“The Enlightenment” Version 2.0

All of my life I have been surrounded by beliefs and worldviews that helped shape my own. “LIFE magazine”, and “National Geographic” published images and stories of people with strange beliefs from foreign lands. The television that broadcast the U.S. moon missions, would present weekly episodes of “Lost in Space” and “Star Trek”, each a brief lesson in the possibilities of what awaits us in technology, space and within ourselves. The 60’s music would drive the beat of a new age into my consciousness. I sang along with the “5th Dimension” about the “Age of Aquarius”. The social/cultural upheaval I witnessed appears to have produced counter cultures. Two of these were the “Jesus Culture” and the “New Age Culture”, the distinctions of which were not always obvious.

Years later in college after hearing the “Doobie Brothers” song “Jesus is Just Alright” I turned to a friend and asked her if she believed in God. She responded that “God is everything and everything is God”. Puzzled, I asked “how do you relate to a God who is everything?” “God is within you and me” she said “in order to know God you have to become more aware of yourself by meditating and becoming one with the universe within.” I began to encounter more of this type of language as I continued to search for God.

New Age thinking became more prevalent in literature, television, film and music. The “Star Wars” saga appeared and multiple generations were mesmerized by the power of “The Force.” Similar films like “Star Trek” , “The Matrix” and others exploited our fascination with discovering new realms of the physical and spiritual universe.

The “New Age” philosophy or religion finds its appeal by asserting that there are many ways to know truth or God. New Age adherents borrow from many religions to create their own. My college friend expressed views of monism (all is one) and pantheism (all is God) drawn from Hinduism. Is it possible that God, whom I know as the creator, created Himself into all things? Is anything that I learned from my school and church true? Apparently according to this reasoning my way of understanding God is just as relevant as hers. What was I to think about Jesus though?

In my youth I attended Catholic Mass and heard the Liturgy read in Latin and French and then finally English. In all languages it was a beautiful expression of spirituality that grabbed at my heart but left me with an empty lingering of incense. My friend mentioned she practiced meditation and mind control for spiritual enlightenment, which is borrowed from Buddhism. Perhaps I should search within to find God or at least a sense of His presence.

I justified my failure at this discipline by reasoning that if what she said was true it did not matter which method I used to approach God. I could invent my own way and it would be just as valid or perhaps just as futile. This idea of moral and ethical relativity was again borrowed from Chinese philosophy. Taoism is the teaching that all things are constantly changing in a process called Yin and Yang which means there are no absolutes. Is God an absolute?

If there are many ways to find God, why would Jesus die in the most agonizing way that He did? Why would Jesus bother to teach what he taught at all? In order to understand anything about God I would have to answer these questions and get to know Jesus.

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