East meets West... almost, but not quite
Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for everything. This includes the time to embrace, and the time to refrain from embracing and applies to both people and ideologies. In our ridiculously fast paced world of unlimited economic expansion and it’s attendant busyness, anyone with eyes to see is beginning to question the system. What’s so great about being able to buy a car that gets 7 miles to the gallon, drive it a half mile to pick up a prepackaged dinner and a dvd to watch on the big screen TV? The results of this scenario, replicated with variations in millions of households across America are not pleasant: obesity, boredom, loss of intimacy, fiscal irresponsibility, heart disease, environmental degradation and its attendant cancers. And I have a feeling that's just the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg.
As a result, there’s been a popular movement to embrace the mechanisms and worldviews of the east as a means of coping and transcending this mire. Predictably, evangelicals have reacted by vilifying the forms espoused by the east. This is a huge mistake, especially when it comes to the matter of meditation. To meditate is to focus; to shut oneself away from the myriad of distractions, and sit quietly, providing space for God to do both healing and transforming work. It’s hard to argue with the practice from a purely physiological standpoint.
But of course, we aren't just bodies, and so one must also be discriminatory. What does meditation do to our spirits? This is where we must part with our friends from the east, because we believe that there is real evil in the world, and so can't embrace the monism of the east which invites meditation for the purpose of erasing all distinction between subject and object. Evil and good are both realities in our fallen world. The object of meditation in eastern religions is to break through the illusion of distinction, so that we come to see the oneness of all things. But God and Satan are not the same thing. And even within my own being there is a war going on between good and evil. So my goal in meditation is not about breaking through the illusioin of distinction - but rather to see clearly - to see reality because my seeing has been informed by Christ. This seeing will see oneness in its proper proportion; all of humanity is love by God share the capacity to display His love, mercy, hope, justice, peace, and generosity. We come to see this union more clearly through our meditation. But there is more. Disciplined meditation, focused on Christ as the object, has the effect of enabling us to see distinction as well. This is important, because maturity and wisdom have to do with our capacity to discern between good and evil - a capacity, might I add, that seems in desparately short supply these days on both sides of the politcal aisle and both shores of the Atlantic. Where there shall we find the wisdom we need? Part of the answer lies in the discipline of meditation. That's why if you drop in on my prayer shelf, you'll find a place for meditating, and if you see me there I might look like I'm practicing some New Age or Buddhist ritual. But I'm not. I'm meditating on Christ. But more tomorrow on what this means.