CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Loving Ourselves to Death

Jun 7, 2013

“Learn how to love yourself” says a current television ad for yet another “Mind, Body, Spirit” festival. This is of course a New Age get-together in which spirituality-lite is paraded and indulged in. You see, the New Age Movement (NAM) is just a new spin on old Eastern religions.

But it is stripped of any onerous demands, complicated rituals, processes of self-denial, and ancient texts. It is instead a real smorgasbord approach to instant spirituality. The devotee can simply pick and choose those bits which he or she finds appealing.

If tantric yoga takes your fancy, or aroma therapy, or visualisation therapy, or rolfing, or numerology, or what have you, then go for it. You can skip any beliefs or practices which are not to your liking and you can focus in on any that are.

Core beliefs of the NAM can be taken or left behind. Pantheism, reincarnation, monism, cosmic consciousness and the like can be gotten into, either in a superficial fashion, or in a much deeper manner. The same with the various “recovery techniques” or “psycho-technologies”.

These are meant to free you up from false consciousness, and deliver you from the shackles of individual personality. These techniques are designed to help one achieve Altered States of Consciousness. These help bring one into states other than normal waking consciousness, in which a person becomes open to mystical experience, the spirit realm, or cosmic consciousness.

The techniques range from the mundane to the bizarre. In addition to those already mentioned, there is also channelling, or spirit mediumship, astral travel or astral projection (out of body experience), rebirthing, iridology, applied kinesiology, therapeutic touch, biofeedback, colour therapy/chromotherapy, guided imagery, past-life recall therapy, to name but a few.

All this and more will likely be on offer at this MBS festival. They are all ways in which people can feel good about themselves, dabble in a bit of easy, cost-free spirituality, and enjoy self-centred religion. The emphasis, as the ad jingo states, is on self: “Learn how to love yourself”.

The irony of course is that in proper Eastern thought, the aim is to deny self, or transcend self – not cater to it. But as I said, the NAM discards all the difficult and unpleasant aspects of Eastern religion, leaving behind only the fun, good stuff.

Another fav psycho-technology is creative visualisation, or mind power. It is all about turning your thoughts into reality; you can simply visualise whatever you want. It is a name it and claim it approach to spirituality, and is obviously quite appealing to self-centred Westerners.

If it sounds familiar, it should: the Christian churches are absolutely full of this stuff. It may be called other names, but it is the same stuff. Whether we speak of the “Positive Confession” movement or the “Word of Faith” teachings, it is all pretty much on a par.

The world loves it of course because it becomes an easy way to be your own selfish, greedy pig. Wanna be rich, successful, famous? No probs – just use a bit of creative visualisation and you too can be the master of your own destiny, and get anything you want.

Books like The Secret sell in the zillions because this is the very heart of its teaching: whatever you want, whatever you want to become, it’s all yours. Just start thinking those positive thoughts, and presto-sasso: it is all yours. I have written about this book elsewhere:
billmuehlenberg.com/2007/05/24/a-review-of-the-secret-by-rhonda-byrne/
billmuehlenberg.com/2007/05/23/nothing-new-about-%E2%80%9Cthe-secret%E2%80%9D/

But I have also written about the Christian version of this elsewhere as well. See the 27 other articles on this topic found here: billmuehlenberg.com/category/theology/the-health-and-wealth-gospel/

Here I wish to conclude by repeating a bit of an earlier article I penned on this. I do so because one of the persons mentioned is coming to Australia soon. In that earlier article I featured quotes from two best-selling authors: one a New Age guru, and one a leading American preacher.

I asked my readers to tell me which quotes belonged to which speaker. As far as I can tell, no one has gotten it right so far. That in itself is quite telling. Maybe I should put a financial reward out there for the first person to do so. But here again are four quotes, followed by four more paragraphs from that original article:

“Try this for a couple of weeks and see how it changes your reality: Whatever you think people are withholding from you – praise, appreciation, assistance, loving care, and so on – give it to them. You don’t have it? Just act as if you had it, and it will come. Then, soon after you start giving, you will start receiving. You cannot receive what you don’t give. Outflow determines inflow. Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you already have, but unless you allow it to flow out, you won’t even know that you have it. This includes abundance. The law that outflow determines inflow is expressed by Jesus in this powerful image: ‘Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap’.”

“Starting today, get on the offensive and start making positive declarations over your own life. Every day, say things like ‘I am blessed. I am healthy and prosperous. I am competent. I am called. I’m anointed. I’m creative. I’m talented. I am well able to fulfil my destiny’. If you want to know where you are going to be in five years, then just listen to your words. You are prophesying your future. If you want to be stronger, healthier, happier, if you want to break addictions, then start declaring it right now. Remember, you will eat the fruit of your own words, so bless the future.”

“The voice in your head will be telling sad, anxious, or angry stories about past, future, or imaginary events. The voice will be blaming, accusing, complaining, imagining. And you are totally identified with whatever the voice says, believe all its distorted thoughts. At that point, the addiction to unhappiness has set in.”

“Don’t live with regrets. Don’t go around saying, ‘Well, I should have done this or that. I should have gone back to college.’ Or, ‘I should have spent more time with my family.’ ‘I should have taken better care of myself,’ No, quit condemning yourself. Your analysis and observations may be true, but it doesn’t do any good to put yourself down. Let the past be the past.”

So which two quotes are written by the Christian, and which two are written by the New Ager? Kinda hard to tell, huh? They all seem to express quite similar sentiments. Actually the first and third quotes are by the New Age guru Ekhart Tolle, from his book, A New Earth (2005). The second and fourth quotes are from Joel Osteen’s book, Become a Better You (2007).

All four quotes have to do with the belief that words have power; that you can create your own reality by your speech; and that life is really about mind over matter. Of course this has long been a staple teaching of the Mind Sciences and the New Age Movement. More recently it has been picked up by the Word of Faith Movement and the health and wealth gospellers.

Both teach the power of words, and how we can visualise things into existence. Both claim that we need to focus on positive thoughts and utter positive words, and we will create a positive future. Occult groups and cults like Christian Science have long taught this, and as of late some prosperity preachers and Name It and Claim It teachers are also pushing these beliefs.

So here we have a big-time New Age teacher and a big time Christian preacher proclaiming nearly identical messages. Many more such similarities can be pointed out between these two books. (And you get more of the same in Osteen’s sermons and other writings.)

And one last similarity in closing. Both sets of quotes are totally focused on self. None speak of denying yourself, taking up your cross, and crucifying the flesh. Two of them at least should have. So that is where we find the state of Christianity in much of the West today.

The pastor of the biggest church in America is offering a message which is utterly indistinguishable from New Age baloney. Both are about one thing: “Learn how to love yourself”. Not about how to love God or how to love others. It is all about self. And that sort of love is not biblical love at all – it is simply a case of loving ourselves to death.

Oh, and perhaps just one more similarity: the biggest promoter of the NAM in the world, Oprah Winfrey loves both Tolle and Osteen, and has proudly featured both on her show. That too is a very telling – and damning – fact.

billmuehlenberg.com/2009/05/18/will-the-real-gospel-please-stand-up/

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12 Responses to Loving Ourselves to Death

  • “Loving ourselves” is the problem.
    Jenna Priest

  • They are playing up to Satan’s old lie, that we shall be gods. The sad thing is that far too many “Christians” have the exact same message and the New Agers and it is almost impossible to tell them apart.
    Ian Nairn

  • Thank you Bill
    I’m so glad I read this, you really have put it clear and easy to understand.
    My wife said Gosh, in my pre Christian days I did nearly every one of those.
    Self-esteem at school these days – also which my daughter picked up on.
    Daniel Kempton

  • It annoys me that bookshops lump together the bible , New age and self-help all into together so you don’t know what you’re picking up. Browsing, I was surprised to discover in one book, on the last page, that the big secret was that “You are God.”
    There are actually people who will read this and actually believe that they are God! And anyone who thinks that is impossible to live with or work with, and will simply not be able to cope with illness and death and disasters.
    Nina Blondel

  • Hi Bill,
    What a great post.
    May I ask what you know about John Bevere (Messenger International)? I believe some think the ministry is the ‘Word of Faith’ movement and others seem to think he’s fine. Would appreciate your thoughts.
    Many thanks.
    Karen Harrison.

  • Thanks Karen. Actually I do not know too much about him, so I would have to investigate more before offering comment.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • No problem, thanks.
    Karen Harrison

  • Hi Bill,

    Would you say that there is a place for Christians to proclaim and remind themselves often of who they are in Christ?
    And where is the line drawn between that and what you have criticised in your article?

    Many thanks,
    Jeremy Hopwood

  • Thanks Jeremy. Of course there is a place to do that.

    But what in the world does that have to do with what I spoke of in the article? What we are and have in Christ because of what he has done for us is a forgiveness of sins and a radically transformed life, one which puts Christ first and self last. We then have a new holy disposition, a hatred of sin, a desire to warn others of wrath to come, a love of purity, an emphasis on the cruciform life, and so on. As I demonstrated in the above article and elsewhere, these are the very things Osteen refuses to talk about. What he does talk about all the time is how to have better self-esteem, how to feel good about yourself, how to succeed in business, how to have a fancy home, etc. As I say, what in the world does that have to do with who we are in Christ, and what the life of Christian discipleship is all about? I see no connection whatsoever. It is a “different gospel” which Paul so strongly warned against. The Christian life is based and focused entirely on Christ while the Osteen message seems to be based and focused entirely on self.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill.

    I agree with your criticism of “self-esteem preachers”.

    I think a major factor for why many Christians are not living a victorious life in Christ is because they don’t see themselves with the identity they have in Christ. And that it is very needy for Christians to often be reminding themselves and proclaiming to themselves the truths of their identity in Christ.

    I guess I was just clarifying that in your article you weren’t criticising this.

    Thanks,
    Jeremy Hopwood
    A.C.T

  • Yes I fully agree Jeremy. We all should meditate more closely on who we are and what we have in Christ. Of course as you note, that is a far cry from trendy secular self-esteem which people like Osteen promote all the time.

    Thanks for bringing this up.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Considering the first quote had the only scriptural reference in it, it is scary to think it came from the new age people.
    I wonder why especially these Christians can’t see that limiting yourself to self-love is such a poor second best to receiving the immeasurable love of Christ. Of course that “reduces” us to the humble position of “being nothing without Him”. We also often are either unwilling or unable to realistically compare the priceless gift of eternal life we receive at Christ’s expense with whatever financial or vocational success we might have in this life, the absence of which can make us doubt God’s blessing on our life. The truly victorious Christians are those who receive eternal life as absolutely unwarranted favour in and humbly receive whatever trials come our way in this life as training ground for Christlike character. It doesn’t come naturally to our human way of thinking and has to be actively and aggressively sought after and pursued, knowing it is the only way pleasing to the One who gives everything to us as a gift, our physical and spiritual existence.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

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