Spiritual hunger

The push-button-pop-pill generation is more inclined to look for a spiritual experience that promises instant blessings than to enter a spiritual discipline that focuses on God,

Kenneth R. Wade is an assistant editor of Ministry.

The young mother leaned forward in her chair, resting her elbows on the folding table that separated her from Reverend Lincoln, drinking in every word Lincoln said.

I stood nearby, glancing over the materials the psychic Reverend Lincoln had on display at her table. Among them was an old photograph that seemed to have a flaw in the emulsion. The caption identified the flaw as a spaceship from Mars.

Later, in reading over Lincoln's mate rials, I would discover that she believes her wisdom and special psychic abilities were given to her by her grandfather, who claimed to be the reincarnation of the prophet Jeremiah.

But for the moment I was concentrating on--well, yes, I suppose it was eaves dropping. "Just go outside tonight," Lincoln told her client. "Look up at the stars and say, 'I am here brothers; speak to me'"--apparently indicating that the young woman could communicate with beings from outer space.

"Yes! I'll do it!" said the young woman.

Meanwhile, around the room, dozens of other customers were shelling out $20 to $35 for the privilege of a few minutes' conversation with psychics, tarot card shufflers, I Ching enthusiasts, and aura readers--seeking contact with some sort of wisdom beyond the physical realm, psychic healing, or information about past lives. I fell into conversation with a long-haired young man who was giving "readings." He said that in meditation he had contacted a being that "looks like the embodiment of all wisdom" who, from time to time, materializes and whispers to him.

Was I wandering through the side shows at a carnival? Or was I in some out-of-the-way borough in Manila, or maybe San Francisco?

No. I was at the ESP and Psychic Fair at the Ramada Inn in Bethesda, Mary land, just a few blocks from the head quarters of the National Institutes of Health.

I was there to find out whether many people from such a prestigious neighbor hood were interested in making contact with the "realms beyond" in nontraditional ways. The steady stream of customers gave me my answer.

"We're supposed to be a highly developed technological and scientific culture, but more and more people are seeking some kind of symbolic transcendental experience--a religious experience. . . . It's obvious that we are not capable of sustaining a purely technological culture," a professor of psychiatry told Omni magazine recently.

Last year Time magazine subtitled a cover story "A strange mix of spirituality and superstition is sweeping across the country."

And it is not only America that feels this sweeping wind. In Great Britain, where only 11 percent of the population are church members, 48 percent report having had experiences of spirits or powers beyond themselves.

The world seems ripe for spiritual enlightenment. Secular humanism no longer satisfies. But neither does any form of Christianity that relies more on traditions and creeds than on a personal relationship with God. Many spiritual seekers bypass the church and look for enlightenment in less traditional paths because they sense that the church is so hidebound by its forms that there is little room for real spirituality.

Unfortunately much of the spiritual seeking we see today revolves around get ting in contact with spiritual powers for self-centered reasons. The push-button-pop-pill generation is more inclined to look for a spiritual experience that promises instant, predictable, measurable blessings than to enter a spiritual discipline that focuses more on God than on individual needs. Thus yoga, and transcendental meditation with their demonstrable health and fitness benefits have a stronger appeal to many baby boomers than does the religion their parents gave lipservice to.

Paul warned Timothy about people within the church who had the form of godliness, but denied the power that godliness works in consecrated lives (2 Tim. 3:5). The power of godliness has demonstrable positive effects. The peace of mind that comes from a trusting relation ship with God is just as real as the relaxation a Yogi achieves. If spiritual seekers do not see these effects displayed in the church it is not God's fault. The power of godliness is available to all who will live godly lives.

People are hungry for a meaningful spiritual experience. A relevant revelation of the power of Jesus Christ to change and improve lives is what they need. Are we ready to supply their need? --Kenneth R. Wade


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Kenneth R. Wade is an assistant editor of Ministry.

September 1988

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