At a recent United Church of Christ conference titled “Health and Spirituality: The Abundant Life,” the “creation spirituality” theologian Matthew Fox led participants in a song and ritual dance drawn from native-American tribal traditions. More than 400 people danced around their tables, singing, “I walk with beauty before me, behind me, above me, below me, all around me.” Speakers told of finding inner healing through meditation techniques, or through repeating a word, phrase, or muscular activity while blithely disregarding all thoughts. They argued that “anyone can have mystical experiences by using the tools of ritual and gratitude.”

M. Scott Peck, noted psychiatrist and author of The Road Less Traveled, assured the conferees, “We have the technology to welcome God into our organizations. There is nothing magical about this technology. It follows the rules of love.”

The conference, one of many that might be mentioned, illustrates a striking phenomenon in both conservative and liberal Protestantism: Interest in spirituality is burgeoning. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have always made a prominent place for the cultivation of the spiritual life, but they too are being affected by the new emphasis.

What makes the current fascination with spirituality significant is that much of it reflects the largely secular flavor of our time rather than the Bible or church traditions. The renaissance in spirituality shows that established religion has been unable to assuage the anxieties that cripple people today. But the situation is akin to the breakdown of conventional morality and religion in the last phase of the Roman Empire, when people retreated into an introspective ...

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