Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the Bend Oregon Bulletin, December 13, 2005, with the headline: “Metro-spirituals. This holiday season you can be trendy and spiritual just by flashing the cash. For example, you can buy chocolate deities such as Buddha, the Sacred Heart, Ganesh, Akuaba, and Kokopelli, sweet icons crafted and hand-painted by family chocolatiers from Fair Trade Chocolate. Place them on your home altar, or eat them as an offering to the deity. Chocolate deities are a facet of metro-spirituality, an evolution of American spirituality. Provocative and controversial, this is hipster-style worship, a fusion of status, money, luxury, and spirituality—hippie values for yuppie pocketbooks.
The holy trinity of metro-spirituality is simple: Honoring the planet, healing yourself through optimal well-being, and exploring other cultures. Many discard metro-spirituality as just a confused syncretism of bewildered baby-boomers.
‘Metro-spiritual customers are definitely seekers, but not of a religion,’ notes one marketer of the various hip spiritual items. ‘I call my business “Source,” because I help people become their own source of their universe, “source” as in creation. Whenever they are in their consciousness, I work with them.’
At a Denver furniture store, metro-spirituality is obvious. Customer-designed furniture from beds to kitchens featuring scavenged architectural objects, many of sacred origin. But some practitioners of Asian religions are indignant when their sacred objects are used for trendy design.”
Tom: Dave, I remember as a young Christian, as I read through the Old Testament specifically, I used to think, “How can these Jews get into idol worship?” It didn’t make sense to me how they could be drawn or attracted to these things. And then I think about our modern era, if you want to call it that, today, our society. Most people are educated, you’d think bright enough—they’re not going to fall for idolatry. But wow! Dave, these are the last days. We are overwhelmed by this stuff. I mean, when you get your spirituality from the local department store or from—you’re at the mall and you can go home with all of these idols and trinkets, set them up in your house… Now, should we be opposed to eating chocolate deities? I don’t know about that one. But this is—you don’t know whether to laugh or cry about this. This is really something else.
Dave: Well Tom, I don’t know where you pick these things up, but…
Tom: Hey, wait a minute, Dave! I didn’t have to go far. This was printed in our Bend Bulletin newspaper, but it came from the Denver Post. It was one of their stories.
Dave: Mm-hmm. Well, I wonder why The Bend Bulletin picked it up?
Tom: Well, it’s what’s happening. I mean, that’s the frightening thing.
Dave: Yeah, right. I guess this is news. Well, Tom, number one: what is this about? I’m afraid this is about money. Somebody sat down and thought, “Hmm, how can I come up with some new way to sell chocolates, especially during the so-called Christmas season?”
Tom: Oh, we don’t say that anymore, Dave. It’s the “holiday season.”
Dave: Oh, right.
Tom: And there are a diversity of things that we can celebrate during this time.
Dave: Yes, thank you for bringing me up to date. So whoever came up with this idea—this is Fair Trade Chocolates Company, I guess—they were not interested in spirituality, obviously. They’re not interested in truth; they’re not interested in God. What they want to do is somehow cater to the largest number of people in selling their chocolates. Now, how they got the idea that somebody would want to eat their deity, Tom, now that is bizarre!
Tom: Hold on a minute, Dave. I did that for almost 30 years.
Dave: That’s right. You ate Jesus Christ. It is very difficult to get a Catholic to understand that by receiving Christ into one’s heart by faith, you know, believing that He paid the full penalty for your sins; you receive Him as your Lord and Savior, trust Him—He promised eternal life if you will do that. The payment He made for sin is credited to your account then. Pretty hard to get Catholics to believe that when they’ve been taught that they must ingest Jesus into their stomach, and that their priests have the magic power, supernatural power, to turn this little wafer into the body of Christ, to turn the wine into the blood of Christ that they must ingest it.
So anyway, the Fair Trade Chocolate Company, they’re very ecumenical. They’re not just making one deity that they happen to believe in. Obviously they don’t believe in any of these, but take your pick. You want Ganesh, the half-man, half-elephant god of…
Tom: It’s going to be a big chocolate, Dave. A big one!
Dave: Could be, yeah.
Tom: Now, Dave, also they included the Sacred Heart, so there would be something for Roman Catholics, and they shouldn’t have any problem with that. But you know, to me, the sad thing of all of this is it’s not a game. Yes, it’s for money, and people are marketing these things for money, but the people who are buying it, the customers, they think there is some kind of spirituality related to it. And it doesn’t make any difference: “Hey, if it works for this tribe over in South Africa, if it’s Santeria, Orisha gods, or whatever it might be, there must be something in it. Let’s add it to the baggage, let’s bring it home, let’s put it on our shelves. Let’s put it on our altars, whatever.”
Dave: Yeah, well, they call it “metro-spirituality”—that’s a new term—and they say it has a holy trinity honoring the planet, healing yourself through optimal well-being (well, I don’t know about this eating chocolate for optimal well-being, although it does strengthen your immune system, but then I think you’ve got some other ingredients in there that are working against that), and exploring other cultures. So I guess some people would think, “Well, this is a great way to explore other cultures. I’ll get a chocolate Buddha, and a chocolate Ganesh, a chocolate Sacred Heart, and so forth.”
I’d be curious, Tom, to know how well the idea came across with the public, how many people are actually buying these chocolates. It must cost a little extra.
Tom: Dave, for these metro-spirituals, as they’re called, it’s not just chocolate deities, it’s whatever objects that seem to have some spirituality. Let’s redecorate our home, let’s go feng shui, let’s really get into this whole spiritual realm.
And my favorite line in this article is this marketer of these things says, “I call my business ‘Source’ because I help people become their own source of their universe—source as in ‘creation.’ Whenever they’re in their consciousness I work with them.” Come on, Dave, I don’t think they’re conscious of what they’re doing, but somehow this consciousness is a spiritual realm.
Dave: So, Tom, we’re back to the old lie of the serpent in the Garden. “You can be a little god. You can create your own universe.” That anyone could believe that, Tom, it’s just beyond comprehension. And we were talking about it when we were off the air—I used to think that 2 Thessalonians:2:8-10, in there, where it says, “For this cause God will send them a strong delusion to believe the lie,” that is because they refuse to believe the truth. I used to think that that came after the Rapture, but I don’t know how else you could explain what’s happening in our world around us today.
Dave: There seems to be a strong delusion, and it is getting stronger and roping in more and more people, even people who call themselves Christians.
Tom: I think it’s the stage setting phase of strong delusion, Dave, without a doubt.