Monday night PBS began a new series of motivational chats by the hilarious Wayne Dyer. This time he is going on about inspiration. And for $365.00 Dr. Dyer will send me a lovely assortment of books, CDs and bracelets to help me realize my divinity and thus stay inspired. My wife is not entirely supportive of my desire to send this bozo nearly four hundred dollars; I attribute this reluctance to the fact that my wife already recognizes my divinity, but I could be mistaken on that point. Maybe when she hears about the plastic bracelets she will be persuaded.
PBS fancies itself the television network for thoughtful, educated people who despise commercialism. The network still touts itself as commercial-free, which says something about the intelligence and thoughtfulness of its audience.
One of the things PBS does on a regular basis is bring in charlatans like Dyer to tell us we are “a piece of god” and charge us for some bric-a-brac that tells us so. I’d like to ask Dr. Dyer why, if I am divine, I have to watch his carny act to learn this truth. Wouldn’t a divine entity know it was a divine entity without having to watch PBS? I’d also like to ask him, if we are all bits of divinity, how come some of those bits of divinity align themselves with Al-Qaeda to blow up or cut the heads off other bits of divinity, and wouldn’t your time be better spent in earnest discussion with those bits of divinity? I’d like to ask him if he needs help scheduling a venue in the Sunni Triangle.
Apparently there is a down side to divinity he’s not telling us about.
We are emerging (I hope) out the back door of the Da Vinci Code obsession. One ought to ponder why there was such a fascination with it. If you read the book—and if you’re a regular reader of books—you will have noticed that the book was not well written. All the reports of the movie are that it was not at all well made. As for the gist of the Da Vinci Code itself, there were professionals from at least five different disciplines lining up to tell the world that the facts were laughably wrong. Art critics from several fields, museum curators, historians, theologians, philosophers and members of organizations implicated in the tale were trying to set the story straight.
So we ask ourselves, what accounts for the fascination? Here we have a poorly written, unconvincingly depicted set of known falsehoods pulling down millions of dollars—possibly even enough money to satisfy the appetites of someone as obsessed with spirituality as Dr. Wayne Dyer.
We have recently highlighted the deep thinkings of Pastor Fitch and Phil Keaggy. Now how we connect Fitch and Keaggy to Brown and Dyer and PBS might seem a stretch, but bear with me.
What we have here is a culture with a profound desire for delusion. PBS has delusions about its role in society, and its audience has delusions about the help PBS can provide in the life of the intellect. Dyer and his thoughtfully-nodding and tear-stained audiences embrace a delusion that is even more comical. Try pushing that nonsense with your colleagues in the office cafeteria and see how long it takes to get a table all to yourself.
Dan Brown has delusions about art, history, scholarship and sex, and his audience has delusions about religion, history, authority and sex. People will leap at the chance to accept a conspiracy theory as ridiculous as Brown’s and they will not bat an eye. They want to distrust religion, they want to distrust the church, they want to distrust Western culture, they want to have goddesses and priestesses. And they want more sex. They really want more sex. Oooooo, if they could only get more sex. For these and other reasons they flock to the feet of Dan Brown. It couldn’t have been for the good writing, it couldn’t have been for the historical facts he unearthed, it couldn’t have been for his insight into the arts, and it couldn’t have been for his understanding of Gnostic thought.
People cherish delusions. I know some guys who believe in UFOs; I’ve talked with them. They don’t have a single shred of evidence, they have a) reports and b) government denials. Reports and denials are all they require. Why?
We have pranksters like Mark Crispin Miller shepherding his little flock of wackos to believe George Bush stole the election, and when Miller can’t persuade even John Kerry, he accuses Kerry of “living in denial”. People can’t live with the knowledge that our democratic system is a farce, Miller says. Only Miller and his little bible study have the truth.
We have a whole Christian music industry based on delusions about what it is doing. Read the interview with the self-obsessed, self-absorbed, self-interested Phil Keaggy and ask yourself if you would tolerate that stupid arrogance in an apostle. Christians all over the country complain that traditional hymnody is just too inaccessible, too difficult to understand. Ok, fine; go see what they produce when they get enough money.
Pastor Fitch is distressed about lasers in worship. Think about it: God made laser light just as he made grenadilla, pernambuco, and spruce, three bits of creation we have used for centuries in worship. What is the difference? What is the reality that ought to concern us? What is the evil in technology? Is Fitch talking about a real thing here, or is he just another sorry clod trying to sound insightful? Is he, perhaps, deluded?
It seems to me we are looking at a phenomenon of eschatological proportions. Some preach delusions and others believe delusions. Implausible delusions! Politically, theologically, philosophically, aesthetically, culturally: there is no metaphysical dream, or, to quote Weaver:
Our ideas become convenient perceptions, and we accept contradiction because we no longer feel the necessity of relating thoughts to the metaphysical dream.
Now there are some who think the church is different. Conservative Christianity is holding the line.
Yes, that is a particularly comical delusion.
So, after about a century of devoted inattention to first things, some of us are beginning to notice the lowering clouds and are asking where we go from here. I’d like to suggest not an answer so much as a necessary precondition, an attitude to cultivate, an awareness to develop, and a perspective to give our children. Weaver speaks of a certain kind of outsider who has the hope of doing something:
There is another type of outsider, however, who may entertain hope of doing something about a culture that is weakening. He is a member of the culture who has to some degree estranged himself from it through study and reflection. He is like the savant in society; though in it, he is not wholly of it; he has acquired knowledge and developed habits of thought which enable him to see it in perspective and to gauge it. He has not lost the intuitive understanding which belongs to him as a member, but he has added something to that. A temporary alienation from his culture may be followed by an intense preoccupation with it, but on a more reflective level than that of the typical member.
But what can this person, who is not a paragon of the culture, but who finds himself profoundly stirred by its uneasy situation actually contribute? From his mixed position he can probably recognize the hostile or disruptive forces. Like the doctor again, he cannot make the object of his attention live, but he can combat those things which keep it from living. He can point out: this is a disease, this is a poison, this is a bad diet. If the inimical conditions are removed, and if there is true vitality, the sufferer should recover.
I’d like to suggest that the first step in doing something about a weakening religious culture is etiological. You can point out: this is diseased, this is poisonous, this is unhealthy.
Some may think we at Remonstrans are a tad too happy in pointing out the diseased, the poisonous and the unhealthy. I’m going to suggest that Weaver is correct, and that whether it is done by us or by someone else, this is where to begin.
We have the deluded all around us. They are as disparate in thought and in impact as Fitch and Dyer. We live and attend church (I can’t say worship) beside the deluded. Someone needs to start pointing out inimical conditions or we will continue to be at the mercy of hacks and wannabes who are unable to see anything in perspective, unable to gauge anything and unable to distinguish the truth from convenient perception.
I really wish that we could get together in some fashion some of our really key leadership and over the course of some time, and I'm talking here about allowing the time if necessary of numerous meetings and protracted discussions of--when we could really hammer out in general terms what we are unified around and as well as the issues that we are agreed we have to allow men to hold and we're still in fellowship with them and maybe that's the more important of the two topics.
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