20 June, 2014

An Open Letter to Unity Leaders

Dear Corporate Leaders, Ministers, and Decision Makers Under The Unity Umbrella:

Throughout the last three years, I have openly blogged about my experience learning about the teachings of Practical Christianity, New Thought Christianity, and Christian Metaphysics as was taught and developed through Unity School of Practical Christianity.  It wasn’t until the latter part of 2013 when I realized that I created the results in my life because I was merely learning about rather than actually learning.

In the beginning, I was often told that New Thought, Practical or Metaphysics have been “the best kept secret” in spirituality.  I don’t know if that is really such a good thing considering that people within the Unity organization are up in arms about declining revenue and attendance.  In fact, there appears to be a major split between two factions within the overall Unity organization over how to reconcile a solution.  That all came to a head a couple of weeks ago during the national convention.  Although the resolution to change bylaws and implement a fee was defeated, there still remains a rift between those who feel that such changes undermines the overall teachings of Unity and those who feel that such a change is considered a part of an organizational evolutionary form of progress.

I have a question for members of both warring factions:

When will the teachings become a priority again???

On my blogs, I’ve often shared about my journey of pursuing further studies in what is called Christian Metaphysics, New Thought Christianity, and Practical Christianity.  I shared the frustrations of visiting different centers and churches only to find out what they’re offering to teach isn’t aligned to what I was looking for.  I shared about deciding against studying a more structured curriculum through Unity Institute because of a head scratching email I received from the admissions director back in 2011.  I shared about other teachings that I’ve taken which was considered to “complement” the teachings of Unity at the Unity centers only to find myself in a more confused state than prior to taking the course.

During those years, I also visited two main Centers for Spiritual Living (Science of Mind, Religious Science) in San Francisco to further my studies.  I was not aware that they too had differing factions over whether or not to use and quote the Bible.  I personally didn’t find them aligned to what I wanted to learn either because of the conflicting factions, so I decided to move on.

The reason why I’m typing this right now is because of the many question marks that linger over the organization that supposedly everyone involved “loves and cares so much about.”  One of my main questions is when will the teachings of Jesus Christ that was interpreted and developed through the Fillmores, Emmet Fox (although he was actually a Divine Science minister), Eric Butterworth, Ed Rabel, and H Emilie Cady become the focus and priority again?  If you noticed, people are taking bits and pieces of their teachings and marketing them to the masses, becoming rich in the process, so there is no debate about the validity or value of those teachings.  Hence that is why I don’t understand the discussion and debate over declining anything within or related to Unity. (attendance, revenue, ect)  In fact, I find it very ironic that I’m involved with a spiritual organization where the founder who wrote one of the pioneering books on prosperity, is struggling financially.  It’s ironic that I’m involved with an organization called “Unity,” knowing that a major organizational split took place in the 1970s over race relations, and a prior split that took place over finances and property distribution. (again, a financial irony) As the basic teachings state, I’d better choose-out of focusing on “ironic” aspects of the organization, otherwise I’ll see more irony, and God knows, I think our society has had enough ironies taking place within our spiritual and religious institutions.

I attend a Unity location now because they do adhere to their bylaws that specifically state that their purpose is to conduct a healing and teaching ministry based on the Practical Christianity taught by The Unity School of Practical Christianity.  Yes, they do host other teachings there, yes, they have guest speakers from different backgrounds, yes, their bookstore includes titles and authors not directly linked to Unity.  However… the minister takes the responsibility of upholding the bylaws very seriously.  An example: this Unity hosted a Children of the Light Wholeness Blessing workshop that was held on a Saturday.  They did not have that workshop taught during the Sunday School time slot, nor did the workshop facilitator spoke any Sunday message.  In fact, I believe that the Unity Movement class was offered on Sundays during that timeframe.  I shared on my other blog posts about how I used to attend Oneness Blessing sessions held and hosted by another Unity location on a regular basis.  They hosted the Oneness Blessing in place of a mid-week prayer meeting, service, or class.  At the end, I found that to be a detriment to the Unity teachings and to the Truth student.  Granted, I don’t know the bylaws of that specific Unity location, so perhaps that location has no issues.  I’ve shared that during a visit to another Unity location upon meeting the “spiritual leader” (they had no minister) I stated that I was there to learn more teachings of Christ that Charles Fillmore and Eric Butterworth taught, which not only left the spiritual leader flustered, but caused her to react with “oh, we still read The Daily Word during our services.”  Another Unity location had a bookstore where the bookstore worker didn’t know who Fillmore nor Butterworth was.  Actually, I remembered the exact response from her when I asked her which section that I can find their books: “um…who are they?  Are you sure we have their stuff here?”  

As part of my journey to learn the teachings better, I joined several groups on Facebook that focused on Unity and New Thought.  Because Unity is strict about the use of their name, the Facebook group was required to put a “non-affiliated” tag to their page information.  One of the group facilitator, Tuyet Julie Van, invited me to join a group of New Thought students with an Asian background.  She posed a question to me and to a Unity ministerial student: if Practical Christianity is considered Truth and important, then why is there a lack of access of such teachings for the majority of Asian communities worldwide?  In fact, we’d often light-heartedly joked and chided with the ministerial student about how she will single-handedly bestow the teachings to the entire Asia and the Asian American communities.  It was a joke because as we all know, or we should know, that the diversity in Asia is vast, and therefore there is no uniform or blanket way to outreach such a vast group.  I may as well share my grievance regarding the email I received from the admissions counselor at the Unity Institute back in 2011.  I made a statement that I may not necessarily want to be a minister, but I wanted to make sure that the teachings be taught and spread to two locations near and dear to my heart: Oakland, California, and Singapore.  His response to me made a reference that Seicho No Ie is based out of Japan.  At that time, I didn’t know what he was talking about.  I looked up Seicho No Ie online to learn that it was another organization that branched out of Religious Science and was primarily based out of Japan.  Still, I was puzzled at the response because I didn’t know what Oakland or Singapore had to do with Japan.  Actually I knew that during the Second World War, Japan had occupied Singapore, but that was before Singapore became an independent country and was still considered to be Malaysia, and Oakland’s sister city is Fukuoka, Japan.  Otherwise, the question remains what does Seicho No Ie have to do with the fact that I wanted to help spread Practical/New Thought Christianity in Singapore and Oakland?

Which leads me to another incident regarding race/cultural relations in New Thought…

On one of the Unity group, someone came and posted his disdain that several members of the group acknowledged the fact that the Unity movement was influenced by Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science.  In his argument, he states that because the Christian Science stance in relation with the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, BiSexual, Transgender) community remained unchanged since the days of Mary Baker Eddy, they deserve no acknowledgement whatsoever of having anything to do with the entire New Thought movement, including Unity.  He also applauded the branding process both Unity and Religious Science underwent because of their statement regarding LGBT issues.  I pointed out that though the branding included those of other races and cultures too, I would like to see more of an outreach and effort to teach groups of other ethnicities and languages.  His response was “I don’t care about them as long as they outreach to us.”  (“Them” meaning other ethnic groups and “us” meaning those in the LGBT communities)  I also asked him why he acknowledged “New Thought” to include Centers for Spiritual Living, AGNT, ANTN, Unity, and Divine Science, but didn’t mention Universal Foundation for Better Living, or even Hillside and Agape. (I don't remember if he mentioned INTA)  He then accused me of “pulling out the race card.”  I accused him of pulling out the LGBT card first to which other members of the group responded that there is “zero tolerance of homophobia in the group.”

So again I ask…

When will the teachings to everyone become a priority again???

When will teaching the teachings become a priority?  When will people of differing languages be able to access the teachings?  Most importantly, when will those who proclaim and identify themselves as Truth students be able to unconditionally acknowledge the Divinity in all people regardless of race and ethnicity such that placing a priority in outreaching and teaching them the principles becomes more than just a joint statement “for Peace and Diversity?”   We talk about the law of GOYA, so then get off your arse and reach out and teach the diverse population, dammit!

I’d like to add one more caveat to my rhetorical question regarding the comment, “teaching the teachings:” When I say “teach the teachings,” I mean the practice and application of those teachings in every area of your life.  Y’know, the “PRACTICAL” part of “PRACTICAL CHRSTIANITY.”  In other words, there are certain things I’m confused about Unity.  If the founders believed in a “free-will” love offering and tithing practice, why even attempt to implement mandatory fees?  In reference back to an earlier schism that result in Unity churches branching off a generation ago, why did Unity feel the need to “re-possess” assets of Unity centers and churches that closed down if such locations were supposed to be “independent, autonomous” ministries?  What or why would a pioneer figure of Truth like Johnnie Colemon feel the need to create her own ministry completely separate from Unity, knowing that at one point, she served as president?  Lastly, is “Unity” just a name, or an actual practice?  When I see these questions unanswered or the response is eluded, I no longer see a movement, but an organization whose leadership is operating out of a scarcity consciousness and not a consciousness of abundance.  The same can be said for that one guy I mentioned earlier who was incapable to see beyond what the branding process that Unity and Religious Science (or CSL) underwent could only do for his community.

Lastly, I’d like to add one more question: so from what I’ve observed in the last three years was that the access to Truth teaching institutions tends to multiply after an organizational split.  For example, Religious Science before becoming Centers for Spiritual Living, operated as two organizations, so people had access to more than one training centers for advanced, practitioner, and ministerial studies.  If a group of Unity ministers feel the need to create an organization to teach Unity principles, why does the governing board feel the need to downgrade their status?  If you place a priority in the teachings and believe in the teachings, would creating newer training organizations really be such a bad thing?  It’s reaching and teaching a wider range of people, thus creating a larger community of like-minded and united heart folks.

Well…actually…based on what I’ve observed this past month, maybe not so united…

I’ll be honest.  Had the Unity church that I currently attend now undergone the branding procedure, the chances of me staying put to learn the teachings would’ve been slim to zero.  Let it be known that the earlier mentioned bookstore incident occurred at a Unity location that utilized the then new logos.  Speaking of logos, the intent of the powers that be wanted identification and recognition as a result of the logos.  I find it amusing that this logo/branding has been compared to creating an identity and recognition as to a Nike or a Starbucks or a FedEx.  Here's the catch: Nike established itself as a shoe manufacturer, Starbucks coffee, and FedEx as an overnight package delivery service.  Even as they expanded and offered new products and services, even with a shiny logo to be easily identified, they did NOT abandon their initial product and services.  If you think that the Unity "brand" will grow as a result of the shiny, spanking, trademarked logo at the expense of the foundational teachings of Practical Christianity, so long as The Daily Word is read at Sunday Services, that is a completely delusional mindset.  (Please note: all of the Unity "centers" I visited did indeed read The Daily Word; some of them deliberately chose to leave out the Scripture reference at the end)

Here’s another irony (though I said earlier in this post to move on away from ironic topics) the reason why my current Unity location wasn’t part of the branding was because of “ineligibility” due to the fact that my minister is not a Unity minister.  She trained with Religious Science, yet upon being selected to lead this Unity, she knew the importance of their bylaws and upheld and respected their bylaws.  She’s been the minister there since the mid-1990s.  If you’re wondering why she didn’t become an official Unity minister, the best thing to do is to ask her.        

I just want to go on record that I do not have anything against any peripheral teachings that take place at a Unity facility.  As I’ve shared, I’ve taken spiritual workshops that are not linked to Unity or New Thought there in the past and will continue to do so.  What I am emphasizing is that the foundational teaching be offered and taught first and foremost.  I liken the situation to a Sufi analogy: in the event of a fire in a building, 5 different ladders were available to allow the occupants to climb out to safety.  Yes, all 5 ladders worked for the same purpose of leading them to safety, but it’s inconceivable for a person to take several steps using one ladder, then a few more steps on another, and a few more on another.  In order to get to safety one can only use one ladder at a time.  Likewise, even with the statement of “honoring all paths to God,” Unity must still commit to its core fundamental teachings.

Bottom line: stop this power grab.  For all sides involved, please stop this power grab.  What this power grab and struggle has done was reinforce a practice of scarcity, not abundance.  It also reinforced a lack of Divinity in self and others due to the ego-driven quest for institutional power.  All the while, the teaching and implementing has taken a backseat, thus creating less transformed lives.  Here’s a concept, instead of paying some corporation to “present” who you are, how about teaching people to heal and prosper themselves?  A transformed life is a much better form of publicity than any sophisticatedly designed logo.  A transformed life can flesh out what a catchphrase, a sound-bite, or a joint statement can’t.  A transformed life allows a peace process to begin with that transformed life just like the song says.  Then a transformed life will allow another life to transform which will allow another life to transform, which would create a transformed community, and isn't that what the movement called Unity is all about?

18 June, 2014

Sex, Church, and Booty-Calls

I wouldn't know anything about church booty calls because after attending church on a regular basis for over 19 years, I've only attributed one booty-call hookup as a result of meeting someone at church.  I won't mention the name of the church or the location. (and definitely not her name) That means that after approximately over 1000 visit to a specific institution, I've hooked up with someone only once.

Hence, why I don't encourage people to meet up at church.  It's not so much that it's frowned upon to begin with because the higher-ups get uppity when the focus and attention isn't on them. (They'll use the term "God," but in all actuality, they really mean themselves)  And it wasn't or isn't so much that I was "focused on God" such that checking out women took a complete back seat.  It was a result on the type of churches I attended.

I've always credited The Salvation Army as being my "1st homechurch."  Yet the first institution where my spiritual journey began was actually a church in Oakland prior to their move to another East Bay city.  And it wasn't that people weren't hooking up there, heck even the senior pastor there used his position as pastor, the church and private school to target his underage female side activities.  I tend to connect and communicate with those church attending female counter-parts who supposedly placed a priority on focusing more about God and less on pursuing a dating relationship.

At least that was THEIR excuse.

Truth is, if they wanted to, they would've did what they wanted to do.  The "God" thing was merely a polite way of turning someone down.  On top of that, inquiring about one's relational status openly in a church setting was regularly frowned upon.  Hell, several years back, I attended a church of a young up and coming pastor whose wife loved her thong style lingerie.  Of course I don't remember a damn thing HE said during the service.  I do remember what SHE wore at church services.  And it wasn't like I could really discuss the matter with someone nearby me.  1) I could get frowned upon again 2) If I asked another guy about whether or not it was appropriate to notice, if he didn't notice, he eventually would and that would get another guy is the same predicament. 3) People at church talk. Last thing I needed was chatter about me for future visits.  Truth be told, as a whole, most ministers and pastors are married to MILFs.  I suppose that because the entire family is unnecessarily placed under some judgmental microscope, there's a pressure and expectation for the spouses of the minister to "present themselves" more.  That thong was just a bonus. 

Discussing about anything EXCEPT sex could perhaps be a deterrent to regular church attendance from some people.  It's the "pink elephant" people are attempting to ignore.  Yet I would have the say that of all the scandals involving ministers, sex related situations seem to top it.  Should anyone be surprised?  There's no dialogue, no outlet, no acknowledgement, no way to express a topic that's so clearly there.

I recall during a Salvation Army service that highlighted their Summer Service Corps program, one of the (very hot and attractive) Summer Service Corps alumni shared her testimony about her sexual struggles and addictions and our corps council members (elder board) commended her on sharing something so personal and private, and how brave she was for her openness.  They also invited us to reach out to them (the whole team who presented) after the conclusion of service.  So I did reach out to...HER!  Just when we were talking about our respective different spiritual struggles, we began to hit on the topic of relationship status.  That's when the officer's (pastor) wife chimed in and took her off to "meet other folks"  and re-directed her away.  (Actuality, she was not "the pastor's wife," as she was co-equal in position.  That's one credit I have to hand The Salvation Army)  So I applied to the Summer Service Corps program a year afterwards!  I was accepted to teach English in Asia during the summer.  That was one trip that I was on my best behavior and abstained from sex.  I had to finally forgive myself recently (that trip was the summer of 1997) because I felt that I "wasted" a trip to Asia because of the lack of sex.  In subsequent trips to Asia in the past 10 years, I did my best to make up for that lost opportunity.  

Lets face it, people attend church to meet other people.  This whole notion that sex with someone other than their spouse needs a much deeper dialogue than "well God forbids it."  So what?  God supposedly forbids a lot of other stuff too.  And not to harp on anything, nowhere in the Bible did God forbid cannabis.  Not that I"m an advocate for such activities, but this whole notion that it's bad is none of the business of the church.

So going back to the sex thing.

While I was attending a church called the Journey, based out of San Francisco, I participated in a goal-setting program that gave a time frame to achieve 4 different goals: Physical, Monetary/Career, Relationship, and Spiritual.  On my spiritual goal, I decided that I'll have 12 new guests to my church on a Sunday service within a 90 day period.  Basically, I'll have 1 new guest per week to attend church with me.  Criteria: they have not visited a church in over 1 year or longer; preferably someone who's never step foot in a church before.

One of my friends, a transplant from New York, decided to accompany me to church.  The Journey San Francisco at that time leased space at a concert/weekend night club location in the central part of SF.  During the service, the pastor came out and did his kvetching.  My friend could not contain his laughter to the point that he left the main room briefly to compose himself.  Other members looked towards me, wondering what that was about.  Finally when church service concluded, he explained everything to me.

My friend was a freelance bartender who worked on the weekends.  The reason why he agreed to attend that particular service was because he was assigned to tend bar at that same location the night before.  He had friends in security who allowed him to crash somewhere in the lobby until the next morning.  The reason why he lost composure was because the stage area where the pastor was leading was apparently the "designated fisting section" the night before.  He basically couldn't get the visuals out of his head during the pastor's talk on "purity."  I had to admit, he needed to explain to me what "fisting" was.  After that, I too had trouble attending services at The Journey afterwards as I futilely attempted to get the visuals out of my head.

Several Easters ago, I attended a church's traditional Passion Play.  That's when the drama department of most churches do the first of their two annual performances for the year.  (The second being the Christmas play)  The Passion play depicts the trial of Jesus all the way to the Resurrection of Jesus, so there's a heavy emphasis on the physical torture of Jesus.  Needless to say, those scenes are notorious for evoking heavy emotions for the audience members.  Many members of the audience are conducting their personal "re-commitment back to God(Jesus)" or even some of them are making a commitment for the first time.  The person playing Jesus is scantily-clad, covered in artificial blood, carrying a heavy wooden plank on his shoulders.  One or two people are dressed in Roman soldier costumes following Jesus and re-enacting a torture scene while walking through the intricate aisles of the church.  No, they do not re-enact this scene on the stage, they are up-close and personal to the audience.  (It's by design) 

So what does this have to do with the sex topic?

After that most recently viewing of the Passion Play several years back, I resolved to not view anymore of such display.  No it wasn't the repentant emotion that was evoked.  No, it wasn't guilt either.  You see, after I noticed that the prop the Roman soldiers were using to "torture" Jesus was a whip designed for bondage and S and M activities, I completely lost it.

Yes, I couldn't stop my laughter while everyone else was crying, some even bawling.

Here I was in this situation where I couldn't really turn to someone else and point out the fact that I saw the exact same whip at these stores in San Francisco called Stormy Leather, and Good Vibrations.  It was sort of a similar situation as "observing" the under attire of that minister's MILFy wife.  So I laughed.  Actually I covered my mouth with both hands and ran out of the sanctuary, and apparently that gesture was completely misread by the ushers who followed me out to make sure I was "OK."  It was similar to when my friend visited The Journey and had a similar reaction to that whole "fisting" thing.  

So for churches and meeting women, its such a low percentage for me.  Like I said at first, I've only met ONE single person at a church setting after almost 20 years of church going that resulted in sex.  Of all the institutions that gave me the highest probability of "companionship," it was school.

I guess it's time to re-apply to grad school!

07 June, 2014

Center for Spiritual White Elephant Sales

It’s no secret that during that last three years, I was undergoing a shift of personal spiritual practice and beliefs.  It’s not that I no longer believe in The Bible, it’s more that I’ve expanded my approach of how I study and apply the reading of it in my life.  Even when I was active in my past churches, I’ve always questioned the validity of what was taught.  I looked at the history and compared Scripture to other forms of Holy doctrines, looking for similarities rather than dwelling on the differences.  After all, if focusing on the differences created the world we currently live in now, how is that working for us?

What I’ve been studying has been called many different names: New Thought, New Thought Christianity, (hey, they needed to sub-categorize “New Thought”) Practical Christianity, Christian Metaphysics, Metaphysical Christianity, and simply “Truth” with a capital ‘T.’  The three main branches of New Thought are Unity, Divine Science, and Religious Science.  Divine Science dwindled out over the years since its inception back in 1888, and both Unity and Religious Science underwent a “branding makeover” within the last five years.  Hence my confusion upon taking research into their teachings.  Both changed their name to “Spiritual Center” or “Center of Spiritual Living.”  As a whole, they eliminated “Church” in their name.  So hypothetically, what was once a “Unity Church of Oakland” would become a “Unity Spiritual Center of Oakland.” (I use this example because there’s no such place in Oakland; what was once a Unity of Oakland is now Lakeside Temple of Practical Christianity)

I attend a Unity Church located in Castro Valley, California.  They have still kept the name “Unity Church” as the minister there was not “qualified” to participate in the (re)branding process.  Their bylaws, mostly unchanged since the inception of the church stated purpose was to create a “healing ministry to perpetuate and teach Practical Christianity as taught by The Unity School of Practical Christianity.”  I suppose that one of a possible loophole to change that is the fact that there’s no longer such an institution called “Unity School of Practical Christianity.”  This was part of the branding process to rename them from USPC to “Unity Institute.”  Prior to that, I visited several renamed “Unity Spiritual Centers” throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.  To say I left those locations confused was an understatement.

I was introduced to New Thought in 1995, or even earlier than that.  It really depends on whether or not you feel that the personal development industry is part of New Thought.  If so, then I was introduced to aspect of it back in 1993, otherwise it was when I bought a book called Transform Your Life by Barbara L. King in May of 1995.  At that time, I began to attend church and really did not know how to read my Bible.  That book helped me transition from attending marketing and personal growth seminars to church life.  Because the church I attended at the time was more mainstream and evangelical and because the book was a New Thought book, I was discouraged from studying the book further.

From 1995 onwards, church life was an important part of my life.  That was until 2005 when my mother passed away.  Then it felt as if the ground was taken from underneath me.  I still attended church, but I found myself bouncing around from one church to the other.

Eventually in 2007 I contacted another personal development group and went on one of their retreats.   Then I was introduced to another personal development teacher who recommended another and then another until one of those instructors shared a recommended reading list.  The reading list included a book by Eric Butterworth called Discover The Power Within You.  After reading that book, I looked for other books by Butterworth.  Then it was books by Catherine Ponder.  Then it was Emmet Fox.  After reading their author’s bio in their respective books, I kept seeing “Unity,” so that’s when I decided to visit a Unity “Church.”  So here I was visiting these “Unity CENTERS” and inquiring about books by those authors.  One specific bookstore located in the “center” never heard of those authors, and the person working there never knew who Charles Fillmore was which meant books written by them were obviously not available. I was then asked if I was interested in purchasing any books written by Abraham Hicks.

Throughout the years of attending New Thought centers beginning in 2011, I found myself attempting to participate as much as possible with the activities sponsored by the centers.  Little did I know, I was actually drifting away from what caught my attention when I read the works of the aforementioned authors.  First off, one of the Unity Centers held a weekly Oneness Blessing in lieu of a mid-week study group.  I initially attended that on a regular basis throughout 2011 and 2012.  It was just that the group was more clique-ish than other past mainstream churches who left a sour taste in my mouth when I visited them.  Another time was visiting a Unity center who hosted a self-proclaimed “shaman” as a guest speaker for their Sunday service.  If I were to visit a Unity location on a Sunday, they usually open up with a “we honor all the many paths to God,” so I waited patiently for that moment where someone, hopefully the minister and/or spiritual leader, to share a message consistent with the teachings of Fillmore, Butterworth, Ponder, or Emmet Fox even though he was a Divine Science minister.  The closest semblance to anything Unity was the reading of The Daily Word.  During those times, I was beginning to conclude that I was attending a Unitarian or there was another denomination named Unity.

After familiarizing myself with the writings of Ponder, Fillmore, Butterworth, and Fox, I began to inquire about taking courses from The Unity School of Practical Christianity.  I learned that the program I was interested in no longer existed and that they were no longer Unity School of Practical Christianity.  I corresponded with the admissions director briefly stating the reason why I was interested in taking the program that they just eliminated.  I expressed interest in teaching Practical Christianity in Oakland and in Singapore.  I inquired about the change and why they were no longer School of Practical Christianity.  The director not only eluded to answer the question, but he made a random comment that Seicho No Ie (I didn't know what Seicho No Ie was at that time) is based out of Japan.  At that point I lost all interest in taking any courses from Unity.

I didn’t think finding a location to teach what was taught by the older New Thought authors would be such a challenge.  It was.  My initial impression of the New Thought centers that I visited was that anything goes regarding the Sunday message and center teachings so long as the bookstore has an inventory of those authors with the exception of that one Unity bookstore who had never heard of any of the authors I mentioned.  I contacted several Unity Practical Christianity churches who were still listed as a church on their respective websites.  Their responses were somewhat curt and it seemed that they didn’t want to be bothered as I had no intention of visiting their location since they were normally located outside of California.

I started blogging about my confusion and frustration while continuing to purchase and study books.  Someone contacted me on my blog that if I was looking to study Practical Christianity, she suggested contacting the Universal Foundation for Better Living, which I later found out that they were once a Unity organization.  Shortly afterwards, I learned they were the link between Dr Barbara L King and Unity.  Actually that “link” was the founder, Johnnie Colemon.

Eventually towards the end of 2011, I came across the Unity Castro Valley website.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to visit there since I lived all the way out in Daly City which was about a 45 minute drive away, and I didn’t want to go all the way there just to leave disappointed.  Luckily for me, the sermons (they still called their messages “sermons”) were transcribed and provided for on their website.  There was a reference to The Bible, quotes from one of the instructors I taken a course from (Debbie Ford), Charles Fillmore, and Eric Butterworth.  I visited them that next Sunday.  Upon arrival, I realized I was one of the youngest attendee, and everyone there knew each other because the attendance averaged 12-15 regulars.

What exactly appealed to me about New Thought as opposed to the former theological paradigm that I followed for years?  First off, “God out there” versus “God within.”  Secondly, the concept of practicing and learning the form of spirituality that Jesus taught and practiced himself versus the whole notion of a doctrine and dogma that instead worships Jesus.  (Quick note on that object of worship:  Notice that in the New Testament, only one entity other than God said to worship him and it wasn’t Jesus.)  Another appeal is that it focuses on the “here and now” as opposed to the “pie in the sky” afterlife.  Lastly, what appealed to me most was the notion that humanity was “created in the image and likeness of God,”  so we all possess an inner Divine Christ-self(which is the first description of man in Genesis) as opposed to the “miserable sinner, saved by grace” notion as espoused by the mainstream Christians.

So if one of the main premises of New Thought is this inner Divinity of humanity, then so long as we practice what Jesus taught, then we should be doing “even greater works” than Jesus.  People would often read and look for cryptic messages from The Bible.  If anything, the concept of “God within” has so many Biblical “hints,” many by Jesus himself, but go further back to Moses when Moses asked God what he should call God.  Remember God’s response?  “I AM.”  What was the first thing said in the 10 Commandments?  “I AM.”  What got the Pharisees motivated to put a contract on Jesus?  “I AM.”

I bring this up because after attending different Unity centers for several years, I’ve observed a few things that caused me to step back and pause for a moment.  I stated I once regularly participated in the Oneness Blessing at one of the Unity centers, and about a year ago, I took a one-day course on how to give a “Wholeness Blessing.”  Over the course of attending Unity and Centers for Spiritual Living, I’ve participated in sound bowl healing, angel therapy, the aforementioned blessings, reading material from people who channel, and lastly, preparing myself for the 2012 Mayan Calendar conclusion.  All were under the guise of the “many paths to God” proclamation, and therefore, the materials were accepted as “compatible” with the Unity and other New Thought teachings.


As I take a closer look at all the peripheral teachings, I have to ask one question:  if I’m Divinely created in the Image of God, and therefore have all attributes of God, at which point can I choose out of participating in those teachings and rely upon my own Divine nature?  Let’s go back to that incident where I visited that Unity bookstore where the person was promoting the sale of the Abraham Hicks books.  I know that many people benefitted from Abraham’s wisdom and insights and have transformed their lives as a result, including those who attend services at their respective New Thought centers on a regular basis.  But that’s the paradox.  We attend New Thought service to learn to connect with our inner Divine God self within. (In many cases for those like myself, we're really “UN-LEARNING” past dogma) So for those who keep leaning on Abraham, Sri Bhagavan, or Archangel _____, when will you learn to lean on you?  YOUR I AM?  YOUR Inner Divine Christ?  I do not question whether or not someone benefited from participating, but think about this: has it ever occurred to folks who attend New Thought centers and see declining attendance numbers that the reason for those declining numbers is perhaps there aren’t enough people going within to their own Divinity and relying more on these supposed “complimentary teachings?”  Has anyone ever made that connection, thought that such a connection is possible, or is that too much of a sacred “cash cow” for some of those centers?

I don’t know much about the branding process that both Unity and Religious Science underwent other than the confusion that I personally endured as I looked for locations committed to teaching what I became interested in learning.  Since I don't study very much Ernest Holmes material other than sections of the Science of Mind Textbook, I’m less familiar with the process Religious Science underwent as they transformed into The Center for Spiritual Living.  As for Unity, based on what was initially taught and the materials used, the change was more of an eyebrow raiser.  My take on this situation: Not only is Inner Divine Christ taught at Unity and in New Thought in general, (for some New Thought branches, even when they take the “Jesus” and “Christ” out, the core teaching is still there) another Universal law taught is The “Law of Attraction.”  The Law of Attraction wasn’t some theory made-up by the New Thought authors, it was simply explained more thoroughly.  After all, Universal Law is timeless.  Contrary to mainstream Christian dogma, LOA IS taught in the Bible.  It just wasn’t called “Law of Attraction.”  What does all this have to do with the branding process?  Well around 2005-07 with the success of independent films like The Secret, and What the Bleep Do We Know, the Law of Attraction became en vogue not only in the States, but worldwide.  The personal development industry received a spike in demand, and all of the sudden, Law of Attraction Wealth Building, New Age, urban shamans, and energy healing gurus came out of the woodwork.  Oh and speaking of “New Age,” please note: (Mainstream Christians I’m talking to you especially)


(Then again, I shouldn’t single out just mainstream Christians with that statement.  I take that back.  Not just mainstream Christians, but New Agers who feel entitled that the New Thought centers they attend OWE them a space and forum)

Anyhow, going back to what I was talking about.  So because of the popularity of The Secret and this sudden mini-renaissance of old New Thought authors who focused on applying spiritual principles to material wealth and business, guess who wanted to ride that wave of new-found popularity?  Yup, our beloved New Thought centers!  They just made one fatal mistake in all this: instead of appealing to the public that The Secret is a part of New Thought teachings, they attempted to squeeze all of New Thought into the package of The Secret.  I likened the situation of how New Thought criticized mainstream Christianity about appealing to a “God out there” versus to the “God within,” and getting things reversed.  This branding process seemed to reverse things.

I spent the last fifteen years working on my acting craft and twenty-five plus years in traditional Chinese martial arts and lion dancing.  What I learned from both performing arts is the importance of really cementing the basic fundamental foundation.  It get’s hammered over and over.  In acting, it’s about developing voice, awareness, and bodily movement.  In martial arts and lion dancing, it’s about stance work.  Fancy blocking and punching combos are ineffective if the stance isn’t developed.  Likewise, entering a New Thought facility with an expectation of learning the fundamentals of New Thought teaching should be a given and not something to catch the center's spiritual leader off guard.  Are you an initiate of a shaman located in Costa Rica? Congratulations.  Are you a Reiki healer?  That’s great; I practice a hard form of hay gung.(qi gong)  You graduated from Oneness University?  Welcome back to the United States.  Are you a certified A Course in Miracles instructor?  Great, I enjoyed the film Admissions.  The bottom line is that if a person were to read material from Fillmore, Fox,(yes, he's Divine Science) Butterworth, or Cady and decide to attend a Sunday service hosted by a New Thought center such as Unity, and the presentation was based on shamanism, energy healing, angel therapy, or even ACIM, wouldn't they leave questioning themselves whether or not they visited the correct location?

I met this lady who visits our Unity church.  She attends more than one New Thought center within her location and decides which service to attend based on the bulletin announcement of what is going to be presented at future services.  She explained that whenever a church or center announces a "guest speaker," she found herself weary of attending because in most cases the guest would discuss or present something other than New Thought.  She even shared that if she didn't feel confident enough that the locations nearby her would present something consistent with New Thought, she'd go to the local Christian Science service because she knows that she'll receive foundation block teachings.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying to not teach such materials.  I'm saying that to hold a Oneness Blessing in lieu of a mid-week service is a detriment to your congregants.  If you hold a Sunday school during church or after church service, the topics should be Biblically based, or at the very least, based on one of the New Thought authors and/or their teachings.  Sunday school should not be a forum to hold a crystal energy healing workshop, a moon and sun energetic shift consciousness course, an in-depth Abraham Hicks study, or Reiki sessions.  If you choose to provide a space or forum for such materials to be presented, then do so; hey, you could even include it in the church bulletin and announcements, but in no way should that be an official church or center sanctioned event.

Lastly, please don't throw any of the pioneering teachers and authors of New Thought under a metaphorical bus.  Even as a newcomer, whenever an announcement is made about learning the latest and greatest energetic spiritual zapping modality, and the presenter makes some sort of comment that "if Fillmore or Butterworth were still alive, they'd approve of this,"  I can smell the inconsistent-incongruent B.S.

23 April, 2014

Why I No Longer Identify Myself as Christian

Now before anyone gets all butt-hurt and bent out of shape, hear me out.  This has been a long time coming since 2000.  My spiritual life has always been and always will be an ongoing evolving process as it should be.

During a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting at CSU Hayward, I found myself in heated discussions with the members to where it eventually became an unofficial pissing contest of who read The Bible from cover to cover the most and/or who served whom under what capacity or who could retain the most memorized verses from Scripture.  One of those heated discussion was after an email was forwarded and shared from a supposed member of Wedgewood Baptist Church which had been the scene of a mass church shooting.  I objected to the 8-12 printed pages read aloud to the group as the list of prayer request had excluded the perpetrator, Larry Gene Ashbrook and the surviving members of his family.  I attempted to quote from Romans 12 about praying and blessing those who persecute, and because I was unable to quote word-for-word verbatim, I was accused of not knowing what I was talking about.  Then the leader began to quote different Bible verses in a taunting manner after he singled me out in front of the entire group that I needed to "fast" (go w/o food) for 2 days.  I told him that back then I did have a fasting practice.  He then quoted another verse about "known by the fruits," and that I "lacked fruit."  At that point the temptation to outdo Ashbrook toward that group passed through my mind.   That was back in 1999-2000.

Actually those years from 1998 through 2011 had been nothing short of tumultuous regarding church life.  The rare years of growth and stability (for those of you who adhere to the belief that “growth” and “stability” cannot co-exist, I’m referring to “stability,” meaning I didn't want to knock the living crap out of people at church and beyond) existed from 2000 through the middle of 2005 thanks in large part to both mentors Peter and “Dr. Dave.”   That and therapist Dr Wyatt enabled me to experience “grace” as defined in The Bible.  Once Venture ministry began to deteriorate in the aftermath of the migration of Dr. Dave and Peter to a church in Austin, (Summer of 2005, when my mom passed) I began a journey of spiritual instability, or what The Journey’s Pastor Chris Brady described as being a “spiritual orphan.”

 In Pastor Chris’ eyes and amongst many Christians, not having an official membership with a local church body isn’t just being a “spiritual orphan,” but is considered a “sin.”  Take a closer look at the church’s financial reliance on stable membership and membership tithing.  Could that be a reason why the pastor would declare “sin” for someone who doesn’t declare membership?  I recall being at a church service in Singapore where it was learned by the prayer minister that I wasn’t a member of any church back home in the States nor in Singapore.  The minister offered to pray for my “sinfulness.”  I was offended and shared my dismay with my Singaporean Sis, Jojo who defended his declaration.  I shouldn't be offended by a church where their leader's official title is "Apostle." (I've honestly slipped and referred to him as "Impostor" on occasion.  Of course that was prevalent after the said incident.  Passive aggressive behavior?  Whoops, my bad!)  That’s when I learned that it was considered a “sin” to not have a church membership.

I’ve extensively ranted and lamented on how a Christian organization like The Salvation Army operated to the point where I was convinced that I experienced some PTSD symptoms during the Holidays when I heard the bell ringing outside the stores.  It saddened me to see people who loved God and wanted to serve God become so jaded after serving in the capacity as an officer (pastoral level) for The Salvation Army.  It was more disheartening to witness those who left their respected position, alienated, shunned, and/or ridiculed by current members and staff of The Salvation Army.  Yet every Holiday Season, they put forth a do-gooder image.  I considered them as a foundational building block to my spiritual life, yet when it was all said and done, I find myself currently having to unlearn, let-go, and forgive them.  Amongst some of their practices to unlearn was their “Self-Denial” campaign which reinforces a scarcity mentality.  The concept is to “self-deny” a regular item (like coffee, or meals) and donate the proceeds from not purchasing such item(s) to charity. (i.e. The Salvation Army)  For example under the campaign, my daily coffee during the workweek is $3 a day, Monday through Fridays.  That’s $15 a week.  So let’s say the “Self Denial” campaign is a 6-week program, so at $15 a week for 6 weeks, at the end of the campaign, I’m expected to donate an amount of $90 because I abstained from purchasing coffee during those 6 weeks.   In other words the campaign reinforces the false belief that in order for someone to have something, I must give up or “sacrifice” something in order for them to receive.  From a theological standpoint, the program, which is a common practice in The Salvation Army, teaches and reinforces that there is no abundance.

If we are truly created “in the image and likeness of God” as Genesis 1:26-27, then why was/is it necessary to “accept Jesus as Lord and Savior,” AKA “The Sinner’s Prayer?” The church that led me in that prayer while I was a 3rd grader, was a Chinese based church ran by a senior pastor who was of Native American and white descent.  He laid down the “fire and brimstone” over the “sinful” nature of “Chinese culture.”  He laid down the “fire and brimstone” against “sexual immorality and impurity.”  Little did we know that he had an Asian fetish.  He was into underaged Chinese girls.  You see, that church eventually expanded into a private Christian school “serving the needs” of the Chinese East Bay Christian community.  What eventually came out was that their “beloved” pastor profiled and targeted specific female students of that school.  The girls singled out were students of the school, who was known to have specific challenges at home, and whose parents hardly knew a lick of English.  He'd call those girls in from class for "pastoral counseling." Unfortunately when this came to light and past students came forward, members of that church blamed the girls and defended the pastor. Quite frankly, I don't think that pastor got his just due consequences for his actions.  

Others split from that church not because of the scandal itself, but because of their eventual choice of selecting a replacement senior pastor who was of Chinese descent.  Yes, this was/is a church serving the Chinese community.  It was just that the sentiment amongst specific Chinese Christians is that they feel “better led” by a “more Christian” leader. (ie, WHITE)  It’s unfortunate but American Christians while ministering to people of color, tend to “culture-shame” those community members they’re supposedly “serving and saving.”  I’ve voiced my piece regarding that in light of the Rick Warren incident when he publicly demeaned and performed an offensive caricature of Asians while a certain contingency of defenders including those cultured shamed Asians came out of the woodworks.  I described such a group on my blog as “Asian House Negroes.”  Either God so loved the world, or God doesn’t.  And the last time I checked, “the world” included every nationality, every culture, so this culture-shaming done “in the Name of God” needs to be stopped “By Any Means Necessary.” (Another advantage of not identifying myself as a so-called Christian is the freedom TO CHOOSE and identify Malcolm X as a true to life prophet!)

What I’m unable to figure out and wrap around my head is the premise of our U.S. Constitution regarding “separation of Church and State.”  Is it a “two-way” street, meaning the State must allow autonomy for the religious institutions and not have any control over them, and likewise the religious institution and leaders must allow the state to be run without religious interference?  If that’d be the case, then this whole notion about legally defining marriages should be mute.  In a democracy, let the voters decide.  End of story.  What sickens me is seeing religious institutions, mostly Christians, placing curses and public backlashes against the government for functioning as it was designed to function.  On the other end of the spectrum, the left condemns the religious groups for the self perceived lack of intolerance, yet they display zero to no tolerance for those who openly expresses their own personal beliefs.  Case in point, the recent resignation of the Mozilla Firefox CEO Brenden Eich is the most current example of tolerance hypocrisy.  As long as the CEO was not creating policy or influencing company policy based on his own personal beliefs, who or what he voted for and supported politically is none of anyone’s damn business.  OK Cupids overstepping of their boundaries makes them appear like some entitled piece of crap pretentious intolerant hypocrites.  Does their dating service actually work?  I wouldn't know since I chose not to give them a fuckin dime.

Speaking of “Church and State,” here’s my other main sentiment of my decision to no longer identify my spirituality as “Christian.”  The premise, foundational, doctrinal basic beliefs of the mainstream Christian Catholic and Protestant denominations are based on 7 religious councils.  The first two Councils: Nicaea in 325 CE and Constantinople in 381 CE were sponsored by Constantine himself.  You cannot convince me that he did not have a hand on the decision making process.  I’m supposed to base my entire spiritual belief, life, and practice based on a set of standards that was voted for, and decided by a group who were influenced by a political leader with his own selfish personal and political agenda???  Bull-fucken-shit!  I’m supposed to base my faith, connect with and condemn other people based on whether or not they agree or disagree with that premise?  On top of everything else, one of the first premise agreed upon on all 7 councils was the authority placed upon the canonical scriptures, which during those council sessions, was hand-picked and interpreted accordingly.  Yet, through inaccurate translations and interpretations over the last 1800 years and different languages, I’m expected to take it as absolute law.  That’s why I have more than one translation of The Bible.  That's why I've been opened to reading other holy canons from other faiths like The Upanishads, or studying materials like Rumi.  That’s why I question everything told to me through someone who was appointed by someone else as some sort of authority on what The Bible means.  Hell, even the New Thought based theology that I’ve embraced and accepted these past three years goes under my own personal scrutiny.  I no longer blindly accept something at face value solely because the person in the pulpit or the person who wrote the last NY Times best seller told me so.

So call me a hypocrite or ironic or paradoxical.  Hell, call me a heretic.  I'm choosing to educate the masses on New Though theology with my decision to study and submitting myself for ministerial candidacy in the New Thought institutions.    Being accused as a heretic and a hell bound cult leader comes with the territory.

One of the main organization in New Thought is undergoing a debate/crossroad at the moment of whether or not to continue to identify themselves as a “Christian” organization.  You would think that with the title of this posting and because of my interest in candidacy, I’d opt for them to drop the Christian label.  Ironically, I'm actually against it.  You see the way they have it set up, if they were to do such a procedure, they’d drop all their earlier fundamental teachings that established themselves in the first place.  In other words, study materials and practices that their founders and their more famous figures within that organization created and shared would be dropped along with the label.  Or those materials (studying) would merely be presented as a footnote.  (Classic case of an example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater) As of now, New Thought, or Practical Christianity is presented with the materials of how to study, interpret and apply the Bible in a way that they differentiate between practicing a form of spirituality that Jesus practiced versus following a form of spirituality or religion that worships Jesus.  If practicing and studying the form of spirituality that Jesus practiced and taught is the definition of a Christian, then yes, I identify myself as that.  However in the proposal of dropping the Christian label, even that becomes more in the background and afterthought while embracing a smorgasbord of different religious and spiritual practices that’s presented more in the forefront.  I wouldn’t identify myself as that either.  If it was Jesus’ intent to “make disciples,” then logically speaking, it makes more sense to practice the form of spirituality that Jesus taught and practiced rather than practice a religion pieced together by councils that met hundreds of years after Jesus graced this planet.  Unfortunately, those who practice the latter are identified as “Christians” and hence my reservations of choosing to be in that same category.


If Jesus himself wasn’t a Christian, why should I be?