The Power of a Paradigm Shift: “the Secret”

As some of you know I work 20 hours per week at Starbucks. A few weeks after I first began to hear about “the Secret” (it has been all over Oprah, Ellen Degeneris, and CNN; the book version is currently #1 on the New York Times best seller list), I began to realize that several of my fellow Starbucks partners had enthusiastically embraced it, some to the point of really committing themselves to living out its principles.

So, naturally, my curiousity began to grow.

At first I was skeptical. As I continued to hear & see all the buzz I imagined that “the Secret” was just another self-help craze. And actually when I read Newsweek’s piece on it a couple of weeks ago this sense was only confirmed.

But, finally, I have seen the 90 minute video, and I must say, it is impressive. “The Secret” is the name given to the idea that all human reality operates according to the so-called “Law of Attraction,” that what our minds focus on gravitates into our lives. That is pretty much the main point, and everything else flows out of that, especially the idea that what we think about in our minds has the power actually to bring about reality (changed relationships, that new sports car, a healthier body, etc.).

First, let me say that this philosophy contains significant grains of truth. Proverbs says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” and Jesus says in the Gospels, “Where your heart is there will your treasure be also.” And, as “The Secret” is quick to point out, Genesis teaches that man is created in “the image and likeness of God,” implying that human beings have a God-like capacity to create, to bring about reality.

Second, if you were to watch the video (or perhaps watch the Larry King interview at http://jamesray.com/resources/larry-king-live.php) you would see that the “gurus” who speak of this powerful way of thinking and being are quite articulate and compelling. The fact that many different voices are all speaking to the same issues makes “The Secret” even more compelling, it seems to me.

However, as compelling as “The Secret” may seem to be, and as much as I believe we (especially Christians) ought to look for truth and affirm it wherever we find it, this approach is flawed in a couple of areas. I will focus on only one right now.

First and foremost, the area of community. I fail to see how anyone could deny that “The Secret” is individualistic. (One might see it as self-centered, but I can see how folks might argue against this.) Martin Luther King, Jr. (himself approvingly quoted in the video) said brilliantly, “In the beginning was relationship.” He was referring here to the fact that, uniquely among all world religions or worldviews, the Christians God, the Christian ultimate reality, is not just “personal,” but is actually interpersonal. Our God is a community. The Christian Bible teaches, and Christian tradition confirms, that ultimate reality consists of eternal, loving, personal relationship.

When Genesis says that humankind is created in the image and likeness of God, one of the most fundamental things it is saying is that we are created for community. The fact that human beings are communal is the fundamental reality to what it means to be human. Apart from community (friendship, marriage, neighborliness, erotic love, church, Eucharist, etc.) we simply are not fully human.

At one point in the video one of the speakers attempts to make a very significant point. He says something like

“Ask a quantum physicist: ‘what is energy?’ He will tell you: ‘Energy has always been, it will always be, and it is in constant motion.’ Then ask a theologian, ‘what is God’ and he will tell you the same thing: “God has always been, will always be, and is constantly in motion.'”

What is so disturbing to me is that so many viewers, including evangelical Christian viewers, will watch this video and swallow the point made by this advocate of “The Secret.” And it is the church’s own fault that we have allowed “God” to be thought of as something so non-personal, non-relational. (See previous posts on this blog on Eastern Orthodox critiques of the West’s “God of the philosophers.”)

What this advocate of “The Secret” is suggesting is that God is impersonal and non-relational. That is theology worthy of the trash heap (not even worthy to be composted). Sadly, though, according to the way many modern westerners (including “Christians”) think about God, he is right.

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