Honoring the universal truths in all religions and respecting an individual's right to choose a spiritual path has been one of the core values of the Unity movement since its inception in 1889. Co-founders Charles and Myrtle Fillmore believed that by accepting all people, we would open the doors to a higher level of spiritual consciousness.
Using the Bible as a basic reference tool, Unity embraces its stories of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ metaphysically; that is, Unity explores the universal principles of spiritual law implied in the Bible and how they can be applied in our lives for more abundant and meaningful living.
When the stories, beliefs, laws and behaviors in the Bible are interpreted literally, the result can be misunderstanding, judgmental conclusions and negative actions. This has been the case when people use the Bible as a way to condemn homosexuals.
A New Perspective—View the Bible Metaphysically
Although Unity's understanding of the Bible is not unique, “it is absolutely central to our core beliefs,” says Unity minister Rev. Ed Townley. “It distinguishes us, not only from more traditional, mainstream Christian views, but also from many other New Thought belief systems.”
While there are several Bible passages that seem to forbid homosexual behavior, there are also passages that would seem to justify slavery, genocide, polygamy and treating women—including wives and daughters—as property. Still other passages, taken literally, decree severe punishments and sometimes death for wearing two different types of fabric, working on Sunday or committing adultery. Few people in today's society would agree that these rules or consequences are acceptable.
Many Unity and New Thought leaders believe the issue of homosexuality in the Bible is more about people who were so consumed by human passions and obsessions—both homosexual and heterosexual—that those energies intended to be expressions of divine love became negative, detracting them from their true spiritual natures.
The question is not whether there are Bible passages that forbid homosexual behavior, Townley says, but whether those prohibitions should be followed literally today when so many others—such as slavery, polygamy and so forth—have long been dismissed as representing an earlier level of belief that we as a society have transcended today.
“This was clearly Jesus' view as he called people to reject literal obedience to the law in favor of a more creative, love-based embrace of the underlying spiritual energy,” Townley says. “Expanding that understanding was the entire purpose of his ministry. He consistently urged his followers to approach the traditions of the law with a new perspective of Divine Love. Certainly he calls us today to do the same.”
The Bible Reflects the Influence of Man
Unity Institute ministerial student Ken Daigle has followed society's heated debates over the morality of same-sex relations for many years, noting that Scripture is often invoked during those debates.
“The Bible has been used by people of faith to uphold their beliefs or denounce those of others since the texts were first written,” he notes. “Many people claim the Bible is the ‘inerrant' word of God. But it's important to understand that the biblical texts were written by a variety of men over a period of a thousand years, and many of those texts reflect the attitudes, prejudices and human experiences that were part of their culture and life.”
As such, says Daigle, the Bible has always meant different things to different people, and therefore may or may not be the unfailing word of God. “If we fail to include the possibility that the writers in the Bible were expressing opinions filtered through their own human experience, then how do we explain the hundreds of contradictory statements in the Bible and account for the broad range of concepts and ideas, such as from ‘an eye for an eye' to ‘turn the other cheek?' If they all are the unfailing word of God—no matter how you interpret them—how do you reconcile them in today's society?”
Expressions of Divine Love
“In Unity we understand that it is not the action but the consciousness that decides the consequence,” Townley says. “Jesus taught, for example, that if you had lust in your heart, you would be out of alignment with kingdom consciousness whether or not you ever acted on that lust. We believe the same is true for homosexuality as well; it can certainly be sinful, as heterosexuality can certainly be sinful. And homosexuality can also be an expression of divine love.”