.

People with ASS syndrome are found in every religious group; I’d guess 50% of the 630 posts I’ve written on this blog have been about the problem of ASS Christians, for instance. (See, for instance, What Christians Want Non-Christians to Hear, or Evangelist or Ego-Driven Meddler?) But it’s been my experience that, more than any other religious group, those within the New Age camp are most prone to displaying advanced ASS, for the simple reason that they’re basically making up their religion as they go. There is virtually no constancy to the New Age belief system. It has no doctrine, no clearly defined set of beliefs, no established practices or methodologies, no authoritative text, no standardizing source. It can be whatever, whenever, and however any New Ager wants it to be. And in practice—which is to say in the ordinary interpersonal exchanges of everyday life—what the Do-It-Yourself open-endedness of the New Age belief system too often results in is its devotees automatically fashioning and donning for themselves the Teflon-coated cloak of absolute spiritual superiority.

New Agers with ASS can’t be touched. Nothing affects them. They’re too wise to be sullied by the plebeian concerns of lesser beings. They’re enlightened, self-actualized, fully aware. They’ve experienced Nirvana, reached samadhi; they are spiritual savants, embodied Bodhisattvas. Looking down from the lofty heights of Mt. Knowitall, the awakened New Ager has naught but compassion for all of us still caught up in the endless cycle of desire and material illusion, who are still mindlessly mired in the miserable machinations of Maya.

That’s what they want you to think of them, anyway. And God help you if you don’t—if you in any way question a New Ager with ASS. It’s like poking a bear with a hot stick. An even slightly challenged New Ager will usually attack you, claws full out, faster than you can cry, “Sorry! I thought you knew what you were talking about!”

What so readily facilitates the New Ager manifesting acute ASS is that what they mostly lack is moral consistency. That their “religion” is largely based on what amounts to purely self-aggrandizing feelings means that the New Ager is never hampered by the troublesome inconvenience of a consistent moral code. Having no external standard, no inherited code of ethics—no Christian Ten Commandments, no Islamic Sharia, no Jewish Halakha, no Buddhist Eightfold Path—means the New Ager always gets to decide for himself what is and isn’t moral. And (of course) whatever they do is, ipso facto, moral, by virtue of the fact that they did it.

Nothing a New Ager can do is so abominable it can’t be justified by way of their ASS. They are only, after all, following their bliss; they’re only doing what “God” wants them to. Tenaciously clinging to what they hold as their divinely appointed right to be jury and judge unto themselves, they invariably render for themselves a verdict of not guilty. You can’t break any laws that you can rewrite at will. No king ever sends himself to the dungeon.

New Agers encumbered with ASS never acknowledge the reality of cause or effect—the role they necessarily play in so much of what happens to themselves or others. Their rubber, in other words, never has to hit the road. They never have to deal with reality; they just keep reinterpreting reality so that they always end up regally poised above it, unaccountable, in their own eyes, as ever.

New Age ASS is terribly toxic. It’s the stuff cults are made of, for one. When you have no God, it’s too easy to assume the job yourself.

As long as I’m venting about this, you know what else drives me crazy about many New Agers? How they completely appropriate all manner of concepts and practices rightfully belonging to the legitimate Eastern religions they’re way too undisciplined to ever actually adopt, and yet act like anything having to do with Christianity is automatically drenched in stupid sauce. They adopt the attitude that they’re too spiritually sophisticated for the moronic simplicities of Christianity—and then refuse to acknowledge that no religion is founded upon a concept any more mystically complex or challenging to logical apprehension than the Christian doctrine of the Triune God.

New Agers: You want soul-stirring cosmic mystery? A truth at once absolute, yet so incomprehensible to the rational mind it would turn the most enlightened Zen master into a babbling, two-handed clapper? Try on for size the Triune God. See how intellectually or spiritually lame three God in one strikes you.

Flip through the Bible sometime. It makes The Bhagavad Gita or the Tao Te Ching read like Big Bird’s Guide to Building Blocks.

Just because it grows in your own backyard doesn’t mean it’s not unfathomably awesome. If you’re gonna pick and choose, why not choose from the best?

Again, I’m not at all saying that all New Agers are victims of ASS syndrome. I’m just saying that no other belief or thought system I know of more readily facilitates the development of ASS than does the fuzzy, feel-good mish-mash of New Age “spirituality.” You tend to find mushrooms growing in dank ground hidden from the sun and covered with manure, because those are the conditions most conducive to their growth. Similarly, New Age “religion” tends to be ideal ground for the development of advanced ASS—for people who, contrary to their standard-issue assertions, aren’t really interested in growing at all.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Bruce

    I'm pretty sure I fell into that category all those years ago.

    New Agers are the masters of "Pot Luck Spirituality."

  • Bruce

    Oh yeah…I must add that "Do what thou wilt (under love)" pretty much sums it up for New Age philosophies. That also happens to be the Satanic creed.

  • http://www.myspace.com/whitenoisemetalpodcast Brian Shields

    I hear you John but honestly I don't think the New Agers or even the Christians can compete with Fundamentalist Islam for the title of most ASSinine. New Agers tend to be annoying, true, but at least they don't kill over those who disagree with them or put them in silly cartoons.

  • Ashley Taylor

    This is pretty close to how I feel about atheists too. I feel they see anything Christian as covered in stupid sauce. And most other religions get a pass. That is something I cannot stand. They do not have to agree with my beliefs but do not call me stupid for believing what I do. Ok, I'm done with my rant. BTW you should come up with some sort of acronym for ASS.

  • MarkF

    Yes but for my money, the most intolerant, condemnatory and hypocritical people have to be the "peace and justice", homosexuality loving, Sr. Joan-reading, "spirit of Vatican II" endorsing, uber-leftist dissenters. Hmmm…they've replaced the gospel with left-wing politics, yet scream that anyone who opposes THEIR politicized religion (or is it religious politiccs?) is an agent of the right wing death squad.

    The most tolerant people have to have been those solid, orthodox Catholics who've been out there in the pews for the past forty years silently putting up with all this nonsense yet still going to Mass.

    Personally, I bailed out when I was a teenager when all the dreaded felt banners were hauled out and when a sermon consisted of quoting from Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Sometime it's hard to get old. But when I live in an age when no one remembers that drivel, it ain't so bad.

    My own experience in dealing with the man-hating lesbian nuns in pants syndrome is that, wow, it's very hard to deal with them. I've learned to be patient but not to expect that they can be changed. I've learned that its best to just walk away…BUT if these folks are in a position of power in your parish, they must be exposed, isolated and removed. Harsh? No friggin' way. Jesus told us to just brush the dust off of our sandals and move on.

    We all are responsible when people like that are in positions of power in our parishes. Radicals love, love, love to be in power. You'll find them anyplace where work is light and power is great – universities, public schools, Hollywood, the media, the USCCB, etc.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Ashley: I think you missed the part where ASS IS an acronym. It stands for absolute spiritual superiority.

  • http://blogsofasoul.blogspot.com Nick

    The Mystery of the Trinity has melted more minds than the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

  • Peregrinu

    I feel rather uncomfortable appearing to defend these people, but – have you ever read the Bhagavad Gita or the Tao Te Ching? They are full of some of the most sublime human wisdom ever to probe the mystery of God. People with ASS syndrome would be helped – stunned into humility – if they were to seriously look at these writings.

    The situation seems to me analogous to the 3rd-century Neoplatonists (such as Plotinus) who used the writings of Plato and their own mystical experiences as a substitute for Christianity – except, unlike the New-Agers, they actually drew real wisdom from Plato and had real mystical experiences. Their error in rejecting Christ did not stop us from appreciating and "baptising" either Plato or even the Neoplatonists. A fortiori then, the presence of a few silly "New-Agers" in the U.S. who appropriate Oriental texts should not stop of us from baptizing, internalizing, and redeeming the mysteries contained in them by the souls genuinely seeking and meditating on God. (Keep in mind that the reason why Buddha is almost worshiped as a god is, according to St. Clement of Alexandria, on account of his sanctity.) Christianity is true – and therefore should rejoice in, not be afraid of, searches for the truth in other cultures that were not graced with the gift of divine revelation yet.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Peregrinu: Excellent, excellent comment. I didn't take the time to properly enough parse that hair, but you're absolutely right about the Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching. As I've written about elsewhere, I'm intimately familiar with, and have nothing but respect, for them both. I've had a copy of the BG on my bedstand for some 25 years, and love it, and I basically grew up reading the Tao Te Ching. So you're right to point out that it's not fair to pretend those are fluff documents, because, God knows, they're certainly not. My only point here was that they're no MORE mystical (and, in fact, in some ways are certainly less) than what we find in Christianity.

  • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/ Tony Layne

    Of course, none of this is to say that orthodox Christians — heck, even orthodox Catholics! — don't occasionally suffer from Absolute Spiritual Superiority. I know occasionally I have to pull my head out of my own ASS. Frankly, all of us could stand a good kick in the ASS now and then. (Boy, what a great acronym. Although it could lead to potentially disturbing comments like: "Christopher Hitchens' got ASS.")

  • j cole

    Cheeky acronym. I am sure it cant be used in general conversations. Well, my take is that Catholic equals ASS. I am thinking of Mary's Magnificat. My soul magnifys the Lord, not the wisdom of Te Ching, and My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, not nirvana. The most humble human ever, will always be heard telling her children, that the Church is Christ's mystical body. I think it is the fact, that Catholic is ASS, is the reason she is attacked so much. Maybe the world wants the "new" religion, because it hates ASS?

  • j cole

    Still, your post notes a very real indictment, that the "new" age wont accept the ASS of GOD. Like the knicker bomber, they think a little fire in their pants equates to holiness.

  • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/ Tony Layne

    How nice of him to approve such an obscure itinerant rabbi. O what an ASS!

  • Diana

    I don't know, John. This post seems awfully harsh to me. "And in practice—which is to say in the ordinary interpersonal exchanges of everyday life—what the Do-It-Yourself open-endedness of the New Age belief system too often results in is its devotees automatically fashioning and donning for themselves the Teflon-coated cloak of absolute spiritual superiority." See, this is an experience I've had a lot more often with professed Christians than with any other religious perspective–including New-Ageism.

    "That their “religion” is largely based on what amounts to purely self-aggrandizing feelings means that the New Ager is never hampered by the troublesome inconvenience of a consistent moral code. Having no external standard, no inherited code of ethics—no Christian Ten Commandments, no Islamic Sharia, no Jewish Halakha, no Buddhist Eightfold Path—means the New Ager always gets to decide for himself what is and isn’t moral. And (of course) whatever they do is, ipso facto, moral, by virtue of the fact that they did it." This isn't so different from the Christian who walks around with his/her nose up in the air claiming "I'm saved, I'm saved!" while bashing anyone who isn't a Christian. Then, when it's pointed out that the Christian has done something that goes against the teachings of Jesus, the Christian says "Oh, well that's okay, I'm forgiven." Of course they're forgiven–our God is a forgiving God. But even Jesus warned more than once about the hypocrisy of expecting God to forgive us when we don't forgive others or bashing others for the sins they commit while cheerfully overlooking our own. If anything, Christians are held to greater accountability because we claim to know the Master. If we know the Master, we need to be following his teachings–not bashing others for not knowing them or not believing them.

    I guess my point would be that if a person wants to escape being held accountable, that person will find a way regardless of his/her professed religious or moral beliefs. It is only when we hand our lives over to God entirely that we become born again–and that happens only by the grace of God, not because we're smart enough to believe the "right" religion.

    • Mary G

      Thank you Diana.

      When I read the title and the first little bit, I actually expected this blog post to be pretty much what you said. I was actually disappointed to find it a rant against those who are seeking Truth, but are sadly misguided. They are to be pitied, not reviled. Where as the Christians suffering from ASS…. no, I guess they get to be pitied as well.

      Thanks.

  • DWB

    I once entered into a “course” offered by an internet “guru”.

    After reading his material I completed an extensive written examination, injecting generous doses of traditional Catholic answers, all diametrically opposed to his New Age ASS. He responded by commending how well I had absorbed what he was teaching, and sent a fancy diploma, magna cum laude.

    Oh, I do agree with his assessment of Jesus, who he said was a very important Person to all mankind.

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty (Michael)

    I haven't noticed a correlation between ASS and specific religions, or lack of religion. I've found people from most major faiths whom are able to discuss faith with me humbly and kindly. And I've met others, again from most major faiths, who would seemingly prefer to snort Cheez Whiz rather than listen to someone say something that goes against their ideas about God.

    Maybe I'm traveling in the wrong New Age groups? Is there an organic market somewhere that serves as an unofficial ASSembly area?

  • Richard Lubbers

    I love this line by Peregrinu above'

    "Christianity is true – and therefore should rejoice in, not be afraid of, searches for the truth in other cultures that were not graced with the gift of divine revelation yet."

    C.S. Lewis said pretty much the same thing; I'll paraphrase: "Truth is truth wherever you find it." All peoples of the world had experiences of the Divine before that Divine became a man. Their writings should be read and searched for truth. And then, as Lewis also pointed out, we can discard what didn't work, for where they differ from the work of God in Jesus Christ, they are wrong for us.

    Christians have brought a lot of the world's criticism on themselves, and I believe that you address that in your book, I'm Okay, You're Not. I think the followers of Christ should do as Donald Miller talks of in his book, Blue Like Jazz, and apologize to the world for not representing Christ in a spirit of love and acceptance.

    On the other hand, I also am tired of being treated as though I've eaten large helpings of "stupid sauce" because I am a Christian, while anything eastern is viewed as "superior" in spiritual value. That is nothing more than satanic deception.

    Man rejected God. God became man to bridge the gap. Men rejected Christ when He walked the earth; they reject Him still. Jesus said, "blessed is he who does not stumble on me." I prefer to be blessed than wise in the ways of the world.

  • MarkF

    "If anything, Christians are held to greater accountability because we claim to know the Master. If we know the Master, we need to be following his teachings–not bashing others for not knowing them or not believing them."

    Yes to one. No to the second. It's not bashing others to point out that New Age ideas are goofy at best and dangerous at worse.

    One on one, to a person I'm talking with I don't talk like this. If they have any interest in Christianity I try to reach them where they are.

    On a public forum, to talk about ideas, I lay it out as I see it.

  • Diana

    "It’s not bashing others to point out that New Age ideas are goofy at best and dangerous at worse." True, except I would be inclined to put the word "some" in front of "New Age ideas," and then discuss the specific ideas that I think are "goofy at best and dangerous at worst" and why I feel that way.

    I've never got the impression that "New-Ageism" is a cohesive religion in the way that other, more organized religions are (see http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.h… Rather, I've always viewed New Ageism as a grab-bag of religious thought. For instance, I've never gotten the impression that New-Agers have a specific "Holy Text" that is to be read and obeyed or else…. The nearest thing is that book "A Course In Miracles," which, BTW, I've never read–and even that, I understand, is more a distillation of the various religious ideas that the "great religions" have in common than anything else.

    "One on one, to a person I’m talking with I don’t talk like this. If they have any interest in Christianity I try to reach them where they are." Cool, but let's keep in mind that not all Christians have your scruples.

    "On a public forum, to talk about ideas, I lay it out as I see it." Fair enough.

  • http://sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    Um…what qualifies as "New Age"? Anything that professes an acceptance of a spiritual connection to god that does not fit into an existing traditional religious paradigm? I don't know. I think that some "New Agers" (not Hindu, Buddhist or Christian derivatives per se) are firing on more spiritual cylinders than most other religious folk. I wonder if Jesus would have been considered "New Age" in his time. Some of his language certainly fits the criteria.

  • MarkF

    If anyone wants to know what "New Age" looks like, check out the post above here…it's all there, "does not fit into an existing traditional religious paradigm." The only word missing from there is the word "oppressive." lol. And wow, the belief that Jesus somehow fits into this contemporary mish-mash.

    Remember Spinal Tap? "I was using bits and pieces of whatever Eastern philosophies happened to drift through my transom." That's what New Age is.

    I dabbled in traditional astrology, which is decidedly NOT New Age, but what I see in it now compared to Christianity is that it's not fundamentally about morality. Christianity is the path to God based solely on God's grace to me and my own response to it.

  • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/ Tony Layne

    Um…what qualifies as “New Age”? Anything that professes an acceptance of a spiritual connection to god that does not fit into an existing traditional religious paradigm? I don’t know. I think that some “New Agers” (not Hindu, Buddhist or Christian derivatives per se) are firing on more spiritual cylinders than most other religious folk. I wonder if Jesus would have been considered “New Age” in his time. Some of his language certainly fits the criteria.

    Before I could even begin to agree or disagree with you, I'd have to know what you mean by "spiritual". That's a term that gets tossed around a little too easily. I think what people tend to mean by it is a kind of vague deism coupled with personal kindness (even though the person may not be any less self-centered than an unashamed modern pagan). And whenever "spiritual" gets connected in a paragraph that sneers at traditional religions, I get more suspicious about the "spirituality" involved.

    In the end, it's not really a question of what religion's practitioners seem overall nicer or more consistent or more mystical or more tolerant. The question is, which one is telling the truth about God, us and our relationship with Him. Silly me … I think Truth still matters, that it has an objective shape, and that it's our duty to conform our beliefs to Truth rather than twist truth to our beliefs. But maybe that's just because my beliefs fall into a traditional paradigm and I may not be firing on all spiritual cylinders?

  • http://sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    Why the defensive response, gents? In both of them you resort to assumptions, responding to things I never said or to things unrelated to the thread. And never really tried to answer the question, which I think was valid.

  • Diana

    "Why the defensive response, gents? In both of them you resort to assumptions, responding to things I never said or to things unrelated to the thread. And never really tried to answer the question, which I think was valid."

    Yes, it is this precise thing that bothers me about this thread. It seems to be bashing an entire group of people without any real knowledge of them or any real desire to know them.

    When people become "New Age," they do so for a reason. Most often, in my experience, it's because they've gotten hurt in one of the more "traditional religious paradigms." For instance, after my experience in a fundamentalist Christian cult (yes, you read that correctly) I was very wary of Christianity in general and embraced New Age Thought as a substitute. Eventually, I got over it (took about 10 years) and made my way back into the more mainstream Christian fold (United Methodist, to be precise.)

    When we bash other people for their religious beliefs or their refusal to believe, we do so without knowing their stories. This is hurtful and mean and drives people away from Christianity instead of toward it. Is this our goal? If it is, let's continue, because it's working. If not, we might want to rethink our approach.

    BTW, Christian, I checked out your blog. Cool. I'll go back and read more of it later. Right now, I get to go to work. Oh, the joy!

  • http://www.sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    I'd like to take a little detour here if I might. John, in your post you said: "the New Ager is never hampered by the troublesome inconvenience of a consistent moral code. Having no external standard, no inherited code of ethics—no Christian Ten Commandments, no Islamic Sharia, no Jewish Halakha, no Buddhist Eightfold Path—means the New Ager always gets to decide for himself what is and isn’t moral

    But I've been reading Genesis again and it looks as if God himself did not have a moral code, that it was up to Abraham and Moses to teach it to him. If you take the text literally, that is. For example Abraham just knew that God was the kind of god who would punish innocents along with the guilty at Sodom – after all, he already did this once with the Flood. He almost gets God to agree but…. Later God is said to test Abraham on Mt. Moriah (morally? – to kill his own son?) or was he actually punishing him for his earlier impertinence?

    Much later he repeatedly threatens to wipe out the Israelites (for the transgressions of just a few). Moses had to keep reminding him about the promises he had made to Abraham and Isaac and how bad he would look to the Egyptians et al. Grudgingly God relents and only wipes out a few thousand at a time, here or there. More than a few times. And some of these terrible human transgressions, if they were of a moral nature, appear to be of a capriciously moral nature (such as complaining about having no food or water in a desert ).

    So, was our 'moral code' sourced externally? I personally do think so, in spite of what the Hebrew Scriptures seems to be telling us; that God slowly develops the morality that we long for – a morality that somehow is 'written on our hearts' long before we were Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist etc. Who are we to say that this moral code is not written upon the heart of the "New Ager"? ( And I think that the suggestion that all the moral religious codes you cited have God as their source is questionable at best.)

    Of course, I might change my mind tomorrow. Problem with not having a 'religious' moral code any longer. :)

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    John, re about the problems with Christians with ASS, I got that. Really.

    It's just that, well, why post your 'answer' on Crosswalk as well? My first reaction to your original 'A New Ager Asks' post intentionally naming me by name, intentionaly labeling me as a New Ager, intentionaly linking to my blog (as if to say: See! She really is a New Ager!!) AND putting the whole thing on Crosswalk -a heavy seemingly Christian only hangout- was (and still is) : "Wtf? Why did he do that?"

    I tried looking at it from several angles for several days to only be left with your point was to seemingly to tell the New Ager (namely me) how wrong she is and to promote your own religion. Especially when you said: "Julia’s experience of God is to the totality of God what a chocolate-chip cookie is to the totality of a three-course meal. It’s tasty, and sweet—but it has no substance. She can enjoy it, but she can’t live off it."

    Well, gee, John! That is the whole point of Christianity after all, yes? Does not Christianity claim to be the One and Only Way To God? Does it not see it as its duty to make sure all the world knows that by telling all unrepentant non-Christians just how wrong they are? That is what you were trying to clearly say in your 'answer' post, yes?

    I mean, really, honestly, how else was I susposed to take it?

    How am I to take that other than the stereotypical Christian view point of you got God and I dont just because you have Jesus and I dont? That IO,YN? Why post it on Crosswalk other than to hear other Christians praise you and God for telling off another stupid ASS inflicted non-Christain?

    What did I miss, John?

    I'm not mad, btw. I realy just want to know. Why did you single me out?

    I feel as if I have to ask; Do I piss you off that much…?

    I dunno, John. I cannot help to feel that yet another target was painted on my back with yet another broad brush by yet another Christian.

    And I really, really hope I am wrong. I do. Cuz, well, friendships mean alot to me. They are precious. Especialy those with so varying viewpoints. Finding common ground is sometimes so damned hard to find, espcially when it comes to religion and God.

    I hope we can figure all this out. Realy I do. I dont want stupid stereotypes getting in the way of something that can be meaningful and long lasting…

    And the coffee is still one me. :)

    Peace,

    ~julia~

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Julia: I posted my answer on Crosswalk because I WRITE for Crosswalk. That's an actual, real job I have. My deal with them is that I provide them with so much content per month. So … that's what I do. No mystery there.

    The rest of what you've asked me got a little jumbly for me–I'm afraid I failed to maybe adequately enough follow it (and I'm just now right in the middle of writing today's post, so maybe I read it too quickly) but let me repeat what I perhaps didn't say clearly enough the first time. Then let's drop this, okay?

    I didn't give you a single thought when I wrote the A.S.S. piece (which I also posted on CW cuz that's my job). In the post in which I "answered" you, I only meant you as a stand-in for ALL New Agers. A piece like that is sooooo much easier to write is you use as its focal point an individual, rather than have to continuously universalize as you go. And I figured that would be okay, since you'd basically (I thought) volunteered for that sort of engagement via your questions on the blog before that one.

    Anyway, I'm sorry I seemed to have singled you out; I regret (as, in fact, I knew I would) using your specific name as I did. Truly sorry. Safe to say it won't happen again. You didn't piss me off, at all. I simply used a question you posed as a launching point for a short series of posts. I'm sorry for treading too indelicately upon your personal feelings, or for in any way maligning your experiences with what you think of as God. That's never a good thing to do.

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    It's all good, John. :)

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    Christian, Diane, you ask good questions.

    After being made the topic of John’s seemingly and curious infatuation with New Agers I was once again left with the old sigh of: “Oh, no. Not again.” (with apologies to certain bowl of petunias.) Once again I felt I was forced to defend and explain myself, knowing full well it was more than likely yet another exercise in futility. After seeing this post and the one before it where he ‘answered the New Ager who claimed to know God (me), well, it seems it was. You see, it’s that one word: ‘Claimed’. Here it seems to means: ‘Oh here we go, here’s another one!” I mean, really, what else could it mean?

    I had a clever response all ready to post on this thread. Yet, after his previous posts with me as his topic and his answer I hesitate to post it figuring once again; what’s the point? We all know that when some folks minds are made up its damn near impossible to have any rational communication with them beyond the labeling they refuse to see around. Once you are labeled you seem to suddenly be viewed as ‘There Must Be Something Mentally Wrong with You for No One in Their Right Mind Would Chose to Not Be Christian’ and treated as such.

    John may have be poking fun with this post, but when it was posted directly after his ‘answer’ to me, well, it didnt help the narrow-minded Christian label I try so hard to get around. When you are the frequent target of many Christians’ seeming hell-bent intent to slam Anyone Who Is Not One of Us (Non-Christians and/or non-conformant Christians), well, this whole thing has left me with a somewhat sour taste.

    Mainly, I am just tired. After 50 years of fighting this unwanted and against my will stereotyping is it any wonder I just stay away from most known Christians…? Let them think what they will. They don’t want to talk or listen anyways so why waste my time? But I keep doing it.

    Why do I waste my time? For a part of me still believes that someday it will get better. So, I keep trying. Maybe it is getting better. Maybe we really are beginning to see beyond stereotypes. Maybe real communication and understanding is starting to happen. Maybe it is happening….

    Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment and really am wasting my time…..

    Am I being overly sensitive to this? Probably I’m sure. But it does get old. Labels are a bitch and damned near impossible to remove. And, quite frankly, I’m tired of them. I first surfed in on John’s blog and found his ‘What do Non-Christians want us to Hear.’ I followed him a few months hoping he was a more open minded Christian. And it seems he was. But after he purposely made me his topic and his ‘answer’ to me, well, I am no longer sure…. Sorry John.

    Ah, well, there it is.

    Anyhoo. I’ll post my original response to this thread and I think I will take a break for awhile….

    Peace, y’all.

    ~~~~~

    I’ve seen my share of folks afflicted with ASS. In my experience these poor unfortunate souls afflicted with this syndrome often are not just restricted to New Agers but run the gamut of religious affiliations.

    ASS’es often have the baffling tendency to reflect the complete opposite of what they claim their chosen religion is all about, which makes me always wonder if they are even paying attention or understanding what they think they know and declare. Some with ASS can be downright mean, petty, insecure, immature and best avoided like the preverbal plague when seen coming your way. As my late Grandmother (bless her gentle soul) would sometimes say when we ran into an ASS; “Some people’s kids. Just stay away from them.”

    People with ASS also seem to display extremely limited hearing, narrow vision and increased vocal range rendering true communication nearly impossible. ASSes can further the stereotypical negative image upon those who have tried so hard to shed. ASSes can destroy long running friendships and deeply scar others before they had a chance to develop. Sometimes, and much too often, ASS can be handed down to the next generation thus breeding bigotry and intolerance. It’s incredibly sad.

    Those with ASS in other faiths are sometimes referred to as Fluff Bunnies and Wannabies. Those with more extreme onset of ASS can also be referred to as having a Blinding Infection of a Thickened and Clogged Heart (BITCH), or in some cases IOYN syndrome (I’m Okay, You’re Not). A friend of mine once wrote a book on IOYN saying how we still should be real and true friends regardless of their affliction and treat them with respect and love, even when you know they haven’t a clue.

    Good advice.

    In most cases many of those afflicted with ASS, BITCH or IOYN can be helped with a healthy infusion of refined corvus brachyrhynchos. Sadly however, sometimes for your own health and sanity, to avoid cross contamination when dealing with someone with extremely severe case of ASS it is best to just shake the dust off your sandals and move on.

    Yep, my Grandma, she was one pretty wise lady…

    Peace.

    ~julia~

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Julia: As I made sure to say at the opening of the post, people with A.S.S. come in every religious group. As I pointed out, at least half my posts on this blog are about the problems of Christians with A.S.S. syndrome.

      Also, I believe you failed to note that throughout the post I was careful to stipulate that I was only talking about New Agers who actually have A.S.S. syndrome. I'm crude, but not so crude I just pile everyone into one heap.

      Lastly, this post had virtually nothing to do with you. I don't think I once thought of you while writing it. This piece is something I've been thinking about, and wanting to write, for literally years.

  • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/ Tony Layne

    Thanks, Christian.

    But I think this is where we walked into the picture. If "spirituality" is really such a protean, grab-bag concept, changing shape with every speaker, then to say that one is "spiritual" is to communicate nothing … and the first job of language is to communicate. But more to the point, for the purposes of this discussion, I don't need to know what everybody means by "spiritual" … just you. :^)=)

    But why and where do you get the idea that we are being challenged at all? I mean, to be ‘more’ than good? “Love God with all your heart mind and soul and do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a good start (and ending).

    This is an example of why sola scriptura is bad dogma. When you come at Scripture outside of a religious tradition, it's always possible to cherry-pick texts that seem to support your position. Such as: "Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down at table'? Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and put on your apron and serve me, till I eat and drink, and afterward you shall eat and drink'? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what is our duty'" (Lk 17:7-10). Scripture makes complete sense only within the context of the tradition that produced it.

    Speaking of cherry-picking: Jesus said that we should follow him, not worship him.

    First of all, following Jesus and worshipping him aren't mutually exclusive, neither in logic nor in practice. Second, you need to re-read the Gospel of John, where throughout Jesus makes clear that "the Father and I are one" (Jn 10:33). In the Gospel of John, the non-believer is forced to make the choice C. S. Lewis wrote about: Is Jesus a liar, a lunatic, or Lord? (Which is where most people decide to discard the parts of the New Testament they don't want to accept as historical.) For if Jesus Christ is God and Man in one being, then worship only makes sense, as it is his due.

    But that's all pretty much off-topic. If you don't perceive the challenge, peace be with you: I'm not nearly gifted enough a writer to make you feel it. Loving God and loving one's neighbor is a good start and a good end. But what you don't see is that these twin commands are the challenge. A general feeling of benevolence isn't the agape called for. On the one hand, there's radical, abandoned obedience to the divine Will … which strikes post-modern Americans as an invitation to fanaticism and theocracy. On the other, there's the love that unselfishly seeks the good of others … which strikes the same post-modern Americans as an invitation to meddle in the business of others. Nor are we guaranteed happiness, wealth or health for doing it; we aren't even scoring brownie points, as the passage from Luke above illustrates. The intensity of this kind of love frightens people who just want to be good enough to get along.

    It is possible to perceive this challenge outside the Judaeo-Christian context; it's precisely this challenge which has driven people like Socrates, Guatauma Buddha and the author of the Baghavad Gita. It hasn't always been perceived the same way, and thus hasn't led to the same conclusions across the board. Nevertheless, it's driven by the same sense of pieces missing in the puzzle, of dissatisfaction, of man being puzzled and annoyed to find himself an animal among animals. Again, I say, if you don't see it, peace be with you. But because you don't see it, don't be hasty to conclude that it isn't there.

    Good night, and the Grace of God be with you.

  • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/ Tony Layne

    Mr. Beyer: If you re-read my last post, you’ll notice I responded precisely to what you said by asking you to clarify your use of the word “spiritual”. If that’s defensive, then consider it the product of many discussions that got bogged down in syntactical ambiguities and equivocations.

    In Romans, St. Paul talks about the “law written on the heart” of the Gentile, which he opposes to the law of Moses, and which the Church has referenced in its discussions of natural law. “When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law unto themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them” (Rom 2:14-15) …. So yeah, if we interpret “Gentile” in this context to mean “non-Christian”, you’ve said something no one in the Church hierarchy would immediately contradict.

    If being good–being moral–were the sole end of humanity, I wouldn’t necessarily push anyone towards Christianity, let alone Catholicism. But if we’re challenged to be more than just good, then the question is, to what kind of being are we challenged? (Which simply repeats the question, “What do you mean by ‘spiritual’?”) That, in turn, demands that we think good and hard about Who/What is challenging us, and what kind of Person the Challenger is. That’s why the traditional paradigms tend to survive and syncretic religions tend to fall apart: The former have done more construction on their intellectual frameworks so they hang together more solidly. (This, of course, is not to say you haven’t thought about what you believe; I would have to be truly dense –as opposed to merely insensitive–not to see that you have.)

    The people who suffer most from ASS, in my observation, tend to be the ones who use their religion as a tool for self-validation, not those who are genuinely seeking Truth. Among Christians, it’s usually those who forget that, in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the one who is justified is the one beating his breast before the altar, repeating, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk 18:13). Yet I have seen non-religious people claim to be “spiritual” in the same rhetorical breath that they pour vitriol on the heads of people who do belong to Christian churches.

    So it’s not all hypersensitivity, though when you poke the dog with a stick, you ought to expect some growling. Granted that one is moral, just what is it that makes one “spiritual”? Sorry that I keep putting scare quotes around it; I really don’t understand what it means in this context.

    • https://thefakejohnshore.wordpress.com/ thefakejohnshore

      Brother I appreciate your words here. The battle is fierce and we should absolutely justify our “growling” because as Dog the Bounty Hunter says so often “that dog don’t hunt, son, it just growls”. Of course he was speaking of heroin at the time but he’s a fellow brother in the Lord, it is important to take it the way he meant it.

      I hope this helps.

      Blessings,

      FJS

  • http://sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    Thanks, Tony

    But my question was: “What qualifies as New Age” and then I threw out the suggestion of alternative spiritualities as one possibility. I don’t think it is really possible to pin down one definition of spirituality for everyone, other than to say that, even for the atheist, it is a sense of physical transcendence.

    But why and where do you get the idea that we are being challenged at all? I mean, to be ‘more’ than good? “Love God with all your heart mind and soul and do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a good start (and ending). And not unique to Christianity. Nor to the Abrahamic faiths. Nor is it foreign to some of the “New Age” philosophies out there. What more of truth is necessary?

    Jesus said that we should follow him, not worship him.

  • http://sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    Thanks Tony. (I'm using an iPod so must be brief here):

    I DO believe the challenge is the 2 part "golden rule" and that one cannot obey one part fully without obeying the other. I don't believe that Chriastinity has the best solution to this callenge though it appears to be the best one for me, realizing that no 2 Chriastians will ever concur on all doctrine, not completly.

    I don't think that Lewis'trilemma is irrefutable, especially in light of non-literal approach to scripture, He did not say that he was God, literally nor is he clearly implying such in this unique non-synoptic account. IMHO.

  • MarkF

    If you're saying the Jesus did not say he was God, take a look at this scripture, "Before Abraham was I AM." The Holy Name of God, "I AM." This is partly why he was killed.

  • Peregrinu

    John 10:30: "I and the Father are one."

    How much clearer could He have been, Christian? Of course He presupposed some sort of distinction between Him and the Father and then claimed complete unity – because there are three persons in one God; He is not strictly exactly the same as God the Father in a Sabellian sense.

    Likewise, John 14:6: "'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would without doubt have known my Father also; and from henceforth you shall know him. And you have seen him.' Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father; and it is enough for us.' Jesus said to him, 'Have I been so long a time with you and have you not known me? Philip, he that sees me sees the Father also.'"

    That's what Christians mean when we say that Jesus is God – we're not Sabellians, and for Jesus to flat-out say, "I am the Father" would be incorrect. When we say "God', we mean God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, including Jesus; when the Jews would have said God, they would have just meant God the Father with no knowledge of the other two Persons. In these passages (and others, including the "Before Abraham was, I AM") were indicating to the Jews that the divinity was not just the strict monotheism they were conceptualizing – there were two other Persons substantially united to God the Father.

  • http://www.sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    That scripture does not necessarily present Jesus declaring that he is God. For another detailed take on this check out:

    http://assemblyoftrueisrael.com/Documents/I_AM.ht

    They list contextually the list of 'offenses' Jesus commits leading up to this statement. In conclusion they say:

    "… Yahshua was not declaring that he is the great "I AM" of Ex.3:14. There are many occurrences in the Greek, which proves that the term "I am" is a very common phrase, a verb of existence, meaning "I am He" or "I am the one." This phrase by it's self is not a 'stone-able' offense, for it is used many times. As we have already shown, there were a lot of implications in this chapter which ground into the minds and heart of the Yahudain leaders. All the offenses combined, culminated at this point, into the prophesied path (end result) for Yahshua."

  • http://www.sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    Peregrinu, I think that many of us (Christians), if pressed on this, are Sabellians, in spite of what Church authorities tell us to believe. It took a long time for the 'majority' of early church leaders to agree upon trinitarian doctrine and it helped to have the emperor on their side.

    But you make a good point: because of the church's discomfort with Jesus' message of God's infinite love, grace and mercy (which does not satisfy our need to see 'justice' served nor help maintain religiously supported empire ) it was necessary to flesh out this scripturally hidden concept of the Trinity ( a 'mystery' we can never understand, as Sister Paul told me 40 years ago). The Trinity is necessary to prop up the sad idea that Jesus was the 'perfect' blood sacrifice that God requires to keep us from the hell we deserve.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    That's it. From now on, I'm going to start using bigger words in my posts.

  • MarkF

    Christian Breyer, what a load of fallderall that link was.

    It's like shooting fish in a barrel really. When Jesus says "I am the way" or other such phrases, that is far different phrasing from his simple declaration that "before Abraham was, I am." In the first sentence the use of the very "to be" is meant as a equal sign to link the subject and verb of the sentence. As in if I said "I am a man" means "I = a man." The use of the verb "to be" in the sentence "before Abraham was, I am", there is no subject of the verb. This is the same formulation that the angel revealed to Moses about God, "I AM THAT I AM." God is pure existence.

    I have NO idea what that site you linked over to was about. But it does not matter because it is not a part of the Catholic and Orthodox tradition. We have two thousand years of holy men reading the Bible and over that time ideas come and go. But the truth is what remains. We call it the deposit of faith. We are not left on our own, with no rudder to guide us. God left us a Church, "the pillar and bullwark of the truth." In matters dealing with salvation, the truth is out there, is easy to find and will always be there. You can accept that truth or reject it. But in the combined wisdom of the apostles, Fathers, councils, Doctors and saints of the Church is a consensus of teaching that we call the Magisterium. This has little to do with the seldom used (or never used) Papal infallibility. This is the much more commonly used larger infallibility of the whole Church over time. And the consensus of the faithful is that Jesus was consubstantial with the Father. You can either accept or reject that teaching, but you can't deny that this is what has been believed since apostolic times.

    • DR

      Always fun to see the Christians fight, we can count on that since the Resurrection. Thanks for keeping the tradition alive, super productive!

  • http://sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    Uh, yes I do deny it. It is the doctrinal result of church debates long afterwards. As for the link in question, I'm sure the Jews have as much scriptural scholarship as Catholics and they likely hold your PSA to be fodderall as well. Another apologetic draw.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    I think I was too harsh in this piece.

    • Jill H

      As a full-fledged, card-carrying, astrology-reading, aromatherapy-wielding, satsang-sitting, kirtan-chanting, past life-believing Jesus fan,

      I was a tad wounded.

      But then I remembered that I’m not an ASS (& haven’t been one since I was a full-fledged, card-carrying fundy Christian)! ;) Love you too John!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        I’m surprised you even found this old post; if you’ll notice, it’s uncategorized, which means it’s basically buried. I did that on purpose, because this is just … too obnoxious a rant. I should just delete it. Anyway … thanks for not taking its unwarranted insults too seriously.

        • Jill H

          Completely…I was hoping my light take on it would convey I’m not bothered! I found it stimulating, but I also don’t get the sense that you are truly heavy-handed about all things filed under ‘new age’.

          Honestly, I felt kinda invigorated to ‘confess’ my newagey-ness! If where I’ve been, what I’ve prayerfully investigated in my life should crumble from a little critique, then I’ve got some inner work that needs doing. I hope you don’t feel as if you should delete it.

          You’re a gem, Mr. Shore. (And I’m gonna keep finding the goodies, so be prepared…)

  • William

    Absolute Spiritual Superiority is the one common denominator that ALL religions share. Jesus may have said, “I am the way..” but every religion, denomination, and individual place of worship virtually shreiks that only their interpretation of “Truth” is true. “New Agers” may be making it up on the spot as you say. Just like L.Ron Hubbard made up his hornswaggle in his time. Just like Joseph Smith made up the Golden Plates. Just like the very human authors made up a holy book 2000 yrs ago. Just like the Jews before them. And the Hindus before them. And the cave drawers before them. They all made it up on the spot in their time. A fiction today carries no more nor less reality than a fiction of a millenia ago. My evidence to support is this; Baptism , sprinkle or immerse?

  • Mirror

    As a “New Ager”, I will say that this post has some truth to it. I often grow tired of the superior attitudes that many in the New Age movement put on. I love how everyone is a clairvoyant enlightened being who can channel the ascended masters and is in tune with the secrets of the universe, and yet simultaneously lose their cool if someone cuts them off in the street, or the line’s too long at the grocery store, or someone disagrees with their political views.

    I left traditional Christianity because of hypocrisy, but I must say where ever there are people, hypocrisy flourishes.