I belong to a CSA. That is a Community Supported Agriculture by which I pay a certain amount of money in the winter and beginning in April I receive a share of the vegetables and fruit produced by a local Long Island farm. I do this because I firmly believe that to eat locally and as organically as possible is the healthiest option for my family. I also think that it is the best use of the gifts that God has bequeathed to us.
When you eat organically and hang around health food stores people tend to make certain assumptions about you. Mostly that you are a hippy, New Age granola mommy. The fact is that I make the food choices I do because I am Catholic and not because I have accepted the popular secular theories that the food and the earth have some spirituality to impart to me. Like many women, I plan for, shop and cook all of the meals in our home. I am also in charge of ordering the pizza on the days when none of the planning, shopping and cooking happens. So I feel a great responsibility that the food I give my family helps rather than hurts them. The kind of food that is available to us in grocery stores over the last generation has widened greatly but I’m not always sure that is a good thing. Is it a good thing to eat out of season fruit that has been making its way toward you for weeks from places thousands of miles away? Is it a good thing to rip open a box and use food that is more chemical preservative than actual food?
That doesn’t mean I think that organic vegetables and grass fed cows are spiritual.
It is the practice of the New Age philosophy to imbue the earth with its own spirituality. There is a great emphasis on eating a plant based diet because animals have souls, (they don’t) and only buying things for your home that are made of natural materials. I have to agree minimizing the plastic in our lives is usually a good thing but not because I believe a wooden dollhouse will impart the spirit of the tree to my children as they play. My reasons are more prosaic. I like the way it looks and I find wooden toys more durable. They have no spirit other than the spirit of play and imagination that my children instill. There is also the issue of weird chemicals that seem to be used in manufacturing processes and the frequent recalls of toys and household items. These are all legitimate concerns when making decisions about your purchases but it is very easy to get sidetracked into a whole weird philosophy about these things.
Young people are easily seduced by these philosophies. It all seems so nice. And really what’s wrong with being a vegan? Nothing really. And using homeopathy rather than Western medicine? Well it’s worth a try right? And what about attending a yoga class as a gentle method of exercise? It’s only stretching, what harm can it do?
The harm is that each of these things creates an atmosphere that encourages people to think of themselves as gods. Their inner peace and self-actualization lead to harmony with the universe and thereby create happiness. Or some such nonsense.
These practices do not recognize God. They appeal to those saturated with the values of modern culture in which people reject authority and place a great deal of stock in self reliance. New Ageism makes no demands on young people. There is no church to attend, no rules to follow, no authority figure to tell you anything. There is only your humanistic code of values to guide you. The New Age completely rejects the notion of God, religion and a code of conduct that does not take into account your feelings. If it “feels” good or right for you then it is.
It seems so innocuous but it is, in fact, incredibly dangerous. One of the biggest battles a catechist has to face in this time is the relentless marketing of the New Age; vampirism; occultism; anthroposophy; Hinduism and Buddhism to our children. Go to any big name bookstore and there are entire sections in the young adult sections devoted to the paranormal and other occult practices. What started with the fairly harmless Harry Potter series has burgeoned into a big industry and the cost is the souls of our children.
My hope with this column is to help identify and combat the various ways the New age seeps into our lives and the lives of our children in order that we help them recognize Christ within them.
2010 Mary Ellen Barrett