Tuesday, August 01, 2006

One Way

As you drive through pretzel-like highway interchanges, with off-ramps and on-ramps going every which way, you will at times see signs directing you not to go down a road which will introduce you to the front end of someone else’s car. These signs usually have messages like “Wrong Way,” “Go Back,” “Do Not Enter,” or “One Way.” Such signs are helpful and can even save your life. Wouldn’t it also be helpful if at the clover-leaf junctions of our spiritual life we had such signs indicating which way to go and which way not to go? Actually, they are there, but they’re not quite as easy to see as we might wish. I’d like to point out a few of them now so they will be easier for you to recognize.

ps the most easily-noticed sign (at least for you and I) is the “One Way” sign, which was put in place personally by the Word of God. I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life,” said our Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:6).

There is a growing number of people today (many of whom actually profess membership in the Church) who have difficulty reading that sign. They may be termed the “I’m OK, you’re OK” bunch. They are “tolerant,” “non-judgmental,” and “open-minded” (= empty-headed?) about matters of eternal life and death! Jesus may be my way (they say), but if He’s not yours, that’s OK. Any way is good, as long as it works for you and it doesn’t hurt anybody. I would never impose my beliefs on anyone else. Let’s just dialogue! Now evangelization is not an imposition of beliefs on others, but it is also not mere “dialogue.” Evangelists present the Gospel of salvation “not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1Thess. 1:5). The outcome of preaching Jesus Christ as the Way is not “I’m OK, you’re OK,” but more often than not: “Brother, what must I do to be saved?”

Allow me to point out a few more road signs for you. If you miss the One Way sign, you will inevitably end up with a dangerous alternative. There is a road taken today by an increasing number of people in search of spiritual experience. It is the road of syncretism (the “a la carte” approach to spirituality) and of undiscerning acceptance of various spiritual and mystical traditions—and a little making up of their own!—which neither come from nor lead to Jesus Christ. (I hesitate these days even to say “Christ” without also saying “Jesus”; so many are using the title “Christ” to mean all kinds of things that have little or nothing to do with Jesus.) The sign on this road is “Wrong Way.”

If you take that way, you may indeed have spiritual experiences, but you will not know what spirit they originate from or lead to. It is so easy to be deceived when opening yourself to “the spiritual.” Now if a person is already a member of the Church and decides that he or she would like to experiment with various sorts of dubious spiritual practices in search of mystical experience or “the meaning of life” (as one eclectic author describes his own departure from the true faith), this sign appears on the road: “Go Back.” You will not find the meaning of life, you will not find God (though you may become so absorbed with yourself that you think you’ve found Him, and behold, He’s you! Or you are He, or both of you are He, or both of you are you, or everything, or nothing, or Shirley McLaine, or all of the above, or none of the above). You will not find the true God because you have either left the Way, Jesus Christ, or you have reduced Him to a prophet or sage on a par with all the rest (which is pretty much the same as leaving the Way). Open your eyes and read that sign: “Go Back.” Back to the Church, the Sacraments, the Bible, Christian prayer. There’s more than enough there to feed your soul and prepare you for eternal happiness.

You will find elements of all the above in what is called the New Age movement, but you will find even spookier stuff there. New Age “spirituality” to a great extent borders on the occult, if it is not wholly immersed in it. People who follow this movement (I'm speaking here of those who aren't actually witches, devil-worshippers, or politicians) often consider new-age belief and practice as the appropriate spiritual adjunct to radical feminism or radical environmentalism, etc (I stress “radical” here, because there are acceptable forms of feminism and environmentalism). Others just find it quaint or curious or even fascinating. Still others are just a little too open-minded and tolerant of the whole business. Meanwhile, their black-lipsticked children play with ouija boards, muddle their minds with occult video games, and sit around empowering each other with crystals, witchy rituals, and the like.

The sign you should notice at the very beginning of the New Age on-ramp is: “Do Not Enter.” Don’t even get interested. Learn to discern. It’s not always obvious that a certain book or video or spiritual method is leading the wrong way. Don’t get fascinated by the unconventional, the mysterious, the new, the secret. That’s the first step down toward the dungeon where dragons dwell. Talk to someone who has been heavily involved in New Age or occult beliefs and practices (let alone actual satanic cults). It’s hard to get out. Real hard. It follows you.

Before you look for signs in the sky, look for the signs on the very road you are traveling. Know which is the wrong way, when not to enter, and when to go back (if you missed all the other signs). Above all, follow the One Way sign. Jesus Christ is Lord, the only Savior, the Way, the Truth, the Life. If you do not follow this Way, when you pass from this life to the next, you will find, to your eternal dismay, one more sign: “Dead End.”