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A “Purpose Driven Christmas” and the New Spirituality

The popular magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, is getting “spiritual.” The December 2004 front cover reveals what’s inside: “How Prayer Heals” and Kathy Lee “On Faith, Forgiveness and the Love That Saved Her.” There is also an article by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church entitled “The Purpose Driven Christmas.” Is all of this indicative of a revival sweeping our nation, or should we find another word for it?

One of the articles tells of “the pivotal health benefits of prayer-like states” and how they “help to shut down stress.” The source of this spiritual tidbit is a Dr. Benson, founding president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

Dr. Benson, however “spiritual” he may sound, says that the definition of spirituality is rather broad. Spirituality, he believes, “doesn’t need to be prayer. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises all give a sense of the presence of a power, a force, an energy, a god.” He believes our real problem is not sin, or the devil, but cortisol. Yes, cortisol. It is released by the adrenal gland and is known as “the stress hormone.” Because cortisol increases blood pressure and heart rate, it ultimately leads to a depressing of the immune system. In other words, 1 Peter 5:8 should be better translated, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, cortisol, courses through your veins as a roaring lion.” Might the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden have been a hormone?

Now how does Pastor Warren’s article fit in with this new spirituality? Actually, quite well. The editor introduces the pastor’s article with these words: “Here, the best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life tells you how to keep the spiritual meaning of the season powerfully alive.” In the article, Warren relates that Christmas should be a time for “meaningful fellowship,” “personal growth,” “helpful service,” “joyful worship,” and “cheerful sharing.”

The Purpose Driven Life has sold millions of copies. It is impossible to travel on a bus, subway, or airplane without seeing a couple of people engrossed by its message. But is it a distinctively Christian message? And if so, why is its author writing in a secular magazine that is saturated with the new spirituality?

In 1 Corinthians 15 the apostle explains the core of the Christian faith: “How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (vss. 3-4). Would Ladies’ Home Journal print this really good news?

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