I am reading a most fascinating socio-religious assessment that rings true to me on many levels. The title of the book is Entertainment Theology by Barry Taylor, and the author suggests that we are in the midst of a nascent, barely perceptible new religious institution in the making. Yes, institution.
It is easy today to observe the huge Catholic Church or Muslim Community, each claiming over one billion adherents; but there was a time centuries ago when each was growing incrementally and would not have been seen for what they would eventually become. Taylor suggests that a new religious movement is growing up around us right now, a whole new organization is forming one little cell at a time which will become a sort of global equivalent to the Catholic Vatican or Muslim Caliphate.
Most of us can't see it because this new movement is not overtly religious, not local, not limited to one culture nor using the usual forms and content of the standard religions. Ideas and forms from all religions and no religions are being utilized. Taylor sees the media as eventually becoming the main pulpit/classroom for teaching the new spiritual ideas. The current sessions with Oprah and Eckhart Tolle foreshadow this new edge approach. The other day, while waiting at a bus stop, I saw a guy reading Tolle’s book, The New Earth. People who have never been to church are tuning into the internet sessions to hear Oprah speak with Tolle about the role of ego in mental suffering.
Mike Meyer's new movie, The Love Guru, was inspired by his attendance at a Depak Chopra seminar after Meyer's father died - and Meyers now values Chopra's teachings, enough to veil the spiritual truths he has adopted in his whacky brand of comedy. Comedian Jim Carrey has become a very strong advocate for a spiritual approach, using comedy to teach universal truths. See Jim Carrey's Secret: Less Prozac, More God By Todd Peterson
A 2005 Barna Research Project Confirms This:
"The reshaping of Americans’ lives is evident in various facets of their life, including the spiritual dimension. A new nationwide survey conducted by The Barna Group indicates that while 56% of adults attend church services in a typical month, a much larger percentage is exposed to religious information and experiences through various forms of media. Radio and television are the most popular Christian media, but faith-related Internet sites as well as religious magazines, newspapers and books also enjoy significant exposure. Although these religious media are a supplement to a church experience for most people, millions of individuals rely upon one or more of these media as their primary source of spiritual input."
I AM SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS
There has never been a time in human history when there has not been some sort of mainstream religious organization. Many people today like to say they are ‘spiritual but not religious.’ I fully understand this phrase, yet what it really means, when translated, is “I don’t like any of the narrow, boring organized religious groups I have experienced or stereotyped so far.”
Humans organize. That is what we do. As long as there is the spiritual impulse, we will create organizations with places, principles and people to facilitate helpful spiritual experiences. In the emerging paradigm, such experiences are increasingly being mediated via movie theatres, the internet, concerts and other such events. Eclectic spiritual media teachers are gradually rivalling television evangelists. People like Wayne Dyer, if not replacing, are reaching as many as Billy Graham once did.
Aldous Huxley touched on the future need for focusing on the universal basics of the spiritual life in his book, The Perennial Philosophy, where he enumerated the fundamental global religious truths. We might call this the emerging ‘New Fundamentalism’. Fundamental means foundational. It is a beneficial word when seen in context. It is time to develop a religion which captures the foundational spiritual truths for all humans.
We are in the midst of a religious birthing. We are on the edge of something powerful. It has the potential to become very beneficial, or very evil, as with all religious movements. Many will oppose it as the one world church predicted in the Book of Revelation; others will see it as the universal spiritual body predicted by Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Many will not even notice it since the shift is so subtle. Others will perceive it, adopt the universal principles of spirituality, and find creative and personally unique ways to spread the experience of Spirit wherever they are. These people may or may not currently be in traditional churches which will not be going away anytime soon. In fact, the traditional religions will play a huge role in birthing this new religious order, just as Greco-Roman paganism played a huge role in assisting the nascent Christ movement.
The biggest challenge in this new religious movement will be to find personal connection with other people. The media and internet cannot replace the interface of human spirits face to face, eye to eye. Perhaps movie theatres will one day add Conversation Rooms with a Starbucks to their buildings where people can meet after a movie and discuss it, or hear someone speak about it.