Thursday, June 3, 2010

are they really countercultural?

Spirituality encourages a countercultural dynamic. It challenges many of the values of material life by injecting a renewed focus on the divine. On the other hand, religion and the establishment tend to go hand in hand. While the sacred texts may encourage countercultural living, in practice, religion has embraced the values of contemporary life.
Burke and Taylor, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, p 59

Wow, so much politically loaded language in that, it's difficlt to know where to begin.

"Spirituality encourages a counterculturlt dynamic". Really? A counter to what culture? The copyright for the book is 2006, so likely much or all of it was written circa 2005 and 2006. Meaning in the time of George W Bush's second term as US President, with of course inspiration coming from the first term.

In other words, "countercultural" in this book likely has at least some hint of an anti-conservatism that President Bush represented in many people's minds, though rather imperfectly I think.

It is interesting, now in 2010, to see how things have changed. If there is a movement that could be considered "countercultural", it would be the Tea Party Movement. The people in it, largely falling into the category of 'common people', have stood up to what they consider injustices and wrongs--unfair excessive taxation; attempts by the government to gain control of such private spheres as automotive manufacturing and health care; attempts to curtail certain types of speech, notably conservative talk radio.

Yet with this counterculture movement, the take on it has been--much less favorable. Those who had previously been 'countercultural' now attack those who are against the present US adminstration, which has taken what was once considered 'countercultural' and is making it cultural. The attacks on the Tea Party, often based on lies and unsubstantiated claims, are numerous and vicious. Those who previously applauded the countercultural now attack the countercultural when their own ideas and preferences become or seem to be becoming the cultural norms, the establishment.

And this is the thing to keep in mind, in regards to this excerpt from "Heretic's Guide..."--'spirituality' is countercultural only until it becomes the 'establishment', then it ceases to be countercultural.

And one must question, as well, how much religion has "embraced the values of contemporary life". If by this Burke and Taylor mean evangelical Christians (possibly among others), then what values has it embraced? The killing of the unborn, which almost all evangelicals deplore? The drug culture? The culture of loose sexuality, which has had it's effects but which is still fought against?

If anything, one could argue that it is the 'spiritual' that embraced compromise with culture. For example, on p 49 of this same book, it seems that even their preference and pushing of 'spirituality' is a cultural thing. "The cultural shift in favor of spirituality over religion and towards a God freed from the constraints of religious dogmatism and feudalism is exciting. The table is being set for the future, and I believe we will see the ideas that have captured humanity's imagination aobut God for centuries transitioned into new contexts".

The current controversy concerning homosexuality is a prime example. While most evanglicals have stood against the legalizing and recognizing of homosexual partnerships as 'marriage', it is the 'spiritual' people, the ones who denigrate the Bible and claim to be more spiritually aware than the average ''Christian", who are all too ready to compromise with what the world wants, and to even provide spiritualized supports for it--explaining away biblical passages which forbid such sexual practices, claim that "love" is more important than "law", and when all else fails, say that those who are against it are "haters" who do not show true Christian love.

I would conclude, then, by saying this statement of Burke's and Taylor's is rather misleading.

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