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The New Age movement infiltrates Business

Written by: Unknown    Posted on: 05/02/2003

Category: Cults / Sects / Non Christian Religions and Topics

Source: CCN

    The New Age movement infiltrates Business

  Identifying a New Age Seminar

  Space does not permit us to describe all the organizations engaged in New-Age-oriented seminars. Our time is better spent listing a few signposts that signal possible New Age activity. Just because a seminar displays one of these characteristics doesn't necessarily mean that it is New Age in orientation. Nevertheless, it does mean that we should proceed with care, cautiously discerning the assumptions behind what is being taught.

  We should be wary of two errors in evaluation. The one rejects any new management or personnel strategies in business without considering possible worthwhile features (the quarantine mentality). For example, if a business seminar stresses an affirmative and hopeful attitude toward business and gives some practical helps for achievement, well and good; the whole program need not be rejected. Also, a non-occult concern for developing intuition may be helpful in some areas of business. Legitimate elements should be conserved. Yet the opposite error uncritically inhales anything and everything with the scent of success, positiveness and optimism and in so doing becomes asphyxiated by the erroneous (the chameleon mentality).

  The first signpost relates to seminars that stress visualization as the key to success: they emphasize the purportedly limitless power of the imagination to "create reality." What is simply a natural function of many people's thinking is absurdly elevated to the status of a magical principle. Seminar participants may be led through long and exotic "guided visualizations" for either relaxation or empowerment. In some cases this may induce a hypnotic trance in which one becomes vulnerable to suggestion. In other cases people may feel the rush of omnipotence, as they measure their abilities by the vividness of their visualization--much like balancing one' checkbook by figuring out what one wishes were there.

  Second, seminars that strongly emphasize positive affirmations are suspect. Some seminars sell the science of self-congratulation. They say that our problems are, in large part, based on our poor self-talk. To be "captains of our own destinies" we need to recapture the helm by praising ourselves mercilessly. Believing in oneself--that is, believing only the good things and stubbornly disbelieving the rest--is the key. Though blind positive thinking is not necessary the product of the New Age, it is consistent with the world view and often used by its practitioners.

  Although it is true that business people can be hindered by an unhealthy self-hate, and that a healthy sense of self-regard should be conserved, in many cases self-deception is hailed as self-liberation. Yet when Scripture says "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor" (Ex.20:16), the principle extends to giving false witness on our own behalf. A lie is a lie whether it be spreading false bad rumors about Jones or equally false good rumors about ourselves. Proverbs charts the course of humility: "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips" (Proverbs 27:2).

  Third, business seminars may include Eastern/occult forms of meditation or other "psychotechnologies" under the guise of "stress reduction" (although all that is labeled stress reduction does not involve meditation). Some seminars wear away peoples' common sense and rational reflection through long hours of psychic assault, resulting in an artificial and inappropriate change in consciousness.

  Fourth, caution is appropriate in evaluation any business seminar that "promises you the world" or guarantees they will "change your life." Although dramatic claims in the New Age mode about total personal transformation are nothing less than religious appeals. These usually pander to the pride that desires self-actualization as opposed to the humility required to receive salvation from a source entirely foreign to our fallen frame. Some of those who believe they have indeed "gained the world" end up with an inflated sense of power that sets them up for major disappointments.

  Fifth, an exorbitant cost for these miracle seminars may tip us off to their dangers. Paying a substantial sum of (nonrefundable) money serves as a good psychological adhesive to insure that people endure these seminars even when their better judgment would normally propel them toward the door at the first few signs of aberration.

  Sixth, excessive secrecy about the actual content of these seminars should cause us to wonder if they are hiding something sinister instead of simply protecting a marketable commodity. This may take the form of promoting the charisma of a particular speaker rather than divulging the content of his teaching. A typical tactic of some sects is to conceal their more bizarre teachings--such as Mormon polytheism and "sacred undergarments"--until the recruit is "ready" for them. Some business seminars may mirror this tactic by concealing activities that would initially--and rightly--repulse many.

  Seventh, seminars that involve long hours outside of the normal work schedule and/or require the spouse's attendance may have the implicit intention of radically changing one's world view and manner of life to fit the New Age mold.

  If these seven point help alert us to New Age tendencies in business seminars, what can be done to confront these practices and construct Christian alternatives?

  A Christian Approach to Business

  What should be done if a Christian has identified a recommended or required seminar as New Age in orientation? The ground of all successful Christian action is spiritual awareness and discernment. The first issue is spiritual warfare, with prayer wielded as the chief weapon.

  With a preparation of prayer, several responses are possible depending on the situation. If a particular seminar is simply being suggested, one can politely demur explaining the spiritual roots of disagreement. This may serve as a springboard for evangelism. In addition, reasons that are not specifically based on one's spiritual commitment--for instance, the seminars are ineffective or just too "weird"--can be given with the hope that the use of the seminar will be reconsidered. The Christian employee may also suggest that she attend an alternative seminar or read materials related to job performance that do not conflict with her spiritual views.

  It attendance at a seminar is being required and a compromise is rejected, legal recourse is a possibility (as long as the employer is not a Christian; see 1 Cor 6:1-7). Tom Brandon of the Christian Legal Society says: "The employer is prohibited from discriminating against your religious convictions, and if you said, 'I'm sorry, I cannot attend that, it violates my religious principles,' then according to Title Seven they have to make reasonable accommodation for that.

  If attendance is being required by any civil governmental agency,...an appeal can be made that the state is violating the First Amendment by establishing a religion (through state-funded, required programs), in this case the religion of the New Age. Of course, for this allegation to stick, one must reasonably demonstrate that the practices and concepts used are in fact religious in nature. Since many of the seminars are based on monism or pantheism that case can be made.

  Given the extent of New Age cultural influence and its targeting of the business community, a few legal cases setting a precedent against coercing people against their religious beliefs might be a boon for religious freedom. Christians need the courage to confront the New Age wherever necessary---even in the courts.

  New trends in business indicate that workers, managers and corporations are changing in many ways. To give a few examples: More women are entering the work force; more workers are content with less that full-time employment; and workers seem to be valuing the quality of their work and entire life more highly than simply salary or prestige.

  As society changes, some changes in business practices will follow. Some of the emphases of New Age seminars and theory are acceptable and should be conserved, such as increased worker ownership and responsibility, a holistic concern for business, the importance of a vision for business venture beyond mere profit and so on. Yet this does not necessitate a headlong plunge into the pantheistic deep. Some New Agers claim that since Christianity "doesn't work" (for business or anything else), we must embrace the New Age. Yet I side with Chesterton who said that "the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and let untried.

  Just a brief glance at a few Christian ethical considerations highlights the relevance of Christianity to business and work in general.

  1. A God-ward Orientation. The biblical prohibition of idols (Ex.20:3-4; Jer. 16:20) cautions us not to treat profit, prestige or power as ends in themselves, but as means to serve the Lord in all we do. Thus business ventures should be undertaken for the glory of God in order to contribute to his righteous kingdom. A Christian should never make work itself an idol at the expense of family and church life. A vertical orientation toward God is necessary for an appropriate horizontal relationship on the job (or anywhere else.) The Christian's "pursuit of excellence" is a divine calling for a divine purpose, not an exercise in self-seeking.

  2. The Standard of Stewardship. God is the giver of every good thing; he is the source of all true blessing. We are all debtors to God. Failing to realize this, we become cosmic ingrates. Any gift we enjoy--whether physical, spiritual or material--is delegated to us that we may use it for him. We are the absolute owners of nothing, save our sin. We are, rather, stewards or caretakers of God's property. This was so even before our fall into sin. Some have viewed labor itself as the result of sin, as if Adam and Eve were created for perpetual vacationing but somehow fell from leisure into labor. Yet Genesis 1 and 2 teach that Adam and Eve were created in God's image to cultivate the earth according to his commands. John Scott gives us a biblical view of work: "Work is the expenditure of energy (manual or menta or both) in the service of others, which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community, and glory to God." All work--whether church related or not--when done for God's glory, according to his principle and through his Spirit, is valuable to our Creator. Business people need not feel like second-class citizens because they aren't pastors or foreign missionaries (the so-called full- time Christian workers). The workplace is a full-time mission field and theater of divine drama.

  3. The Value of the Person. By claiming that humans share the divine image, Christianity values people as responsible moral agents. For business this means not treating people as merely means to a better business, but as valuable in themselves. Yet Christian realism--unlike New Ago utopianism--recognizes the reality of human sinfulness and guards against employers having inordinate expectations for employees or vice versa. And although the profit motivation is not intrinsically immoral (the Bible affirms that value of private property and industry), the Bible condemns a profit domination that sacrifices the value of employees (or consumers) for the sake of greed.

  Wayne Alderson, a Christian business consultant, courageously stresses this pivotal principle in his Value of the Person seminars which he has presented to both management and labor across the nation. He asks:

  Is it asking too much for God's people to stand up for the values of love, dignity, and respect in their places of employment? Not at all..As Christians we are commanded by God to take the Biblical principles...into the work-world to live for God....I believe God it is essential that both labor and management exercise their moral obligation and raise the Value of the Person above the Value of the Machine. The unrest that the workplace is experiencing in whatever from, great or small, is just the symptom. The underlying cause is a lack of human dignity.

  By God's grace, Alderson has helped management and labor work together harmoniously by using biblical principles. His gripping story as steelworker, manager and consultant is recorded in Stronger That Steel by R.C. Sproul.

  4. Honesty. Christian ethics affirms truthfulness as essential to moral integrity. Honesty isn't the best policy, it's the only (Christian) policy. "Speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15) means straight talk to employees, no deception in advertising or merchandising, and no illegalities (in taxes or elsewhere). The Bible repeatedly warns people to use "honest scales and honest weights" (Lev 19:36)--that is, not to shortchange people through deception, as was common in that time since there was no official bureau of weights and measures.

  5. Thrift. In a credit-happy (or unhappy) society, we should remember that biblical ethics restricts large, long-term debt. Proverbs warns that "the borrower is servant to the lender" (Prov 22:7), and Paul teaches that we should "let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another" (Rom 13:8). In Old Testament times, loans were to be paid back within seven years (Deut 15:1-6). This all goes to show that the modern convention of massive, long-term debt is less than wise and should be avoided whenever possible. The application of this principle minimizes economic risk and focuses on the gradual development of businesses that grow according to real assets, not according to exorbitant debt liabilities.

  These five principles are just an appetizer of a business philosophy. I have not even explored the rich tapestry of leadership examples to be culled from great biblical leaders such as Moses, Nehemiah and Paul. If the Bible is truly "God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16), it should be mined for principles, strategies and attitudes relevant to the business world.

  In the business world--as everywhere else--our strategy should be to conserve what is already good, to reject and separate from the unredeemable and to transform all we can in order to please the Lord. It is not enough to oppose New Age's insinuation into business--though that is imperative--we must erect alternatives whenever possible. This calls for informed Christian activism at both the theoretical and practical levels, lest the world of business become the captive of mystics in three-piece suits.



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