It’s funny how one thing leads to another. I wasn’t feeling very well, so I turned on the TV and started watching an old Red Skelton movie – a musical comedy from 1942 called Ship Ahoy. Headlining a cast of stars and future stars (including Frank Sinatra) Eleanor Powell played Red Skelton’s romantic interest. Several scenes showcased her tap-dancing brilliance. In one number, drummer Buddy Rich (of the Tommy Dorsey orchestra) is playing a drum held by Eleanor Powell, who coyly moves it around as she dances with it. At one point, Buddy throws one of his drumsticks down on the floor. Eleanor catches it on the bounce, tosses it and the drum back to Buddy, turns and catches two new drumsticks tossed to her from off camera and proceeds to play the drum with Buddy – all this while dancing!
This display of talent made me want to learn more about Eleanor Powell. Her bio on IMDB says she was married to Glenn Ford and divorced him because of “mental cruelty”. The cruelty may have been that her career ended after they married – I don’t know. If so, what a waste. Later in life she became a minister in the Unity Church. Curious, I checked IMDB for Glenn Ford and noticed that he wished to be remembered as, “He did his best and he believed in God.”
I am in no position, nor do I have the right to judge either Glenn Ford or Eleanor Powell. But I wondered what it was about Unity that appealed to the one-time dancing star. So, I checked out the website of a local Unity church to see what they believe. The opening sentence in their “What is Unity?” article reads, “Unity offers a positive, practical approach to spirituality and daily living.” In other words, if you look to incorporate “spirituality” in your lifestyle, Unity is a positive and practical way to do that.
Well, that’s all gobbledygook to genuine truth seekers. Obviously, Unity has nothing to do with truth and doesn’t appeal to someone who wants to know the truth. You can try to add a dimension of “spirituality” to your life to feel more balanced or well-rounded, but that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with truth.
Critical in understanding Unity is how one defines “spirituality”. Whatever is spiritual is of the spirit. So, the question is, what is spirit? Let’s begin by saying what spirit is not. Spirit is not intellect, though intellect loves to delve into its mysteries. Spirit is not emotion, though emotion often gets caught up in its reactions to spiritual experiences. Spirit is not beauty, though beauty can certainly describe some spiritual phenomena. Spirit is not ethics, though we give ethics a spiritual origin, just as to meaning, morality, principle and every other virtue we recognize as giving value to life.
Spirituality is something a whole lot bigger and different from all those things. The spiritual realm is an entire reality that can only be partially understood and expressed within the physical realm. It is a mistake to think of spirituality as something you add to your lifestyle, as if it were simply another ingredient in your recipe for success and happiness. It is also a mistake to think that a religion that offers a “positive and practical approach to spirituality” has any idea of what spiritual reality is.
A so-called “positive” approach to spirituality ignores half of all spiritual reality. Spirituality is not all good. There are good spirits and there are evil spirits. And before I go any further, let me be clear. If you do not believe in spirits, then you cannot believe in “spirituality”. If there are no spirits, nothing can be said to be “spiritual”.
Equally, the concept of a “practical” approach to spirituality reduces spirituality to things we do, what we can accomplish – as we would in the physical realm – sweeping aside the things of the spirit. Unity is a feel-good religion that begins with false assumptions about what it means to be spiritual.
But to a person who wants to know the truth, Unity will be a big disappointment. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). “The Father” is God the Father. He also said, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24). He is our Creator and has ultimate Authority over all things spiritual. The most significant thing any human being can do is “come to the Father”. And the only way to do that is through Jesus. That’s what the Bible says.
It is sin that makes this spiritual journey difficult. Jesus paid the price for our sin, but our pride makes it difficult for us to admit our guilt, confess our sin and accept his forgiveness. It’s not as simple as being positive and practical. There are some negatives that need to be addressed, and there is nothing we can do but humbly receive Jesus Christ in faith, then walk obediently in him.
C. S. Lewis said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
That’s because true Christianity is real spirituality. It faces the negative while seeking the positive. It’s not just a religion. It gives you a relationship to God the Father through Jesus his Son. That relationship is sealed with the Holy Spirit who lives in us (Ephesians 1:13). We become children of God (1 John 3:1), citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) and receive eternal life (Romans 6:23).
These are all theological concepts that describe the “spirituality” that Christianity offers. It boils down to God’s solution for lifting us out of the pit of spiritual darkness into his spacious glory and righteousness. You cannot get there by a positive, practical approach. Only faith can take you there – faith in Jesus. He died for everyone – all of us – that we might live in him.
If you don’t care what it says in the Bible, if you think it can mean anything you want it to mean or that it’s all made up anyway, then satisfy your own objections and read it. See for yourself whether or not your presumptions about it are true. The fact is that Scripture is powerful. It has the ability to lead you to the truth and set you free. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
If you are open to discover what the Bible actually teaches, but you don’t have the time to invest in your own scholarly research, go to https://thebibleproject.com/explore/ which has links to brief, illustrated descriptions of the structure and content of each book of the Bible. Each one has a short video that provides an overview using helpful illustrations. Later, when you actually read each book, you will more easily make sense of it in context with the rest of Scripture.
If you are serious about proving or disproving the truth of the Bible, start at Genesis and go all the way through it. But if you are the impatient type, watch the video of any book to see what’s in it. Most videos are less than 10 minutes long. The larger books use multiple videos, breaking each study into short, easy segments.
If you are dead-set against actually reading what Scripture says, how can you call yourself honest when you say you want to know the truth? There is only one way to know the truth. You have to actually examine it
Please don’t think I am just taking pot shots at the Unity Church. There are no religions that can equal the spirituality of leading a person to God. Religion per se will not bring you to God. Only Jesus can do that. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” How many of the most religious among us, if we are honest, are unstained from the world?
Perhaps it’s time to put religion on the back burner and think about the spiritual reality of a relationship with God.
[An afterthought] I neglected to mention love. Just as spirituality is often misunderstood, so is love. Love is much more than a feeling, much more than doing the right thing, and doesn’t have its origin in the heart of Man. Scripture not only tells us that we love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19), but that God himself is love (1 John 4:8). So, if you really want to be loving, you need to get beyond yourself and know God.