The death of Jesus can be seen as either the atonement for man’s fallen nature or our at-one-ment with our divine nature. Unity chooses to see the positive side of it. As it says in Galatians, it is no longer I that lives but the Christ that lives in me.
In this era of religious pluralism, the question often arises: Is it possible to be Christian and still honor all paths to God? Doesn’t it have to be one way or the other?
If you follow the teachings of Jesus, rather than the teachings about Jesus, the answer appears to be yes.
If you study what Jesus taught and did, you see that he was, in the words of Bible scholar Marcus Borg, “radically inclusive.” He said to love one another, and he exemplified that by honoring and caring about people of all backgrounds.
Spiritual leaders through the ages have asserted that Jesus was not just the example and advocate for Christians, but for everyone.
Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, once said: “Jesus gave humanity the magnificent purpose and the single objective toward which we all ought to aspire. I believe that he belongs not solely to Christianity, but to the entire world, to all lands and races.”
(Gandhi also said, “If Jesus came to earth again, he would disown many things that are being done in the name of Christianity.”)
But the risen Jesus is not in this sense a physical/bodily reality. The resurrection stories in the New Testament make that clear.
The risen Jesus appears in a locked room (John 20). He journeys with two of his followers for a couple of hours and is not recognized – and when he is recognized, he vanishes (Luke 24). He appears in both Jerusalem (Luke and John) and Galilee (Matthew and John). He appears to Stephen in his dying moments (Acts 7). He appears to Paul in or near Damascus as a brilliant light (Acts 9). He appears to the author of Revelation on an island off the coast of Turkey in the late 90s of the first century (Rev. 1).
These texts are not about Jesus being restored to his previous life as a physical being. If such events happen, they are resuscitations: resuscitated persons resume the finite physical life they had before, and will die again someday. Whatever affirming the resurrection of Jesus means, it does not mean this.
Moreover, what would it mean to say that the risen Jesus is a physical/bodily reality? That he continues to be a molecular, protoplasmic, corpuscular being existing somewhere? Does that make any sense? How can the risen and living Jesus be all around us and with us, present everywhere, if he is bodily and physical?
Bible – Unity’s founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, considered the Bible to be history and allegory. Their interpretation of Scripture was that it is “a metaphysical representation of humankind’s evolutionary journey toward spiritual awakening.” While Unity calls the Bible its “basic textbook,” it also says it “honors the universal truths in all religions and respects each individual’s right to choose a spiritual path.”
God – “God is the one power, all good, everywhere present, all wisdom.” Unity speaks of God as Life, Light, Love, Substance, Principle, Law and Universal Mind.
Heaven, Hell – In Unity, heaven and hell are states of mind, not places. “We make our heaven or hell here and now by our thoughts, words and deeds,” Unity says.
Jesus Christ – Jesus is a master teacher of universal truths and the Way-Shower in Unity teachings. “Unity teaches that the spirit of God lived in Jesus, just as it lives in every person.” Jesus expressed his divine potential and showed others how to express their divinity, which Unity calls (the) Christ.
The Gnostic Gospels is a landmark study of the long-buried roots of Christianity, a work of luminous scholarship and wide popular appeal… It is now widely recognized as one of the most brilliant and accessible histories of early Christian spirituality published in our time…
Some Christians questioned the need for clergy and church doctrine, and taught that the divine could be discovered through spiritual search. Many others, like Buddhists and Hindus, sought enlightenment — and access to God — within.
Such explorations raised questions: Was the resurrection to be understood symbolically and not literally? Was God to be envisioned only in masculine form, or feminine as well? Was martyrdom a necessary — or worthy — expression of faith? These early Christians dared to ask questions that orthodox Christians later suppressed — and their explorations led to profoundly different visions of Jesus and his message.
You know that all my life was one great drama for the sons of men; a pattern for the sons of men. I lived to show the possibilities of man. What I have done all men can do, and what I am (the Christ) all men shall be.
•Belief in Deity There exists one God–Universal Mind, creative intelligence, omnipresent–a principle (not a being), an impersonal force that manifests itself personally, perfectly, and equally within all.
•Incarnations No particular incarnations, as God is within all equally. Some believe Jesus was exemplary of someone who fully realized his divine nature, and therefore is the “wayshower” (shows the way).
•Origin of Universe and Life The universe and all within it are expressions of God–the creative intelligence–with no beginning and no end.
•After Death Some believe in continual rebirth as a gift from God so that all may become immortal, as was Jesus Christ, with each lifetime a preparation for the next. Others believe the individual soul merges with the universal spirit after death.
•Why Evil? No original sin, and no Satan and no evil. People make “mistakes” due to ignorance of one’s true nature as Perfect Mind and Love, which is God…
•Undeserved Suffering Suffering results from ignorance of one’s true nature as Perfect Mind and ceases with complete realization that we all are one with God, the Universal Mind.
Here are some passages from the Unity Statement of Faith as written by Charles Fillmore, the founder of Unity:
We believe that we live, move and have our being in God-Mind; also that God-Mind lives, moves and has being in us, to the extent of our consciousness.
We believe that the body of man is the highest-formed manifestation of creative Mind and that it is capable of unlimited expression of that Mind. “Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?”
We believe that the dissolution of spirit, soul, and body, caused by death is annulled by rebirth of the same spirit and soul in another body here on earth. We believe the repeated incarnations of man (reincarnation) to be a merciful provision of our loving Father to the end that all may have the opportunity to attain immortality through regeneration, as did Jesus. “This corruptible must put on incorruption.”
We believe that the kingdom of heaven or harmony is within man and that through man the law and order existing in Divine Mind are to be established on the earth.
We believe that the “second coming” of Jesus Christ is now being fulfilled; that his Spirit is quickening the whole world. “For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man.” “Watch therefore; for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh.”
We believe that the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” should be the standard of action among men.
We believe that Jehovah God is incarnate in Jesus Christ and that all men may attain the Christ perfection by living the righteous life. “Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
We believe that the Word of God is the thought of God expressed in creative ideas and that these ideas are the primal attributes of all enduring entities in the universe, visible and invisible. The Logos of the first chapter of the Gospel of John is the God idea or Christ that produced Jesus, the perfect man. We believe that the Scriptures are the testimonials of men who have in a measure apprehended the divine Logos but that their writings should not be taken as final. https://www.unitychurchofrochester.com/pages/aboutucor.shtml
According to Unity, Jesus was a man who awakened to the Christ, and then showed by his teachings and deeds how all can attain union with the Christ. The Christ is also what Hinduism would call Brahman and what Buddhism would call Buddha-nature, the divine potential in all things.
Rather than begging an external being for divine favor, affirmative prayer is manifesting into one’s life the divine potential within, through expressing gratitude for all that life has to offer us. An example of affirmative prayer would be “Thank you for giving me peace.”