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The hula hoop syndrome

The other day I heard the phrase "hula hoop syndrome" used to describe how new fads that quickly become popular but then die off. I, with many of you, may remember when hula-hoops came out with their bright colors, the swinging of hips and the "hoopla" they created, but also how they faded fast.

The word "syndrome" I also found interesting to be connected to the harmless hula hoop. Why? Because by one definition I read, it refers to a group of symptoms characteristic of a disorder often associated with unsound thinking.

I believe the author in this case is referring to how without thought people chase new fads to find excitement in their often hum-drum lives. You may agree we like to be enthused physically, emotionally and spiritually. The "hula hoop syndrome" therefore may accurately describe our desires to have certain voids filled in our lives. But when fads are brought into Christ’s church in an attempt to revitalize our spirits the question that remains is this: is it wise to bring enthusiasm into it in order to keep our spirits alive?

I can’t see anywhere in Scripture where Christ instructs us to do so. But it’s clear that fads are frequently used for this purpose. If we think about them, they usually promise us some new found spirituality over and above what Jesus’ name is capable of doing to create a right spirit within us. No doubt, fads are promoted with every good intention, but in the end, they harm the church and the proclamation of the Gospel. And why is that? Because instead of Christ’s right teachings, they often become the source of people’s spirituality.

Take for instance the current fad surrounding "labyrinths” being promoted by a Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, who authored "Walking the Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice." As labyrinths are described by her, they act as guides that lead people along their spiritual journey. The question is, when enthusiasm for this fad runs out, what’s next? What spiritual gizmo will help us find our spirituality if not Christ himself?

So what I do is listen closely to the words of those promoting fads which typically say, “We need to be spiritual, but not religious”. That is, they say sure, we believe in God or some higher power and are sincerely seeking some form of spirituality, but don’t give us the form and substance of Christ’s doctrines for His church where Christ offers mankind all that is necessary for spiritual life.

Enthusiasm for fads therefore is as old as Genesis 3 and creates the same indifference towards how God chooses to work faith, life and salvation in us. For fads, by definition, with their exaggerated zeal, defy what Scripture says: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow”!

Christ then does not want us to obsess over practices that distract us from His cross and empty tomb which offer true spiritual life. He, however, wants us to profess as the Church has in the Nicene Creed that in baptism Jesus offers us forgiveness, faith and His Holy Spirit to create a new spirit within us. As God has spoken; “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God”. Christ also wants us to receive the Lord’s Supper as He intended, where His true body and blood offers repentant sinners forgiveness, life and salvation as the Church has always understood this gift of grace to deliver.

This we unashamedly profess at Mission of the Cross, that through God’s Word and Sacraments we are made full, content, at peace, and truly spiritual because Christ dwells richly in us. We are happy to report then that you won’t find any labyrinths here to navigate, no gimmicks or fads that come and go, but only Christ’s grace and forgiveness that set us free from sin, death and Satan.