Still reeling with the emotional and spiritual crater that exists after the latest series of mass shootings, I tried to steer clear from one of the mitigating forces of those inventions…the internet.
Well, that didn’t last long, as I soon found myself online and stumbling upon an online article from the Los Angeles Times. The title was too enticing to pass up: “How Millennials Replaced Religion with Astrology and Crystals.” It was exceptionally intriguing to me because I am now in the throes of an excellent commentary on the Book of Exodus.
Okay, so let’s review. I’m still vexed about the plethora of mass shootings, I read an online article about millennials rejecting “organized” religion and it all makes me think about the Old Testament account of the plagues of Egypt.
With me so far?
First off, I take umbrage to the term “organized” religion. If only the Church was the monolithic and in-control-of-itself juggernaut its biggest critics believe her to be. What the Church, thanks be to God, does possess that no other institution can claim is the Holy Spirit in the driver’s seat. And because of that saving grace, and despite the fractured earthly vessels that inhabit it, the Church has, does, and always will possess the truth.
Unfortunately for many, especially younger people, truth-seeking has taken a detour, as we see in a mainstream newspaper giving serious attention to people seeking spiritual enlightenment through geology.
It would be a mistake to consider the article in the Los Angeles Times regarding astrology and crystal-gazing as a harbinger of something new on the horizon. It is something quite old, and brings me to the commentary I’m reading on the second book of the Bible.
The Egyptians we find in the Book of Exodus had their own version of astrology and magic objects that they used to explain the way things were. Unlike their Hebrew slaves though, the magic and spiritual exercises of the ancient kingdom of the Nile developed to promote, protect, and perpetuate the social status quo. If you were a pharaoh in this life, you were a pharaoh in the next life — which only proves it’s good to be king…but little else.
So how is this the same thing as some Starbucks barista who comes home from a hard day of making caramel cloud macchiatos and seeks solace and inspiration by staring deeply into a rock, pretty and shiny as it might be?
It’s the same because, unlike those Hebrew slaves thousands of years ago, the religious and spiritual exercises being conducted by the modern-day coffee seller and the ancient member of the royal Egyptian household represent the worship of a god of their own design — a god who reinforces what they already believe and a god who “consecrates” what they are already doing. In the ancient world, the man-made god provided refortification for the social structure power grid. In our modern do-it-yourself version, it facilitates an unhealthy fixation on personal autonomy that crosses the border of narcissism with impunity.
“One of the big draws for younger people about spiritual practices is the ability to pick and choose… You can get a little into crystals or astrology or tarot, or a lot into it,” so says a “progressive Christian reverend” in the LA Times article.
And just as social media and the isolating aspects of the internet have played their role in shaping the sickness of deranged minds bent on mass murder, in its own way, the “new” spiritualism also prospers from the new technology. Most of the young people who are finding crystal-based spirituality of their own design do so on Instagram and Twitter
We recently witnessed, in gruesome detail, the results of troubled souls being fed hatred and evil ideas on the internet. According to the LA Times article, the internet is the same clearing house for many crystal-gazers, who find ideas that can visit upon them a different kind of violence…the kind that is lethal to souls.
Before Egyptian magicians tried to out-Penn and Teller Moses and Aaron on the banks of the Nile, people have tried to have God their way. But as Moses tended his flock, he heard a voice call to him from without and he followed. When Pharaoh and his magicians looked into the Nile, and when today’s crystal gazers peer into prisms of rock with mirror-like finishes, they see only reflections of themselves.
Robert Brennan is a weekly columnist for Angelus online and in print. His column Ad Rem won second place in the “Best regular column: Arts, leisure, culture, and food” category at the Catholic Press Awards in 2019. He has written for many Catholic publications, including National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor. He spent 25 years as a television writer, and is currently the Director of Communications for the Salvation Army California South Division.
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