Different views: A look at the ties that connect four faiths

While differences abound between them, there are significant aspects that tie together these religious groups: Unity School of Christianity, Christian Science, Metamorphosis and Baha’i.

Decidedly apart from more traditional Christian denominations in their theology, some of the same language is used but often with a dissimilar meaning.

Unity of Sierra Vista

Unity of Sierra Vista: The Rev. Jim Marshall, minister. Worship is conducted in the music building of Cochise College Sundays at 10:30 a.m. The church is remodeling a structure at 7487 Larkspur Lane on a four-acre future church site off Moson Road between Hereford and Ramsey. Contact Marshall at 378-7160 or 508-8137.

The Rev. Jim Marshall, Unity’s affable minister, was ordained in June 2005, following several years attendance at the body’s seminary located on the beautiful Unity School of Christianity campus in Lee’s Summit, Mo., where he received a master of science degree. A former Roman Catholic, Marshall took to the positive theological aspects of Unity’s founders, Myrtle and Charles Fillmore. The faith has a “positive look at life,” he says. “There’s no hell, no sin — we may fall short,” he said, but striving to be more Christlike is the group’s emphasis. “Christ was the most incredibly evolved being to ever live,” he adds.

Marshall, a former educator and public relations expert, is from Minnesota. Ministry is his second vocation.

John Ankerberg and John Weldon, authors of “Cults and New Religions,” interpret Unity’s use of the term “Christ” to mean Jesus was “a man who attained Christ consciousness (i.e., awareness of the God within).”

Cults of Christianity

“A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.” – Source

The Basic Unity Principles are distilled into five statements, which are: 1) There is only one Presence and one Power active as the universe and as my life, God the Good; 2) Our essence is of God, therefore, we are inherently good — this God essence, called the Christ, was fully expressed in Jesus; 3) We are co-creators with God, creating reality through thoughts held in mind; 4) Through prayer and meditation, we align our heart-mind with God — denials and affirmations are tools we use; 5) Through thoughts, words and actions, we live the Truth we know.

The organization uses the Bible, considering it “The most advanced of mankind’s religious Scriptures.” Marshall adds that Unity interprets the Bible “metaphysically.”

With regard to the concept of the Trinity, God is thought of as Impersonal Principle and Infinite Mind. Jesus, as stated earlier attained Christ consciousness; The Christ is seen as “The inner, divine God-self of every person. And The Holy Spirit is represented as the personal — impersonal function or law of God.

Death is the positive transformation leading to higher planes of existence through reincarnation. Reincarnation is a facet of New Thought, Theosophy and Eastern religions that’s not present in traditional Christianity.

Prayer and healing play a major role in Unity as in Christian Science. As a matter of fact, through “Silent Unity,” the praying department of the denomniation located at the Missouri headquarters, four million seekers annually request prayer for a variety of needs. Unity publishes a daily devotional guide called “Daily Word,” that is read by tens of millions of people in 150 nations around the world albeit most are not formally affiliated with Unity. Their publishing activities are among the greatest of any religious group in the nation.

Marshall’s flock numbers about 50 persons, but it is growing. He says the congregation “member’s have an active outreach program, including tithing to various local organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, Good Neighbor Alliance, Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity among others.”

While services are currently held on the Cochise College campus, the group is busily readying a double-wide manufactured home on their Larkspur Lane site for congregational use. Board President Ed Sadler, a local contractor, recently led the group to add a huge deck to their structure to accommodate various activities.

Christian Science Society of Sierra Vista

Christian Science Society of Sierra Vista: 5306 South Santa Elena Avenue, Sierra Vista; Phone: 378-2223

Christian Science, founded by Mary Baker Eddy in the 19th century also uses the Bible along with Eddy’s intepretive work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.”

In 1879 the Church of Christ Scientist was incorporated. While the body has no clergy, they have practitioners who minister to those in need of prayer and healing. Readers lead the services reading from the Bible and Eddy’s book. Their doctrines are akin to Unity in numerous aspects, although their inerpretations may show some variance.

Metamorphosis Spiritual Center

Metamorphosis Spiritual Center: The Rev. Dotti Whitacre; 4041 South Turne Lane, Sierra Vista; Phone: 803-0493

Metamorphosis utilizes crystals and the like as part of its practice of faith. Whereas there exists a number of Internet sites to broaden your understanding of the organization, it appears to be an amalgamation of Eastern religious thoughts and practices.

Bahaí of Southern Arizona

Bahaí of Southern Arizona: Baha’i Information Center, 531 North Fourth Avenue, Tucson AZ 85705; Phone: (520) 623-4090.

Baha’i began in Persia and has its roots in Islam although it has incorporated the heads of other religions in its pantheon of prophets. Bahaú’lllah, after whom the organization takes its name, is regarded as the final prophet, saying, “The Prophetic Cycle hath verily ended. The Eternal Truth is now come.”

The faith unites mankind, religions, races, nations, men and women, languages and offers one international tribunal for judgment of all,” writes Irvine Robertson in “What the Cults Believe.”

In conclusion, in all of these faiths there is evidence of occultism. In 2004, Baha’i had a little more than 150,000 American adherents; and Christian Science had 880,000. Unity is not listed.

Dick Andersen is a writer for the Herald/Review and a retired minister living in Cochise County.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday June 17, 2007.
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