What is Unity AND Unity's distinguishing characteristics?
Unity Church of Truth (founded in 1913) begins celebrating its 100th year of service in Toronto!
(Written by The Reverend J. Douglas Bottorff Independent Unity Minister)
Q: You’ve become involved with a lot of Unity ministers over the years, and over the last four years in particular. You’ve noticed there is a wide range of understanding of what Unity is and is not. Is there any way to find a common ground, a common starting point in our teachings that most, if not all can agree on?
A: I would start answering this question by explaining how not to do this. Each minister and licensed teacher goes to their personal library, pulls down the Fillmores, the Cadys, the Shanklin’s, the Turner’s, the Butterworths. We open our books and share the highlights we’ve made. We combine these into an anthology, sort it into categories, and present it as the essence of Unity. This would no doubt be a powerful document. But would it represent a comprehensive presentation of Unity, or would it be a design-by-committee aardvark of a beast that would state our opinions but fail to capture a coherent presentation of Unity’s essence?
While we probably could not reach a solid agreement as to which of our writings best represent Unity thinking, I believe there is a point from which we can begin in total agreement. This single point is really three points, a trinity of ideas that influence our thinking, our logic in all other areas of life.
Unity's 3 Basic Points:
1. Our view of God.
2. Our view of the individual.
3. Our view of the relationship between God and the individual.
1. Our view of God can be summarized in our foundation statement: There is only one presence and one power in the universe, God the good, omnipotent. Though there are variations on this statement, the idea that God the good is the only power at work.
2. Our view of the individual is that God the good is individualized as the central core of every person’s being. All the elements that God is are focalized as the essence of the individual.
3. Our view of the relationship between God and the individual is that of unity, oneness. There is no place where God leaves off and the individual begins.
These three elements determine how and why we view Jesus in the way we do. They totally influence the way we approach prayer and meditation. They provide the rationale behind our approach to healing. They are the foundation that governs our understanding of prosperity. In fact, every single concept we teach has as its basis of logic our understanding of these three elements. Those who wish to know why Unity takes its particular approach on any given subject will understand why once they have this key.
Ask the same three questions of any religion and you will have an understanding of their entire theology. I was raised in traditional Christian thinking, for example. God was seen as an anthropomorphic, all powerful, old man in the sky. The individual was seen as born in sin and in need of salvation. The relationship between God and the individual was one of separation. Understanding this explains why the traditional Christian takes on a beseeching prayer, why it’s essential to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior, and why not everyone is going to make it to Heaven.
Each trinity of beliefs represent a paradigm, a model we use to explain all things. The New Thought paradigm, which includes Unity, is based on a paradigm of oneness, as defined by the relationship of unity between God and the individual. The traditional Christian paradigm, which includes all approaches that see the individual as something separate from God, is based on a paradigm of separation. The distinguishing aspects of a given religion are found in the paradigm that religion embraces.
Q: Many people see a day when religious differences are dropped and we come to understand that we all worship the same God. How do you see this?
A: These two paradigms are like dual rails of a single railroad track. It appears they come together on the horizon, but in truth they never can. Though there are variations of each paradigm, the two are so fundamentally different that they can never come together. We should stop wasting our time hoping they will.
Take a person like Joel Olsteen, for example. While he presents a message that most Unity people can be comfortable with, he clearly embraces a paradigm of separation. Listen to him for five minutes with these two models in mind, and you will see that though he sounds like New Thought, he is not New Thought. He presents a paradigm of separation with a spin that one in New Thought would find palatable, at least up to a point. The paradigm of separation, however, will show eventually. Listen to Joel’s alter call at the end of his program and you’ll see it there.
I’m not at all faulting Olsteen’s approach, for he is being true to the paradigm he embraces. Those in Unity who do not know the difference may find this a helpful way to make a distinction. In truth it doesn’t matter what paradigm a teacher embraces if he or she inspires you to greater freedom on some level. However, one who is unable to tell the difference indicates that they are not clear on which of the two paradigms they themselves practice. In all likelihood, if one cannot tell the difference then the chances are good that they embrace a modified version of the paradigm of separation.
The majority of the world’s orthodox population–Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Sufi, etc.–base their thinking on the paradigm of separation. While every religion has its mystical side; i.e.; those who couch their teachings in the paradigm of oneness, the majority of all the religions of the world practice their beliefs based on the paradigm of separation. There will no doubt be strong disagreement with my next statement, but I will venture to say that the thinking of most people in New Thought is still governed by the paradigm of separation. The paradigm of oneness may reside in their heads, but their speech and actions often betray the working template as a paradigm of separation. Understanding the signs of where a person is actually coming from is, in my opinion, an important tool in successful ministry.
You are meant to live abundantly
You are meant to be whole and well
Divine wisdom is within you
PRAYER AND MEDITATION
You can connect directly to God
LIFE IS ETERNAL
Your life began before birth and
continues after death