China is officially an atheist country, but that does not mean that there is not a vibrant spirituality in the country. Interest in New Age-type spirituality has soared in recent years in China. And, as this article from the journal Territory points out, young people are particularly drawn to these types of practices.
Due to its length, this article is divided into two parts. You can read part one here; this is part two.
Constellations, Tarot, and Horoscopes
The 2021 Starting Point for Young People, continued
An Unreached Spiritual Group
Can grasping these psychic tools really bring a bright future? A female Chinese master of divination has said,
I have come across many cases of depression, and I have also experienced it many times myself. All those people whose lives are extremely difficult have been given this by fate; these numerous disasters and disruptions have been prepared for them.
This divination master has her own Weibo channel, with tens of thousands of fans. She also often uses her public Wechat account to popularise knowledge of “fate” in a way her fans can comprehend.
Actually, the phenomenon of the present generation, under pressure, starting to search for astrology and divination, began in the early years of the 20th century. Scholars have given this phenomenon a name: the New Age Movement. In the 1960s “The New Age Movement,” also called “The Age of Aquarius Movement,” lured the West through the rock song “Hair.” Another important song which promoted it was “This is the Age of Aquarius,” an idea which came from the twelve signs of the zodiac.
At the time, some Western intellectuals were sensitive towards the way society was over-emphasising technology and the material, and ignoring the spiritual. Therefore, they advocated “an age of thought about true liberation.” They spread the idea that this “new age” bore the hallmarks of peace, completeness and harmony – during this period of time, people were destined to realise that we are not being controlled by exterior objective forces: the only real power comes from inside ourselves. They took wide and cursory readings of Buddhism, Daoism, yoga, psychology, spiritual healing, Chinese acupuncture, herbal medicine, psychic powers, crystals, mysticism, astrology, sexual relations, and so on, and attempted to find points in science, metaphysics, psychology and religion that fused together. In this confused mess they discovered their own “spells”.
Expert in this field, Aberdeen University and Fulham Seminary professor John Drane believes that the New Age Movement has already come from the fringes of counter-culture to take centre-stage. It has also to a certain degree been accepted by the whole of the western world as a central part of its worldview. From this, he can see people’s widespread spiritual needs.
Furthermore, in the 1990s Drane boldly expressed that Christian leaders should take this rapidly-blooming movement for spiritual searching as their most important lesson, and preserve interest and concern for it. However, he was given the cold shoulder by church leaders. Drane recalls a conversation he had with a British religious leader: “When he had finished hearing me out, his entire body language changed. It was very obvious—he pretty much didn’t dare to believe what he was hearing.” During the next 20 years, Drane discovered that the number of young people going to church grew fewer and fewer. These young people were not led away by atheism, but were going to other places beside church, using other ways to search for spirituality. This kind of young person still hasn’t stopped growing more and more numerous.
Drane’s idea was to view these people as a category of their own.
Not everyone belongs to this group, but its scale and influence are enough to merit the concern of the church. It is no exaggeration to say that this is a different culture—it has its own language, its own customs, its own hopes and way of life. This is an unreached people group.
Drane believes that in order to reach a people group, you need to understand their culture and be willing to remove the cultural obstacles that are hindering them from “hearing the gospel”—to use creative methods to build bridges with the culture, so that the gospel can be heard. He asks us to “not only comprehend what people in the New Age Movement believe, but also compassionately understand why they act the way they do.” Furthermore on a few different bases “use methods which they can hear and understand to spread the gospel to them.”
As far as those young people are concerned, they are no longer standing on the banks of the waters of atheism. The worldly background has already quietly become “New Age-ified.” Christians must have a total transformation and adopt a completely different way of sharing the gospel.
Jesus Stands at the Junction of Every Lost Road
American Christian thinker Os Guinness refers to Cain of the Bible and says,
From the time Cain built a city and established a family, the search for a replacement rest on this earth—which is peace-less and has lost the presence of God—has taken many forms.
Guinness also proposed that a society which has rejected the glory of God will become more and more “weightless” (in Hebrew, the meaning of “glory” is “weight” and “reality”). The world becomes an empty shell, and everything loses its meaning. If people have no way to put their souls in their right places, they will begin searching out every kind of new or old trick to ease their hearts. But giving anything that isn’t God ultimate value, while searching for behaviour that will resolve our personal programmes, is utterly pointless.
When the Apostle Paul was in Athens he saw people giving worship and thanks to every kind of idol, and saw countless Athenians giving over their lives to idols made with human hands, while all they had coming to them was a more empty and meaningless life. The situation where “there are more idols in Athens than people” and the present-day circumstances regarding New Ageism are very similar. People place themselves in a “supermarket of religions,” where you can choose whatever you feel like to believe in, or consider most effective.
This sight moved Paul’s heart to evangelise the Athenians. He didn’t immediately repudiate the Athenians’ methods. He didn’t burst into the “supermarket of religions” and sweep everything off the shelves, or belittle their spiritual exploration, directly accusing them of being possessed by demons. First, he allowed himself to become immersed in the popular culture on the streets, listened carefully and examined things, and only after that did he begin to engage with people and meet with idolaters. Apart from this, he had enough understanding of Athenian history and spirituality to use whenever he needed to care for their spiritual needs. Every fork in the road could become an avenue of invitation for people to follow Jesus.
It is obvious the original disciples were full of faith in the Jesus they witnessed to. They weren’t worried about coming across streets full of “unknown gods” in the cultural center Athens, and they weren’t afraid of going head-to-head with a girl who made money for her masters by using magic arts. Simon the sorcerer and the “office elite” of the metalworkers who worshipped the goddess Artemis had no way to block the power of the gospel. Today, in this fragmented society, people are looking for a place that makes them feel safe. In that place, we can find strength and not be oppressed. We can be respected and not judged. We can renew our bravery and not flinch back in cowardice.
On one hand lies the vast desert of insipid boredom atheism has created with its “clean slate.” On the other hand lies the obscene and filthy jungle of the “demonic powers and chaotic spirits” that the New Age Movement represents. Jesus calls us to follow him closely, with assurance of blessing in our hearts, and at the same time live a spiritually full life.
Original Article: 星座、塔罗、命相：这届青年的2021启动模式 by Territory (WeChat ID: newjingjie)
Translated, edited, and reposted with permission.
Image Credit: By Roberto Viesi – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.