Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ghosts...and the Ego Boom

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

Satan and his infernal army do not just attack individuals, but they seek to corrupt and destroy cultures.
Think of the many societies, past and present, where ancestor worship was ensconced…There has been a confluence of mind-shifts in our culture recently that have re-shaped the spiritual landscape. You have probably heard about the frog in the pot, well, it is true in more ways than one. It is difficult to step outside of the culture we live in every day and critique it—but that is what I think we need to do. I want to focus on just one, and how it has contributed to the rise of spiritism—I am referring to the ego-boom or mass narcissism that is all around us…like boiling water.

I finished a book today entitled The Ego Boom, by Maich and George, and it clarified another stumbling block as to how Satan has entrenched the notion of trapped spirits so deeply in our culture. There has been a shift on the worldview level (they do not use that term but convey its substance) and it is something they refer to as “The You Sell.”  The astonishing pervasive shift has led to marketing strategies changing from “aspirational” to “affirmational”. Aspirational says, “You need this…”...affirmational advertising says, “You are already perfect as you are”—this is a totally modern phenomenon, and it smells like smoke.  It’s all about you.

“Where marketers used to sell primarily products and brand values, they’re now selling you—an idealized, self-actualized version of yourself—back to you. Advertising performs the same function in modern society that myth did in ancient societies. “It is both a creator and perpetrator of the dominant attitudes, values and ideology of the culture, the social norms and myths by which most people govern their behavior. At the very least, advertising helps to create a climate in which certain attitudes and values flourish and others are not reflected at all.”  (55)

What happens when a me-centered mindset becomes the dominant filter through which we see the world (worldview)? It leads to a breakdown of relationships, truth, and even our concept of God is affected. We are living in a culture of narcissism, unlike any generation before us. Self-actualization is the secular gospel. We have to understand these forces if we are to have a meaningful witness to a very lost and confused world.

The news media shift their focus from informing an engaged populace to indulging our desire to escape from daily life. Religious institutions must soften their message to stay alive and relevant, shifting away from their traditional role as a beacon in troubled times and heavy-handed promoter of virtue. In place of traditional churches and temples , the infinitely flexible concept of “spirituality” serves as a source of constant  pandering reassurance. (pg.12 and this is a secular analysis!!)
 Today’s young people speak the language of the self as their native tongue.(27), but it is affecting all of us to some degree. And even though every generation seems to find something wrong with the younger generation, studies have shown that this “You Sell” and the narcissism are truly an objective, testable reality. The further we get from the Lord, the more inward and selfish we are becoming. But as I said, this vicious cycle is affecting all ages.

“In light of perceived attitudinal sifts among young people, some have taken to ask: Could it be that while parents, teachers, and experts in early childhood psychology have been trying to cultivate self-esteem, with the best of intentions, have in fact been cultivating a general tendency toward anti-social behavior…from healthy self-esteem to narcissism…heavy-duty sense of entitlement.

Difficulty accepting the banality of human existence has led to a profound ennui.

“Social messaging and core consumer culture are profoundly symbiotic in the cultivation of narcissism.” (55)
How has all this affected our attitude to the Lord, as well as the paranormal?

Polls would suggest that we are still a deeply religious nation….. or so it seems. The success of the book The Secret (the Law of Attraction) shows that the quantity of believers in God’s existence has not changed much, but the focus and content of their beliefs and practices have radically altered,
Although more than 4 out of 5 adults say they are Christian, they are more likely to see themselves as Americans, consumers, spouse and parent, and even employee than to describe themselves primarily in terms of their faith commitment  (George Barna) They  add that this probably goes a long way to explain why there is so much  inconsistency and apparent contradictions in our belief systems.

For example, ‘…many self-identifying Christians also claim to hold to paranormal beliefs that are decidedly at odds with the traditional tenets of the church.”

 The pollster Barna chalks up the bizarre state of Christian values in the US to people’s “soft commitment” to God.

Just as the You Sell can sell us on cars, housing, and political candidates, it can be used to sell us a way of looking at life, the world, even God, that is entirely of a piece with our personal consumption habits.. In a culture gone the way of mass customization, the You Sell intimates, why submit yourself to someone else’s God—with all His rigid rules and expectations—when you can just customize a belief system,  As the book The Secret says each of us is a powerful transmission tower in the universe…and you are controlling that frequency with your thoughts! Creating whatever successful world you want.” But in a narcissistic culture, that is the ultimate expression of hubris.

Descartes famously said “I think, therefore I am”. The symbiotic relationship between social media (Facebook and U Tube) it is now “To be SEEN, therefore I am”

1. Never ending quest…Stephen Colbert-style “truthiness’—thinking with your brain or KNOWING with your heart. Anti-intellectual, magical thinking has pervaded our national mindset. Instead of even expecting to find an ending point for our spiritual quest, the quest itself has been elevated to what is most important. If it is not a God “out there”, but an amorphous “god in here” truth becomes a verb and not a noun. We have become expectant of what the bible criticizes some for—always learning but never coming to knowledge of the truth.

Chicken Soup for the Soul, Meditations for Manifesting, Deepak  Chopra’s Growing Younger—these are selling because they give people something they are hungry for—affirmation, reassurance,  validation, permission. Spirituality has become a personal Quest. In a Quest culture, spiritual authority lies within you alone, and you are the only person it serves. Not surprisingly, “How can I feel good about myself?”  has emerged as far more important question than, “How can I be saved?” 

Becoming more “me-centered” in our approach to beliefs (how does one argue with that????)—has squashed meaningful discussion regarding paranormal issues.

Churches have bought into You Sell…instead of theo-centric preaching, it is felt needs-centric preaching which is only pandering to a narcissism gotten way out of control.
“spiritual but not religious” spiritual has become an infinitely malleable term—meaning everything, and nothing. The Quest culture central aspect of new spirituality…leads by necessity to a spiral of self-absorption and consumption, and obsessive focus on a brighter future that will never come. Spirituality becomes merely means to self-actualization, and it prompts a narcissistic loop.

We are lonely…we have no objective truth….even our religious beliefs have are now governed by what WE WANT, and not what is true. All of these (and more) are factors which have contributed to why people believe and embrace the notion of trapped spirits. I am convinced more than ever that the notion of trapped spirits has become the cornerstone of the new spirituality. In biblical Christianity the prophets and apostles are the foundation and Jesus is the cornerstone (Eph.2:20). 

2.  The book The Secret moved God from out there to inside—of course this is nothing new, but for our culture it both revealed and accelerated how far we have strayed from our biblical foundation as a nation, We never were a Christian nation because there is no such thing in the New Testament, but there was substantial value formation from the bible.

It boils down to this. When you add all this together, it makes for a powerful impetus to believe in trapped spirits. Narcissists do NOT want to cease existing, and that ghosts SEEM to prove that there is an after-life, then that is powerful combination. Once a narcissist wants to believe in something, nothing (including reason) will get in their way.

We are all selfish to some degree, but my concern is how deeply the warp and woof (fabric) of American culture has been mangled by our view of spirituality and truth. Reason and logic are becoming less of a concern for many when it comes to the identity behind paranormal activity.
I was on a brief radio interview yesterday and the gracious host said, “Well, I’m sure that you have found both demons and deceased spirits along the way.” My parting comment was, “There is not a single ghost…the very notion shows how ignorant our nation has become of a biblical worldview.”

Let me ask this—WHY do you believe in trapped spirits (or our friends)? I hope this expose’ on the vicious cycle between narcissism and You Sell marketing has shown how flimsy the reasons are for belief in trapped spirits…we believe in them because we WANT to believe in them.
Well, you are not a bundle of energy sending out transmission signals, creating reality merely by your thoughts. Repent or perish…believe on the Lord Jesus and be freed from enslavement to self-centeredness, as well as His wrath and eternity in hell. If God ever has to choose between our spiritual whims, and the singular honor and dignity of His Son…He will always choose the honor of His Son. He has made that abundantly clear. Let us stop gazing at our reflection, and gaze on the beauty of the face of our Lord Jesus.

Let me close with this—not everybody who professes Christ, actually possesses Christ. To be a disciple of Jesus is not an optional extra (like a customized computer). If the basic bent of our lives is not to die to self, and have Christ reign instead, then we are probably not born again. The book of James makes that clear. We all must examine ourselves to see to what extent this demonic “wisdom” of narcissism has affected us. If we are honest seekers of truth then we will find that Jesus is the End of the Quest for Truth, and He tells us that it is more blessed to give then to receive. The narcissists creed is—it is more blessed to receive than to give, and when I do give the motive is not God’s glory…it is my fame and self-actualization.

The apostle Paul often ended his letter with “doulas Christou”…a slave of Jesus Christ—the more we die to self, the more personal freedom we experience. The anti-Christ is going to milk this rampant narcissism for all its worth, so we need to be aware of this boiling water, and get out!

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