Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
The New Age Movement and Entertainment
by Wilbur Bruinsma
A different spirit prevails in the world today as compared to, say, 40 years ago. Many who have lived through these years perhaps did not even notice the change. This is true because the change was gradual, and, more than these people realize, their own wold-and-life view has been shaped by the events that took place during these years. This can be said not only of the world in general but of the church in the world as well.
But what has happened to effect this great change?
The 1960s happened! Writes Kenneth A. Myers in his book on popular culture, entitled, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes, "Hell had been waiting in the wings for over a century; it finally broke loose in the 1960s." Young people, disillusioned with the threat of nuclear holocaust, social inequality, and the stale moralisms of an apostate church went to the streets in protest. There were the hippies who paraded with their peace signs, crying out for love. They rebelled against all establishment and sought their peace in hallucinogenic drugs such as marijuana and LSD. They embraced the Eastern mystical religions of Hinduism and Zen Buddhism. Other young people left their college campuses in marches and protests, some peaceful and others not so peaceful, in order to change the structure of society.
Few were left unscathed by the 1960s. The decade brought nothing short of a revolution in culture. And this change in popular culture was not simply a passing fad; it began a movement that has affected the course of history to the present day.
The counter-culture of the 1960s has given rise to a movement that was heralded then as the "Age of Aquarius". Today it is called the "New Age Movement." It is true that the hippies of the 1960s have cut their hair and taken off their peace signs. We do not today see the protests and marches that were so prevalent then. On the surface, things seem to have settled down. But the frightening fact is this: the young people of the sixties are now in control of our country and culture! This struck me when just recently I read in Time magazine an article describing the present lives of several individuals who were radical revolutionaries in the sixties. After serving prison terms one went on to become a sociologist and another a lawyer. This same generation which has rejected Christian values, spit on the Bible, and trampled God's law underfoot in the sixties is in charge of the media and entertainment today. But we will consider that in a moment.
First of all, we wish to consider what this New Age Movement is, and what it teaches.
In the 1960s and perhaps even more so in the 1970s, as in no prior time in history, there was a synthesis of Eastern and Western mysticism. The mysticism of the Eastern religions of Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, and Chinese Taoism was blended together with the radical occultism of Western mysticism. Given the well-fertilized seedbed of humanism, the fundamental teachings of mysticism have taken solid root in our country and culture - and even in the world. This is the New Age Movement!
The Movement of which we speak is not an organization. It is not an institution that can be identified with any certain building. It is, rather, a new world-and-life view that has been adopted by the general population of our country and world. It is a new way of thinking, a way not at all shaped by the norms of God's Word or governed by the morals set forth in the Scriptures, but a way of thinking that is directly opposed to the God and the Christ of the Scriptures. In other words, the New Age Movement is nothing else than the "spirit of antichrist". It is the force which Paul in II Thessalonians 2:7 identifies as "the mystery of iniquity." The New Age Movement is a humanistic philosophy that more and more prevails in our society. And it has tentacles reaching out into every sphere of life. Satan has gone out to deceive the nations! This is the New Age Movement.
Why is it called the New Age Movement? Because those who consciously adhere to its teachings believe that our world is headed toward a New Age - an age in which all the social, economic, and medical problems of our world will be solved. It will be an age of perfect peace and happiness, an age in which man will have finally achieved for himself perfection. It will be an age in which man will have discovered his full human potential and will control his own destiny. It is not difficult to recognize that "new age" after which our world strives, is it? It is the age of Antichrist. And the movement so influential in our world today is that which will eventually usher in that New Age.
But what are the fundamental teachings of the New Age that have become the order of the day? All the errors of this godless movement flow out of one basic claim that the New Ager makes: man is God. But this view of man is more than simple humanism. At root it is pantheism. All of the universe and every life form in it is God, the New Age proponent declares. There is in everything living a certain life-force, a certain innate power, that is itself God. And as much as every creature partakes of this life-force, be it plant, animal, man, or some extra-terrestrial being, that creature is God. This life-force in man is what makes us God too.
The human species has finally evolved to that point where it understands this about itself. But the vast majority of men and women have not yet discovered how to tap into that higher life-force in them and find their divinity. This life-force in us can be found only in an altered state of mind, a higher consciousness of self. This is true because that life-force in us is pure intuition and feeling. Our godhead can be discovered only when, in a trance-like state, we tune into our true inner feelings. When we are in that state we can attain knowledge without the need of reasoning. We feel knowledge, because we have tapped into the life-force of nature, which is God.
Now, I realize that this may sound a bit bizarre and unbelievable. But the truth is that there are many today who in fact believe this is true of man. And they set themselves to the task of discovering that higher self, that altered state of consciousness, through various means. Meditation is the most popular. Drugs have been used. Yoga is a trigger. Fantasy, visualization, guided imagery, biofeedback, and so on - all are means by which we can trigger a trance-like state and get in touch with our godhead.
If we can do this, the New Age optimist declares, then we can achieve anything we desire. We can discover in ourselves all the happiness, joy, and peace we need in this world. If we can "feel" knowledge, then we can discover unlimited human potential. If I feel that I can jump 30 feet, and if I concentrate or meditate for a time on that feeling, then I can jump thirty feet. If I feel myself attacking the cancer cells that have pervaded my body, then I can cure myself from disease. All we are and all we need is to be found in ourselves, in the life-force within us. We are God.
It is for this very reason that many who are involved in the New Age are also involved in occultism. They become involved in what we call white, or black, magic. We ought to be fully aware of this whole aspect of the New Age Movement. It has had the greatest impact on television and music - especially, believe it or not, cartoons. The occultist believes that man can acquire this hidden potential which he possesses by means of incantations, spells, enchantments, necromancy (calling upon the dead), witchcraft, sorcery, contacting spirits (good or evil), or speaking with beings of another dimension, world, or time. These sins are clearly condemned by the Scriptures (Deut. 18:9-14). They are also condemned by our form for the administration of the Lord's Supper, in the part dealing with those who must keep themselves from the table of the Lord. (Our form certainly is not outdated!) Though condemned by God, these very sins are propagated by the New Age Movement as a way to discover unlimited power and happiness in life! And the vast majority of the people of our world have accepted them! Statistics show that about 70% of the people of the United States believe in this in one way or another!
A second error of the New Age religion is that there is no objective right or wrong. This is inherent in the teaching that man is God. If I am God, then I determine for myself - not for another, mind you, but for myself - what is right and wrong. Others have to discover what is right and wrong for themselves. I may not stand in judgment of what they do. What is right for them is right for them, and what is right for me is right for me. This is the teaching of the Eastern religion called Taoism. Life is made up of yin and yang (maybe you have seen the symbol on shirts or jewelry). Everything consists of opposites. If there is light, it exists in relation to darkness. The male cannot exist without the female, benevolence cannot exist without malevolence. And so we could continue. What we might consider right and what we might consider wrong are simply two poles of one reality. Both are necessary. Wrong is right and right is wrong.
This God-defying philosophy has spread like wildfire in our society. God declares (Is. 5:20, 21), "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" Despite this Word of God the world does exactly that. Abortion - pro-choice: one can decide for herself if it's right for her or wrong for her. God's command, "Thou shalt not kill," is not determinative. Euthanasia: same thing. Fornication: if it feels good, do it. It is up to the individual. No one may impose his will on another. It is narrow-minded and bigoted to condemn another for what he feels is right for himself. Homosexuality: it's not for me, but if you like it, then who am I to condemn you? I accept you for who you are. Religion: believe what you want to believe, we are all going to get to heaven anyway. And so the list goes on. Do what is right in your own eyes. That is what the New Age teaches.
The result of these two basic errors (and there are many others) is that the New Age promotes instant self-gratification. Man is of the essence. What he feels is truth.
How does this translate into the concrete? Whatever you feel to be good for you at the moment, do it! Do you want money now? Go to Action 24 at Old Kent Bank and get it. Do you want that new dress now, but do not have the money? Charge it on one of your 15 credit cards. Is it two thirty in the morning and you have a craving for a snack? Go to a 24-hour food store and buy it now. Are you interested in the classic Huckleberry Finn? Why spend a day reading the book? Go to the local video store and rent it and watch the story in two hours. Why strain the brain, if you can be entertained?
That is the society in which we live - one that is influenced by New Age thought. I, I, I. What I want ... and now. "Get it your way, right away, at Burger King." "You only go around once in life, so grab for all the gusto you can get." Or, if it is shoes rather than beer, "Just do it!" "You deserve a break today, so get up and get away, to McDonalds." "I think I am going to color my hair. Why? Because I'm worth it!"
That is the teaching of the New Age Movement in a nutshell. Man is God. Man and what he feels, therefore, is everything. God and His laws are nothing. Man does everything for himself and his enjoyment.
The media and entertainment industries have become big business, and are a powerful means of shaping the thinking of our present society. This is true because the tools which these industries use, those of radio and television, are, without a doubt, the most popular form of leisure and recreation in the 1990s. This can be said not only of the generation of the 90s in general, but of the church of the 90s as well.
This was not always the case. Though many of the older generation had a radio in their homes since their childhood, their listening pleasure was limited. The church then frowned upon the use of radio because it was thought to be a tool of the devil. But those days are apparently long gone. And that is not all bad, since the sin was never in the thing as such. But is it not true that much that is aired on radio today is inappropriate for the sanctified listener? Yet, despite this fact, many members of the church today do not exercise the discernment necessary in the use of it.
And I am thinking not only of radio, of course, but also of television. The latter has in fact long ago displaced radio as the popular means of home entertainment. By the 1970s it was a rare home that did not boast at least one TV set. And again, though the television set in itself is not sin, nevertheless, there is precious little discernment exercised even in "Christian" homes.
Many young Christians have been so conditioned to television and radio from childhood, and that almost every program on them is accepted without question as a legitimate form of entertainment. After all, radio and television have been accepted by several generations of believers already. Our parents and grandparents have enjoyed the radio, and the television has for the most part always been accepted in our homes as well. What could be so wrong with the entertainment we find on them?
Despite the solemn warnings given by the church on this subject through the years, the vast majority of parents in the church today, along with young people and children, watch TV and movies. Some parents even go so far as to rent movies in order that their children can have video parties in their homes with their blessings. Every television program is allowable, even for the littlest of children. And if these parents are told from the pulpit that this is sin, they either become defensive or shrug it off as the personal opinion of the minister. These parents do not even worry about the question of whether drama is a legitimate art form or not. That question has already been answered for them by their own parents who have allowed drama into the home. Instead, today's parents have gone one step farther and do not even monitor what is being watched on television. With the advent of the VCR they even watch movies that according to the world's wicked standards are unacceptable for viewing. And as a result their children are offered as sacrifice to the gods of the heathen.
Here is something new to think about with respect to both television and radio: these have become the chief means of spreading New Age thinking. The drama, the talk shows, and even the news reports are influenced, for the most part, by New Age ideals. Writers, producers, and directors of television programs have become obsessed with the "para-normal." Many programs on television alone, aside from the movies now playing in the theater, are saturated with the occult, something which God's Word condemns out of hand. Scanning the TV reviews I see such programs as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Star Trek: The Next Generation (top on the viewer ratings); Highlanders; Raven; Quantum Leap; Sightings; Superman; and Kung Fu. This season there is a whole new wave of these programs: Babylon 5; Tek War; Time Trax; the X-Files; Sea Quest; and probably more. Most of these programs are aired at a time when all of the family, young and old alike, can enjoy them.
But what about cartoons? What about television for little people? All under the guise of good, our children are fed by the entertainment industry a steady diet of: Care Bears, Smurfs, Rainbow Brite, and My Little Pony - all programs that stress the occult: magic, incantations, spells, and the power of man. There are also available such animated features as: Transformers, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra, Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers. All these blatantly teach the power of the occult, even Satan worship, using all the symbols of occult worship.
But, you may say, my children and I are ignorant of all of this nonsense that the wicked attempt to teach us. Surely, then, it does not influence us if we do not recognize any of it! Ah, but it does influence us. Especially is this true of the impressionable minds of little children who believe everything they watch. If our families are avid TV viewers, then we with our children have been exposed to much of the relativism, humanism, and self-gratification of New Age thought. Maybe we have even seen our children imitating some of the atrocities they view on television. If this is happening in our families, then New Age proponents are accomplishing exactly what they have set out to do: persuade the younger generation to turn from God and the objective rule of His Word for their lives, and to follow after man and His own values of right and wrong.
In addition to those programs that overtly teach the occult and Satan worship, there are many others which promote the relativistic world-and-life view of the New Age: nothing is to be condemned. Bill Cosby - good program? What are the interests and goals of this television family?
Are they compatible with the aspirations of a Christian family? Is the ungodly music and the dancing on it acceptable too? Murphy Brown - there is nothing wrong with becoming pregnant and having a baby out of wedlock? Are swearing, murder, fornication, and rebellion against authority (all of which can be seen in almost every television program) no longer violations of the laws of God? There are movies made for TV introducing homosexual characters and presenting them as the average, acceptable next door neighbor. These same programs condemn as narrow-minded bigots those who oppose such sins. There are movies which play so effectively upon the sympathies of their viewers that by the end of the program those viewers are fully persuaded that a particular woman did right by having an abortion. Comedies spoof those who remain virgins until marriage, mocking religion and the laws of God. Talk shows and the media are quick to condemn any person who takes a strong stand against abortion or homosexuality, especially if this is on the basis of biblical truth. There is no more right and wrong. That is the New Age ideal, certainly not the faith of the Christian.
Ah, but we know better. We can stand against all this. We see it, but we do not allow it to influence us. Do our little children see it when they are watching TV? And do our junior high students see it, especially if they have watched TV from infancy on? Television conditions, or programs, people. When we are constantly exposed to the themes of the New Age movement, our opinions are being shaped and our feelings conditioned. The result is that our reason may tell us something is wrong, but our feelings are now telling us that it is right. It is repeated over and over again on television and in the movies: if it feels right, then it is right; so do it! This is in part the reason some young people (and adults too) enjoy their drinking parties and fornication despite what they have been taught by parents and church. Do not underestimate the danger of television and movies! New Age advocates know of the power the television has, and they use it to their advantage. We must be aware of this!
Music, too, has developed since we were children; from the relatively innocent tunes of Doris Day, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra, to the rock and roll of Elvis Presley, to the music revolution of the Beatles, and so on. Today we have heavy metal music. I do not even call that music anymore. It is really noise that charades as music. From my reading I understand that there are three types of heavy metal music: Party metal, Trash metal, and Black metal. The last of these is purely Satanic, calling upon Satan for power to commit the most heinous of sins, even the killing of God and the eradication of Christianity. Trash metal is obsessed with killing and suicide. It urges its listeners to show their hatred toward parents and those in authority by murdering them. Party metal singers enjoy screaming about sex, drugs, partying, and living for today. All heavy metal music is to be condemned out of hand. It is evil. All who listen to it are sinning outrightly and ought to be disciplined for it.
But there is other music out there too. It was prevalent in the sixties and the seventies and is still heard today, songs which boast in the Age of Aquarius and imagine a kingdom of man without God. "There's a Whole New World and "There's a Hero Inside of You" are a couple of recent examples.
Then there are also popular songs, both country and pop, that glamorize the sins of fornication and adultery. In these instances they teach us to follow our feelings. And all the while we listen to these songs we are being conditioned once again to accept the things that are sung about. Now, the latest: combine music with the movie. Pay attention once to the background music when listening to a simple program on TV, and determine whether it is good or bad. Most of it, on commercials and children's TV programs, is heavy metal. Ought Christians to listen to this? Can we really convince ourselves that it has no effect on us or on our children?
New Age influence even reaches beyond television and radio. There are toy stores filled with every toy imaginable to entertain our young. There are toys that teach occult practices to little children. There are toys that are out to make that which is ugly and evil beautiful and good. For older children and young people there are video games available, inside the home and out, which actually teach them to fight and kill. There are even mind-altering video games such as "Dungeons and Dragons," readily available for use by one of any age. All these are but a few of the many items of entertainment monopolized by the New Age Movement. Let the child of God beware!
Allow me to issue an urgent warning. There is nothing wrong with entertainment. Solomon tells us that God has given us the things of this world to enjoy. Neither am I an ascetic who wants to take away all pleasure from a person's life. I enjoy having a good time with my family and the people of God. But my study of the New Age has caused me to re-evaluate my own life and the life of the church in light of God's Word. Especially is this true of what we do for recreation and entertainment. Jesus asks a probing question in Luke 18:8: "Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" The influence of the New Age Movement is no little challenge which we face. This movement has its grip on our society, and even now it reaches out to strangle the faith of God's people in this world. We may not simply go along with the fun and entertainment of this world because it feels good. We must judge it according to the objective standard of the Word of God. We must follow what God tells us is right and wrong, and put far from us everything that would violate His Word and commands. We cannot stand in our own strength against Satan and this mighty movement to establish the kingdom of man. We must constantly equip ourselves with the Word of God. We must study it diligently at every opportunity. It will give us the necessary knowledge to stand in these latter days.
And we must pray fervently, that God sanctify not only our thoughts but also our feelings, in order that what we feel is in line with what we believe. Then we can be assured that through Christ we will receive the victory over our enemies. Not even the gates of hell can prevail against the church of Christ, the elect of God.
There are two passages of God's Word which ought to guide us in the entertainment we enjoy. The first is Isaiah 5:20: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness." The second passage is the one Paul gives us in the last verse of Romans 1: "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which do such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."
God give us the grace to stand against the New Age Movement!
This speech is the substance of the September 1993 meeting of the Eastern League of Men's and Ladies' Societies, where Rev. Bruinsma spoke on The New Age Movement and Entertainment. Wilbur Bruinsma is the pastor of the Kalamazoo, Michigan Protestant Reformed Church, and one of the founding members of the annual meeting of the Heidelberg Reformation Association in Bedford, Pennsylvania.