Unity's Identity Crisis
What I have this morning are slides, audio and a transcript of a talk given this past week at the Unity Worldwide Ministries Convention. The easy way to experience the entire presentation is to go to the playlist and start clip #1. Then scroll down to the read the slide and transcript as each clip plays from the playlist.
What was evident is that Unity has an identity crisis. And the most perceptive comment I received was from a Unity minister who observed that any organization with an identity crisis will attract people with an identity crisis of their own. We’re full of them.
My talk was the first of three keynotes. I focused on resolving the identity crisis by articulating an essential foundation of Unity that people could commit to. It wasn’t for everyone; in fact there was, as expected, substantial resistance to what I presented and to what scholars refer to as “essentialism” and “foundationalism.”
My fellow keynote presenters addressed resolving Unity’s identity crisis from different angles. One alternative is dissolving or “deconstructing” the traditional foundations so that we may evolve into a new (second) tier of spiritual maturity. Many people will recognize this alternative as Spiral Dynamics. It is quite popular in Unity and throughout New Thought. You can learn more at NewThoughtEvolutionary.wordpress.com
Another alternative is “untangling” the “religious triggers” that lead to the spiritual identity crises. Untangling acknowledges that the deconstruction of traditional beliefs is already prevalent. It’s promise is building a healthy foundation using spiritual psychology for personal empowerment and exploration (with or without organized religion). You can learn more at www.religionoforigin.com
The emotions regarding our identity crisis can run hot and high. Regardless of how we move forward, it’s evident that “what needs to be healed is revealed.” My hope is that one of these three alternative approaches will be helpful in your own spiritual journey.
Sunday, July 2, 2023
Listen to Mark’s message
Slides, clips and transcripts
Thank you so much. A little bit about me. People want to know. I was born in the Bay Area of California. My mom was from a Northern California liberal family. My dad was the son of the sharecropper from Oklahoma who went out during the Dust Bowl days. After they married and had children, when I was six, they moved to Michigan. Dad was hungry. He wanted to go to work in the automotive business. We wound up in rural Pennsylvania, northeast Pennsylvania where I grew up. I went to UConn, University of Connecticut. Studied to become a congregational minister and washed out after one semester.
My family bought a business for $25,000 in Louisiana, rural Louisiana. I went there and was there for almost 25 years. Met my wife who was a Belgian, a woman coming from Belgium to teach French in Louisiana public schools. We raised two girls. I got burned out. Moved to Austin at 48 years old and began to work as a software engineer for IBM. Shortly after that, we sold the family business and I had enough money to walk out of IBM and to go into ministry. That was 2009, 2010.
As a sideline, I started the TruthUnity and launched a church in Georgetown, Texas, but then wound up in Baltimore where we are right now because our daughters moved to East Coast and we have three grandkids in Baltimore. So that's my life story. What to know about me, first of all, is I studied for congregation minister because I'm a Thoreauvian Emersonian transcendentalist. That is my entry into Unity, and it really defines a lot of what I have to say. The second thing is while in Texas, I was an entrepreneur. In Louisiana, I was selling software over the internet before there was the internet on bulletin boards. So I've always had this mix of ministry and technology.
The agenda for today comes out of a book that I did in order to become ordained. All of us have to write a credo. Part of the ministry path is writing a credo. So I wrote a credo and looked at it and said, "Gee, I think there might be a book in there," and that became the Credo of a Metaphysical Christian.
There's two parts to the talk today just as there is in a credo. The first half is talking about beliefs and the second half is talking about ministry and ministerial issues. These are my reflections after 15 years of being in that path.
I want to talk about the most difficult question that people have when they ask about Unity. People don't know how to understand that. They don't know how to answer that question. I also want to address the two biggest challenges that I believe is in Unity today. I will take a break about 45 minutes in and we will have discussion and I'll take another break 30 minutes after that, and then I'll close and we'll have more time for discussion, hopefully.
As a preface, this is not the most important thing I'll say today, but it's the most important thing to know about TruthUnity is there are two frontiers. We don't realize how big those frontiers are and how deeply they run in our organization.
I'm going to come back to what the frontiers is in a minute, but I want to introduce Catherine Albanese, who was the premier religious studies academic in the United States. She wrote a book in the early 2000s on metaphysical religion and she makes the case that in American history, we think of it as being evangelical. You look around, you see big evangelical churches. And here, the premier academic scholar in the past 30 years has said, has gone on record saying metaphysical religion is just as important in understanding how American religion has unfolded as is Evangelicalism. She was a member of Unity of Santa Barbara. She's now Unitarian because of her insistence on vegetarianism, but that's another story. Just think about that. Where is metaphysical Christianity today? Where is metaphysical religion? That's what this talk's about. At least it's important, Evangelicalism on one side, metaphysical religion on the other.
When we look at the statistics, roughly 60% of North America is Christian. One third of them are Catholic, two thirds of them are Protestant. There are the nuns and there's been growth over the past 15 years, but the Catholics have held their own. The Protestants have lost quite a bit to the nuns. Ask yourself, look at these numbers and ask yourself, is Christianity still relevant today? And it is. It is. The question is, what are we doing about that?
So what I'm proposing is that we not walk away from the Christian market. There are two frontiers. The one frontier we know about, these are the people that have walked out of the Christian Church. For good reasons, they have walked out. They have been shamed. They no longer believe. They're busy, whatever reason. The mainstream church doesn't serve them. And to our credit, we have had open doors and embraced them and said, "Come join us. Come join us. You are welcome." That is frontier number one. That is the frontier that most people think of when they think of Unity churches and Unity movement and Unity denomination.
But there's another frontier and that is the frontier that Charles and Myrtle Fillmore focused on when they started their ministry and that is the Christian Church itself. Charles and Myrtle Fillmore directed everything they had towards the Christian Church and to attract people in the Christian Church to their teachings. They had no allergies to Christians. They weren't resentful of Christians. They weren't angry about Christians. They just thought they had an explanation. They had some things to say that would make them better Christians.
So there's two frontiers. The point is TruthUnity has always been directed to that initial frontier of Christians. I know what it is to you. You don't have to lug around the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary. You can look up on Saturday night information to give your sermon on Sunday morning. I'm aware of all that. But that's not the benefit. The benefit is all the people that are in the church who are looking for a better way. They don't go to TruthUnity. They go to Google and Google brings them to TruthUnity. Then in TruthUnity they find, hey, there's this movement that offers an alternative to blood atonement religion, that offers an alternative to shame, offers an alternative to exclusionary practices. That's what they find. That's the benefit of TruthUnity. That is the frontier that I'm focused on. TruthUnity is the evangelical wing of the Unity movement.
So bear with me because if I sound like an old Fillmorian foggy, just know why I'm doing this. Because I wasn't raised in the church. Until I was 16 years old, I hadn't been in a church maybe three times in my life. If it hadn't been for a Methodist gal at the street and her family insist on me going, I probably never would've. I know what it's like to be outside of the church. There are a lot of people who are lost, who want to be included in the Christian Church. They find something there, but they can't handle blood atonement. They can't handle the old story, and Unity has an alternative. It has an opportunity to open up that frontier and that's what this talk's all about. I will go into this updating metaphysics. I want to build bridges with the Christian Church and I'm asking you to work on your allergies to Christians.
If you have an allergy to someone, that's paramount to saying, "I don't like you. I'm uncomfortable with you." There's no reason because there's a lot of Christians who want to be friends with you, they're just looking for a better way.
So the big question, the toughest question in Unity is it's mid-December, you're invited to your company's Christmas party. You're invited there. Your spouse is invited because your spouse works there. You have this conversation with cocktails. What do you do? I'm a Unity minister. What is the question? What is Unity? And what I'm going to present here is a dialogue. For the next 45 minutes, I'm going to present the dialogue, how that dialogue can unfold. Before I give the answer to what is Unity, I'm going to present some slides setting up the answer, and then I'm going to give how I would answer the question.
So here's the first slide. It's not about our beliefs. Let me get here so I don't have to keep looking. When people get this question, the first thing they go through is the five Unity principles. The five Unity principles have their place, but what the five Unity principles are, they're beliefs. They're not benefits. People are not asking what do you believe. The five Unity principles are placeholders. They're five, so that when we look at all our beliefs, we can put them in different categories. Okay. They don't want to know what our beliefs are.
The point that I will make is no one is transformed by their beliefs. No one is saved by their confession. So if you begin answering that question with our beliefs, you are giving away this idea that what you confess makes you righteous. Don't do that. Go somewhere else. We're not saved by beliefs, we're saved by transformation.
They don't want to know who you are. They want to know what you are. They want to place you in a category. You know the plain old marketing term. What category are you in? Who is personality and I will get to that at the end of the talk. What are you is the question and Imelda Shanklin asked that question of us. What are you? What is Unity?
My answer is Unity is metaphysical Christianity. Try it out. Next time somebody says, "What is Unity?" say, "It's metaphysical Christianity." I have a funny story. A year ago, I caught COVID coaching a guy on this conversation. On his way back, he met somebody at an airport and got in a conversation and the conversation got into, well, what do you do and so forth. Then somebody asked, "May I ask what you are?" He just blurted out, "I'm a metaphysical Christian," and he found himself just shocked having those words come out of his mouth. It can be difficult, but Unity is metaphysical Christianity. I'm going to make that case.
So the question then comes from the dialogue is, well, what is metaphysical Christianity?
I want to introduce some concepts. First of all, metaphysical Christianity is not new. It goes back to Plato and Aristotle. It was carried on by Augustine who incorporated Plato's ideas and St. Thomas Aquinas who incorporated Aristotle's ideas. Those ideas are still deeply involved in evangelical Christianity and Catholic Christianity. The entire environment that Paul the Apostle preached into and St. John the Evangelist spoke to was Hellenistic. It was Platonist. The whole worldview had metaphysical underpinnings. They couldn't explain Christianity except through metaphysical concepts. So metaphysical Christianity is the embracing of metaphysical ideas in a Christian concept.
Metaphysical Christianity predates Catholicism. Metaphysical Christianity predates Evangelicalism. Don't let anybody tell you that metaphysical Christianity is some newfangled idea. It's not. It has a pedigree that goes back to the very foundation of Christianity.
If you go into Barnes & Noble today, you're going to find two bookshelves. You're going to find the Christian books and Bibles, and typically it's about five racks, Bibles, fiction [inaudible 00:17:03], Christian books. Turn around and you walk over a couple of aisles, you're going to find the "metaphysical books." It's about three racks. You know what I'm talking about? My point is that is a sample of what has been there since day one of the Christian faith. Roughly 30% of people who look at and embrace the Christian faith have done it in metaphysical ways. Now, the fact that those books look new agey and they look peculiar, that is a matter of branding. What they are is metaphysical Christian and what it has been since the beginning of Christianity has been 30% of the market has been metaphysical Christian. It's not new.
So I am proposing that there was a Catholic era for the first thousand years. There was a evangelical era for roughly 500 years with a little bit of scholasticism in between, and we are now entering into a new era that I will call metaphysical Christianity.
The reason, I will get into it, but we live in a hyperlinked world. It is a world of ideas, not material assets. It's not based on gold. It's not based on guns. It's based on who has ideas. We are the only Christian faith I know of that proclaims the primacy of divine ideas. That is our greatness. That is what will take us into a new era of metaphysical Christianity.
So my answer is, when they ask "What is metaphysical Christianity?" it's a Protestant movement that builds upon the philosophy of the early Christian Church.
Any resistance there yet, do you think? Do you think? Is it bringing in interest and is it true? Is it true? Yes, it is true.
So their question is, well, what philosophy is that? See, I'm a bit of a marketer. I was going to call this talk The Power of Focused Ministry, but the title was already taken.
So what philosophy is it? Can I ask you, do you believe in geometry? Have you ever heard the Pythagorean theorem? Do you believe in medicine? Have you ever heard of the Hippocratic Oath? Have you ever heard of Socrates? Do you believe in ethical government? Their virtue is the most important thing. I haven't found an evangelical yet that would disagree with me.
Have you ever heard of metaphysics? That's where I'd probably get a little bit of pushback, but the point is it began with Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, went with St. Paul and John, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas. I am taking a class right now at a seminary on the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas and I can tell you it's 99% metaphysical.
It was picked up just for our own knowledge. It went through Christian history, but it was picked up by a group of British enlightenment thinkers called the Cambridge Platonists. Ralph Waldo Emerson picked up their books and from Ralph Waldo Emerson, it went to Mary Baker Eddy, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Emilie Cady, and Charles Fillmore.
That is our pedigree. Unity is built. It's a Protestant movement built on the original philosophy of the historic Christian Church. That's a fact.
It exists in our country, is known as classicism. It's important to realize that Emilie Cady, she read the New Testament in Greek, so did Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emma Curtis Hopkins read the Old Testament in Hebrew. Up until a hundred years ago, before the advance of science, people studied Greek and Roman philosophy. That was the pathway to becoming successful in life. They were classicist. Our Founding Fathers were all classicists.
From them, we get these words, real interesting words, mind, being, truth, good, intelligence, life, principle, substance. It all began in Acts 17 when Paul stood in the Areopagus of Athens and began to talk about his new faith about a God in whom we have our being. But the point is these terms, which we're all familiar with in Unity, they come right out of classic Greek philosophy.
I just want to make a point here about principle and substance. When Aristotle says that God is principle, what he's saying is God is not substance. He's not saying God doesn't exist. He's not saying God doesn't feel, that God doesn't care, that God is not involved. He's simply saying God is not matter. It's not physical substance, but that's another story.
So how do we see the cosmos as metaphysical Christians? We see it as a two-tiered universe, heaven and earth with a correspondence between the two. One sentence, a two-tiered universe, heaven and earth, corresponding moment to moment, as on earth as in heaven. What you bind in heaven is bound on earth. It's a very simple explanation of the cosmos.
Emilie Cady famously said in the first chapter of Lessons in Truth, "God is. I exist." God is I am an expression of God. I am spirit, soul, and body. I'm going to correct Charles Fillmore. Heaven is not a state of consciousness, it's a state of being. It's all about being. Who you be determines whether you're in heaven.
And the body is real and it is to be perfected. That, in a nutshell, is Unity's statement to an evangelical of why it's important. Few people will disagree with that. It's a beautiful message.
So the opportunity for Unity is to bring metaphysics and Greek philosophy forward. The problem with the Catholic Church is it's stuck in the Middle Ages. The problem with the Protestant church is it rejected Augustine's Platonist ideas with the reformation.
They both embrace scientism. Science is important, but scientism is what has caused the trouble we have today with our environment. The idea that we no longer have to listen and follow, but we could shove things around to suit our own way regardless of the cost, that's scientism.
We have an opportunity in Unity to bring the human progress forward by bringing metaphysics forward. Charles Fillmore and his students took these medieval philosophical concepts and in their very innocent and uninformed and uneducated way, did their best to convey them to a modern society and we can carry on that tradition.
So my answer to the question of "What philosophy is that?" is the philosophy of Western culture, the philosophy that gave us geometry, medicine, and ethical government. Medicine and ethical government, that wiggles ears to an evangelical. Because all people believe in geometry, medicine and ethical government. That's what they want. And the Bible and traditional Christianity hasn't been able to provide that very well. But traditional Christianity with Greek philosophy, the Greek virtues, offers an opportunity to bring that forward.
I should have changed this. The question is they ask, is it Christian? What they really want to know is this Christianity, is this philosophy. They want the category. Remember they want the category. And so my slide, if I could have corrected it, is it Christian or is it philosophy?
These are some things to think about. First of all, once you know that they're asking that question, know that there are two ways to talk about this. There's metaphysical language and there's mystical language. Metaphysical language is the language you use to talk about our understanding of God. When we talk metaphysics, God is an object. We are objectifying the faith and we are talking about how we understand God. And that's fine, that's very important.
But there is another language, and that is the mystical language. And the mystical language is always transcendent. The mystical language is never going to be logical. It's never going to be rational. If it's logical and rational, it's not a religion. It has to go beyond that.
And so there's a metaphysical language and a mystical language. And we have to be aware of the language that we are using when the person is asking, is this Christianity or is this philosophy? I just want to bring that out.
The second thing, this is probably the most important divisive problem in Unity today, is half of the world is theist and half of the world is non-theist. And I'm going to start with the lower right corner and talk about the person who sees God as a natural source. The person who goes out in the woods feels relaxed and says, "I find God there." And that's fine. Nothing wrong with that. Sitting on top of that is the person who says God is a cosmic force. Who goes out in the woods, sits down, and realizes the world is in perfect order. That synchronous things seem to happen in unexpected ways.
Both of those views are non-theist. And what I mean by non-theist, is yes, there's a God, but God's not involved in my life in any direct and meaningful way. God is benevolent, God is not angry, but God is... It's non-theist in today's... And that is roughly half of the population in the United States. And those two answers is 25% the piece.
Now on the other side are the theists, and there's this person in the lower left who says, "God, I talk and think to God." That is the person who says, "God is sending guidance to me in my mind, that I have an intuitive understanding of what to do because God speaks to me in my mind."
And then there's the person in the upper left who says, "God is active in my life." And this quote is from a woman who says that she was in a foreign country and in an apartment that had no kitchen facility. She put some spaghetti in the toilet and it wouldn't flush. And she prayed and she says, "God flushed my toilet." 25% of the population. And you can read this, that book about America's Four Gods, it's a very well-researched scholarly book. But before we answer the question to this person, is it Christian or is it ... Our answer is only going to be appropriate for 25% of the population, and that's okay.
And by the way, the lower left corner, I, in my book, say it's from a person named Chuck. Chuck is Charles Fillmore. Those are his words. He didn't believe that God changed things around in his bank account, but he did believe that God changed things around in his mind. God was active in Charles Fillmore's life in a personal benevolent way.
So it's not just about metaphysics and mysticism. If we go to the final chapter of Lessons In Truth, and this is a trick question, what is the final chapter? The final chapter is Liberty or Bondage, Which? It was a zealous Unity editor many years ago who took chapter 12 and moved it to chapter one.
My point is Emilie Cady in that chapter, if you read it, the entire chapter is about moving from metaphysics to mysticism. She talks about being the source to being an inlet and outlet of source. I am not the source, God is the source. I don't call on principle, I hear God's principle. I don't practice principle, I practice presence. I have moved from only good to only God and I have moved from truth to trust.
It is a movement from metaphysics to mysticism. And I submit that what Unity has done is presented the Christian message using metaphysics just like the Apostle Paul did in the early days, and then moved them. Once the mind is convinced of the truth, he has moved the heart to mysticism. From Charles Fillmore to Myrtle Fillmore. That is what we have. That is what we have. It's a great message.
My answer is this, Christian is absolutely as Christian. It's based on the teachings of Jesus and the power of prayer. Now, you may know that that was published recently by Unity. What is Unity? The answer is, it's Christian. Now, I haven't said anything about blood atonement. I haven't said anything about the literacy of the Bible. I haven't said anything about the Pope or homosexuality or women and men. I touched any of that.
So the question is, "Okay, well how's it different? How is this..." So they already got the category is Christian, they know we're weird, but the category is Christian. And once the category is Christian, then there is a rapport, then there is an attachment. There is the opportunity to communicate.
And I always bring out, they want to know how it's different. It's different in our meta-narratives.
A typical Christian will say that my meta-narrative for life is I was created. I sinned, I was judged, but I have been forgiven. Creation, sin, judgment, redemption. That is the meta-narrative. Everything in Christian history boils down to that meta-narrative. I'm guilty but I'm forgiven.
Not so in Unity. Unity has a meta-narrative that is entirely different. It's mind, idea, and expression. And I will get into that in a minute. But that is the fundamental difference between evangelical Christianity in one end, and metaphysical Christianity on the other end. It's a change in meta-narrative.
The meta-narrative of mind, idea, and expression comes out in almost everything we do. When we talk about the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The mind, the mind is eternal, unchanging principle, divine mind expressing an idea that was incarnated and expressed by Jesus the Christ and is expressed by incarnated us. And then the expression of the Holy Spirit is in us and we as expressing in the material world. The virtues of mind as bondedness, bondedness, the virtue of ideas is health. The virtue of expression is prosperity. Oneness, healing, and prosperity.
And so I ask some questions to the person. I say, "What's the first order of business of a baby?" Trick question. What's the first order of business for a baby? The first thing a baby must do is bond. To whom do I go to get my needs met? To whom do I go? If I cry, who will respond to my cry? And if the person does not find the answer, does not bond, what happens? They struggle their entire life. And how many of us know people who have never bonded? Remember John Bradshaw, PBS, out on the healing people of alcoholism? How did he do it? He had people going and bonding with their inner child on television. It's about bonding. We are not born in sin. We are born in bondedness. I remember saying that to an evangelical software engineer. He didn't know what to do with that. Because everybody knows we're about bondedness, oneness.
And I asked, "Did Jesus say we should worship him?" No. Everybody knows Jesus said we should follow him. That's the idea. The first question addresses mind. So this is addressing idea.
And the third question addressing Holy Spirit or expression is, are we saved by confessing Jesus Christ is Lord or Savior or are we saved by transformation? Everybody in this room knows the answer to that, and that message will fly with the person at the cocktail party this Christmas when you are explaining Unity.
Second thing I'll say is our Bible is relevant. Go to Barnes & Noble. Go to those Christian books, that rack of Christian books. What are you going to find? Bibles. And what kind of Bibles? Study Bibles. New life Bible, Harper Study Bible, Oxford annotated Bible, MacArthur Study Bible, Scofield Reference Bible. People today in the Christian field get their theological understanding and knowledge from study Bibles.
And wouldn't it be cool if somewhere in Unity there had been a recording of all sorts of annotations? And does everyone know what I mean by a study Bible? It's where half of the text is the scripture and half of the text are annotations. And you go to the scripture and you see a bullet note and you go down to the bullet note and you read an annotation of that piece of scripture.
Wouldn't it be cool? Wouldn't it be cool? Well, there is one. And there's not one, there's 350 of them and they're downstairs in the bookstore. And the cost to you is to go down and ask for it. Now I've been told there are 350 people registered. There's 350 copies downstairs. So be careful if you're asking for two. My pledge is that as soon as I get home, I will order either 500 or a thousand copies. We have some very generous donors and I will stock you and your Unity Bookstore in your Unity Library for free. Enough said, I will get over my bragging now.
This is the most important thing. Unity, how is it different? I'm going to make the case that Unity is more inclusive than any other denomination in the Christian faith. And it's not because of what you think. You probably think we're inclusive because we have an awareness of an acceptance of different genders, different sexes, different races. That's what we normally think of when we talk about inclusivity training. There's a deeper divide. It turns away people from our churches, and I'm going to describe how they see truth.
There are people who believe that truth is revealed. Charles Fillmore thought he goes to headquarters. Myrtle Fillmore went to silence. Those who believe that truth is revealed are traditional. It's the majority of people in the Christian faith.
There are also people who believe truth is discovered. These are modern people. They look at neuroscience, near-death experiences, integrative medicine, quantum physics, all of these that borderline science and straddle science and religion. And we have plenty of them in Unity. Traditionalists and moderns don't double date. They don't go to the same churches, except in Unity.
There's a third group; Postmoderns. For them, truth is revealed in right relationships. If my relationships suck, then I'm not in truth. These are people who say women got the right to vote, but they're still unfulfilled. Blacks were freed from slavery but they're still suffering from racism. You know what I'm talking about. These Postmoderns are the people who love the Beatles because all we need is love. We don't need revelation, we don't need science. But for them, truth is relative. It's in our relationships.
And I submit that there is ample evidence of all three of these in Unity Churches today. But we must be vigilant in how we talk about truth. And it is so easy to stereotype a traditionalist. It is so easy for traditionalist to stereotype a crazy new-age Postmodernist. Okay? We need to let that go. We need to let it go.
So I say to this person who asks "How is it different?" I'll say, "Our understanding of God is different, but our experience of God is just like yours." I too want to be loved. I too want to have right relationships. I too want to know God. I too want peace. And this is my appeal to not be spiritual elitist because you're in Unity. That person you're talking to at the coffee hour, know that that person experiences the same need as you. They understand God differently. We are not saved by understanding. We're saved by experience.
So then the person who's really been frustrated says, "Well, do you believe in Jesus Christ?" Right? The big question.
I'm going to present three slides. First of all, I say that yes I do. The Christ I know came from four different directions.
First of all, there's this Christ who has risen up in the Bible. Is the Old Testament prophets were risen up, okay? There's also the Christ who descended down. Says the God from below and the God from above. We just need to know this. I'm not going to share this with the person, but we need to know or understand. Then there's the God from beyond. This is the gnostic new-age God who's from a transcendent realm, but who's come to visit us. But in Unity, God is from within. We all know this. God who's found Christ in you, your hope of glory.
And we must have this firm understanding before we answer the question, "Do you believe in Jesus Christ?" Because if we say yes, we need to know, "Well, where is Jesus Christ in your life?" And we need to be able to articulate that in an authentic way.
So I talk about discovery that I found out in the most aesthetic of the Christian monasteries today in Chartes. It's the Carthusian monastery and it's the only film that was ever done inside a... They have a sign there. It talks about what is known as deification.
It's a quote from Saint Athanius who says, "God became man so that man could become God." And the Carthusian monks put below it, "Join me in becoming God." That is the most powerful opening line any Unity minister could use this Sunday. "Join me in becoming God." Its source, the most orthodox Catholic monastery in the world. Join me in becoming God. Yeah. I believe in Jesus Christ as a presence, as a living presence.
I offer prayer. And the prayer that I offer, if we get to that point, is one of the favorites of Emma Curtis Hopkins. God is now here raising us up to that place where the Holy Spirit pours out its inspiration upon us. God, divine mind, is now here raising us up in consciousness to a higher place where the Holy Spirit blesses us with health and prosperity.
And so my answer is yes, but we experience Jesus differently than you. And if they want to know, I'll go to that prayer. I'll say, "Could we pray about this?" And there aren't many Orthodox Christians that will say no. And that prayer of Charles Fillmore will resonate. And in my opinion, it's a perfectly valid Unity prayer. It's powerful.
I am a little bit over. I'm going to offer a break right now. We're one hour into this, and I just want to take questions of... How do we talk about Unity with friends and family? What are your questions that I yet haven't yet answered about faith? So let's go five minutes. I'm going to go short and I have the microphone. Anyone who would like to ask a question, please holler it out or... And I'll try to repeat it. But if I can't, I'll give you the... I don't know if I can get this off.
Audience member: Happy Birthday, Mark
Rev. Mark Hicks: That's right. I am... It is 10:59. At 7:09 this morning I became 70 years old. Any questions?
Mark: Okay, Sue.
Sue: [inaudible 00:53:42] define Christianity.
Rev. Mark Hicks: Christianity is a commitment to the teachings and the person of Jesus Christ.
Sue: Okay. So for people who are traditional Christians, because they believe that Jesus.
Speaker 1: ... [inaudible 00:54:00] because they believe that Jesus saved them, died for them. So wouldn't they have an argument, I guess, how would you argue that or discuss that with them? I believe if going with your definition.
Rev. Mark Hicks: I stick by my definition and my definition is fairly well received in world literature today and go to Wikipedia or whatever, look up Christianity. It's not about... The definition of Christian is not those who have been saved by the blood atonement of Jesus. Definition of Christian is the person who's committed to the teachings and the life and and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Speaker 1: Okay. Because I just did look it up and it says a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Christianity.
Rev. Mark Hicks: Oh, that, they're in the Christian Church. Yes. Yeah. The church has all sorts of requirements for going into the denomination. And I will get into Unity as a denomination in the second half of this. Yes.
Speaker 2: Yeah, [inaudible 00:55:20]. Thank you very much [inaudible 00:55:21]. I am one of the younger generation and probably going to have [inaudible 00:55:27] attention span [inaudible 00:55:29]. So how do you sum up what is Unity in less than one short sentence [inaudible 00:55:39]?
Rev. Mark Hicks: Unity is metaphysical Christianity. Metaphysical Christianity is a distinct and authentic expression of the historic Christian faith.
Speaker 2: That doesn't mean anything to somebody who [inaudible 00:55:58].
Rev. Mark Hicks: It could. And what you're asking for is an explanation of something that does require some thought. It does some require to follow. And people want to know the... I mean, my answer to you would be Unity is Christianity. That would be my answer. Okay. Sandra?
Sandra: Where's the devil?
Rev. Mark Hicks: Where's the what?
Sandra: The devil. The devil [inaudible 00:56:56].
Rev. Mark Hicks: I'm sorry. Where-
Sandra: I'm from the Baptist state people know, and as a Baptist we're highly skilled in understanding that there's a duality in principle. There's evil and there's good and I often hear, "The devil made me do it." Or my mother used to say, "The devil is always busy." So I would've difficulty explaining to my family that I don't believe in the devil or evil. What would you say?
Rev. Mark Hicks: I would say that we have one cosmos, heaven and earth, and it works... And the answer to evil is that it's an absence of being. When we commit evil deeds or acts, we diminish our being. Our soul contracts. Our life diminishes, our life is squeezed. Evil is a deprivation of goodness. It's a deprivation of God. And look, I admit that not everybody's going to believe what we're talking about. I'm simply saying these are acceptable statements within the realm of orthodoxy in the Christian faith. And in the second half I'll talk about why it's important to be tethered to the Christian faith. But if we're going to declare ourselves Christian, we have to know how it is that we fit in that Christian faith. And to Rachel's question, it's not so simple to put it in a sentence for someone who does not understand the Christian faith. Someone else? Yeah.
Speaker 3: So, given that the majority of people today probably don't understand the Christian faith, and you shared with us that you're marketing person, one suggestion and I have a question. One suggestion would be to work on that 30 second elevator pitch. Then my question is, what consideration have you given when you're suggesting that we return to the great White fathers of Western philosophy, what consideration are you giving to those people in the room, in the movement in world and in the world who are not cisgender Whites [inaudible 00:59:20]? What space are you giving to us in your definition of any Christianity? It feels to me like you were making the table smaller when I and many in this room are trying to make the table bigger and push for [inaudible 00:59:39].
Rev. Mark Hicks: Okay. Yep. First of all, I'm not talking about returning to middle-aged metaphysics. I'm talking about bringing metaphysics into the 21st century. And Unity has an opportunity to do that. And how that will, bringing that forward to be inclusive of people that are not Western European is understandable. That's fine. But we need to move forward. And my question to you is, where are we today? How effective are we in the Unity movement? And I'm not talking about drumming people out of Unity, I'm talking about tolerance within Unity. I'm simply saying that there are a lot of people who have left Unity because they no longer see the Fillmore teachings there. And we have an opportunity to bring in 60% of the Christian market in North America. There's 2.9 billion Christians in the world today. And to say that we have allergies to them is a self-fulfilling statement. So I basically turn the question back to you, how are you going to expand this? I'm wanting to move it forward. I simply want to move Unity forward using our roots.
Speaker 3: My question was about the impact on the people like me in the room and totally [inaudible 01:01:44].
Rev. Mark Hicks: What is the impact? Tell me the impact.
Speaker 3: My question was, have you given consideration [inaudible 01:01:57]?
Rev. Mark Hicks: Well, my answer is I'm in the Unity movement, which as a movement has been pretty inclusive of a broad group of people. I'm still here. Yeah. I'm participating. Yes.
Speaker 4: First and foremost I could say I so respect your courage and I think all [inaudible 01:02:27] and our culture, we need to be able to have challenging, courageous conversations. And I think community absolutely needs to have this conversation. And I'm a person who has a heavy un-positive Christian shadow and would be very turned off by having our movement labeled as just Christian. Now I can give my heart around a spiritual pathway that includes metaphysical Christianity, but to have it labeled Christianity would make me back away. And I think one of our marketing opportunities are people like me who do have that shadow who can transform and unlearn those teachings and relearn them in empowered way, which is what I've [inaudible 01:03:24] ministerial school [inaudible 01:03:25]. But there's a [inaudible 01:03:28] in everything and I do really appreciate [inaudible 01:03:33] this to us.
Rev. Mark Hicks: Someone else.
Silvia: Thank you, [inaudible 01:04:13]. I'm Silvia. I have two questions actually, and [inaudible 01:04:13] other one first because you did mention [inaudible 01:04:13] earlier program, when you mention that existence you did not mention [inaudible 01:04:13] and I was just wonder why. When I would clearly [inaudible 01:04:13]. When I went to [inaudible 01:04:13] school, the new thought was tracked back from [inaudible 01:04:18] so I didn't know if that was intentional that it [inaudible 01:04:24] that was.
Rev. Mark Hicks: Yeah. Was that your question or did you have another one?
Silvia: Well, that and another one. Christianity as I hear it in the world, we know that that is one of the fastest decreasing denomination, people are leaving Christianity and [inaudible 01:04:43] for good reasons. But I sit on the board of the Parliament of the World's Religions. And at that table, when there are 35 different religions represented, I am the first new thought person to sit at that table. I cannot say metaphysical Christianity to that group. When we talked about [inaudible 01:05:16]. And this is not to talk about [inaudible 01:05:18]. Those who are there and understand, their understanding of what Christianity is, cannot put their minds around metaphysical Christianity because Christianity is already locked into a belief system that has nothing to do with what we want... We are interpreting metaphysics. To them there is no metaphysical interpreting Jesus. And to say to other leaders that I got into because this metaphysical interpret [inaudible 01:05:57]. So I dare say, I love what you did. I love the passion, the work that put into this and maybe to this audience [inaudible 01:06:05] it's a good part of the discussion, but it depends on who you're talking, how they will receive that and what their experience of Christianity is. And when you look at what's happening at the Southern Baptist Christian Leadership Conference where the large denominations of members are leaving that because of women aren't allowed in the pulpit, who wants to relate to that? I'm a female minister, so I really want to be careful addressing and pulling myself in that category. [inaudible 01:06:45].
Rev. Mark Hicks: Okay. Thank you. We're going to need to move on. I think I will be here, I have a table by the way. But let me just answer the question. I began, there are two frontiers of Unity. Okay. And the point is we have ignored one frontier for the many valid reasons that have been described here. That doesn't mean that we need to do that. And I believe that we should be standing within Unity saying we are part of the Christian faith and I am a female minister. That statement will do more to transform the Southern Baptist Convention than anything we might do by walking out of Christianity. Rick Balus. Yeah.
Rick: Mark, I think the scariest thing you brought up here was reminding us that [inaudible 01:07:53]. And I remember [inaudible 01:07:59] saying the worst places I've been far [inaudible 01:08:03] the other folks in the room, except that Unity Institute, I felt for the first time a little bit more on the conservative side and that was very uncomfortable. But he start with how do you want to get [inaudible 01:08:18] to your description, the fact that the Fillmores were so interested in the world [inaudible 01:08:24] religions. They were so interested in Buddhism and [inaudible 01:08:30] at a time where you could go to [inaudible 01:08:31] noble and pick up [inaudible 01:08:35]. Also, how do you enter, I mean, you have, Emerson didn't have [inaudible 01:08:41] but both Emerson and Rome so interested in East [inaudible 01:08:47] religions, Emerson walked out of being a Unitarian minister. So the line that you draw here, I mean, how do you work [inaudible 01:08:58] that they were so interested in [inaudible 01:09:00] religions?
Rev. Mark Hicks: Well, my statement is we have unhealthy... In fact that's a flippant statement. We are inclusive, we are a Christian denomination that is inclusive of world religions. That doesn't mean we're not Christian, and it doesn't mean we have to define ourselves as not being Christian. I have nothing to prove to someone about a statement about Christianity. And the question is, can we have two frontiers within Unity? I'm not coming here asking for a denominational statement declaring ourselves Christian. I'm just simply saying that TruthUnity is out there addressing 60% of the population and trying to convey the teachings of Charles Fillmore in a way that is understandable to average people in the society. And I'm explaining that. And if you are in the coffee hour and you have any desire at all to help this person understand Unity's teachings, this is one pathway to do it. That's all I'm saying. Yeah. We have three people standing. We're going to have to move on or there isn't going to be any talk left. Yes. Are you finished? Hello?
Silvia: Do you want me to [inaudible 01:10:38]?
Rev. Mark Hicks: Yes. Yeah. I'm sorry.
Speaker 5: My question is about judicial Christianity. How many are familiar with the interpreters said on [inaudible 01:11:02]? If you [inaudible 01:11:02] scholarship then you're familiar with the interpreter said about commentaries. The chairman of the editorial award of that very famous and commentary [inaudible 01:11:15] and I took [inaudible 01:11:17] Jesus in these last three years ago, but he was asked the question, what did he personally think was so important about Jesus? And the answer he gave was not blood sacrificing Jesus. The answer he gave was he believe that the most important thing about Jesus was his God consciousness. In other words, it's a traditional Christianity is not as far away from the [inaudible 01:11:50] as we are from [inaudible 01:11:54].
Rev. Mark Hicks: Thank you. We need to move on to...
Speaker 6: Officer Mark, thank you for your deep dive and this seems to need to be the core conversation [inaudible 01:12:08] in the community. And you have laid the foundation out for us that I think is a springboard for that conversation. If we just lack the label, Christianity on us to say, "Well, that's it. Now we've got something to move toward," there's going to be great exodus in our movement for good reasons. We've had this conversation a little bit in my ministry and we changed the what is Unity statement. We took out Christianity, we put a spiritual [inaudible 01:12:41], we added meditation, and we stand firmly on following the teaching of Jesus. But the Christian Bible will not work for us. And will make it [inaudible 01:12:53] for a lot of people at the moment.
Speaker 7: Just a quick historical piece of information in 2006 has come from body approved this statement that is in the [inaudible 01:13:14] and it simply says, community is a positive, practical, progressive, and this is the key word approach to Christianity based on the teachings of Jesus, the healing power of prayer that honors the truth in all religions and spiritual path. If you have the word approach which is doing by [inaudible 01:13:57] person when the community is was doing that, that lasted 18 months. [inaudible 01:13:57] an approach to Christianity. So that's all I'm [inaudible 01:13:57]. Thank you.
Rev. Mark Hicks: Okay, thank you. I'm going to have to move on. I'm sorry, but we're not going to have any time left.
The second half of the Credo is what I call the human side of Unity. And we have a few minutes.
First of all, church is being disrupted. And it takes a lot of guts to put a slide like this out here, but I just want to begin by saying, let's take this room and let's just imagine that the people over here are the people who really don't know how to navigate life. They have trouble navigating, understanding what to do to be successful in life. The people over here just imagine are people who are very sophisticated and know how to make choices and right behaviors that lead to a prosperous life. Okay? Let's just assume that. And we're then assuming that the middle is somewhere in the middle. And that is the way most services and markets work. There are people who have different needs, but you go to the middle.
Over time, these people are served. Over time, these people heal and they begin to move over here. And some will actually move over here. And the natural order of things is to put another button on a channel changer to add another sophistication into the religion that as our constituently matures and gets more sophisticated, we will get more mature. And many of you will think that, "Well, the answer then is I'm going to start speaking this way." That isn't what happens. What happens is I move over here. That's called disruption. And disruption is when there's an unserved flock here that is no longer served by a movement that once served them.
The unserved flock... And it is being disrupted. Let me just pass over this.
The unserved flock is online. A hundred years ago when a girl a young woman was pregnant, unmarried, she went to her preacher. 50 years ago when, when a man was unfaithful to his life, he went to his priest. Today they go online. Some may come to your congregation, but the unserved flock, the flock over here who cannot navigate life, who have difficulty, they go online. It's the first place they go. The grieving, confused, broken-hearted, the shame, the guilty, the obese, the chemically addicted, those who are lonely, those who feel they don't belong. They all go online.
And so on TruthUnity, we have an events page. And you'll notice if you read the fine print, I really don't want to know about your event unless you are a representative of a Unity church. And I prefer you to be a credentialed leader, but that's not necessary. But I'm always almost a hundred percent insistent, the class you're offering has to be part and parcel of the Unity Church.
And the reason is the people that are going online, the unserved flock who do a Google search, some of them find TruthUnity, some of them find an answer and that's good. But then they email me and they say, "Well, can you answer some questions?" And that's not my job. That's your job.
I am doing something entirely unintuitive for a website. I am directing a visitor to my website, to your website. The unserved flock is going to be when retired ministers start giving classes in the auspices of a Unity church. So that when we are looking for someone who can answer a question about an incarcerated family member or chemical addiction, gender confusion, whatever, that there will be a Unity Church and the Unity Minister for them somewhere that is the events page.
Now, I'm not peddling Christianity. Okay? You can tell them whatever you want. However, you raise them up to that place where the Holy Spirit pours out its inspiration upon them is up to you. I'm simply saying that TruthUnity is what we call internet candy that attracts people to what they know, 60% of the population who are looking for a better way.
So the message requires time, money, and education. That's the second thing about this disruption of church today, our metaphysics is way too complicated. If you think the metaphysics... I was just talking about, mind idea and expression is complicated, try taking an SEE class. There's only four of them now, right? There's four. So I'm not here to bash the way we're... I just simply saying it is like buttons on a channel changer. The more they keep getting added one after another, the point where you can't follow it any longer takes time, money, and education.
So the study Bible, it's in your Unity bookstore. Your visitor comes into your church to visit. They say, "Who are these people?" They go visit the bookstore on their way out to try and get some idea. They find the study bible, they turn to their favorite passage, and within one minute they're reading a commentary by Charles Fillmore about their favorite Bible passage. That is what is called providing education for those who don't have time on your education.
There are two factors that are so important, good disciples and good explanations. Religious commitment, ask yourself the people that are committed to the church, why are they there? They're there because they believe that what is taught in that church is going to improve their life. The explanations are good. The explanations will help me navigate life. It will help me be more healthy, more prosperous, more peaceful. And these are some of the best-selling Unity books. And by the way, I have about 15 copies of Emilie Cady's, God a Present Help, the unpublished edition. These are all practical books. Look at them. They're all practical. Catherine Ponder, Norman Vincent Peale, Eric Butterworth, Lowell Fillmore.
Good disciples... When I talk about good disciples is who is answering the questions in the coffee hour. When the visitor comes and they go to the coffee hour and they say, "Well, what is Unity?" Who's answering the questions? They need to be you, the congregants. And they need to understand how to talk about Unity with family and faith, which is the first half of my talk today.
Our ministries need to reach people virally. All disrupted services begin with viral services. People start providing solutions and no one knows they're providing solutions yet.
And an example is what I call one-on-one ministry. How many people are in your congregation? Each one of them is a minister. Each one of us knows some high school boy who thinks he needs a gun in order to be a man. Every one of us knows some coworker who can't handle her liquor. Every one of us knows some teenage girl who thinks she needs a bigger bra in order to be more popular. They don't go to the minister, they go to you. Ministry is one-on-one. And so I'll have a book by Glenn Clark called Fishers of Men. It's the only book I know that talks about ministry as one-on-one. So it's what we need to be doing.
Churches need greater commitment. Commitment is the currency of successful ministry. I don't care how many seekers you've got. I care about how many committed congregants you have, who are committed to the cause. Now, you may say that my Fillmore beliefs are exclusionary. I'm simply putting out something concrete that people can commit to. The spiritual smorgasbord is fine for seekers. No one commits to a smorgasbord. People commit to something concrete. There is a power of focus ministry that I hear people talking about today.
Let me just close this particular section talking about what I call the Camping Congregation. I have a friend here from Florida. She and I have some common friends who belong to a movement that for over 70 years has been offering week long camps where they go together to pray, to talk, share ideas.
So my question is, how many of you know a congregation that gave up its property during COVID, and its minister got burned out. And now they're left without a minister and without a facility? Anybody know if anything like that? Okay, so what's their alternative?
I can tell you one alternative is to shut the doors. Another alternative is what would happen if instead of one hour every Sunday you met for eight hours every other month. Long enough for the bonds of affection to be made among congregants, long enough for people to study and to reference one another's spiritual practices. And you'll see down at the bottom there's this thing called truthunity.net/koinonia was an experiment this girl and I did back in April. What would happen if we gathered people from one day event? All these are alternatives to the disruption that we see in ministry today. And I commit to you as Truth Unity as someone who will experiment with these things, that I will always be directing my successes back to the congregations. .
A year ago I asked Unity to ordain me. Now, I've been doing Truth Unity since 2009 and I was fine. But coming out of COVID, it was real obvious to me that ministry was being disrupted. I had at that time, 12 years experience doing digital ministry. I wanted to help, but I couldn't help unless I had standing among you, my fellow ministers. So I asked to be ordained, not so I'd have the title reverend, not so that I could take a church as a pulpit minister, but so that I could collaborate with you in this great work inaugurated by Jesus Christ in helping people, the unsaved flock.
So who are we? Not what are we? I've answered the question to my satisfaction. What are we? Who are we? I'm going to say eight things that I believe are core Unity beliefs.
The first being, I behold the Christ in you. Almost everybody's belief is about me. It's not about me, it's about you. Unity people declare, I behold the Christ in you. That is sacrosanct in Unity. It came from Frank Whitney, but it was perfected by Eric Butterworth who says, "We're not here to set the world right, but to see it right." And each of these people saw the Christ in others, and we know who they are. We know what their greatness is. That is a core belief of Unity.
One of the things that I do is I print up postcards and send them out to people. And if you will sign up for my list, I'll send you postcards as well.
Second thing we do in Unity is we do not baptize with water but with Spirit. That quote came right from Charles Fillmore. And what he means by that is each congregant relates to others by baptizing one another with Spirit. The person who cuts me off in line, the person who bothers me, who annoys me, I baptize with Spirit. And so do you. That is your uniqueness. I'm not sure that Catholics and evangelicals can say that, but I know we can say it in Unity.
A study was done about five years ago, asking the most important values of Americans. And they had 20 of them. Health, truth, justice. Number one, number two and three all combined. The one that was number one way out there was peace. And what is the song we close our Unity services with? How many do that? Peace is what we're at. That is part of our DNA.
Charles Myrtle Fillmore, roughly 100 years ago wrote a dedication and covenant. And the point is, Unity is not just a place for seekers, it's a place for finders. And I acknowledge my belief. The belief system that I've put out is pretty specific, but it is something that someone can commit to. It is something that we can lay a foundation with. We don't have to do it collectively. I'm not asking everyone to be a Fillmorian. I'm just simply saying that that is one way to take a finder and turn a finder into a seeker.
Positive emotions turn on the 12 powers. How many of us love the 12 powers? Yeah, almost everybody. Now, if you think what I've talked about is complicated, when you're in that social gathering at Christmastime, start talking about the 12 powers.
But you can get there a different way. You can start asking questions, what is your greatest joy in life? How do you find order in your day? Who do you love? Who inspires you? What will you commit your life to? See these are all questions that elicit positive emotions. Positive emotions turn on the 12 powers.
And if there's one thing that will distinguish Unity in the decades to come in my opinion, it's going to be the advances of neuroscience that understand how the positive emotions turn on the 12 powers and why they exist. And this is already baked in Unity teachings.
We all know the prayer of faith. But the prayer of faith is not about what you say. It's about who you become. I believe it goes, "I'm now am kind and now am true, patient, kind and loving too." It's not what you say, it's who you are. It's what you believe. That is a core Unity message. There's a postcard to go with it.
Prosperity is affirmed. I listened to a talk. Catherine Ponder, 30 years after she left the church she founded in Austin, Texas came back for a reunion in the early '90s. She gave a talk, and in the talk she talked about prosperity. You pull prosperity. Prosperity is a thread. You pull it, you don't shove prosperity. You don't make prosperity, you don't push things around, you don't grab. We pull prosperity through our affirmations. There is a gentleness to Unity, to the Unity culture that doesn't shove things around, that embraces powerlessness, that embraces the providence of God. That is part of our DNA.
And the final one, which is probably going to make half of the people throw up and the other half walk out, is Charles Fillmore's statement of faith. But if you read the statement of faith, the final statement is statement 30. Well, it's 31. It's not the final statement. Final statement is we believe in all doctrines of the Christian Church spiritually interpreted. And if you read the statements of faith, roughly half of them talk about the prosperity of the body. Charles Fillmore resisted the idea that the body was not to be perfected. Now we all know about his Quixotic attempt to regenerate his life. We all know that. But the fundamental belief within Unity is that the body is good and the body is to be perfected. That will fly among all Christians.
This is the big question. Who are we? Now, scholars classify religious organizations one of three ways. Either they're churches or they are sects, S-E-C-T-S. A sect is an organization that breaks away from a church to reform it. Or there are organizations that are completely untethered. They're on their own. They are on an island. And those are known as churches, sects and cults. It's an unfair derogative statement that's loaded with a lot of pain. I understand that. But that is the classification of sociologists among religious organizations.
Charles Fillmore from the beginning said, "We are not a sect. We are non-sectarian." He did everything he could to join the Christian Church, to come in and provide a new understanding of the way we are transformed and saved. In his later years, he admitted we're a sect. We are a reform movement. And that is when he began ordaining ministers and holding ministerial pass. But in the beginning, we were churches and then we moved to sects. And a lot of people declare us to be a cult, unfairly.
I'm telling you, I am here to tell those people Unity is not a cult. Unity is an authentic and distinct branch of the historic Christian faith. We have a right to be here. Our beliefs, our behavior is Christian. What we have accomplished is notable and has contributed to moving Christianity forward for the past 100 years. It's nothing to be ashamed about.
So what is Unity or who is Unity? I'm going to give four things. First of all, it is a center of practice. It is a place where we go to practice Christianity. And in the early days the study groups and kitchens were called Unity Centers, is a place of practice. There was a practice, it was there.
But in time we grew and we became a spiritual community and a center of practice combined. And my point is that is essentially who we are today. We are a spiritual community, and we are a center of practice. We are mystical, we are metaphysical. That Christian community is broad, it does incorporate and welcome all people of all face, of all genders, all races, all sexes, all countries of origin. But we are also center of practice.
Now, some people, that center of practice people, are very creative and they want to move beyond metaphysics, I understand that. And so they go to the preacher and they say, "There's this guru down the street and he has an important message. We should listen to him." And so the minister calls him up and puts him on the platform. It isn't long before the central practice becomes a variety show of all things spiritual but not religious. And that's okay. That's an extension of having unhealthy boundaries towards other denominations and other religions.
We are an accepting inclusive society, but we should not allow the variety show to overshadow the center of practice. It's important there. It has a place. And you're not going to find a course in miracles taught in the Catholic Church, but you will find it taught in a Unity church. And that is to our blessing, that is to our credit. So if someone's looking for a course in miracles, they're likely to find it in a Unity church more than they're going to find it in their Catholic parish.
Now, the spiritual community is also creative. They're wanting to go beyond this business of oneness. And so they want to insist on justice. It's not just oneness, it's justice. And so for many people today, Unity is a protest movement. I'm protesting in two ways. I'm protesting what I see in society and I'm protesting my upbringing in the Christian Church. And my point is that has an appropriate place in Unity. But the core foundation of Unity is a center of practice and a spiritual community. We do branch out into this variety show a smorgasbord of beliefs and then this constant drumbeat of protest, which is nudging us to higher levels of justice. And that's okay.
Overarching this is a canopy. And my answer, what is Unity to the lady back here? Unity as a movement, as a movement is a sacred canopy. It provides answers and directions for life. It provides inclusivity for all, and it provides a specific pathway for achieving new levels of peace, prosperity, and wholeness. Sacred canopy did not come from me, it came from Peter Berger as many of you know.
When I asked to be ordained, I had to put a metaphor on my request. I said, "I am outside of the tent in Unity. Here, I have this website TruthUnity. But I can't be collegial with Unity ministers unless I come in the tent."
It's important for us to have a canopy where people can come in and find their home and be included, and at the same time maintain the integrity of our historic Christian faith. I'm not insisting on everybody becoming a Christian, I'm just simply saying that is our roots when people want to know where did we come from? How is it that we have our beliefs? It is because of that.
And so my final slide is at Unity, and it's on the back of this book. It's on the values of Truth Unity. Unity is a current expression of metaphysical Christianity. Metaphysical Christianity is not new. Metaphysical Christianity is a distinct and authentic expression of the historic Christian faith.
Congregants: Happy Birthday.
Rev. Mark Hicks: Thank you.