Thirteen insights about what visitors to Unity are thinking and feeling

Kate Bowler on C-SPAN

Hi Friends —

Meet Kate Bowler. As a professor of American Christianity at Duke Divinity School, he is best known as an astute scholar of “televangelists and mega churches and just people with beautiful hair.” The following interview on C-SPAN aired last month (February 5, 2018). She’s funny, insightful, engaging and charming. But that’s not why you should watch the video...

You should watch this video because Kate Bowler is typical of someone who will visit a Unity church this Sunday.

She is typical of Unity visitors for two reasons:

First, she’s Christian. She’s “Jesus-y”. While she is comfortable in her church community, she is also aware of its limitations. She is curious about other spiritual pathways and, while she is open to prosperity and spiritual healing, she regards them with a studied, suspicious perspective.

None of the ministers who are featured in this video are in Unity. Only four of them — Norman Vincent Peale, Rev. Ike, Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey — might have any following among Unity congregants. But all of them draw from New Thought and so what we hear from them sometimes sounds like what we hear in Unity churches and in Unity teachings.

It is not relevant that most of them are extreme caricatures of New Thought. What is relevant is the subconscious impression they have made upon Kate Bowler and those like her who may visit a Unity church this Sunday. Kate Bowler is astute and educated enough to articulate those subtle impressions.

The second reason Kate Bowler may be typical of a visitor to Unity is that two years ago, at the age of 35, she was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. It challenged her understanding of Christianity. If Kate Bowler’s life and career had been more typical — had she been an elementary school teacher instead of a university scholar, and had she studied primary education instead of the Prosperity Gospel and Faith Healing — then she very well might have looked to the Unity teachings and chosen to visit a Unity church.

After she received her diagnosis, she wrote an editorial for the New York Times about what it is like to be a scholar of Prosperity and Spiritual Healing while being personally challenged with cancer. The editorial was widely read and she got many replies, most offering helpful “prescriptions” for healing. Kate says at the end of the video,

At first when I first got sick ... I wrote a piece about what it feels like when you are a problem to be solved and people start, trying to pour certainty on your pain like, well, you should try this. And maybe if you just prayed in this way or go see so and so, he'll fix this.... And then I got thousands of letters about it, saying, "No, no, no. I'd actually like you to be certain and here is the solution."

So, the only point had been, please don't pour certainty on my pain... So, I wrote this other piece about ... kinds of categories of responses to those in pain. There are minimizers — “at least you don’t”; problem solvers — “maybe you should try”; or teachers — “have you seen this documentary?” And then all are born of great love, but I would like to say like I am not on trial.

I believe that if you listen to Kate Bowler’s comments and reflect on the clippings from the transcript, you will gain insight about what our visitors to Unity are really thinking and feeling. And I hope this helps Unity better serve those who are in need and those who are looking for a better way.

Many Blessings,
Mark Hicks
March 18, 2018