Who was the last pop star you heard of who converted to Islam? Cat Stevens? Try ‘googling’ ‘pop star’ and ‘Islam’ and, yes, up come several stories on Yusuf Islam, better known as Cat Stevens. You can even download a video from www.turntoislam.com telling his story reminiscing back forty years.
Or maybe you have heard Michael Jackson’s name being linked with Islam? An Arab-Israeli website reported that after being cleared of child abuse charges last year, the megastar had bought real-estate on an artificial island in Bahrain. Following the example of his brother, Jermaine, now living in Dubai, Jackson had decided to convert because Islam was ‘the closest religion to his personal beliefs’. Jackson hoped to be rid of legal troubles dogging him, added the report, and ‘to enjoy the kind of freedom he says he does not have in America’. The BBC has confirmed the story, reporting Jackson’s father as saying his son does want to live again in the US.
However, these two examples don’t signalla trend. Rather, they are exceptions proving the rule. Islam is not attractive to the many superstars more known for adopting ‘weird and wonderful’ do-it-yourself spiritualities. Names linked with Kabbalah, a Jewish mysticism, include Britney Spears, Elizabeth Taylor, David and Posh Beckham, Demi Moore, Mick Jagger, Naomi Campbell, and-most fanatically of all-Madonna. Richard Gere is one of the world’s most famous Buddhists. And despite negative publicity, Tom Cruse remains a committed Scientologist.
Of course, this is not new. The Beatles were on the forefront of the eastern religions craze nearly four decades ago. But that was a fad that soon passed. Then in the ’80’s, we started hearing a lot about New Age. That too would pass, I thought. But I was mistaken… as were those who predicted that the more modern society became, the more secular and less religious people would be. Many observers are recognising that we are witnessing nothing short of a spiritual revival. A new spiritual age is emerging. And the superstars are guiding the way.
Spiritual guides, gurus and life coaches are being sought out. ‘Body, mind and spirit’ sections of bookstores outsell all other departments. Alternative medical practices are springing up in suburban centres all over Europe. New Age CD’s offer background music of peace and tranquillity, while neighbourhood classes in yoga, meditation, hypnotherapy and reiki have moved from the fringes to mainstream, accepted culture. Groups of middle-aged Europeans practising the slow-motion movements of feng shui have become common sights in our parks. Roadside mini-shrines, marking the sites of fatal accidents, reflect a renewed expression of ritual.
In France, income tax returns have confirmed for years now that there are more registered spiritualist healers than priest, doctors and lawyers combined. Surveys reveal that many Europeans believe in ‘God’-not necessarily the Biblical God, but more a Star Wars-type guiding force. Likewise many Europeans believe life after death, but in reincarnation, not necessarily resurrection life.
Quietly and steadily, Europeans are being converted to ways of thinking influenced by eastern religions, New Age philosophies and pre-Christian paganism. Truly a spiritual revolution is happening! So how are we, followers of Jesus Christ, responding to this ‘spiritual awakening’?
Frankly, hardly at all! Well, think about it. How is your local church responding? I have to confess that we in YWAM have not yet started to develop effective responses here in Europe. But, here and there, especially in England, significant ministries are emerging, often out of mainstream churches, to develop incarnational ministries reaching out to the new spiritual seekers.
The European church desperately needs to be awakened and equipped for this spiritual age. That is why in a few weeks we, as the Hope for Europe evangelism network, are holding a second annual consultation, called Evangelism in a New Age, at Chrischona Conference Centre in Basel, November 13-16. Resource people with proven track records will help us understand the true situation in Europe today. Lars Johansson (Sweden), Ole Skjerbaek Madsen (Denmark) and Daniel Hari (Switzerland) will tell us stories about how many spiritual seekers are finding the God of the Bible today, and will help us see how we can begin to reach out to seekers near us.
For further information, and to register on-line, go to: www.hfe.org/newsandevents/events.php
Till next week,