This past week, I went on a wonderful spiritual, mountaintop retreat at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, N.C. The conference was sponsored by the Unity Ministers of the Mid- Atlantic States (UMMAS) under the Unity Church of which I am a member. This was my fifth retreat, and as usual, it refreshed and renewed my soul to the deepest part of my being. Every year, I meet more people and make new friends.
I just love Unity and I love its teachings. I’ve gone from being raised a born-again Baptist, to being Pentecostal in my early 20’s, to believing in nothing in the early 80’s, and then finding Unity in the early 90’s. I do want to make it very clear that Unity is my personal choice. I in no way am telling anyone that because they believe something different than me, or go to a different church than me, that they are wrong. It’s just that we believe differently, and that’s okay, and I respect and honor your right to believe whatever you believe. Bill Bixby, who played the father on the TV show “Eddie’s Father” many years ago, once said to his son on the show, “What a person believes…is” and I never have forgotten that.
Before I go on to explain why I love Unity, I’d like to relate an experience I had many years ago, which really helped drive it into my brain that whatever anyone believes is okay (as long as you aren’t harming anyone, of course). I had gone to an American Indian Sweat Lodge event in Chicago, probably in the early 80’s. After the sweat, the Ceremonial Singer said something to me that really made a huge impact on me, though I wouldn't realize it at that time. He said, “You know, there is no such thing as right and wrong.” I replied, “What do you mean there is no such thing as right and wrong?!?! Of course, there is! What about murder? Stealing?!” With patience and kindness, he said, “What if that person killed to protect his family? What if he stole to feed his family?” He gave more examples as I argued with him, but I was determined that I wasn’t going to believe anything he said. But let me tell you, I could NOT get out of my head that conversation. I pondered it for two weeks straight, and at the end of that two weeks while I was sitting at work, it was like a light bulb went off on top of my head and I had one of those “aha moments.” I got it! I really got it! There really is no such thing as right or wrong, good or bad. Only one’s perception of what is right or wrong, good or bad. Ahhhhhhh. I like to say that "the only time we make others wrong is when they don't live up to our expections of the way we think they should think or be."
Back to Unity…. What I love about Unity is that it believes in the best of all religions, and does not judge anyone based on race, religion, color, or walk of life. We teach love and kindness. The teachings are based upon Jesus, the Christ, but we also teach the best from other beliefs. Our members come from a variety of backgrounds: Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Buddhism, and many more. We have members from various walks of life. We have quite a diversity in race and color. And ALL are welcome and accepted as they are.
Unity also encourages you to find your own beliefs. We have no doctrine. We do not believe in hell or the devil (though we will not tell you that you cannot believe in him if you so wish). And just to give you an overview of Unity, the following are Unity’s Foundational Principles: 1) There is only one ultimate power in the Universe. We call this power God and its nature is absolute good and absolute love. 2) Humankind was created from absolute good and our inherent nature is also good. We call our inherent goodness the Christ. 3) Our thoughts and feelings combined have great creative power. Whatever we consistently hold in consciousness manifests in our lives. 4) Prayer and meditation are essential elements of the spiritual life because they keep us awake and aware of our oneness with God and all creation. 5) It is not enough to know the Truth; we must put that Truth into action in our lives. We must live the Truth we know. The personal characteristics of the above are trust, self-esteem, empowerment, inner guidance, and integrity.
According to Charles Fillmore, son of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, the founders of Unity: "Unity says that true religious growth is a ’do-it-yourself’ project ... One might describe Unity as a religious philosophy with an ’open end,’ seeking to find God’s truth in all of life."
It never ceases to amaze me how many people hate in the name of God. (Stay with me here.) Many religions are just as guilty of this. I know that they’re believing the way they think they’re supposed to believe, or believing what they’ve been told to believe. (Been there, done that.) They hate (and/or judge) anyone who doesn’t believe the way that they do. (Also been there and done that.) Look at how many hate gays or Muslims. Or Democrats or Republicans. I’m sorry, my friends, but unless someone is speaking and teaching love, it is NOT of God. God is pure, perfect, unconditional love; nothing more, nothing less.
It especially bothers me when I hear ministers preaching hate. We’ve had several in the news during the current election processes. Candidates are spouting off religious accusations of who is a Christian and who isn’t. Personally, I don’t care what my President believes as long as he/she lives in the spirit of love and kindness, as long as he/she wants what is best for the greater good of mankind and the world, and as long as he/she doesn't try to force his beliefs on others.
When it comes down to it, we ARE one people, we ARE one World, and there IS only one God. And until we can come together in unity (sorry, I couldn’t resist; grin), we will never have world peace. If we want peace, if we want unity, if we want to get along, then we “must be the change we wish to see in the world.” (Mahatma Gandhi) And that means treating our fellow beings with love and kindness, and the way we would like to be treated, regardless of their race, religion, color, or walk of life. We need to take personal responsibility for the way we treat others. We’re all in this world together, my friends, so why can’t we all just learn to get along?
(Pronounced "Nam-a-stay") is a Sanskrit (Hindu) greeting used every day in India, and now in the western world. Namaste’ literally means “I bow to you.” There are other definitions given to the word, but I particularly like this one:
“I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells. I honor the place in you, which is of Love, of Truth, of Light, and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.”
(If you are interested in finding out more about Unity, please go to: http://www.unityonline.org/aboutunity/whoWeAre/faq.html or see the links under my favorite websites.)