Christianity's Trip to the East |

TBC Staff

The 1960s and ’70s was a time of great transition for Western …Sadly in our view, America led the way down that slippery slope. Social mores and long-held religious tenets were challenged and often discarded by young people, which raised the eyebrows of former generations and truly frightened many parents….Seemingly out of nowhere, the young were introduced to drugs and radical ideas that had been largely unknown and unsampled in earlier generations….Behind the “love” part of the slogan was a push for unrestrained sexual freedom, which was nothing less than casting off deeply rooted moral standards and religious beliefs. “Let it all hang out” – and it did. It hung out and fell off—many of the young left God and His word in the dust.

Many kids “caught” this radicalism at their universities, and it was taught to them by their professors who had themselves been brainwashed by others....Alongside the political and immorality awakening, religious experimentation was a growth industry. Eastern mysticism had first made its way to the United States in 1893 when Swami Vivekananda arrived and spoke at the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. Still, Hinduism mostly played a very minor role in American life until the 1960s. 

Also, in the 1960s, the “British Invasion” brought the Beatles to the United States….they too went on a spiritual search [crossing] paths with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and together they spread Yoga and Eastern meditation, wildly popularizing Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation.

As Yoga and Eastern meditation were becoming more mainstream, George Lucas produced a blockbuster film in 1977 that captured the attention of millions, titled Star Wars! The film was a sort of “space western” permeated with Eastern mysticism. 

As Watchman Fellowship shows in their “A Brief Timeline of the New Age Movement," the New Age actually had its start in the 1840s. However, it was not widely embraced, at least not until the college students to whom it was introduced in the 1960s began moving into leadership positions in the 1970s and 80s.

In “Thomas Merton: The Contemplative Dark Thread" “(MCOI Journal, Fall 2006), Jackie Alnor wrote: "But now in the decade of the ’00s, the latest craze in the church today—known as the Emergent Church/Conversation (EC)—is bringing a revival of Mysticism into Evangelicalism. These EC leaders write books quoting the very Mystics—like Huxley—who in the past sought God in all the wrong places. These books point Christians to the mystical practice of what is called “contemplative/centering prayer” that was popularized by one of Huxley’s contemporaries—the late Thomas Merton (1915-1968). Merton was a Roman Catholic Trappist monk and….a prolific writer who coined the term “centering prayer” to de­scribe the style of mind-emptying meditation that seeks to empty oneself and lose oneself into the void he interchangeably calls “the life of the spirit” and Nirvana."

The Emergent leaders – Doug Pagett, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and others – embraced Eastern (New Age) mysticism, contemplative prayer, Yoga, etc., and walked it right down the aisle of the church. 

In addition to being enamored with the work of Roman Catholic Trappist Monk Thomas Merton, the Emerging leaders began reading and embracing the writings and ideas of Franciscan Monk, Richard Rohr. In the early 2000s, Aaron Niequist moved from Rob Bell’s Mars Hill Church and joined Willow Creek Community Church as the worship leader. Shortly after taking the position, he announced on his personal page how much reading Richard Rohr’s books had transformed his understanding of the Christian faith. Indeed, it would.

Since the early 2000s, Yoga, Eastern Contemplative Prayer, and Mindfulness practices have made their way through evangelical churches, aided by well-regarded and popular pastors, elders, and individual Christians who were believed to be trustworthy. It has become a vicious circle. Many of these leaders, pastors, Christian organizations, and Christian writers were graduates of evangelical Bible colleges and seminaries whose teachers had already been infected with New Age thinking and enthusiastically taught eastern mysticism to these future evangelical leaders. 

The Apostle Paul was very concerned that false teachers and teachings were finding their way into the early church of his day. He did not have much longer to live, and he implored the pastors and elders to guard the flock that was in their care: Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained  with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert (Acts:20:28-31)

People who often read our blogs may think we are “beating a dead horse” by quoting this verse so often. But the church is NOT DEAD – it is just in grave danger.