Thursday, August 30, 2007

Faith, Doubt and Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa has recently made the headlines with her soon to be published private journal. The book “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light” reveals years of private journal writing exposing her personal thoughts throughout her ministry of service to the sick and poor.

The revelation that is making the news is that Mother Teresa writes about her Doubt and “lack of Faith” obviously for such a devoted servant of God this news comes as a surprise and even shock to most.

For me it opens the door to an important conversation, long overdue about the role of Doubt within the building of our Faith. We tend to think of the terms Faith and Doubt as being opposite and exclusive of each other. If you have doubt it means that you lack faith and if you have faith then doubt does not enter your mind. Particularly in the case of faith – we tend to think of it as an absolute. Homes says of faith – “Faith is a mental attitude, so inwardly embodied that the mind can no longer deny it.”

In New Thought we really like absolutes – they keep things clean and simple – easy for the intellect to take hold of. But the fact is that in a metaphysical universe – there is a lot of “gray matter” The danger of painting Faith and Doubt in such black and whites is that we end up holding faith as such a high spiritual ideal that few people actually possess it. We make Faith so pure that we can never fully attain it. Not only that, but we then begin to carry guilt for our lack of faith and our more common doubt. Let’s return to faith in a moment -

What of doubt? Is is simply the lack of or mis-placed faith? I think doubt can be these things – but is much deeper and much more important in our spiritual development. In New Thought we have done very little to understand the valuable role of doubt in our spiritual awakening. To doubt, fundamentally is to question, to question is to inquire and to inquire is to learn and grow. I believe that doubt plays a much larger role in our unfolding and spiritual growth than we have ever acknowledge. After all, was it not Ernest’s youthful and constant questioning of the world around him (the preverbial question mark, always asking Why?) that lead to his awakening and articulation of the wisdom we now call New Thought and Religious Science?

When it comes to building our faith, doubt is an important component. M. Holmes Hartshorne reminds us in his work “The Faith to Doubt” that is was Luther’s dare to doubt the means of grace which the Church presumed to guarantee to the faithful, that “cut the ground out from under medieval Christianity.” I agree with Hartshorne that in terms of exploring spiritual principles it is “not reassurance but the courage to doubt critically” that we need. Similarly, Augustine observed that we doubt for the sake of truth.

I believe that it is through doubt that we are able to plumb the depths of our soul and uncover hidden beliefs – bringing them out of the dark shadows and into the light for close examination. In order to build our faith – we need doubt. Without it our spiritual principles become self serving Polly-Anne platitudes that lack meaning and substance.
Don’t feel guilty about your doubts – embrace them, explore them and allow them to deepen your faith. To do so is to develop healthy and mature faith.
Paul Tillich says this best…
“Faith comprises both of itself and the doubt of itself…To live serenely and courageously in these tensions and to discover their ultimate unity in the depths of our own soul and in the depths of the divine life is the task and dignity of human thought.”

Through exploring our doubts and darkness we can truly come to understand our Faith.

Thank God for Mother Teresa’s doubt - she has reminded us all that Doubt is a natural part of the Faith walk – while one day the church will make her a saint, today we know she was human. A great human with great Faith and Doubt.

Friday, August 03, 2007

More about Bishop Carlton Pearson

"The story of Reverend Carlton Pearson, a renowned evangelical pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who cast aside the idea of Hell, and with it everything he'd worked for over his entire life.

Carlton Pearson's church, Higher Dimensions, was once one of the biggest in the city, drawing crowds of 5,000 people every Sunday. But several years ago, scandal engulfed the reverend. He didn't have an affair. He didn't embezzle lots of money. His sin was something that to a lot of people is far worse: He stopped believing in Hell." (From This American Life)

Now Bishop Pearson is preaching and teaching a New Gospel - The Gospel of Inclusion - which is the title of his latest book.

"When love, healing, tolerance and justice cease to be the cornerstones of the Christian faith, it is not the non-Christians of the world who are damned. It is Christianity itself - .... Christianity deserves better. Christ deserves better."

"In the Oneness of God there is room for all. It includes much more than any one religion contains."

(exerpts from The Gospel of Inclusion")

Since being cast out by the Evangelical community and labeled a heretic, Bishop Pearson has found a new community of believers - believers of Oneness, Love and Inclusivity. He has been accepted for "Privilege of Call and Ministry" by the United Church of Christ and embraced by a widening circle of faith communities including Episcopalians, UCC, MCC, Unitarians Universalist, Buddhist, Native American, Jewish, Islamic, GLBT and New Thought. Bishop Pearson has been embraced and befriended by Bishop John Shelby Spong, Jim Garrison of Wisdom University and Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith along with many others.

New Thought Ministries of Oregon is proud to be among those embracing his message and supporting his new ministry.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bishop Carlton Pearson on 20/20 Friday July 13

A Question of Hell...This Friday July 13th at 10E/9C, see Bishop Pearson on ABC 20/20! Don't Miss it.

visit and learn more about Friday's Show...

Tell you friends to tune in and watch - then be sure register for Bishop Pearson's Book Tour event in Portland OR July 27-28, 2008 to register

Did you miss Bishop Carlton on CNN?

go here to see his CNN interview about the GLBT community:

Did you know that you can view the CNN interview PLUS find links to Dateline NBC interview, This American Life interivew as well as links to Newspaper and magazine articles on Bishop Pearson - all by visiting

visit the site, tell your friends and help us spread the word on this exciting story.

For details for these and other upcoming events visit our website:

Rev. David Alexander
Community Spiritual Leader
New Thought Ministries of Oregon

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Thoughts from Bishop John Shelby Spong

Examining Politics in America on our 231st Birthday

As our nation pauses to celebrate its birthday many things vie for our people's attention. There is the drain of human life and treasure in the ill-begotten, mismanaged war in Iraq; the emotional and divisive debate over reforming immigration; the growing gap between the rich and the poor with the top ten per cent of our population controlling the largest share of our nation's wealth in our history; the growing awareness of our environmental crisis after decades of either denial or game-playing empty gestures; the erosion of privacy with unauthorized wiretaps on American citizens, and the embarrassment to our national character seen in the prison camps at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the secret foreign detention places. People once saw this nation as a shining city on a hill. That has been replaced by resentment at our insensitivity, making us more unpopular than at any previous time in our history.

Our 231st birthday also finds us in a presidential race that will not be decided for sixteen months. Since federal elections serve to define a nation, in today's column I will look briefly at the major candidates to whom our citizens look to address the list of debilitating problems outlined above.

The first thing of note about the Republican candidates is that none of them is seeking President Bush's endorsement. These Republican aspirants know better than anyone else how unpopular this administration is with the American people and how little credibility it has left.

Limiting our discussion to the top candidates according to the latest polls, we begin with the present Republican leader, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City. For an urban, liberal candidate to be on top of the polls for this party's nomination is a major surprise. Giuliani is pro-abortion, pro-gay and pro-gun control. He is a Roman Catholic, but not an overtly pious man. He has had three wives and has endured a seamy public airing of his marital problems. He has connections with organized crime, as his recommendation of Bernie Kerik for appointment as President Bush's Director of Homeland Security revealed. Yet he was a good mayor. His competence is recognized even by his enemies. He lowered the city's crime rate significantly. He provided strong leadership in the traumatic times of the 9/11 crisis. He is a powerful orator, possesses a winning smile and charms audiences. If nominated most Democrats believe him to be the GOP's strongest vote-getter and would win over many Democratic voters. He would, however, not appeal to his party's base, making a third party on the right, a real possibility.

Second in the polls is former Senator Fred Thompson from Tennessee, now a star in "Law and Order" on NBC Television. He has some health issues, but is seen as an intelligent, consistent conservative with strength of character. While generally respected, he is not yet known among the voters. The religious right would probably be satisfied with him, but no evidence suggests that he elicits their enthusiasm. His appears rather to be an acceptable alternative to a generally unacceptable Republican field. That is not a strong political position.

Senator John McCain of Arizona is third. One year ago he was the presumptive nominee. Today he is struggling to save his candidacy. A conservative voting record combined with a maverick, independent personality, John McCain has never been a George Bush fan since the two competed for the 2000 nomination. He is, however, the only major political voice supporting Bush in Iraq. That is not a winning ticket. I think this man has been an important senator, taking courageous stands against torture and in favor of campaign finance laws. I have the feeling, however, that both his age and his issues are better suited for a run in 2000 than they are in 2008. My experience teaches me that once a candidate begins to fade in the polls like Senator McCain has in the last year, he never recovers. His candidacy appears to me to be mortally wounded. The money is drying up. An early withdrawal would not be a surprise.

Governor Mitt Romney is fourth in the current polls, which means, given the money he has spent, that he has not yet ignited any surge of support. That surprises me, since this man is a person of unquestioned ability. He rescued the Olympics from financial disaster. He was a highly competent Governor of Massachusetts. He lives by high moral standards. His Mormon religion is frequently mentioned as a detriment in his White House bid, but in no way was it a problem during his years as Massachusetts' governor. His ability to abandon the positions he took on abortion and gay rights when running for Governor of Massachusetts to aid his run for the presidency will be a greater problem. People want to know which Romney is soliciting their votes. Basic inconsistency on emotional issues is normally the pathway to political death.

The final poll-ranked Republican candidate is Newt Gingrich who has not yet announced, but surely he is positioning himself to run. Gingrich, a radical conservative reformer, is probably the brightest Republican in the field. James Dobson has conveyed his blessing to a Gingrich candidacy, but that may not be enough to win him the nomination. He carries lots of baggage from his years as Majority Leader of the House, particularly when in a showdown with President Clinton he twice closed down the Federal Government. His public voice and his private life have also never been in sync. When he enters this race the quality of the debate will rise because Gingrich is a big idea candidate. While he is a deeply unpopular and polarizing figure in Democratic circles that might even help him in a polarized electorate. Don't count him out!

Turning now to the major Democratic candidates and again in order of their poll numbers, I will consider only four. Senator Clinton from New York tops the poll charts with a double digit lead over her closest opponent. She has surprised even her critics with the competent way she has represented New York in the Senate. Her 69 percent reelection to a second term was an incredible vote of confidence. She even carried Republican districts in upstate New York. She has impressed her critics with her strong showing in the debates. Positioning herself as a centrist in the party, she has endured the criticism of the Democratic left. Her health care failure in the first Clinton administration still draws fire, but the fact is that when one places each individual proposal of that health care plan before the public, it receives majority approval. It is only when these proposals are packaged together that people have problems. That probably means that she was right, but too early. The fact that she is a woman cuts both ways with her candidacy, but most of that is not rational and is hard to quantify. Her great contribution thus far is that because of her, America can now visualize a female president. That is a new state of consciousness. If Hillary does not make it to the White House, she will have made it much easier for the next woman to do so. It will not be a long wait.

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois is the shooting star of this presidential race. Coming out of nowhere with only two years in the Senate, he has already done better than anyone would have predicted a year ago. Articulate, bright and charismatic, one has the sense that Obama is destined to be President, if not in 2008 then soon. I was in the hall in Boston in 2004 when he key-noted the Democratic National Convention. There is no doubt about his ability to rouse a crowd. Positioning himself slightly to the left of Senator Clinton, he will be a tough adversary. He, like Hillary, has raised the consciousness of the nation for he has made people everywhere imagine for the first time that an African American can be President. The candidacies of Shirley Chisholm, Doug Wilder, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton did not do that. His future is unlimited. Whether that future begins in 2008 is still much in doubt.

Former Senator and Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards of North Carolina is a deeply appealing candidate. He has a flare for the dramatic. He champions the poor when it is not popular to do so. He launched his campaign in New Orleans, the classic example of this nation's forgotten poor. His political instincts are incredible. His marriage and family life are admirable and the way he and his wife have handled her now incurable, but hopefully controllable, cancer is commendable. Edwards provocatively positions himself as a new Franklin D. Roosevelt. Whether he can compete in the battle for campaign money or make what is now essentially a two person Democratic race into a three person race is still in doubt. He deserves to be watched. It is of interest to note that Republican leaders rank him their most formidable opponent with a broad populist appeal that would cut into their Southern religious voters.

The final candidate scoring in the high single digits in the polls is the Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson. A bi-lingual leader with a Mexican mother, he is the first legitimate Hispanic candidate for the presidency. This man probably has the best resume and is arguably the most qualified person in this crowded field. He has been a seven term congressman, a cabinet Secretary of Energy, Ambassador to the United Nations and an effective governor of a Western State. In each of these positions he has demonstrated great ability. His foreign policy credentials are outstanding. Foreign leaders trust him. With all this going for him, he should be a major force in the campaign. He is not, however, at least not yet, and probably has a better chance to wind up as a vice presidential candidate than he does to win the prize himself. He needs big breaks in both money and endorsements soon and I do not see them coming.

My hopes are that the current political process will do what a campaign is supposed to do, namely debate the real issues, not spin them, and present the country with a clear sense of how to deal with the future. This nation desperately needs that, since we seem to have no real sense of direction at this moment. July 4th, 2007, thus has much hope attached to it.

John Shelby Spong

Thanks "Uncle Jack" as always for your insightful words and courageous ministry. Our world needs you. Peace.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Howard Thurman on Freedom

Strength to be Free
from Meditations from the Heart by Howard Thurman

"Give me the strength to be free." The thought of being free comes upon us sometimes with such power that under its impact we lost the meaning that the thought implies. Often, "being free" means to be where we are not at the moment, to be relieved of a particular set of chores or responsibilities that are bearing heavily upon our minds, to be surrounded by a careless rapture with no reminders of costs of any kind, to be on the open road with nothing overhead, but the blue sky and whole days in which to roam. For many, "being free" means movement, change and reordering.

To be free may not mean any of these things. It may not involve a single change in a single circumstance, or it may not extend beyond one's own gate, beyond the four walls in the midst of which all of one's working hours and endless nights are spent. It may mean no surcrease from the old familiar routine and perennial cares which have become one's persistent lot. Quite possibly, your days mean the deepening or your rut, the increasing of your monotony and the enlarging of the areas of your dullness. All of this, and more, may be true for you.

"Give me the strength to be free." Often, to be free means the ability to deal with the realities of one's situation so as not to be overcome by them. It is the manifestation of a quality of being and living that results not only from understanding one's situation but also from wisdom in dealing with it. It takes no strength to give up, to accept shackles of circumstances so that they become shackles of soul, to shrug the shoulders in bland acquiescence. This is easy. But do not congratulate yourself that you have solved anything. In simple language, you have sold out, surrendered, given up. It takes strength to affirm the highest prerogative of your spirit. And you will find that if you do, a host of invisible angels will wing to your defense, and the glory of the living God will envelop your surroundings because in you He has come into His own."

Give me the strength to be free.

Thank you to Howard Thurman for these powerful words and reminder of what true freedom is about. What does freedom mean to you?

Holmes on Freedom

The Spiritual Meaning of Freedom
From a talk given at the Wiltern Theatre, Sunday morning, July 4, 1937 by Ernest Holmes.

Ever since the dawn of civilization, ever since the first humans began to grasp the significant fact that they were individual beings in a universe that seemed to be more or less hostile to them, the entire search of the human mind, its whole endeavor, has been to get free from evil, from bondage and the shackles of lack, want, fear, superstition, uncertainty, pain, disease, poverty, and fear of the hereafter. And because of this, human systems exist -- organized philosophies spring up, sciences develop, educational systems are conducted, collective security is sought after, and religions are formulated to allay the fear of humankind relative to the soul. The great demand in the world today is for a sense of security, freedom, and liberty. But we must be very certain that we do not swap one image of bondage for another. I have read a large part of the religious and philosophic history of the world and I have noticed that almost invariably, when the world traded one kind of religion for another, it didn't get a good deal. The Pilgrim Fathers who came to the shores of New England came to worship God in their own way, but the moment they got there, everybody in the colony worshiped God in the way that the strong-minded members of that colony decided was the way to worship God. That was not freedom.
Even in our newer religions of the last seventy-five or a hundred years, very frequently we meet people who say they have now found the truth, and then, unfortunately, a large majority of them disclose that they merely have found an idea they liked and called it the truth because they were egotistical, self-conscious, self-righteous people with an attitude of condemnation toward others. That is not the truth. In studying one system of thought after another that has transpired in the last seven thousand years of human history, I have noted how extremely difficult it is for the human mind to conceive liberty without license, without egotism; and we can only give birth to freedom when we have conceived liberty.
True freedom -- true liberty -- has something cosmic behind it. If the time has come that modern science has proved that we cannot move a piece of paper without changing the balance of the entire physical universe; if we have come to the place where we know that the stuff of which our physical bodies are made is the same stuff of which the planets are made; if we have come to the place where such a profound unity is maintained that physicists believe there is no such thing as disunity in the physical world; then we can easily see what the great spiritual leaders of the ages meant when they told us of that greater unity in which we all live and move and have our being, and that the idea of freedom itself is tied up with the true concept of the unity of good. If our nature is one, if God is one -- and we know that God must be one, for the universe cannot be divided against itself -- then we are all tied into an indivisible unity. We shall have to get back to this unity to find the meaning of freedom. Nothing in any part of this cosmic whole could be considered freedom that would destroy the liberty of some other part of it. That would be self-destruction, would it not? As Jesus pointed out two thousand years ago, that would be a kingdom divided against itself. The kingdom of God is one kingdom. So we know that true liberty must spring from true unity.
We are bound into a supreme unity, we are tied into an immutable law of irrevocable cause and effect -- that is unity moving into action. Cause and effect is something that happens as a result of the use of unity. Consequently we are one even while we are many, and since each one of us is a part of the whole, if we seek to destroy each other we only ultimately hurt ourselves. That is the great lesson of life.
Freedom, then, will come only in such degree as we no longer do anything that hurts anyone, but that does not mean we have to become spiritual or intellectual doormats. I do not believe in that. Nothing in my belief causes me to feel that God or the Creative Principle wants me to suffer for myself or for anyone else. I do it, I have always done it, perhaps I always shall in this world -- but I know that it is wrong. How can the Supreme Being desire my suffering without imposing that suffering, and what kind of a universe has a God who suffers and imposes suffering in a changeless reality? The whole theology and religious reaction of people who believe that arises out of morbidity and fear and superstition and nothing else.
Well, it is not so -- and still we suffer. Why? Because we do not understand. We might say that the world suffered darkness until somebody discovered electricity. It suffered crawling around on the face of the earth until technology was developed so we could fly and drive. It suffers limitation, not because the Infinite imposes limitation, but because the world does not understand its freedom. And when it begins to develop its freedom, seldom does it do it directly; it generally creates a new bondage. When we kill the old devil we are very likely to give birth to a new and more subtle one. War is more to be feared than ever before because we have more knowledge without more wisdom. And final freedom will come only as it is tied into divine wisdom.
What is divine wisdom? I am no prophet, but I would suggest that divine wisdom must be as simple and profound as this: Jesus said, "The kingdom of God cannot be divided against itself." I think that is all there is to divine wisdom. The kingdom of God cannot and will not be divided; so long as I will seek to hurt, I will be hurt.
We desire freedom. We do not like evil, we do not like pain, we do not like poverty, we do not like unhappiness. Why should we? None of us likes to go to bed and worry all night and get up tired out in the morning. God does not impose it on us. Why do we do it? Because we sense freedom, we sense liberty, we sense God, yet out here in the objective world we experience limitation; and the argument is between what we feel ought to take place and what we see and the world experiences. It seems as though we are two people, one that experiences evil and one that knows there should be no evil.
The evolution of freedom in the human mind is a slow process. Many movements in the world that claim to be seeking liberty only produce new kinds of bondage. We should beware of them. They are born out of the idea of depression; they are born out of the spirit of bondage. If we want freedom, we must understand that freedom can never come by the imposition of a will of the minority over the majority. It is born finally, and only in such degree as some system is devised whereby individuals are allowed complete freedom so long as they do not, in their freedom, impose bondage on someone else.
I believe that the true spirit of democracy is a spiritual conception where there is freedom, liberty without license, and a flexibility that makes evolution possible on the foundation of freedom. As we enter into the spirit of the meaning of Independence Day, the day when liberty, symbolically, was conceived, the day when freedom, objectively, in our country was announced, we should think of it not merely as a political system or form of government, but we should think of it as a spiritual conception, an idea in the Divine Mind Itself, taking form in human experience; we should learn to love that liberty, and in loving the idea we should learn to tenderly and prayerfully handle the embodiment of that idea and nourish it always to greater strength; we should really conceive again the great spiritual conception of that rugged man of God who said: "...that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

For more on this message see Sunday's Sermon; Soul Freedom - podcast

Friday, June 29, 2007


Faith comprises both of itself and the doubt of live serenely and courageously in these tensions and to discover their ultimate unity in the depths of our own soul and in the depths of the divine life is the task and the dignity of human thought.

Paul Tillich

What does faith mean to you?

New Thought: To Be or Not to Be - Christian...

"Is New Thought Christian?" This seems to be a frequent and popular question in New Thought, and a hotly contested one among our own. The question that I have is Why? Why is this a debated issue and why is it important?

*Disclaimer before I go on* While using the term "New Thought" in this post I am mostly referring to Religious Science. Being that Unity historically is more biblically based and "Christian" identified. However, the issues I'm attempting to address may be relevant to the Unity movement.

The most common answer to the "Christian Question" within New Thought is "Yes and No" Yes, in that we are followers of the Christ Principles, No in that we are not burdened with dogmatic creeds or other limitations. Much of New Thought has attempted to separate its identity from the standard labels and race-consciousness associated with Christianity. Indeed a separation from the race-consciousness and general perception of Christianity is a very good idea. However, this has occurred at the cost of a true knowledge/Gnosis of our theological roots. And that should be of great concern.

Most of the ministers and general practitioners of New Thought that I have engaged with on this issue bring up the same concern. That is, if we align ourselves with the term "Christianity" it will automatically alienate our roots in other great world religions and traditions. Afterall, we believe in the golden thread of truth that runs through all faith traditions. Is it not the great gift of our theology - the ability to "stand for something and against nothing." Therefore, we believe in and honor all paths to God.

Yes - that is exactly true! Which is exactly why a true, deep theological understanding of Christianity and our connection to it is so important. For if we stay clear of the term due to the modern and current interpretations, most of which make us fairly uncomfortable, then we are doing a disservice to the deeper meaning of Christianity that New Thought is uniquely poised to express in the world. So much so , that one could argue that with out our expression - it would be lost to history forever.

Consider for a moment that all of our most important founding writers within New Thought both have and express a deep embodiment and understanding of this unique and powerful expression of Christianity. These writers understood, as we must do today, that embracing our Christian roots does not exclude our connection to eastern and other spiritual wisdom. In fact, it does just the opposite! Embracing our authentic form of Christianity - theologically empowers us us to embrace all paths to God. This is why and how our founding writers were able to so clearly speak of terms like "Christ Consciousness"

How? Because Christianity at its core is not about religion or creeds, nor is it about a man. It is fundamentally about a new way of Being.

Jesus represents a New Way of Being (with God).
Paul Tillich religion as such produces the New Being. No religion matters - only a new state of things.
Paul Tillich, The New Being - p. 16

Christianity is more than a religion; it is the message of a New Creation. Christianity as a Religion is not important.
Paul Tillich, The New Being - p. 16

What do you think? is this perspective of Christianity important in defining New Thought?


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