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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Compassion Begins at Home

I shared in my Sunday lesson a couple of weeks ago that I have felt uncomfortable recently in the midst of the debate surrounding a couple of questions we are currently holding as a community, specifically whether to return the American and Christian flags to the sanctuary and whether to adopt a new name that omits the word ‘church.’ Strongly held beliefs and values have been expressed on both questions from varying perspective. I would love it if we all agreed and there was no tension; however, I know that we will never all agree on everything. My hope is that we can hold each other in the light of love and compassion always, even when we disagree.

My discomfort has ranged from mild irritation, anxiety, and sadness to anger and fear. I know that I am not alone. When we value something deeply, we have strong emotional reactions when we perceive those values as being disregarded or debased. I feel fear when I consider the possible repercussions of all of this.

Research in neuroscience has shown that our brains are hardwired to trigger responses of either fight, flight or freeze when we feel fear. I hesitate to reveal this, but my favored of the three is flight. I prefer to avoid any situation that has the potential of being adversarial, and I prefer to avoid conflict.

My default response is to either run away physically or retreat emotionally. Recently, I have observed myself thinking about running away. I have absolutely no plans to follow through on those thoughts, however. I have also been aware of my tendency to withdraw from myself and others emotionally. In my withdrawal, I don’t share as freely with others. It can also demonstrate in an unwillingness to own my feelings, especially when I experience feelings that I judge as “negative” - such as anger and fear.

Yesterday, through a guided process of self-connection, I connected deeply with my fear. In the process, I was able to feel empathy and compassion for the part of me that is so uncomfortable with discord. Consequently, I was then willing and able to more fully extend that empathy and compassion to all others.
I was reminded of the words of our master teacher and way shower, Jesus Christ, who said that second only to the commandment to love God is to love our neighbors as ourselves. The process yesterday provided me with a visceral experience that revealed to me, at a profound level, that I cannot truly love another unless and until I love myself. Loving myself includes giving myself empathy and compassion when I feel fear, or any other emotion I deem “negative.” It also includes embracing myself in compassion when I want to defend or blame. Loving myself requires that I love all of me, even the parts that I would rather deny at times.

Additionally, loving my neighbors as myself requires that I extend the same empathy and compassion to them, even those that I may at times regard as adversaries. Jesus also told us to love our enemies, not just our friends. When I am connected to love for myself, I am in conscious awareness of love for all creation. I know that, in Truth, I have no enemies. I know that my neighbor is myself. I am able to feel his pain. I am willing to meet her in her suffering. I am ready to hold each one with compassion.

To borrow from a well-known proverb, compassion begins at home. Each of us must give ourselves compassion, extend it to our immediate family and further to our spiritual family. Only then are we able to go out into the world and share compassion with others. Our mission at Unity Church of Denver is to inspire spiritual growth and personal transformation. My prayer is that we can embrace this current disharmony within our community as an opportunity for each of us to grow in our capacity to love ourselves and each other, even as we face our differences. Through our expression of compassion, we are transformed individually. As we are transformed, so is our spiritual community, and so the world.

I hold each of you and myself with a heart of compassion.

Please join us on Sunday as we explore further the power of compassion in our lives and how we can embody it and live it in every moment, every situation.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

To Tithe or Not to Tithe

WARNING: This post is about Tithing!
My Sunday message will also be about Tithing!

And I hope you will join us anyway. I promise it won’t be what you think.

I realize that for some just the mention of the word ‘tithe’ can stimulate emotions. For many years, I felt fear and shame every time I heard a minister talk about it. Tithing was, like many things in the church of my youth, a means of reward or punishment. I was taught that if I follow God’s law (interpreted by man) I would be rewarded; if not, I would be punished. Ministers spoke about tithing as God’s law, and said that I if I did not comply with the law, God would punish me. I recall believing that God would get his share, one way or another. I understood that if I did not give God ten percent of my income he would cause something to happen in my life so that the money would be redirected to someone who would give it to him. For example, if I did not tithe, my washing machine might break down so that I would have to pay a godly tithing repairman to fix it. I assumed that I could give it freely or have it taken from me. From this mindset, I am aware that the subject of tithing may even bring up anger for some. From my perspective, the church was attempting to coerce me into tithing.

Later, after coming to New Thought, I came to believe that tithing was a way to ensure personal abundance. In her book, The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity, author and Unity minister Edwene Gaines, whose ideas on tithing are widely taught and accepted in Unity says, “When I think of a metaphor for tithing, I think of windows opening and a shower of sparkling gold coming in.” She cites the Scripture from Malachi 3:10 which says, 
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing” (NRSV). 
This suggests that tithing is a way to win favor with God so that you will be blessed. While it is a variation on the traditional Christian interpretation, it still speaks of reward and punishment around tithing.

Additionally, Reverend Gaines suggests that we should tithe to the source of our spiritual food. She defines “spiritual food" as “that which inspires us, teaches us, reminds us of the Truth and causes us to remember who we really are.” Our “spiritual food” may come through a church, a friend, an author, or other channels. She says that if we are fed spiritually by our church, then we should tithe to the church. Her idea of tithing is that we are to give to the person, place or institution from which we receive. She relays a story of being inspired by something a waitress said to her in a restaurant once, so she tithed to her. In other words, as we receive, we give. Further, giving opens us to receive even more. This is more in alignment with the way I prefer to view tithing, yet this view is still not an exact fit for me.

Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore has much to say on the topic of tithing. While he seems to agree with others that tithing is a divine law that when practiced affects our experience of prosperity and abundance, he also says in his book, Prosperity, that tithing “establishes a method in giving.” He goes on to say, “True giving is the love and generosity of the Spirit-quickened heart responding to the love and generosity of the Father's heart.” Unity minister and bestselling author, Eric Butterworth, says in Spiritual Economics, “tithing is a powerful technique through which to achieve the discipline of spontaneous giving.” Butterworth also says, “Tithing is not an end, but a helpful means toward the end of living totally in a giving consciousness.”  Both Fillmore and Butterworth speak of tithing as a practice of giving, and assert that while receiving is the natural result, it is not the focus.

Rather than thinking of tithing as a divine law that when obeyed ensures a reward of prosperity, or when defied results in punishment, I prefer to consider tithing a spiritual practice of giving without regard to return. Instead of tithing TO the source of our spiritual food, I encourage us to consider giving FROM the Source of all spiritual food as an expression of Love. Rather than tithing to a person, place or institution in return for something received, I favor encouraging us to give in response to our connection with the Divine Love, and in recognition of that Love flowing as us.

Tithing should not be something we do out of duty or obligation. We should not tithe because we fear punishment. Likewise, we should not tithe because we wish to receive. Similarly, tithing should not be considered a repayment for something received. Our decision to tithe should be a conscious act of giving as an expression of Love. We give freely and joyfully in response to our awakening and to further the transforming power of Love in the world.

This Sunday, in our 10:00 service, we will explore the history, teaching and metaphysics of tithing. Please join us as we open our hearts and minds to this powerful practice, and answer for ourselves the question, “To tithe, or not to tithe?”

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Life Moves Me

I recently finished reading The Surrender Experiment, the most recent book by Michael A. Singer, bestselling author of The Untethered Soul. The book recounts many of the events in his life and tells of how through his experiences he learned to trust Life to lead him. He shares his journey of realizing that he is always moved in the direction of his highest good when he surrenders to the flow of Life, even when it seems, at times, that things can’t possibly work out.

It is a fascinating story of how his life unfolded in delightful and surprising ways when he was willing to let go of his judgments and resistance, and instead learn to be present for and respond to what was happening in the moment. I highly recommend this book. It inspired me to reflect on my life journey. In doing so, I have come to a greater recognition and appreciation of how my life has unfolded in ways that I could not possibly have engineered. 

What follows are some of the steps along my journey and my reflections on how Life seemed to be moving me toward my own “surrender experiment” as it relates to ministry.

At age 14, during a Baptist summer camp, I “gave my life to the Lord,” and knew that ministry was my “calling.”  I assumed it was the music ministry, and that I would be minister of music in a Baptist church at some point in my future.  That assumption changed at age 18 when it became quite clear to me that I was not accepted by the institution of the Southern Baptist Church. For many years thereafter I did not entertain the thought of ministry. I cannot honestly say that the thought did not arise during those years. When it did, I laughed it off, knowing that the ministry was not for me, and I entertained it no further.

It was some time later, in fact about 15 years later, that I was actually willing to entertain it again. Life showed up through a friend who introduced me to A Course in Miracles via Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love, and also to Shirley MacLaine’s book, Out on a Limb. Just reading these books stimulated some fear for me. Coming from the Baptist tradition, I thought that the Devil might be tempting me through such heretical ideas. However, I was intrigued. These books gave me permission to question my long-held beliefs about a God of fear and retribution and open to greater possibilities. Still, ministry was just a thought that passed through my mind occasionally. At that point in my journey, I had other priorities, and ministry was not one of them. Besides, I was still not convinced that God was on my side.

It seemed that Life would have to work a little harder on me. Five years later, I realized that my life was not working, and I was in deep pain. I was in counseling, both individual and group. With the help of a loving counselor and a supportive group, I made the discovery that I was actively, yet unconsciously, engaged in addictive behaviors. I wanted to be free, so I made the second most important decision of my life. I entered a 12-Step Recovery program. 

It did not take me long to realize that I was not willing to move past Step 1. Step 2 involved making a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood God. Even though I had “given my life to the Lord” many years before, I realized that I needed to revisit that decision. There was no way I was going to do that again. After all, it had not really proved to be a wise choice, or so I thought. The God of my understanding at that time was not one to whom I was willing to give my life. I figured Life would just have to give me another option.

Urged by the persistence of a caring sponsor, my search began. I embarked on a conscious journey to find a God of my understanding – one to whom I was willing to give control of my life. This journey lead me to Unity. Life came through, and at Unity Church of Dallas, I met my God. After several weeks of attending, on one memorable Sunday, I left the service crying. I sobbed all the way home. I knew that I had made it to Step 2. I was now willing to truly “give my life to the Lord” or in 12-Step speak, “turn my will and my life over to the care of God.” When I arrived home, I made the most important decision of my life. I knelt at the edge of my bed, and for the first time as an adult I truly “gave my life to the Lord.” I had made it to Step 3. Life had, indeed, lead me to my highest good.

I want to be clear that while I have described these steps as linear and sequential, they are not one-time events. While it took me several months to make it to Step 3 the first time, I know that I must repeat these steps on a daily basis in order to maintain my commitment and resolve to live my life in service to the God of my understanding.

For the next five years, I devoted myself to studying Unity, Science of Mind, and other New Thought teachings. At the age of 38, twenty-four years after my first experience of “giving my life to the Lord,” a dear friend told me about an organization she was working with and suggested I check into it. As it turned out, Life, showing up as my friend, was leading me toward ordination. I took definitive action and decided to seek ordination from this independent New Thought organization. I am not sure what my motivation was. I was not planning to enter church ministry, but it seemed to be the right thing to do at the time. Life was moving.

I continued my studies, mainly in Religious Science, for another year. In 2000, Life moved me in another direction. I had become close friends with the Associate Minister at the church I was then attending. He and I had also co-facilitated some workshops and classes. We often joked about starting our own church. As it turned out, our “joking” was no joke. When he decided to resign his position and start his own ministry, I joined him. In early 2000, The Center for Life Enrichment was born. I gave it my time, attention and love for the next six years. Even as I knew in the spring of 2006 that it was time to end that chapter of my life, I also knew at the depth of my being that it was not the end of ministry for me. I did not know what was next. 

During the next year, Life provided me the opportunity to write and publish a book, In This Moment – Prayers from the Well of Awareness. It is a collection of prayers that I wrote for the Sunday services at The Center for Life Enrichment. A friend, who had recently started her own company, urged me to publish them. Mine was the first book published by her company. I was also recording my CD, Spark, which was released in early 2007. I had no idea that Life was working through by book and CD to move me to the next phase of my journey.

As I was finishing the book and CD, I decided that I was going to become a minister with Centers for Spiritual Living (formerly Religious Science). I contacted their national office and was informed of the steps I would need to take. Soon after, I began taking classes that would support me on that path. Little did I know that Life had other plans. After the release of the book and CD, I began singing and speaking engagements at New Thought churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and beyond.  With the aid of friends, Life lead me to speak and sing at Unity Church of Arlington. They were in the process of searching for a new minister. Not long before my first time there, I heard the words in my mind, “You are going to be their minister.” I passed it off and gave it no attention. After all, I was not a Unity minister. Further, I was going to be a minister with Centers for Spiritual Living, not Unity. Or, so I thought.

After several months of arguing with Life, I agreed to enter into the process of interviews and discussions with the leadership at the church and Unity Worldwide Ministries about the possibilities. It took some time, but Life made a way, and I was honored to be chosen to be the Spiritual Leader at Unity Church of Arlington, now Unity of Arlington, in July 2008. I remained at Unity of Arlington for nearly six years, until Life moved again. 

In the fall of 2013, I received a call from a Neal Berlin at Unity Church of Denver asking if I would be interested in talking with them about interviewing to be the minister/spiritual leader. It was not something I planned or anything I was seeking, yet Life once again moved me. After several months of talks and discussions with leadership at Unity Worldwide Ministries, completing the interview and guest speaking process, I was delighted to be selected and hired for the position. One year later, I am constantly in awe of the ways Life shows up to move me and our community.  

I choose to believe that my decision at age 14 to “give my life to the Lord” and my continued commitment and daily practice of turning my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understand God, are instrumental in my willingness to acknowledge and appreciate the flow of Life as my life has unfolded and continues to unfold.

My reflection has served as a powerful reminder to be present for Life and for what is moving in the moment and, to release, as much as possible, any resistance to or judgment of what is. I may not understand it. It may at times be scary or even painful. Yet, I am reminded that surrender is still the best option. It is a spiritual practice to stop, breathe, relax and trust that Life is unfolding exactly as it is intended. It certainly relieves me of a great deal of stress when I realize that I don’t have to figure it all out. I don’t have to know what’s next. 

When I am surrendered to the flow of Life, the Life of God, in which I “live and move and have my being” (Acts 17:28) I am at ease. I can trust that whatever comes is for my highest good. I can live my life with the understanding and belief that life does not happen to me, but life happens for me. I relax and know that I am in the flow of eternal Good. 

I am grateful to Michael A. Singer for reminding me of this essential truth and for inspiring me to remember my own “surrender experiment.” I am still experimenting one day at a time. So far, I am delightfully pleased with the results.

Please join us on Sunday for our 10:00 service. My dear friend, Melinda Wood Allen, will be sharing the lesson through music and word. Her lesson is entitled, “Making Room for Grace.”  She will also provide a concert at 12:00. You will be blessed by the soul and spirit she shares.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Transforming Power of Love

This post is in some ways a continuation of my post last week. What I am sharing here is in response to the experiences and insights I shared last week. You may want to read that post, entitled Love Set Me Free, before continuing. It is also a recap and an expansion upon of some of the thoughts I shared in my message this past Sunday. You may listen to the recording of the message here.

I have had a spiritual awakening. I do not say that or take that lightly. Witnessing the events of recent weeks, specifically the Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality, the murders in Charleston and the public outcries in response, and contemplating my reactions to them has given me a new-found awareness of my personal mission.

I have created mission statements before, but I cannot tell you what they were. Apparently, they were not really alive in me, and I did not take them very seriously. Further, I have done little to allow those previous mission statements to inform my life decisions, at least not consciously.
With my heart broken open with compassion and empathy for the suffering in the world with an intensity that I have seldom, if ever, before experienced, my personal mission was revealed to me in the silence of my heart during meditation.

My mission is: Centered in the One, I support humanity’s awakening to and expressing of the transforming power of Love.

What follows is what I received as I sat contemplating my mission.

Attempting to define or describe love is like trying to define God. It cannot truly be done. Poets, mystics, and avatars throughout the ages have attempted to describe Love in words, but they are simply doing their best to depict a personal experience of Love. Charles Fillmore, the cofounder of Unity, said, “We may talk about the wisdom of God, but the love of God must be felt in the heart. It cannot be described, and one who has not felt it can have no concept of it from the descriptions of others.”¹ Even though I do not claim to possess the words to adequately define or describe ‘Love’ I will share my current understanding of it.

Love, in its purest essence is God/Life/Divine Mind/Source/One in motion. It is the energy that underlies and connects all creation. Charles Fillmore also said, “Love is the uniting, joining force (energy) of Divine Mind.”² In the book of Genesis we read the authors depiction of the creation story, which is one attempt to understand the great mystery of how life began. The story says that in the beginning was God, and God moved upon the void and all things were created. I think of God’s movement as Love. Again, in the Gospel of John we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…And, the Word became flesh. (John 1) I assert that the Word was made flesh through the expression of Love and that the word made flesh is Divine Love. I share additional thoughts on this in my post from June 25, 2015.

Each of us is Love in our essential nature. It is our purest delight to stand in the presence of the God of our Being, to worship at the throne of Love, and be filled with the conscious awareness of Love. Then, we are to arise and go out into the world and Be Love.

Instead we have created a false God, an idol. We have created a God of our own image, and we worship at its throne. This God is the amalgamation of our beliefs, opinions, preferences, religion, physical body, money, possessions and history. This God has a name. Its name is “Me.” We spend so much of our time and energy worshipping at the throne of the idolized image of “me” that we have little or no time left for the true God of our being. It is any wonder that the first of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no God before the one true God” and the second is, “You shall not create any idols.”

This idol worship separates us from the awareness of the Love that we are. Let me be clear, there is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God (Romans 8:38). However, in our minds, in our humanity, we believe that we are separate from God, from our fellows and from all creation. In this separation, we are not consciously aware of Love. The illusion of separation results in fear. When “Me” becomes our God, we fear. Fear creates pain and suffering.

Fear stimulated by idol worship is the root cause of all the pain and suffering in the world. When that pain and suffering is left unexamined and unaided it escalates and often erupts in acts of hatred and violence. We witnessed it in the shootings in Charleston and in similar shooting events, some of them all too close to home. We see it acting out in the militant group called ISIS, and in other extremist groups who act in the name of God. Unfortunately, they act from fear of a God of retribution.

Worshiping the idol called “Me” is also evident in fanatics of all religions who are unwilling or unable to question long-held beliefs, and who are reluctant to hear and attempt to understand another’s perspective. They fear the loss of the sense of safety and power their dogmas supposedly provide. This fear plays out in acts of violence against those who hold differing beliefs and those whose actions do not comply with their religious edicts. These violent acts may be as stringent as genocide, or as subtle as name-calling or refusal of service.

We can also witness idol worship demonstrated more subtly in the power struggles within our own government and in corporate greed that pollutes the Earth and our environment, and enslaves workers in developing countries. They are all acts of violence resulting from the fear stimulated from worshiping the idol of “Me” which manifests in the beliefs in “my power,” “my money,” or “my prestige” and the anxiety stimulated by the thought of losing them.

So, how do we awaken to the transforming power of Love?

Our transformation is three-fold; it involves spirit, mind and body. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). We are given the spirit of Love, but through idol worship, our awareness of that truth is often clouded. It requires our self-discipline to turn away from the idol of “Me” and instead worship at the altar of Love within.

We must practice daily meditation in which we withdraw our focus from the things of the world that often entice and entrance us and surrender in the silence to the Spirit of Love within. In meditation, we focus in the heart and allow the energy of Love to radiate from that center until our entire countenance is filled with Love. As we practice meditation our true Spirit of Love is remembered; we are delivered from fear and our awareness is transformed.

Mentally, we must engage the practice of denials to cleanse the mental body of thought energy that is based in fear. Using denials, we refuse to give any energy or power to fear thoughts and invite the power of Love to clear them away. Following denials, we continually affirm the truth of Love.  Charles Fillmore offers the following affirmation to condition the mind with truth:

“I am the abode of love. I am filled and thrilled with the mighty magnetic forces that love uses in doing its work. I am powerful and active to do only good, and I see only goodness and purity everywhere.”¹

Additionally, it is important to read spiritually inspired books, poems and treatises on the power of Divine Love. In addition to books by Charles Fillmore, and other Unity authors, I recommend On Love by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. As Paul said, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

Lastly, but certainly no less important, the transformation must take place on the physical plane as well, meaning through our actions. I suggest doing at least one thing each week that stimulates some level of fear when you contemplate doing it. If considering it elicits fear, you can rest assured that some form of idol worship is at play. For example, if you are inspired to reach out to an old friend you haven’t seen in years, and the thought stimulates fear for you, chances are very good that there is some aspect of the “Me” idol that is ostensibly being threatened. It may be the fear of being rejected. If so, I encourage you to hold yourself with empathy and compassion, and allow the fear to be present. Do not attempt to resist it or deny it. Softly breathe into the heart. Invite the power of Love to fill your heart and radiate outward. Feel yourself totally embraced in Love. Allow Love to transmute the fear. Then, in faith, step out and do the thing you were inspired to do.

This is especially true when the fear is related to sharing our unique gifts and talents, connecting with others through acts of love and compassion, and sharing loving expressions of mercy and justice. We can trust and know that our actions are inspired by the Love that we are. Each time we allow ourselves to face the fear, allow Love to transmute it, and act from inspiration, we strengthen our faith and awaken more completely to the transforming power of Love.

Love is the power that transforms us. Love is the power that transforms the world. As we awaken to the conscious awareness of love, our hearts and minds are renewed and our lives are transformed. When we are transformed, our lives become active expressions of Love and the world is transformed.

This is my prayer, “May humanity awaken to the transforming power of Love, and may I lead the way.”

My lesson this Sunday is on the power of giving as an expression of Love. Please join us at Unity of Denver. All are welcome. We are love in action.

¹ Talks on Truth, The Development of Divine Love
² Metaphysical Bible Dictionary

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Love Sets Us Free

Over the course of the past week, my heart has been broken open, both in joy and in sadness. Last Friday, even as I celebrated the landmark ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States affirming marriage equality for all Americans, I also felt a deep sadness as I witnessed the anger and pain that many of my brothers and sisters who do not support the decision felt in response. I was equally pained as I observed the hurt and anger many others, including me, experienced in response to the reactions and actions of some who opposed the ruling.

Living as a gay man I have experienced, first hand, fear that someone might discover the truth about me. I have feared for my jobs, and feared for my physical well-being. I have been rejected by the church, both the Baptist and Methodist, reviled by some family members, and endured the taunts and demeaning comments from others who judge me as unworthy of love and belonging because of my sexual orientation. It hurts to be discounted and denigrated as a human being because of prejudice about an aspect of my human nature. However, I understand that what demonstrates as hatred and violence against me and others originates in fear. I also know that fear is not innate, it must be taught. I have compassion for those, like me, who experience the effects of this fear, and also for those who live with the fear of prejudice, and allow it to guide their words and actions.

Later, on that historic Friday, I watched with great appreciation and compassion as President Obama eulogized Reverend Clementa Pickney, the pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Church, who was shot and killed during Bible study the previous week. Even I as celebrated the message of healing and unity, I again felt a deep sense of sadness - not only for the families and friends of those who were killed, but also for the young man who did the shooting and all those like him who live in the fear and pain of racism - all who suffer its effects.

I grew up in the deep piney woods of central Georgia where racism was, and is still often enculturated. When I was a child and even a young adult, it was customary for my family members to use the word ‘nigger’ when referring to African-Americans. It was a source of pain for me then, and today I feel the pain of remorse for not always speaking out against this form of racism at the time. From 1956-2001 the Georgia state flag bore the emblem of the Confederate battle flag. It is heartening to know that it was officially removed and a new design adopted in 2001. I was delighted to see that Governor Haley of South Carolina recently called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from around the capitol building. It was also encouraging to see the response from elected officials in other Southern states calling for its removal from license plates and other state emblems.

As a child I felt confused and pained when I was told by my father that I could not be friends with Mosell, my first black friend at school. I easily imagine that Dylann Roof, the young man who shot and killed Reverend Pickney and the others, grew up in a similar, presumably more severely racist culture. He was not born with fear. He was taught to fear, and his fear eventually demonstrated as hate and violence. I have great compassion for him. No one should ever have to endure the pain of so much fear.

Still, while I can share and have deep empathy, I cannot fully fathom the pain and anger that so many African-Americans must feel. For centuries, they have suffered defamation and dehumanization, simply because of one aspect of their human nature – race. And, while progress has been made, we are far from living the values stated in the Preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence. I think sometimes we lie behind a false belief that we recognize equality for all, and that the effects of racism are a thing of the past, but that is not in touch with reality.  We may also think that everyone in America has equal opportunity to housing, employment and public resources. A truer observation is that this falls easily as a claim to white, mainstream Christian men. I, even as a gay man, include myself in that number. We are the privileged in our American society. Credible statistical data in the Huffington Post¹ reflects that racism is still alive and well in America.  Further, USA Today reports that at least six predominately black churches in the South have burned since the Charleston shootings. While it has not been confirmed that all of the fires were caused by racially motivated arson, it does magnify the need now for us to champion love, equality and Oneness.

So, what do we do? How do we respond to the pain and suffering endured by many as the result of fear? Those are the questions I ask myself. Those are also the questions that the emerging church of the twenty-first century must ask. How do we soothe the fear and calm the tide of prejudice, racism, hate and violence?

The answer is always LOVE. We must take the Scripture below from 1 John 4: 7-21 to heart and announce it to the world. And we must do so as boisterously as those who proclaim the doctrine of hell and damnation or even racial purity and white supremacy.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love…No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love…Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Jesus, our master way-shower, did not shrink from his commitment to radical acceptance and love, and neither should we. We must loudly and boldly proclaim that the message of the Bible is LOVE, not fear, for as the Scripture above says, “fear has to do with punishment.” We in Unity must unashamedly and unabashedly broadcast our message that the God of our understanding is not a God of judgment and retribution. We must emphatically assert that God is Love. We must take our message to the world and do all we can to promote the Gospel of Unity in God and Oneness with all humanity. We must do everything possible to counteract the message of separation that elicits fear of God and judgment of our fellows. We must take back the message of Jesus Christ from those who teach guilt and fear, and declare that the true message of the Christ is as Jesus stated, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12: 30-31).

Unity cofounder, Charles Fillmore, said
"In the regeneration, our love goes through a transformation, which broadens, strengthens, and deepens it. We no longer confine love to family, friends, and personal relations, but expand it to include all things...If God is the Father of all, then men and women are brothers and sisters in a universal family, and he who sees spiritually should open his heart and cultivate that inclusive love which God has given as the unifying element in the human family. Just to the extent that we separate ourselves into families, cliques, and religious factions we put away God's love." - Christian Healing
Only Love can release all from the bondage of a belief in a punitive God. Only Love can free us from the bonds of our own prejudice. Only Love sets us free. Join us on Sunday at 10:00 as we explore together how we are freed by Love.