I'm fond of saying, "People are incurably religious." The apostle Paul on Mars Hill said, "His -God's- purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist." Centuries later, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said it this way, "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known by Jesus Christ." You can't escape it, sooner or later people are going to have to find 'some way' to express this inner, created need.
There's a new outward expression of this inner need on the scene, this time lead by some of the more visible personalities in the entertainment industry. Many of us have started to notice it, but haven't known what to call it. It's the "spiritual expressions" of the likes of Angelina Jolie, Richard Gere, Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman and even Madonna. Last year a BeliefNet article called it 'metro-spirituality.' This time around, it mixes Buddhism, Taoism and other ancient forms of spirituality with products. A spiritual consumerism. Going shopping as a holy experience? It's not shopping at Wal-Mart, QVC or Stop and Shop though. Although these wise retailers are sure to have a product line for metro-spiritual types soon.
OK, what is it? It's about values, choices and the search for inner peace in the modern world turning into expressions of spiritual life. This time much of the expression comes from purchases and consuming. Food and where it comes from is a big part of a metro-spiritual lifestyle.
Some say the "Holy Trinity" of metro spirituality is: (1) Honoring the Planet (2) Healing Yourself (3) Exploring Other Cultures.
Others see it in a more consumer oriented package (1) Organic, artisan foods purchased under fair trade agreements (2) Clothes and furnishings from the global community (3) Health, Beauty and Alternative Medicine Products.
Before you hear anything too negative about all of the above, it should be said there is nothing wrong and maybe a lot of things right with those categories. The church I pastor deliberately buys coffee from PuraVida because they enter into fair trade agreements with coffee farmers in places where they otherwise are frequently taken advantage of. Truth is we probably pay a bit more, but the coffee is good and the practices are fair. PuraVida also returns a percentage of their profits back into coffee growing communities and social projects. Everybody wins. That's good.
Recently more Christian leaders been paying attention to the environment, without resorting to worshiping the earth. The earth has been given to us as a stewardship and we should care for it in a similar way to how we care for our bodies and our cars. Which for many of us, isn't much care or investment at all, but even the worst of us give occasional thought and maintenance to both.
Take note that you can't really be poor and be a metro-spiritual, most of this costs money and the products that appeal to metro-spirituals are quite a bit more expensive than their counterparts in WalMart. The Yankee Candles we burn in our house probably won't pass the muster with most metro-spirituals. I do have some sandalwood oils I brought back from India, they would probably have a better chance of towing the line.
Origins, a health and beauty company, whose byline is "The Genius of Nature" offers "Peace of Mind" aroma products. The "Peace of Mind" product line includes some spiritual hints on living the peaceful life: (1) Turn off your cell phone for one hour (2) Create rituals (3) Reconnect with nature (4) Breathe deeply (5) Reach for a 'Peace of Mind' product.
For totally cool and very expensive clothes and home furnishings putting you in tune with the global community and making you feel spiritual be sure to shop Anthropologie or ABC Carpet and Home. If you have doubts that home decorating can be a global spiritual experience, just click on the link to ABC and enjoy the world music and world visual collage on their home page. They put forth their products as "illuminate, timeless, sustainable, spiritual, nomadic, beauty." And they DO have some totally cool stuff!!
Food, the organic kind, grown by artisans is course part of the life of metro-spirituals. Be forewarned though, it's expensive! Somebody described the life of a metro-spiritual as one having, "hippie values and a yuppies pocketbook." Pretty fair. But what drives it?
The human need to touch divinity, to experience inner peace and be connected to others is the driving force. We're incurable. We need to be religious. The 20th century made all of us aware that we are in fact a global community and equality does not exist across the global spectrum. Metro-spirituals are trying somehow to connect with the rest of the world and to show their solidarity and concern, even if their carpets are overpriced and the profits never get to the peasants that wove them together with bleeding fingers. But at least they're aware and they are trying to appease an inner calling to connection. Or as others would evaluate it, maybe they are just filthy rich and are trying to appease their conscience. Maybe a little of both.
The problem, as I see it, and what makes it obviously clear that it doesn't embody absolute truth, is that everybody cannot practice metro-spirituality. The truth is the people in the developing world that are creating the product base that connects so many metro-spirituals to the global community are not earning a sustainable income from their products. In fairness many companies are recognizing this, but the Buddhist peasant that carves out a statue sold in a Manhattan shop could not pay the street price of his own creation if he saved all of his income for a lifetime.
If something is true, it will be true for all people in all places at all times. This is what we mean when we use the phrase "absolute truth." With one billion people still without clean drinking water, metro-spirituality is a long way from being able to meet the spiritual needs of the global community.
Some say that metro-spirituality is actually contributing to some of the problems it is trying to identify with. Eco-tourism is a growing industry among metro-spirituals, but some say it is harming the very environments people are coming to see and experience.
One of the proofs that true, Biblical Christianity, is the expression that has come from heaven is its ability to morph in every culture, every locality and any age. Poverty is no barrier to the practice of pure Christianity and neither is great wealth. The Bible is full of the accounts of people with nothing and people with abundance. Christianity works for both and has admonitions to both.
Jesus gives peace to people who are not able to afford luxury health and beauty products.
The up side is that it's finally OK for Hollywood and celebrities to be spiritual. Celebrities are humans too. They have a God-shaped vacuum as well. Madonna told Larry King, "I was looking for something. I mean, I'd begun practicing yoga and, you know, I was looking for the answers to life. Why am I here? What am I doing here? What is my purpose? How do I fit into the big picture? I know there's more to life than making lots of money and being successful and even getting married and having a family... There's only one thing that lasts and that's your soul. And if you don't work on that, and you don't pay attention to that, then all the money in the world is not going to help you."
Some say that America is 'post-Christian,' that they have tried Christianity and moved right past it. Maybe so. But if it is post-Christian, than it must also be pre-Christian. Most of those that have rejected Christianity haven't rejected Jesus. They've rejected the institutions they have seen around them. Beginning with the baby-boomers, America began to increasingly distrust institutions and started to opt for more individualized and personal outlets of spirituality. That would be fine, except that it will not ultimately satisfy. There is only One that will satisfy and put our hearts at rest.
Metro-Spirituality is only one more evidence, one more proof that there is an emptiness in our hearts that is longing to be filled. Madonna's Kabballh is destined to end up empty and fashions and home furnishings will go out of style. The day will come when getting into an aroma bath will be more painful than it is helpful. There is something of eternal weigh and worth that works for all people everywhere. As the old hymn says, "Come into my heart Lord Jesus, Come into my heart today!"