Five Potential Disrupters
From Oneness to Wholeness
Until now, religion in the west has been culturally framed by “Christendom”—an informal cultural hegemony that Christianity has traditionally enjoyed since the 4th century. We are now in a post-Christian era and religion is now able to pursue metaphysical Truth free from cultural limitation.
People today tend to see the world through three different cultural views—Traditionalist, Modern and PostModern (also known as Cultural Creative). And those cultural views shape how they are able to perceive Truth.
For Traditionalists, Truth is REVEALED — revealed by the church or by the Bible, through intuition, as taught by the Transcendentalists, or, as taught by the Fillmores, by “going to headquarters” or “in the Silence”. For Moderns, Truth is DISCOVERED — discovered by observation of nature, scientific discovery and deductive thinking. For Postmoderns, also known as Cultural Creatives, Truth is known in RELATIONSHIPS — what is “right and true” leads to loving relationships, or else it is not based on rightness nor Truth.
This is good news for unorthodox religion like Unity because a metaphysically true religion is able to embrace people of diverse cultural perspectives and be open to varied priorities in ideas and values. It is bad news for a culturally framed religion because it is constricted by its inability to embrace all people and its resistance to the essential truth of all ideas.
From Evangelical Christian to Metaphysical Christian
With the Council of Nicea in the 4th century, Christianity entered into a Catholic era. After the Reformation, western Christianity entered into an Evangelical era. We are now entering into the 3rd great Christian era: the era of Metaphysical Christianity.
Metaphysical Christianity and Evangelical Christianity are two ends of a continuum in Christian history and theology. One is focused on the person of Jesus and the adoration of his divinity, the other is focused on the Christ within, and the calling, in the words of Jesus, to love as he loved and to do the works that he did. The leading scholar of metaphysical religion today writes, “metaphysical religion ... is at least as important as evangelicalism in fathoming the shape and scope of American religious history.”
The Nicene Council produced a creed that is prescient of Metaphysical Christianity: “We are eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father.”
Metaphysical Christianity may be explained to orthodox Christians by means of three statements/questions: We are not born in sin, we are born in bondedness; Did Jesus say to worship him or did Jesus say to follow him?; Are we saved by confession or are we saved by transformation?
From Congregational Ministry to Cultural Ministry
The ministry of Unity was at one time a cultural ministry. The primary means of engaging culture was prayer, publishing and the sending forth of field lecturers to engage culture and society. Prayer and publishing remain today, but the educational work has shifted from sending forth field lecturers to the education of congregational ministers.
The “field lecturer” model of ministry has a long and rich tradition in Christianity. Those who do such ministry are known in the Catholic church as “religious”—priests, nuns and lay monks who engage culture directly with a message of reform. Religious orders always emerged in Christian history when reform has been necessary. The business of running parishes was and is left to the “diocesan” priests and bishops. Metaphysical Christianity, in particular, thrived when taught by the Dominican and Augustinian religious orders.
The congregational model of ministry is in trouble. Everyone is aware of declining attendance and commitment. Like nearly all denominations, Unity has gotten off track by its emphasis on congregational ministry. And it has made matters worse by not recognizing that the power of congregational ministries has shifted from the minister to the boards of trustees. As in the past, we will see a reform movement. That movement will be shift in focus from congregational ministry to cultural ministry.
Furthermore, the movement will be led by something that looks like religious clerics who carry on a field lecturer model of ministry. We are about to see two forms of credentialed leaders in Unity—one religious and one diocesan—equal in stature and authority—collaborating in the educational movement inaugurated by Jesus Christ.
From Church Congregant to Digital Disciple
The digital age has impacted ministry in several ways. First, congregants who have a problem now do an Internet search before consulting their minister. Second, they evaluate what they find on the Internet by the number and consistency of websites that offer similar solutions. Third, having chosen a possible solution to their problem, they find themselves not connected to anyone who can give them the personal attention or guidance they need in order to apply the solution.
What this means is that spiritual websites like TruthUnity need to be networked with likeminded Internet resources and that they need to have a way to refer the visitor to a minister or spiritual guide who can help them. If they do this successfully, then the church congregant has become, for the minister or spiritual guide, a digital disciple.
There are many reasons why digital discipleship is likely to grow. Many problems may be difficult to share with a local minister, such as addictions. The local minister may not be sympathetic to the person’s needs, such as acceptance of sexual orientation or the desire to be vegan. There may not be a local Unity minister at all or the chemistry with the local minister doesn’t fit. Finally, and probably most important, ministerial relationships with church congregants are broken when the minister leaves the local church but ministerial relationships with digital disciples can last a lifetime.
From Feeling to Intuition
Western metaphysics and Judeo-Christian mysticism have been entwined since the time of Jesus. It is fair to look at them as traditions of the head and of the heart and that may be why Charles Fillmore wrote so often about the importance of balancing the activity of thinking and feeling in our inner life.
That balance has become one-sided. The influence of late 20th century psychology and twelve step programs, the rise of the New Age movement and the influence of the women’s movement have shifted the head-heart conversation in favor of the heart. We live in a time where the analytical capacity of the head is all too often branded and depreciated as ego and the body is construed as an illusion of that ego. In many ways, New Thought has lost its grounding of the mind, which is body and soul, to a small part of the soul, known as the subconscious and felt as the heart. We need to rebalance the conversation.
We can look to Ralph Waldo Emerson as a guide to correct the imbalance. He wrote in his Divinity School Address, “Meantime, whilst the doors of the temple stand open, night and day, before every man, and the oracles of this truth cease never, it is guarded by one stern condition; this, namely, it is an intuition.”