In last week’s posts on reframing our view of labor and things we should stop saying about pregnancy, a few readers misunderstood the meaning of “New Age” and its influence on modern pregnancy culture. New Age philosophy is not another term for modern medical practice. New Age practices are the face of spirituality in today’s world, and it benefits every believer to be aware of them – particularly in pregnancy and birth.
At first glance, there’s a lot of crossover between what we hear from New Age believers and basic “Christianese”. You’ll hear people talk about “the Spirit of God”, say things like “God is One”, listen for “His voice”, and use verses like “the kingdom of God is within you”. Some will even reference Jesus or read the Bible as part of their spiritual practice (a good example of this is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love). But just because people use these terms does NOT make them followers of the true Christ. When we scratch below the surface, we discover an entire world of spiritualism completely at odds with Christ and the Bible.
I wish I had time to go into the core values of New Age philosophy here, but I don’t – so I’ll leave it to my favorite source, Steven Bancarz. Steven is an ex-New Ager who now exposes the truth about Eastern meditation, yoga, and other New Age practices on his blog, Reasons for Jesus. Here are some posts I HIGHLY recommend reading to understand this philosophy better:
This fantastic post by another Christian convert and former New Age believer breaks down the philosophy even more:
What does this have to do with birth? Because New Age philosophies center so much on life, earth, and self, birth is monumental to the belief system (it has profound impact regardless of belief system, but New Agers prioritize these themes). If you explore hashtags like #naturalbirth, #breastfeeding, #placenta, #womb, and #birth on Instagram, you’ll soon see New Age themes emerge. Without discernment, Christian women (particularly those in the natural birthing world) can get caught up in a culture that goes far beyond the practical and instead delves into a spiritual realm incompatible with Christian discipleship.
So how does a Christian mom respond? How do you go the “natural” route without getting sucked into extrabiblical theology? As a “sorta-crunchy” mom myself, here are three ways I do this with discernment.
Know the New Age Difference
Discernment does not come naturally. To discern a false theology or portrayal of God, life and birth, you have to have a solid worldview in place. Your mind must be FIRST saturated with God’s Word and the teaching of trustworthy theologians – not pop culture spiritualists – to know the difference between what is true and what is false.
To recognize a New Age philosophy when you see one, you must first understand what New Age is all about (and the aforementioned articles will help with that). Secondly, you must understand the orthodox Christian view of God, Jesus, life, death, and purpose. Because birth is such a pivotal moment for humanity, it touches on all of these topics at once – and it’s why we see this battle for truth in something as simple as natural birth and parenting.
There has never been a time in human history – in my opinion – when understanding Scripture and theology was MORE important than now. This is why your time with God must be more than reading a devotional. Get into God’s Word, learning how to study Scripture, use a good commentary! Ask God for wisdom and discernment – not just in choosing birth materials, but for life in a culture of false spirituality. Know the New Age difference so you can stand up for truth.
Use Discernment with Birthing Materials
In the back of my free pregnancy ebook, I recommend both Christian and secular resources. One of my favorite books of all time is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. But even though the content is very helpful, there is spiritual content that is anything but. When choosing birth materials – resources, classes, and even midwives and doulas – much of the best material is secular in nature. That’s why you need discernment as you use them!
Some Christians quite literally throw the baby out with the bathwater on this issue. I think that is foolish. Until we have enough Christian material on pregnancy, labor, and birth to replace what the secular world offers, we need to walk by the Spirit’s wisdom when reading these things. Ultimately, we can’t avoid the need for discernment in any other arena; why try to escape it when it comes to birth?
I read a lot of books on pregnancy and birth. I have my babies at home with midwives, and much of the research I do on birth and child raising starts in the natural community. When reading, I do a few things to activate biblical discernment:
- I ask God for wisdom.
- As I read, I remain conscious of any sub-themes or spiritual “advice” the book gives along the way. The same goes for classes (I took three different birth retreats/educational classes with my first daughter, and one with my second child).
- As I read, I check my heart for anything that does not resonate with my spirit. This is usually evidenced by an unsettled or disturbed feeling as I’m reading a particular passage. Usually, I skip ahead to a new section that gets back to the practical aspect of pregnancy or birth.
- If the material is online – an Instagram feed or Facebook page – I unlike or unfollow if I see the material become less practical/beautiful and begin to follow a spiritual agenda.
- I ask the Lord, “Am I benefiting from reading this? Does the good outweigh the work I have to do to discern value from lies?”
I recently made the discernment-based personal decision to decline an invitation to a mommy-and-me yoga session at a local natural motherhood support group. While the invitation sounded great, and I’d been to the group before, I knew that the spiritual aspect of true yoga (which I have studied extensively and written about) is not consistent with my theology. I also knew that attending the group would send a message to my peers that I approve of the practice and do not find it conflict with my faith in Christ – which would be a lie. Even though the group sounds like a ton of fun, I don’t attend, because my witness is more important than my entertainment.
Surround Yourself with Christian Support
Finally, one of the best ways to supplement your walk with the Lord and study of His Word is to surround yourself with solid Christian peers who can help you stay on track theologically. This is one reason I created the Roundtable. For you, this could be a group of wives and moms, a Bible study at your church, or even a single friend who will discuss the “deep stuff” with you. It is extremely helpful – regarding the natural world – to have a fellow “crunchy” Christian mom to discuss these themes with.
By surrounding yourself with strong believers, you have people who can hold your theology accountable to Scripture. If you have a question or hesitation, you can talk to those people to get a trustworthy perspective. If you hear something in your birthing or breastfeeding class that doesn’t quite jive with your spirit, you have someone to talk to about the issue (your spouse, of course, is the first stop).
Though the natural mothering and New Age worlds inevitably intersect at several points, this doesn’t mean we throw out the beneficial and even God-glorifying aspects of natural living. It means we use discernment. We educate ourselves. We read with open eyes and Christ-centered hearts. We check out a class and we leave it, or we check out a class and we stay. The discernment required in pregnancy and birth are simply practice for what we’ll do the rest of our lives as moms – and as women of God.