Network television is never comfortable discussing religion – unless the expert is an Oprah-pleasing liberal New Age guru like Deepak Chopra. Fresh from asserting religious people should take their faith and shove it before they enter the voting booth, Chopra was interviewed on Tuesday’s Early Show on CBS about his new book about Jesus (or, more accurately, manufacturing an entirely new Jesus).
Using anxiety over the economic crisis as a hook, CBS twice plugged his appearance as a chance to hear from "one of the pioneers of spirituality and personal development of our time." While Chopra babbled on with very non-Christian concepts about how Heaven is the "creative part inside you," and how we have to adjust capitalism to "nurture the ecosystem," anchor Harry Smith didn’t find anything controversial in his loathing for traditional Christianity or Catholicism.
In February, Chopra came out with a book called The Third Jesus, and in a Reuters report, he denounced present-day Christianity as hateful and divisive and political, and ultimately dismissed it as "inanity of the utmost extreme." CBS was too busy touting its "pioneer of spirituality" to find this controversy:
Chopra said the Jesus created by the Catholic Church was confusing because although the religion had done a lot of good in the world, it had also taken part "in the Crusades, in witch hunts, in burning people on the stake, homophobia, depriving women of their rights, all kinds of things."
"The present day crisis in Christianity is it's bogged down in issues like -- what would Jesus do? They make pronouncements on things like abortion, women's rights, homophobia, stem cell research -- nothing to do with Christ," he said.
"It influences our politics, it influences our national policy, it influences whether we go to war or not in the name of God," he said. "It's inanity of the utmost extreme."
As the 7:30 half hour began on Tuesday, Harry Smith touted Chopra’s upcoming chat: "Best-selling author Deepak Chopra, one of the pioneers of spirituality and personal development of our time, talks about his new book on Jesus, as well as how his lessons can help Americans going through some tough economic times." Maggie Rodriguez chimed in: "There's a good vibe in the studio right now, very Zen." Seconds later, Smith began with some vague talk about how most of the life of Jesus isn’t described in the Bible, and then moved on to present times:
SMITH: There is so much anxiety in the country about what's -- you know, when is the next piece of bad news going to come. The market keep going down, jobs keep closing down. There's -- you like to talk about this sense -- the difference between wealth and money. What's wealth?
CHOPRA: Wealth is the progressive realization of worthy goals. Wealth is the ability to love and have compassion. Wealth is meaningful, caring relationships. Wealth is good health. But, finally, wealth is to get in touch with the creative part inside you, which is also the creative part of the Universe, what, you know, he calls the Kingdom of Heaven.
CHOPRA: It's the state of awareness where you find in these troubling times, opportunities.
SMITH: Right. And in your sense, and what so many people who are fans of yours say, this is where real prosperity is, as if you -- your own personal prosperity?
CHOPRA: Yes, because money, in contrast to wealth, is spending something that you haven't earned, to buy things that you don't need, to impress people that you don't like. And most of it is -- is in a casino, you know? $2.9 trillion circulates in the worlds market every day. 2.9, it's mind boggling. Of that, only 2 percent actually provides meaningful goods and services.
SMITH: Right. Actual food on the table, or heat, or electricity.
CHOPRA: Yeah, the rest is speculation. It's a casino.
SMITH: Yeah. So how do we, as a society, a lot of people say where there's catastrophe, there's opportunity. Is this a teaching opportunity?
CHOPRA: I think it's a paradigm shift. We have to take a creative leap and really recognize what true wealth is. We have to create an industry which is based on peace and not a war. We have to actually provide a green economy. We have to nurture the ecosystem.
CHOPRA: We have to build infrastructure. And if we do that, we'll provide jobs and we'll create actual wealth.
SMITH: And what does the New Testament say? A rich man has as much chance getting into the Kingdom of Heaven as a camel getting through the eye of a needle?
CHOPRA: But the Kingdom of Heaven, as he said, is inside you.
SMITH: There you go, Deepak Chopra, always a pleasure.
As part of his blogging for the Washington Post's On Faith website, Chopra has also written that Pope Benedict ought to get over his own ego, that he "needs to acknowledge reality" and go with the modern flow on sexual liberation.
For a takedown on Chopra's opus on The Third Jesus, Carl Olson minces no words:
Reading Chopra trying to explain the nature of his Jesus’ life and work is like watching a madman shooting fog with a shotgun. He claims to have hit the target every time, but the fog remains and nothing has really happened, even while the shooter’s cockiness grows with every blast.