Is New Thought Ready to be an Activist Spiritual Tradition?
I have long felt that Unity, as a movement, and I as a minister, should steer clear of taking overt positions on social issues. My reasoning had been that our teachings and principles need to remain pure, that is, confined to the realm of metaphysics from which they are sourced, and to which they point. Teach the Truth and allow each individual to interpret how their spiritual understanding leads them to form opinions and act in matters of the world. This, of course, is a safe position, for it keeps me and the community I serve out of arenas of controversy that surround social issues. But lately, I have shifted, perhaps because of the 2016 election, there seems to be a call for spiritual communities, and me personally, to extend the interpretation of our spiritual values and come out of the cloistered posture of silence and inaction, and find a place where our values lead us to stand in the discourse of debatable issues that matter deeply to the human condition. This is new to me, and to Unity, and as you and I, no doubt have noticed, not an easy shift! Now we go beyond talking about inner peace, we stand against war, no longer simply professing the purity of Unconditional Love as the quality of Divine Presence, we specify what such a Love would do, and what it would not do in the world. We are now vulnerable to criticism, by those who believe that true spirituality (and spiritual organizations) should not have a worldly opinion, at least not a professed one. The rationale for this neutrality and silence on the issues has been mostly argued as a stance that stays within the pure boundaries of our primary spiritual purpose. In Unity, outspoken interpretations and activism, are particularly risky since our teachings point each individual within for understanding and guidance. We have no collective dogma or doctrine that prescribes a way to believe nor a moral code of conduct for the whole tribe. While I am warming up to spiritual activism, I can’t help but wonder if we are moving towards homogenizing our spiritual understandings by delineating how they translate and land on either side of social issues. I wonder, but am just really still in the question, how this shift will impact the efficacy of our movement. Some would say taking a stand marginalizes us to worldly associations, that it’s a form of moralism that taints our message. I would suggest none of us want that outcome. But, I’m simply open to taking baby steps, listening to the feedback, and weighing the benefits and the costs. I’m sure we’ll be debating this as we move along. I’m glad we are stepping out beyond the ivy walls of institutional religion. Just maybe the true power of these teachings will actually be revealed as we let them off the leash, and let them find new life in the wild.