There once was a man who kept being visited by a couple of Jehovah Witnesses (JW’s). As someone who had been raised a strict Catholic and who had now abandoned organized religion, the man steadfastly denied the JW’s the opportunity to talk to him.
Finally one day he let them in and sat down and had a talk with them. Then he wrote about his experience in his blog. At first I thought it was pretty surprising that someone who had abandoned organized religion would sit down and talk to JW’s but after further thought I changed my mind. Let me explain.
According to the post he wrote about his chat with the JW’s this man closely follows the predictable script of New Age believers: tolerate everything just as Jesus supposedly did, don’t criticize anyone else unless they actually stand for something and, above all, just focus on and trust what’s in your heart. And of course the post was followed by hundreds of supportive comments, echoing this man’s worldview.
Since the man mentioned that he had been raised Catholic, let’s start there. What many people fail to realize is that the Catholic Church, which so many people criticize these days, has been around for close to 2,000 years and, despite being wracked by controversy, is as strong today as it has ever been.
And what people also fail to realize is that the Jehovah Witnesses, given enough time, may end up being larger and more vibrant than the Catholic Church.
Add to that the fact that radical Islam is on the rise throughout the world and it raises the question, “What is the appeal of these counter-cultural worldviews?” None of these groups, the Catholic Church, JW’s or radical Islam embrace any of the values or practices of popular Western culture or the New Age movement and yet they are growing and thriving.
My humble opinion is that all three of these movements, rather than directing their adherents to focus on what’s in their hearts, offer people the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than and outside of themselves. The key to their success is not a monopoly on the truth. (As a Lutheran I have real issues with the “truths” promoted by all three of the groups mentioned above.) The key to their success is their ability to get people to embrace their larger vision, to suspend the human heart’s natural tendency to think it is the center of the universe and to get the heart to look outside of itself for meaning and purpose.
And this, I believe is really why the New Age blogger let the Jehovah Witnesses into his house. Despite all their talk about tolerance and being inwardly focused, those in the New Age movement still want to be part of something bigger and do indeed admire those who have embraced organizations with a larger vision, even if they don’t agree with what those organizations teach.
So for any organized group, religious or non-religious, the path to success is not a monopoly on the truth but is it’s ability to get people to embrace a larger vision. The ideal situation is to have a strong foundation on the truth, as I believe The Lutheran Church has, and then communicate those truths to people in a way that shows them how these truths are part of the big picture.