Friday, August 13, 2010
Being a "Contemplative" and a "Mystic" Is "Satanic"?
I had posted some suggestions for American Literature books on a homeschooling forum several weeks ago, and someone posted today, claiming that a contemporary poet--and a dear friend of mine--was "New Age" and "satanic" and "occult" because of the words "contemplative" and "mystic"--I'm not sure where this person even unearthed these words; they certainly were not part of my original post which I posted merely to recommend some contemporary poetry readings for high school American literature.
This person linked the words "contemplative" and "mystic" to the "New Age" movement--which this person apparently believes is both "occult" and "satanic." I suppose that one can make that (mostly wrong) assumption, but to level such inflammatory accusations publicly on a Christian forum crosses the line--bounds across it, actually--in my opinion. If this person was curious, then why not e-mail me any questions privately? Why make public accusations, both regarding my friend and, indirectly, myself, as right here on my blog I refer to myself as both as a "contemplative Christian" and as a "mystic."
I think this poster who maligned my friend has such a narrow, "in the box" view of Christianity that it's just plain scary. It's the brand of Christianity that gives Christians such a bad name among non-Christians: judging others, labeling others, and mostly without adequate information to make such sweeping judgments. This kind of judgment both maddens and saddens me. Why are some Christians so willing, so eager, to draw lines in the sand and attempt to define what Christianity is and is not with sweeping generalizations and wildly out-of-context Scripture verses?
This person quoted from Genesis about Eve and the serpent...I don't understand why in the slightest when the context of the post was about New Age beliefs...in response to a poetry recommendation I made for a literature program. What?????
So yes, one can definitely be a "contemplative" and a "mystic" and a Christian. Just look to the past 2000 years of Christianity...oh, wait! Most evangelicals (not all, mind you) have no concept of Christian history...or at least of Christianity preceding 1517 and Martin Luther.
But there are modern Christian contemplatives--Eugene Peterson being one, Richard Foster another. I've also discovered much information about contemplation in the materials of The Navigators as well as in Charles Swindoll's little gem Intimacy with the Almighty. And there are many, many more out there, thankfully, among both evangelical Protestants and Catholics.
In 2006 I led a women's retreat for Lake Murray Community Church on contemplative spirituality, teaching the meditational mode of Lectio Divina ("Holy Reading") for meditating on Scripture, along with the spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence to help us to truly hear God in the midst of our busy lives, using almost exclusively Swindoll's book and materials from The Navigators who also teach Lectio.
Just because the meditation form of Lectio Divina was first formulated by catholic Christians (small "c" catholics, not necessarily Roman Catholics, but including them as we all were One Church for at least 1000 years before the schism with the East and 1500 years before there even was a Protestant Church) is no reason to ignore this valuable mode of meditating on God's Holy Word. If evangelicals kept to such standards, we Protestants wouldn't celebrate Communion because catholics did first, read and study Scripture because catholics did so first, etc. It's a ridiculous reason to disregard a fully Christian and Scriptural practice.
In fact, one of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 6:16: "Thus says the Lord: 'Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls'" (ESV). And there indeed we can find the rest in Him that our sould thirst for--this truth is the value of contemplative prayer and study, of allowing outselves to remain open to His mystical revelation through Scripture and prayer--of quieting our minds and listening to Christ Jesus our Lord.
Here is a secular definition of "contemplative" from the secular information site Wikipedia--and here's the secular definition of "Christian mysticism" from Wikipedia as well. There's nothing New Age about either of these terms--although mysticism can refer to many shades of religious practice but definitely includes traditional Christianity.
Thanks for allowing me to let off a little steam tonight after having to respond to what I consider an inflammatory attack by someone I don't even know regarding a dear friend and including myself, since this person was directly responding to a post I wrote that had nothing whatsoever to do with the subject at hand--which was the supposed to be the study of American poetry.
Signing off now, I hope in peace,
PS I found that this person who wrote these comments on this particular homeschooling forum took them from reviews of my friend's work. So my friend never penned these words; reviewers did. Even if my friend had called herself "contemplative" and "a mystic," I don't see why those labels should brand her as a "satanist" and "occultist." But she didn't. This person never read her work, never asked about my friend's faith and practice; this person leveled accusations and slander instead, based on the words of others taken waaaay out of context, rather than trusting my opinion of my friend, sister-in-Christ, and Christian mentor. I merely reiterated my experience of my friend's faith and wrote that I would not continue the conversation in public.