New Age Christianity
Norway is a constitutional monarchy without separation of Church and State. The constitution declares the “Evangelical-Lutheran religion” to be the State’s religion, and also requires the king to hold to and protect this religion. You can imagine, then, that when Princess Märtha Louise (who, had not law at the time of her birth favored males, would have been heir to the throne) decides to start up an independent school which will educate its students in such New Age concepts as healing, reading and contact with angels, by media dubbed “the angel school”, there’s gonna be some public discussion. When this occurs during summer—when there’s simply less news for the media to write about—it’s caused massive media coverage.
Reactions are varied, of course: a televangelist condemned her as being a demon from Hell; a range of people condemned her as a fraud and for immorally profitting from people’s spiritual needs (some of them hypocritically looking the other way when they, as employees of the State Church, do the same); a lot of people demanded that she withdraw her membership in Den Norske Kirke, the State Church; the Princess herself thinks that, had she lived some hundred years past, she would’ve been burned as a witch; and a lot of people, including Crown Princess Mette-Marit, spoke out in her defence.
As an atheist, this fight between religions is both amusing and depressing. In my eyes, Christianity and New Age-style healing, miracles, contact with angels and the like are all contestants on the same, irrational game field. Undeniably the man who stands in a pile of shit (or in this case, in a pile of irrational reasoning) sounds odd when he cries “Foul!” when catching the scent of a fellow equally submerged in stinky matter.
Are Christianity and New Ageism—in this case represented by alleged healing, reading and contact with angels—compatible? Could one coherently combine the two? I’m attempted to simply shrug it off by saying that both systems are incoherent in themselves, and those inconsistencies will not go away if you look at their product, but I’ve decided not to be quite so smug.
Angels certainly appear in the Bible. Jesus certainly does miracles in the Bible. But what are “readings” and “healings”, anyway? The website of Astarte Education, the real name of the “angel school”, has a helpful FAQ. They explain reading thus:
If someone tells you a story, your inner eye allows you to see all the people and the landscapes described in the tale. A reading is an extension of this way of seeing, but instead of obtaining the pictures from a story, you get them from another person. When we give a reading we use our fellow beings as mirrors. This means that the more insight we gain into another person, the greater the opportunity to work with ourselves and similar challenges in our own lives. With the help of the angels we can potentially release old habits, blockages, fears, cords etc., both within the other person and within ourselves. This may free us to act on our own impulses instead of in response to other people’s ingrained patterns and fears that we have always thought were our own.
I don’t remember ever reading or hearing of anything like this in Christian scripture, but I’ll admit that I’m not the most well-read theologian or biblical scholar (that’s possibly the understatement of the year: I’ve expressed the view that theology is the study of theologians’ imaginations, and I’m no kind of scholar at all). I’ll leave my usual opiniated writing hanging here and admit ignorance. Perhaps commenters have some real gems here. Might this be the contradiction of Christian
What’s healing, then? Awfully vaguely described, by the very same FAQ, it is this:
In essence, everything from the medicines that cure our illnesses to divine miracles involves healing. We at ASTARTE EDUCATION give you tools so that you may have the possibility of achieving balance in your body and the energies which it contains so that it can function at its maximum potential every day. Here, again, the angels will potentially help us.
So healing could be everything, really, that involves the improvement of health. I’ll applaud them on a nicer exit strategy than George W. Bush in case someone might criticize their efforts (say by demanding empirical evidence): surely no one would deny that there exist medicines that cure illnesses?
I think the Princess or whoever wrote the FAQ would make a nice politician, so easily slipping away from nasty questions by appearing to answer without really answering at all, but aside from that, I don’t feel I have a greater understanding of just what healing is.
I can’t see that divine miracles or medicine contradicts any usual understanding of Christianity; perhaps it’s the idea that angels can be called on a whim that enrages some Christians so? Or is it the idea of making money on what is holy (then how account for preachers of all flavors that make a living on their employment with some Church)? I don’t know.
Rather than conclude much on my own, I’ll open some questions: Does New Age religion like described above contradict Christianity? Whatever does healing really mean? And are Christians really entitled to criticize New Ageists for being ridiculous and irrational, given their own beliefs?
Tune in to the comment field for (hopefully) the answers to these and more questions, and possibly some ridicule of this article’s author.