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Spiritualism; Christianity; Interfaith?

By Rev. Simeon Stefanidakis

The First Spiritual Temple professes itself to be an Interfaith Church of the Spirit, Spiritualist-based, and Christian-oriented. “How can you be all that?” many would ask. I hope this short article will help answer this legitimate question.


As an Interfaith Church of the Spirit, our emphasis is, always has been, and always shall be, the Spirit; the Divine Breath of God, made manifest within the whole of Creation. When I say “the whole of Creation”, I mean it. It would be foolish and rather arrogant for any one of us to consider that the vast expanse of the universe (and, perhaps, even multiverses) is here solely for us denizens of planet earth. Whether we ever discover intelligent life existing on other planets is not the question here. The question is simply one of logical thinking. Our Milky Way galaxy contains billions of stars. Furthermore, the Milky Way is one of billions of galaxies in the universe. These two facts have been firmly established amongst the scientific community. And now, there are discussions and hypotheses that our universe (the one which began with the Big Bang) may be one of countless universes within Creation. The numbers here are staggering and astonish the mind. God is a God of infinite Intelligence and Wisdom. Far be it from anyone to try and figure out God’s plan and purpose, but any thinking person must ask: Why would God create such an expanse of planets, stars, galaxies, and, perhaps, universes if His intent was to breath living Spirit only into those existing upon this infinitesimally small rock, known as planet earth. It defies all manner of logic. But, let’s not get buried under all this. Let us focus our attention on this planet and its inhabitants.


So, we can start off by stating that we were all created in God’s Image, and most people would accept this as truth. Great; good start! But, what does this mean? What is God’s Image? Is God a man? Is She a woman? Is He our Father, or is She our Mother? Is God white (sadly, recent events in our country clearly show the division and debate over this one question)? Is God black? Is God yellow, green, purpose, lavender, chartreuse? Does God belong to any church? The majority of Christians believe He is Catholic; the rest believe God adheres to their particular brand of Christianity. Well, where does that leave the rest of our Human Family? Are they somehow excluded from God’s Love and Grace? Many Christians believe the answer to this question is a resounding “YES!” How tragic!


And what about all those billions of souls who lived on our planet before the appearance of Jesus? Are they also doomed to eternal segregation simply because they were born before a certain date? How foolish and horrid to think so. Well, that question was easily settled by the belief that, before Jesus resurrected, he went down to the gates of Hell and “saved” all those who were suffering there because they happened to live in the BCE era, rather than the AD era.


I am not singling out Christians, here. Many who adhere to other faiths also believe that those who do not embrace their particular manner of viewing God and God’s Plan are, as many Christians believe, doomed to similar fates as those who do not accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.


Personally, I think the Jews have it right: God must not be “humanized” in any form or manner. To do so is blasphemous and denigrates the UNIVERSALITY of God. Not only is this one-hundred percent correct; it is wonderful and marvelous. Unfortunately, like so many others, many of those of the Jewish faith also believe that their way is the only way.


And herein lies the root of the problem: to so many people, their way is the only way to God’s Kingdom. Their way is the only way to eternal bliss and spiritual fulfillment. Herein lies yet another problem: are we seeking spiritual fulfillment, or are we seeking religious justification? Does God belong to any religion? What does it mean to be created in God’s Image?


Apostle John answered this last question so beautifully, yet many fail to recognize the implications of his words. In the Gospel of John, he says: “God is Spirit, and his worshippers must worship him in Spirit and in truth.” (JOHN 4:24). I would encourage all people to pray, meditate, and contemplate these fourteen words. Unfortunately, many would blithely dismiss these words of truth, simply because they are found in the New Testament. Having said that, I would challenge anyone, of any faith, to denounce the truth revealed in John's words: God is Spirit!


1.       God is Spirit.

2.      We were created in God’s image.


If we accept these two statements, then we must also accept that we are all Spirit.


Therefore, if a church is to praise and worship the Divine Spirit of God, then it must also praise the Divine Spirit of God within all people; ALL PEOPLE. Thus, there is no room in any house of worship for discrimination, segregation, or supremacy of any type. Houses of worship should be places of spirituality.


But, we all need guidance and a manner of embracing our spirituality. We all need some type of order in our journeys through life. And this is where religion comes into play. Religion comes from the Latin word “religio,” (religionis), which means piety, religious scruple, religious awe, superstition, strict religious observance. Therefore, religion is the pathway each person takes to achieve oneness with God, or, as the Jewish faithful say, to achieve “teshuva”, or a returning to the source. But, if the source is God and God is Spirit, our journey is really not one of religion (form), but rather one of spirituality (spirit).


The First Spiritual Temple has always embraced this reality: we are all on a spiritual quest of return to our roots as Spirit. To us, it matters not which pathway any person takes to achieve that goal. What matters is that we are on a journey which will ultimately take us all to the same place: God’s Great Kingdom of Spirit. God belongs to no Church or Faith. God is Spirit. God is Love. God is Forgiveness. God is All-Embracing. I do not believe that any rational person who believes in any type of Divine Intelligence would disagree with this litany of statements. Therefore . . .


God is Interfaith! He can be nothing else! In other words, God rises light years above our need to confine Him within any particular faith!


This is why we profess ourselves to be an Interfaith Church of the Spirit. We praise, proclaim, and worship God’s Spirit; and we praise and proclaim God’s Spirit within all people, animals, plants, and the planet upon which we live. At the foundation of all matter is Spirit. At the foundation of Materialism is Spiritualism.


Ah, Spiritualism! Another source of debate and confusion. The First Spiritual Temple does not embrace Spiritualism as a religion. Our church was founded before the Spiritualist Church was even conceived. Our Church emerged out of the resurrection of the teachings of the Spirit, as given forth through movements such as Unitarianism, Universalism, Theosophy, and Modern Spiritualism. Let me make this perfectly clear: we are not a Spiritualist Church, in the "modern" sense of the term. We embrace ancient Spiritualism as the “ism of the Spirit.” And since God’s Spirit is universal and belongs to all faiths, so, too, do we embrace the pathways of all spirits/souls and call ourselves an Interfaith Church of the Spirit.


Allow me to share some of the contents of the Declaration of Principles to the Trustees of the First Spiritual Temple, as written by our founder, Marcellus Seth Ayer, and formally recorded with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on April 30, 1885:


“All isms which shall tend to warp or distort the spirit, or which shall place the intelligence of the people under any bond, shall be excluded from its teachings . . . It shall be devoted to the promulgation of spiritual truths through the highest intelligences, whether embodied or disembodied. It is devoted to enlighten conscience, to give liberty of thought, without license of speech . . . In the belief that the moral and spiritual life finds its best expression through the religious element in humanity, this Temple is devoted to worship.”


Our founder was not anti-religion, nor are we. He and we simply believe that all teachings which warp or distort the spirit are unacceptable. And any religion which professes that it is the only way does, in fact, warp the spirit, by limiting the spirit. But, freedom of choice is the divine birthright of all spirit. Thus, we have our beliefs; we do conduct religious services; we do believe that religion is vitally important to all people. But, we embrace the founding principles of all religions as viable means of achieving our collective goal: Oneness with God and oneness with each other.


Now, what about our Christian-based tendencies? Our church’s fifth principle states: “We believe in the ministry, teachings, and person of Jesus Christ, and we endeavor to follow his example.” What does this say? Very simply, it states that we look to Jesus as an example of righteous and holy living. We do not exclude other prophets, nor do we claim that Jesus is the only way to salvation. The life of Jesus of Nazareth is a clear example of how we should all live and conduct our lives: through non-judgmental love, charity, and forgiveness. Jesus was a Jew, but he really was Interfaith. He came to enlighten both Jew and Gentile. This fifth article was carefully crafted in its wording. Many, today, including many Spiritualists, doubt the reality of Jesus. We do not. We believe in the person of Jesus Christ; that he was born, lived, crucified, and died in the flesh, and, of utmost importance, resurrected in the Spirit, as we shall all resurrect in the Spirit.


We do not worship Jesus, any more than we worship any soul in Creation. We worship only God. We look at Jesus as our brother, who travels the same journey as you and I; as all of us. He is most assuredly further along on that journey, but he travels the same journey we all do, regardless of which pathway we each choose to take on that journey.


So, yes, we are an Interfaith Church of the Spirit. Yes, we are strongly Spiritualist-based. And, yes, we do embrace Jesus Christ as a role model and a source of inspiration and guidance. No confusion; no contradiction of terms.


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