Friday, June 17, 2011

"A Joyful Path," The Center for Progressive Christianity, Yogananda and Presbyterian children Update

A new curriculum for Sunday school children has been developed by The Center for Progressive Christianity. It is mainly written by Lorna Knox who is on staff at the Ananda Temple and Teaching Center in Portland Oregon. After looking at the curriculum, which includes religious information for both the teacher and children, it is clear that the material is religiously aligned with the teaching of the Ananda Temple which is a part of the Self-Realization Fellowship connected to the teachings of Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. The religious viewpoint of the material, “A Joyful Path,” is a form of Hinduism.

Among mainline denominations at least two Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) churches are using the materials. (In all fairness they may not realize where the material is actually coming from.)The Self Realization Fellowship has always insisted that they uphold all faiths but their teachings are always akin to Hinduism as can be seen by reading the children’s curriculum.

In sample material (Year 1 of the Inner Wisdom series) on CPC’s site, the first lesson, “The Nameless One: Who or What is God?” guides the children as well as the teacher in affirming that all is god. Knox writes:
There is another way of thinking about God and prayer. [Instead of as a personal entity] It is the way of Jesus. Jesus spoke in Aramaic. When he taught people about the “kingdom of heaven/God,” when he told them they would “see” God, when he spoke to them about being “children of God,” when he taught them the prayer we know as “Our Father who art in heaven,” his listeners did not hear “God” as if God were a deity far removed from them. They heard Jesus speaking of “God” as “Breath,” “Oneness,” and “Unity” resonating all throughout the universe.

The author goes on to explain that Jesus, urged his listeners to be attentive to this presence which he named, in accord with his religious tradition, Divine Breath, the One, and Unity present in our breathing, in our words, and in our loving.”

The children are told the story of the elephant that is touched in different parts by different blind people so each person understands the elephant in a different way. In this adapted story the blind are children. Sadly the children hearing the story are led to believe that it is okay to understand who God is in different ways.

The 5th lesson, “God in Nature,” more clearly affirms the pantheistic or panentheistic view of the curriculum’s author. For the teacher, Knox writes:
The natural world constantly offers opportunities to experience the presence of spirit in endless variation. Nature is one of the most clear and obvious manifestations of God in our universe.The variety we see in the natural world — in the plants, animals, insects, birds, and water creatures — shows us that spirit is not limited in form or expression. The world around us continually speaks of the presence of spirit in all forms and every setting.
One of the questions asked of the children is, “Do you feel there is a Spirit in parts of nature?”

The 19th lesson “Dangerous Trips Willpower” begins with this, “Applying our willpower to achieve goals is really a discovery of the divine power and guidance that lies within all creation. We discover that willingness opens the gate to infinite possibilities.” The author gives the teacher exercises to bring about a goal. She writes:
Turn your responses into a personal visualization. Sit quietly and close your eyes. Take a few breaths to calm your mind. Visualize yourself in the situation. For a moment, watch what is happening, noticing any obstacles or challenges that arise. Feel your willingness cooperate with your divine inner power. See yourself applying willpower to bring the situation to a positive conclusion or resolution. Observe the results manifesting in your life. Notice how using your willpower positively affects the situation and other people who may be involved.
Sadly, the children’s story connected to this lesson is of the slave Harriet Tubman who helped so many of her fellow slave’s escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad. A beautiful story used in a very bad way.

The exercise for the teacher in lesson 20 like the one above is outrageous in a Christian setting. It is about fear and supposedly offers a way to get beyond fear:
While mentally standing on the continuum, take several deep breaths. With each breath, allow yourself to connect to the divine within. You may visualize the light around yourself growing brighter, or you may feel increased wellbeing and confidence. Maybe you will sit up a little straighter or feel a smile coming to your face.
All of the descriptions’ and quotes are to demonstrate that the lessons are not progressive in the manner that one thinks of progressive in the post-modern age. Instead the children’s lessons with the teacher’s guides are rehashed eastern religion and religious views from the 20th century New Age movement. But they are something more. They are deceptive tracts bent on introducing both the teacher and the child to the idea that we all have God within and we just need to meditate, think hard, etc. and we can connect with our inner divinity.

God is everywhere but not everything. As the book of Romans in the New Testament puts it God’s invisible attributes, his eternal power, and his divine nature are known as one looks at and explores the created world. But God is not nature. A flower is not an expression of the Holy Spirit. And there is only one way to know this mighty, creator God, that is, through the eternal Son. Not willpower, but surrender to the one who suffered for us on the cross.

As the PCUSA and other mainline denominations fall deeper into a bed of idolatry our children, all children, need to be covered with prayer, fed scripture, protected with love.

Update: I wrongly wrote the Self-Relization Foundation, when I meant the Self-Realization Fellowship. (A thank you to Rich Poll of Apologia for seeing my mistake)

1 comment:

Sherry Kirton said...

It's really important to have curriculum that is written by truthworthy scholars. I haven't used the PC-USA confirmation material, but instead use material by Max Anders. The New Christian's Handbook, 30 Days to Understanding The Bible, and What You Need To Know About Jesus are great places to start with youth and adults.

Our children in Sunday School and Children's Church and Tuesday nights at Worship Night/Logos are led through whole books of the Bible where they read the stories straight out of their Bibles, answer questions, and watch short videos of those same stories and pray for understanding and revelation.

Truth is revealed by God, not by logic nor experience as those are flawed. Scripture tells us our hearts are deceitful and our natural desires are evil, so we must be led by His Holy Spirit and fed by His Word.

As sons and daughters of the Reformers we need to remember that our freedom to read our Bibles was paid with a terrible price. Why do we not regularly open a Bible and use it?