I have been working my way through Confronting the New Age: How to resist a growing religious movement, by Douglas Groothuis. It is a Christian perspective on New Age traditions and the growing influence of New Age on public spheres of life. He is critical of New Age and every other religion aside from Christianity (save maybe Judaism), as his beliefs are that salvation can only be gain through Christ. He covers a lot of ground in this book. It is organized and methodical. While I don’t agree with the majority of what he says, Groothuis raises some interesting points on the interaction of religions in America.
As far as criticism on New Age, Groothuis goes as far to say that New Age is of the Devil, (I suppose when your God is the only true god every other tradition must be of the Devil), “Yet they [New Age leaders] echo the deception of the serpent by teaching that we can save ourselves, that we need not cry out to God above and that we can heal the planet” (17-18). But in all his criticism, and there is much of it, Groothuis gives New Age the status of religion. This is a classification progressive academics are leery to assign to New Age. To be fair, many New Agers oppose the label of ‘religion’ for fear of the association with the patriarchy and hierarchy they identify and oppose in ‘world religions’. But New Age then is often passed over in discussions on religion and some gatherings spiritual in nature as it is somehow not a religion but a lesser spirituality.
But with the ‘religion’ label as the golden ticket, Groothuis brings New Age into the sphere of religion. Right on the front cover of his book he proclaims New Age as ‘a growing spiritual movement’. He also calls secular humanism a religion (146). Here he does this in a discussion on education and the question of what philosophies / beliefs should be present in public education. In this case, and in other spheres of life presented by Groothuis, it works to put New Age in the category of religion because it is then subject to the same restrictions as Christianity under the constitution. Christians then can easier say a New Age practice or ideology is against my religious beliefs because then you’re (supposedly) comparing apples to apples, rather than apples to oranges. Such restrictions would serve Groothuis’ agenda to eliminate or at least lessen the impact of New Age on American society.
It is not my hope to delineate where New Age belongs in the spiritual spectrum, under what label it to be categorized under. But to simply note the irony in Groothuis’ efforts to belittle and attack New Age, he actually manages to give it what some might consider the higher status of ‘religion’. It is almost comical that he has given New Age a status that many New Agers are reluctant to take on and religious academics are reluctant to assign considering the ‘world religion’ paradigm. As discussed, this label may make it easier for Christians like Groothuis to oppose New Age. Or perhaps his use of the term only illustrates the skewed understanding of this emic perspective.
Groothuis, Douglas. Confronting the New Age: How to resist a growing spiritual movement. 1988. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.