Many years ago when I was a young child in rural Ohio, I learned a song in Sunday School. Thanks to the wonders of 21st century technology, I can share that song with ease:
I think there have been some verses added since I was a kid, but the general song remains the same.
I thought of this song earlier this week when I read an article in The Atlantic that should make honest New Thought leaders stop and think about how they want to portray (& market) the tenets of their message.
The article, titled “The American Health Care Act’s Prosperity Gospel” highlights an evangelical perspective that inches very close to some of the most core teachings in religious science/New Thought.
“…[the] close association of morality and health, with the idea that “good lives” produce good health, is just a recasting of the prosperity gospel.”
And it’s not a popular position to take as millions of the most vulnerable in the United States are facing a health care crisis of immense proportions.
“Well, we’re certainly not evangelicals!”
Centers for Spiritual Living ministers and practitioners may know that they’re not evangelicals; but their message might be hard to parse from the religious right as they ALSO teach that right thinking is the answer to all of life’s ills and problems.
That’s not much of a departure from the evangelical prosperity gospel proponents who “…[reject] the role of science in public health and [encourage] a view that faith, virtue, and good works could be enough to secure healing.” (from The Atlantic article linked above)
The current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue rose to power on a message that grew out of a platform that is closely linked to this ill-begotten thinking: that “…if you’re still a wreck, that’s your fault.”
This is not far from a lot of the teachings in metaphysical churches today. While the Trinity is not preached, consciousness is. I need more than 2 hands to count the number of times I have heard or been told that the problem at hand could be fixed if I (or the person with the problem) had the right consciousness.
“It’s all consciousness. If you get your consciousness straight, your problem will resolve itself” [response by a leader in a national New Thought organization when presented with facts about a situation]
And that, friends, sounds an awful lot like the prosperity gospel that is slipping out of GOP mouths as they talk about people and healthcare:
“[The AHCA] will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool,” Brooks claimed. “That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people—who’ve done things the right way—that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.” [GOP Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL)]
I still believe that there’s a lot of good that New Thought and metaphysical organizations can do in the world, but it’s going to be lost in the backlash to the Trump agenda if the leadership isn’t strong enough to make some changes and soon.
The sad part, and what I fear will be lost in the backlash, is that there’s a definite benefit to thinking positive, looking for the good in situations, and taking action in the direction of our goals. The problem lies in the fact that sometimes bad things happen to good people. And when we teach people that these bad things only happen to bad people (or people who just can’t get their consciousness in order), we aren’t helping anyone. In fact, we are doing more harm than good.
I wrote about this earlier in a blog on Emerson, where I explored the lack of critical inquiry into his life and perspective in the religious science community while they held him up as a model in a spiritual tradition based in large part on his teachings.
I firmly and strongly believe that most New Thought teachers want to help people. It’s time for them to step back and reexamine the foundations of the movement they are aligned with, and to take bold steps forward to preserve the good that is found in New Thought, and perhaps most importantly – to acknowledge that there have been some poorly-constructed theories passed on for generations that need to be revised, or discarded.
It’s not too late, but change of this magnitude requires a strength that not everyone has for the task at hand. Only time will tell.