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?

1 comment:

  1. Amen and amen. You are right. The struggles are about power and thoughts of scarcity rather than focusing on getting the job done.