The selling of spirituality misleads people

By Clyde Davis: CNJ columnist

Our recent trip to Sedona, Ariz., brought us in touch with one of the most striking landscapes I have ever encountered.
The red rock formations that we were able to do a little hiking among, the spectacular views that we were treated to, and the sensory overload on the beauty of God’s creation would have taken months, not days, to appreciate.

In addition, Sedona has a living, breathing arts scene. Who could not be inspired by this environment, and what artist in any medium, given the opportunity, would not choose to live there? The spectrum was wide and varied, including music, graphics, sculpture, you name it.

It is often promoted as a magical place, and truly is, except for one aspect: That’s an aspect not limited to Sedona, or even about Sedona, but an issue present there, which we also see in other places and contexts. 

The selling of spirituality.

You see, this article is not really about Sedona, but about those who prey on the gullible and their spiritual hunger, whether they are selling prayer cloths, sand from Jerusalem, books that guarantee a resolution of your spiritual conflicts, or (like Sedona) the energy of the Creator which seems to be stronger or more felt in certain places.

In this Arizona town, it was the promoting of crystals, wands, energy items, and the ostensibly unique energy fields, which exist in the natural beauty. Certainly anyone is free to sell such items, but at what price, and with what attached promises to lead the buyer on? To me, your spiritual gifts and your journey are for you, the Creator, and your spiritual community (church, synagogue, or fellowship) to discern and understand; like getting in shape physically, there is no easy way.

To illustrate, I find Grulla Lake to be a uniquely spiritual place. Can I tell you that it is so for you, or tell you that, for a price, I will make it so? Of course not. 

Yet again, this is about a pattern, not a place. You can see the selling of spirituality by tuning in to many televangelists. For a price, including a large profit, they will sell you holy water from the Jordan River, prayer cloths they have prayed over, books that will guarantee solving your problems, etc.

It happens in person. When I was a teen, the church we attended had several years wherein speakers would come to visit who would make high flown promises about what healings they could perform — for a price. (Church leaders: Do not try this in your congregations. I can’t begin to tell you how teenagers can make fools of these guys !)

It happens in all faiths — from the fundamentalist Christian to the nature devotee to the extreme Buddhist — anyone can be misled by the selling of spirituality. And by the way, haven’t our great leaders in all faiths had a few words to say about this? I’m most familiar with what pertains to Jesus and the prophets, but I suspect others did as well.

It comes down to the search for an easy answer. In any tradition I am aware of, growing spiritually is hard work, just like my earlier analogy to getting in shape. We humans would like to find the right cross necklace, the right medal, the right prayer card, the right crystal, and so on, to make it easy. It wasn’t meant to be.

Oh, by the way, I brought back some red rocks from Sedona. I’ll sell them to you for $5 each — guaranteed to improve your life.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at:
clyde_davis@yahoo.com