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Alternatives


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TAKE A COSER LOOK:
"Alternatives"

Since the 1970s the word ‘alternative’ (or ‘alternatives) has been a ‘buzz word’. It’s been trendy and fashionable in relation to a variety of issues and areas of life. There are magazines and newspapers that have sections or columns headed: ‘Alternatives’.

When you use the word ‘alternative’ you need to ask: ‘Alternative to what?’

If you’re confronted by multiple choices, it is appropriate to consider what the various alternatives and their outcomes might be.

But generally the word is used differently today.

There are now numerous groups and organisations, magazines, newspaper columns, web sites, and more, all actually called: ‘ALTERNATIVES’ - there’s even an ‘Alternatives Library’ (‘Alternatives is one of the largest free online libraries for social change.’) and an ‘Alternatives Credit Union’.

There are alternative study groups, alternative political action groups, alternative marriage groups, alternative lifestyles groups, alternative medicine and health care groups, alternative religious and faith groups, alternative diet groups, alternative information and resource groups - and more. Most of these have programmes, activities, and various resources promoting their varied alternatives.

When some of these are checked out, one discovers many hundreds of sub-headings or related topics or subjects, which, if they were all listed, would fill several pages of standard newspaper size. These include general topics ranging from: ‘acupressure, acupuncture, addiction, after death, alawashka, alchemy, alien, altered states, alternative med schools, alternative medicine, alternative technology, american gothic tarot, amulets, ananda-marga, angels, animal care, archaeological anomalies, aromatherapy, arts crafts, ashtanga yoga, astral travel, astrology’ through to: ‘tai chi, taiji quan, tantra, taoism, tarot, telepathy, thai massage, thai yoga, theosophy, tibet, trance dancing, transmission meditation, ufo, usui reiki, vampires, vegetarianism, vibrational healing, weight loss, wicca, witchcraft, womens pages, Wu Tai Chi, yoga, yogadance, yogic diets, zen, zen shiatsu.’

There are also discussion topics, or topics presented by speakers on such things as: ‘Unconditional Success’, ‘The Urban Shaman’, ‘The Heart of Tantra’, ‘Embracing Uncertainty’, ‘Body Alignment Technique’, ‘Intuition’, ‘Heart and Soul Healing’, ‘Wisdom From an Empty Mind’ and the like.

Most of these ‘alternatives’ tend to come under the umbrella of the ‘New Age’ movement or philosophy - though there are a number of exceptions to that. For example, one group calling itself, ALTERNATIVES, describes itself: ‘Alternatives - Organized in 1973 as a protest against the commercialization of Christmas, Alternatives encourages people of faith to examine and challenge our consumer society…Alternatives is a non-profit organization that works with a number of Protestant denominations and Catholic dioceses to provide and distribute materials on responsible living, social justice and peace.’

Some of the alternative organisations, programmes or viewpoints are well worth considering - many others raise some important questions - while many are just questionable.

They all have something in common. They all express dissatisfaction with the way things are, with the status quo - be it in lifestyle, health, relationships, religion and faith, politics, international issues or other significant issues affecting both personal and collective (even global) values and perspectives. They all present the notion that there is something better. But are they always right?

While change and development, including new alternatives to what has been around, or to the way its ‘always been done’, are both inevitable and valid - not all changes and alternatives are always better. Not everything new is necessarily good or best. Sometimes the problem is that the ‘true and tried’ have not been really tried. There is also the problem that, by nature, we tend to be rebellious and so want to opt for alternatives, especially against the advice of those who seem to know better.

Some years ago a major soft drink company faced an opposition company that was diversifying its product range. This major company decided it would add a new formula drink to its range. Test sampling and related research was done. The results seemed positive and popular. So the new formula and flavoured drink was marketed. It was a dismal failure. Faithful customers considered that the new drink was NOT the real thing! The new product was soon withdrawn. Customers decided to stay with the true and tried.

For all of us issues of lifestyle, health, relationships, religion and faith, politics, international matters and other significant issues do affect us personally and collectively. As we consider these things and examine our values and viewpoints we should avoid the dangerous assumption that all new alternatives must be better.

We believe that Jesus Christ, his teaching and way of life, are still the best alternative for today. It is not Christ and Christianity that has failed. Often the problem, both in the past and present, is that neither Christ nor Christianity have been truly tried. He is still the real thing - the ultimate reality who gives new value and perspectives to all the significant issues that affect us. Try him and discover that reality for yourself.

WA van Leen
Director
CCG Ministries
May 2002