Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dances & wolves: the wrong way into a hurting culture

Sometimes one writing project leads to another. In the comment section of my posting, A review of Horizons’ “Keep it Weird: Thinking About Salvation in the Land of Bikes, Books and Brew”, a friend wrote that he knew Cynthia O’Brien and that she was not someone I needed to worry about. Since I had implied that while she was enthusiastic and had some good ideas about coming alongside unbelievers she was not presenting a truthful or complete witness of Christianity, I wondered if I had misunderstood her writing. After all I like weird things too; I love reading Flannery O’Conner and Charles Williams a surrealistic writer friend of C.S. Lewis. So I went googling.

My googling did lead me to a video taped sermon by O’Brien but it also led me to the New Thought Movement which is no longer new.[1] The New Thought Movement or Mind Sciences began in the nineteenth century with the founders of Christian Science, Unity School of Christianity and Religious Science. It began as a metaphysical way of seeing Christianity: the human mind and/or human consciousness aligned with divine mind creates good. 

For Christian Science all evil including sickness and death are unreal creations of human consciousness. One meditates on scripture understanding them from Mary Baker Eddy’s writings. Christian Science has not changed much because of adhering to her works. However, Unity School of Christianity, which grew out of Christian Science and also believes evil, sickness and death are illusory, has grown and moved further into the main stream of alternative religions and movements. Unlike Christian Science they do believe in a material universe with prosperity as one of their goals. But they also believe in reincarnation and various other New Age and Eastern ideas. Positive thoughts are very important. Out of these movements many other minor New Thought groups have developed.

So what do these groups have to do with O’Brien? She is not connected to them, but she lifts up some groups that are New Thought, mentioning them in a sermon and suggesting that their activities may be opening a door toward God.

As I listened I thought of how New Thought thinking had affected the mainline denominations of the past. O’Brien mentions in her sermon how much the world has changed in the last ten years. Well yes it has, but falsehood really doesn’t change that much, it just comes in different packaging. 

In this case the package is dancing. In O’Brien’s sermon, she uses the Old Testament text where David dances before the Ark of the Lord, and she speaks of some dance studios where Sunday dances are held that are religious but not Christian. She states:

Right now there are people gathering in at least two dance studios that I know of one just across the river and one in the Hollywood district and they’re gathering for something that my friend Paula calls “dance church,” dance church. And I went and it’s a magnificent kind of thing where she puts on this beautiful music and the people come in and they’re welcomed and they have times of meditation and thoughtfulness and they begin to move and she’s like a spiritual DJ. She puts on this wonderful music that makes you think first of all about yourself and then you start to engage other people and then there’s like full on gospel music raising the roof and everybody’s dancing like crazy just whatever they want to do and then they’re encouraged to get in touch with the divine. It’s not Presbyterian, its not even Christian it’s pretty broad; you bring to it what you bring. But I’m telling you that group is finding a door into something meaningful; they’re taking a step toward God.

In Portland there are two dance studios offering Sunday morning “Ecstatic Dancing” or “Soul motion.” One is called Sacred Circles Dance Community and the other Momentum: Conscious Movement. The latter group, on their site state, “We offer Soul Motion, designed by Vinn Marti, and are developing Conscious Movement techniques from our work with dancers.” On the Sacred Circles site they state:

Sacred Circle Dance Community was formed in 2004 and has grown to be the largest weekly dance in Portland, Oregon. The original format was designed by Vinn Marti, the creator of Soul Motion, as an embodiment of his Dance Ministry practice. Today, a dedicated group of organizers and volunteers continue to create this spiritually-based community dance.

Vinn Marti belongs to the New Thought Movement. In an interview on Madrona: the Mind Body Institute , which has some connections to the dance studio, he states:

We cultivate the vertical drop of deep self as we are inspired and informed by another. As we practice this dance we become proficient in circular vision. We see everything which surrounds and we exclaim: “I am One with All-One"  …

In the practice of Soul Motion™, the dancer moves through four relational landscapes.
·         Dance Intimate.... we move alone - I am one
·         Dance Communion... we move with one other - I am one with
·         Dance Community... we move with everyone - I am one with all
·         Dance Infinity... we move our practice to the everyday life - I am one with all one

The deep self is the same as Hindu’s Atman or the absolute or universal self- or the “ultimate discovered within oneself.”[2] The words “I am one with all one" implies monism—all is one. Marti has also been a chaplain at the Living Enrichment Center which was a large New Thought Church.

Those individuals, including Christians, who participate in the dance are not finding a door into something meaningful—they are not moving toward God. They are involved in a very seductive false religion. And this is where a real distinction needs to be made. One does not help a non-Christian come to Christ by participating in their religious rituals. For both New Thought and classical eastern religion one seeks god within—but a Christian has found God in Christ and actually it is Christ who has found the sinner.

In all of our community building, evangelism and engagement with our culture we as Christians must remember it is only through Jesus Christ that anyone will find God. If we offer everything else but not the true Christ we are poor servants indeed.

“No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has explained him (John 1:18).”

[1] One can find excellent information on the Mind Sciences, with biblical refutation, in a booklet: Todd Ehrenborg, Mind Sciences: Christian Science, Religious Science, Unity School of Christianity, Zondervan Guide to Cults & Religious Movements, (Grand Rapids:  Publishing House 1995).
[2]See glossary of John A. Hutchison, Paths of Faith third edition, (New York: McGraw Hill 1981). 


Anonymous said...

Why, oh why does something from Horizons always veer into what is not of God? Is there a paucity of exciting aspects of the true God, so that Presbyterian Women needs to go dancing with other gods-who-are-no-gods?

There are brilliant, faithful, Reformed, orthodox women expositors who could write truly engaging Bible studies for women, but never are they asked by PW. No, instead PW dances a bacchanal with false gods, leading good women astray.

It is becoming as certain as the sun coming up, that PW will produce a rock when daughters are asking for bread, the Bread of Life.

Jim Berkley
Roslyn, WA

Viola Larson said...

Several years ago, when it seemed that there might be a change, PW asked Tammy Letts to write an article for Horizons. And she wrote about how evangelical women felt like outsiders as far as Presbyterian Women's gatherings and Bible Studies. I was amazed that they let her write it and sorry that they did not listen.

Kathleen said...

I remember my sister telling me many years ago: "The flesh loves the law." I ponder that still.

Oh that we would better understand & embrace the very costly Grace by which we are loved & saved; and by which our own labors of love flow.