28 December, 2011

Is Christmas a Birthday Celebration?

Happy Two-Thousand-somethingish Birthday Jesus, you don't look a day over 35!!!

Is it really?

Technically No. Theologans and historians do not know the exact date of the birth of Jesus. It was agreed somewhere around the 4th Century that December 25 was chosen to signify the Birth of Jesus. So for over 16+ centuries the majority of humanity has recognized December 25 as "Jesus' Birthday." It's been said that the adaptation of December 25 as Jesus' birth was a result of merging the significance with a Pagan Winter Solstice Yule Holiday.

Social paradigms come and go in regards to the reaction to this season. Christmas at certain points became outlawed in England and in the beginning of the U.S. It's ironic considering there's a perception out there currently that a "War on Christmas" exists. Unfortunately the so-called "War on Christmas" hype intensified in response to the Inauguration of President Obama and the unfounded, unproven racially driven ties of him to Islam.

Which leads me to my next point.

People need to lighten the fuck up when expressing greetings to each other. So what if someone greets you with a "Happy Holidays" rather than a "Merry Christmas." So what if someone greets you with a "Merry Christmas" rather than a "Happy Holidays?" The bottom line is someone is putting forth an effort to wish you well. Can you focus on that and not whether or not they greeted you "correctly?" Hell, Jews had to put up with "Merry Christmas" and not be greeted with "Happy Chaunukah." Some members of the Black Community celebrate Kwaanza. If someone wishes someone else a "Happy Holidays," it doesn't necessarily means that they "HATE JESUS," it means they want to wish you well during this time of the year and they're attempting to be sensitive to your personal needs. If you hate "Happy Holidays" so much, then I'll greet you with a "Happy Festivus!" Fuck it, I'll just greet you with a "Mele Kalikimaka," OK? Or would you prefer a "Fuck You and Fuck this Season" greeting, like I used to express five years ago?

So then what is Christmas about? Or December 25?

So December 25 was chosen to signify the Birthday of Jesus. Some theologians are OK with that, some aren't. Also for those of you who think that everyone who labels themselves as "Christians" are all on the same page in regards to December 25, think again. Some of those who call themselves "Christian" distance themselves altogether from the December 25 date because from a historical sense, Christmas was linked to other Winter Pagan Holidays.

So yes,(going back) Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere) occurs approximately on the 21 of December. That's the event there the Earth surface is furthest away from the Sun. In other words, the period where the planet receives the least amount of light. At one point, Caesar declared DECEMBER 25 as Winter Solstice during his reign. If you Wiki "Winter Solstice," almost every culture has some form of celebration or seasonal significance to that period. Always along the line of the theme of "light over dark, rebirth, end/beginning of a new cycle." (BTW, in the Southern Hemisphere Winter Solstice is June; so is there Christmas on June 25 in the Southern Hemisphere?)

Since the majority of the cultures observes some form of "birth or rebirth" theme during this time of the year, would it be more appropriate just to greet others with a "Happy Birthday?"

Hear me out here...

Since I've been studying Practical/New Thought Christianity and Spirituality, the premise or theological foundation isn't so much that Jesus died and was resurrected on the Cross, but more so that Jesus taught and set an example of tapping into an inner Divinity that exists IN EVERYONE. (Yes, even those who don't call themselves "Christian") Divinity in almost every major faith is referred to as "light" and/or light symbolizes Divinity.

Notice an ongoing theme here?

It should be no surprise that even though Jesus birthday didn't technically fall on December 25, since He's viewed by many in a Divine manner, wouldn't who He is, what He signifies, and how He entered into the world "fit" into this recurring, unifying, underlying theme of light overcoming darkness? (Remember, mangers weren't these wooden stables in Jewish society during the Birth of Jesus, they were more like cave-ish hillside openings near the main housing, so that adds more of this "light overcome dark" imagery theme)

Now let's add my take on this.

As I stated, I'm leaning more and more into this concept of Jesus setting en example of tapping into the Inner Divinity as humanity was originally created. In other words, I'd rather be a "disciple" of Jesus than a "Christian." I'd rather believe in the theology that Jesus believed rather than believe in the theology that worships Jesus. Before He ascended, he commanded to "go and make disciples," not "go and create Christianity." So as His disciple, I aspire to allow the inner Divine light within me to shine and inspire others to shine their inner Divine light. To me, that IS the "Good News."

So let me greet others during this time of year with a "Happy Birthday Divine Light Within!" (And when I wish a "Happy Birthday" to that Divine Light Within, that's INCLUDING EVERYONE, PERIOD!!!)

Its much better than "Happy Holidays" or "Happy Festivus," isn't it?

08 December, 2011

An Open Letter to Practical/New Thought Christian Ministers

Dear Rev ________,

I would like some clarification. Years back during college in the early to mid 90s, I got swept away by the business/personal development seminars craze. In fact I skipped my college courses to attend sales and personal development seminars because I found more value in them versus my college classes. In 94/95 I came across a personal crisis (including getting kicked out of college for academic probation!)  where I decided to attend and join a church. For clarity and such, I wandered into a bookstore in spring of 95 praying that God will help me connect the dots to what I was learning from the church I was attending (The Salvation Army) and to what I learned from past seminars. A book titled Transform Your Life by Dr Rev Barbara King literally fell into my arms afterwards, I bought the book, and I felt connected. Up until that point, I didn't really read The Bible and had no idea how to study it.  When the corps officer (pastor) learned of the book a year later, he reviewed it, told me to not refer to it as it was considered "not truly biblical." My Sunday school teacher even took the reaction further by suggesting that I burn the book.  I placed the book in storage instead.

I officially left The Salvation Army in 2001 and was attending various what is considered "Emergence and/or Post-Modern" Evangelical churches up until last year. In 2007, after hitting a block in my acting endeavors I returned to take courses in the personal development arena and was taking a series of courses until completion in 2009. The church I attended at that time once again discouraged my attendance at such events. Also that time, I came across my tattered copy of Transform Your Life, and re-read it. I looked up the term "New Thought" and began this literary journey researching and studying authors such as Eric Butterworth, H Emilie Cady, Charles Fillmore, Joseph Murphy, Emmet Fox, Catherine Ponder, and Florence Shinn.

This year, I began to attend various worship services in both Unity and Religious Science (Now Center for Spiritual Living) in hopes of attending a Practical Christianity center and/or New Thought Christianity center. The Unity minister at one of the Unity Center I visited announced that she "had never picked up a Bible in her life." I left confused thinking there were several types of religious organizations with the name "Unity" in them.

Are there organizations out there teaching and practicing New Thought/Practical Christianity, and is there a difference between New Thought Christianity and Practical Christianity based on former Unity principles. I'm located in the San Francisco Bay Area. I also travel to Southeast Asia often, and I noticed a lack of a presence there too. (Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, and Hong Kong)

If the New Thought principles is about connection to the inner indwelling of God within by following Jesus' example in order to live an abundant (abundance in every area) life, why does there seem to be a lack of outreach to such teachings? Why does Unity distance themselves from their past as an institution to teach Practical Christianity? Why does the folks at Unity Village not respond when I present such questions to them? I made a few attempts to contact the Conference on Practical Christianity which operates the Charles Fillmore College and there seems to be no listing for centers affiliated with them either.

I consider the works and writings of the aforementioned authors to be not only useful and inspiring, but timeless. They offer a perspective in the application and interpretation of Biblical living that's been under-represented and very much needed. While the majority of Unity center(s) I've visited has been deliberately and consciously referring to this work less and less in their messages and teaching, I feel that we need more. Much more.

Thank you for taking the time and reading this.


Jarrett Chin

07 December, 2011

Erasing the Negative Legacy of Bad Ministers

I understand...

Yes, I agree there's no such thing as a "perfect" church.

Likewise, there's definitely no such thing as a "perfect" minister.

Far from it.

I thought I processed all my negative experiences in regards to church experience through creating this blog. Yet here I am, another Christmas season staring at me in the face. Christmas is just a seasonal reminder of what I don't want to experience anymore while attending church or any other spiritual institutions.

I spent over 6 years with The Salvation Army and part of the Holiday tradition is their infamous red kettle stationed all over commercial areas. Over the years, I've dealt with the best and worse of human behavior and with the expectation of placing a "Christian face," I've forced a smile all the way through some of the ordeals. There were some highlights like receiving a solid gold krugerrand in the kettle. For the most part this was definitely a character builder.

The first two years with the Salvation Army allowed me to build a spiritual foundation, and allowed me to express myself to how creating a relationship with God helped transformed my life. Once we got to year three and beyond, I found myself attempting to please the powers that be in that organization and my connection with The Higher Power deteriorated. I equated pleasing them as pleasing God. I took to heart every little criticism they made towards me including my activities outside of church, my study habits and the time I took to study, and the type of acting jobs I pursued.

It was a challenge to believe that "God loved me" when I kept on dealing with disapproval after disapproval from those who supposedly have authority on who God is/was. When I officially ended my membership with "SA" (Asian American Christians utilized a lot of initials and acronyms), I received an email from the Territorial Director of Programs:

"The responsibilities of being a Soldier of The Salvation Army requires a higher calling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. I am sorry you were not able to fulfill such higher standards."

Those words haunted me to this very moment such that hearing the different bells at each kettle corner creates a similar effect as a military war veteran with PTSD would react to "popping" sounds.

Yet, a week ago I attempted to take the higher ground and assisted my friend who needed an hour break from his kettle duties. I thought afterwards I've moved forward and everything in regards to being a part of The Salvation Army was behind me, but I found myself bombarded with all emotions from the past as a result of just one hour of simply ringing a bell.

Lately, I've found myself angry and easily irritated around people attending church, those who openly talk about God, the church I attend now, God him/herself, and most of all, Me for allowing and co-creating all of the experiences in the first place.

Nobody wants to live life feeling disconnected from a Higher Source. In fact I see that people are doing what they can to create such a connection, even risking mental and emotional abuse just for a brief second of connection. Look no further beyond the bars, the crack houses, the dispensaries, the Occupy camps, the music and dance gatherings, and other places where drugs are prevalent. I would venture to say that these folks are sooooo starving for a connection to feel comfortable existing in their own skin, free from shame, free from discomfort, free to just be them and to be ok with it. They're willing to go all out in search of it even to the detriment of their immediate mental and physical health.

Meanwhile, on the corner somewhere near a congregants of shopper a bell is ringing away, asking for money.

06 December, 2011

Flakey Unreliable Unity Ministers

It's been a challenge nonetheless to find a Practical Christianity center. Unity has been the forefront in spreading the knowledge until recently when they decided to change to a "Spiritual Center." That's all fine and dandy so long as they remain rooted in the New Thought pioneer teachings along with their Biblical knowledge. Unfortunately especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, that has not been the case.

So I searched and sent out correspondences to Rev Guy Lynch from the Las Vegas Practical Christianity Unity Center. I inquired about referring me to anyone who's local to the Bay Area and waited and waited for about a month until I finally contacted him via Facebook. His answer was basically to sign up on his Facebook page and post on his message board. I did, and for some reason, could not access it.  My only means to communicate with him is through his internet broadcast. 

I was excited when I received an email from Rev Mark Hicks announcing his holding a Correspondence Course that has not been offered in over 35 years from Unity. I inquired if it was possible to take the course as originally designed through correspondence as he would be conducting the course in his center located in Texas. Living in California, regular attendance would be a challenge. He has been gracious enough to place his courses and materials online. If anything, his Truth Unity Website has a lot of resources to study the foundational material of the Unity Movement.

Lastly I contacted key members of the Charles Fillmore College and their partner organization Conference on Practical Christianity. I was supposedly placed on their mailing list to receive newsletters and inspirational messages and have yet to receive ONE. I was placed on the list in July 2011.

I don't know what caused the transition of Unity other than what I saw on Ripoff Report. Taking the "Jesus" and "Christ" and "Practical Christianity" because of dropping attendance is not the solution for dropping attendance. At the San Francisco Unity, Rev Sonya Milton confessed to the congregants that she "never picked up a Bible in her life" to a thunderous applause from the attenders. I was baffled and confused when I left that service. "What's so 'practical' if a Bible has never been picked up? Especially from the head pastor of the center???"

Declining attendance at the Unity Centers isn't so much because of the name "Jesus, Christ, Christian" are potentially "offensive" or politically incorrect or intimidating to the visitor. Declining attendance could also be the reflection on non-responsive leadership which based on my experience so far seems to be the case. Removing "Christianity, Jesus, Christ" isn't going to compensate for flakiness. It just bastardizes the vision, insights and messages from the likes of The Fillmores, Catherine Ponder, Dr Cady, and the late Dilet Freeman and Butterworth.