Maybe I’m a theology/anthropology nerd, because I’ve been asking myself some unusual questions since I found New Thought. Questions that others might never dream of asking. And as I prepare to teach “Background of New Thought,” I’ve explored them further: How could the Puritans and Calvinists, (think “The Scarlet Letter,” and Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”) ever make way for New Thought and Transcendentalists? (think Emma Curtis Hopkins, Emerson and Thoreau)* How did the strict religious environment of New England eventually birth New Thought? How could Trinitarians birth Unitarians? How could Theists birth Panentheists?
This might not be a common set of questions in the minds of most Americans! But it has tickled my interest for years, ever since I found the New Thought philosophy through the Unity movement. Because my childhood identity was Calvinist and rather Puritanical, as I saw it from the perspective of society in the 1960-70’s! (A full color, framed copy of this painting hung above the mantel in my childhood home.) I went to Calvinist church, catechism, K-12 school and college. For a while, I considered attending Calvin Seminary after I finished my undergraduate degree at Calvin College!
But then I ventured into many other types of faith communities: for a while I worshiped with Charismatic Catholics, and considered myself a Jesus Freak. I taught Sunday School at an Appalachian Methodist church, attended various Bible churches and a break-the-rules Presbyterian church, joined Quaker activists, pledged to the UCC, and occasionally visited a Unitarian Universalist fellowship. Oh, and there was a short stent with a Metaphysical Spiritualist church! I’m glad I wandered because I got to see that everyone at each stage of faith was sincerely seeking their God, by whatever design and temperament this God showed up. I’m also glad because I got to raise my kids in the Quaker and UCC communities, so they did not adopt that awful sense of unworthiness that I learned as a Calvinist kid.
And through these stages of exposure to American interpretation of Jesus’ teachings, I stretched further and further toward a progressive, inclusive, evolutionary, universal perspective of God and humanity. The Quakers taught me there is “that of God” within me. And by the time I stepped into Unity, I was (somewhat) ready for the concept that “I am one with/as the Divine.” Perhaps I needed such a gradual evolution over decades, after such a complete indoctrination into Calvinism. My personal evolution of thought is not unlike that of European and American evolution of thought since the reformation. From Trinitarian to Unitarian, from Theist to Panentheist is the path I walked, not unlike the path of the deliberate thinkers of the early American settlers…… (From this point on in the writing of this blog, I have done more ranting, editing and deleting than any other blog I’ve written! Frankly, it’s been good therapy for me, as I continue to reconcile with my past, my embedded theology. That’s good stuff. but not necessary to put in a public blog! …)
As I prepare for my upcoming course “Background of New Thought,” I’ve studied early New Thought dynamics and have come up with fascinating insights, clarity, acceptance and of course, more questions to lead me deeper into the subject.
If you are interested in exploring with me, if you’re ready to process your own embedded theology, if this interests you for any reason, do join the conversation for the next 5 Monday evenings in our virtual classroom. “Background of New Thought” is a class for anyone: brand new Unity students, and people who have been with Unity for decades, and people who are just curious about some of the terms I’ve used in this blog!
* And if you’d like to know who these people are, please join us!
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