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In an uncommonly eventful century, the advent of The Urantia Book will be recognized a thousand years from today as the most wonderful event of all. But here we are, twenty-six years into the greatest happening of the Twentieth Century and many of us are still uncertain about what the Urantia movement is supposed to be, and further, what we, as believers in this new epochal revelation, are commissioned to do. Whether because of cultural habit or lack of spiritual courage, I think we sometimes confuse our secondary priorities with those that should be in first place.
The fellowship of Urantia Book believers ought to be the most stringent religious group anyone could ever belong to. Not because of stiff requirements to join the Brotherhood, or because we would have to sacrifice our material treasures, but rather, because we would have to stop taking refuge behind the institutional facade. No more could any of us avoid direct personal spiritual interchange with other mortals. No longer would we simply cluster in societies and study groups, and allow these functions to be our only religious commitment.
Most of our individual and group religious labors are directed at people who already read The Urantia Book. These habits of exclusivity and these organizational activities are going to turn us into a religion in spite of our protestations to the contrary. Some of our best thinkers are already warning about our inward-looking tendencies.
There is great concern over what the Urantia organizations could be doing to spread The Urantia Book and not enough emphasis on what you and I can do to spread the teachings of the revelation. I believe there has been too much stress on Brotherhood activities, and not enough actual spiritual action. Instead of re-creating a monolithic religious structure, we ought to be fostering monumental spiritual growth.
Relating Personally with Other Religionists
It is a safe assumption that nearly anyone you might encounter has had an association with organized religion. While it may no longer be a strong commitment, nevertheless, he will consider himself to be a Christian, a Jew, or adherent of some other religion, sect, or cult. And like Nalda at the well, most people avoid a penetrating personal spiritual discussion. It is embarrassing and revealing. It's easier to be an institutionalist. It is necessary to get around this barrier as Jesus did with Nalda, because no institution has ever saved a single soul.
David Schlundt has observed: "When we identify ourselves as members of Urantia Brotherhood, or a Urantia Society, we become part of an institution. Institutions cannot love. Only people love. Institutions evolve slowly; individuals evolve rapidly. Institutions put up a wall between themselves. Institutions, and sometimes churches, are a refuge for the insecure. When we try to interface with an institution, as an institution, there is little flexibility. I don't think we were meant to interface with institutions. I think we were meant to interface with persons."
Learn about their concepts that parallel those in The Urantia Book and build upon their truths in a positive and constructive way. Many common truths come, either directly or indirectly, from earlier revelators. It would help the relationship to be able to use the other person's frame of reference, and even his special jargon when establishing a dialogue. Jesus always tailored his approach to the understanding of whomever he was addressing at the moment. Those who revealed The Urantia Papers used our frame of reference when they imparted new truth to us.
At the same time, you are searching for a common ground, you should be aware of the tenets that diverge from our own. There are elements in many religions that preclude acceptance of some of the teachings of The Urantia Book. Specific doctrines are being identified that are not compatible with the book. You might conclude that these are obstacles to introducing the book to devout believers of some of the religions. Make it your business to become knowledgeable about these potentially dangerous areas. Don't stumble into confrontations over issues that have secondary importance. The doctrines of most religions extend back hundreds and thousands of years, and will not be soon abandoned. A religionist might not accept The Urantia Book, but it should not necessarily interfere with your spiritual interaction with that person.
Many Urantia Book readers are convinced that every time they approach another religionist, their goal should be to convert him from his religion to The Urantia Book. Sharing The Urantia Book can be a by-product of your contact, but it should not always be the sole purpose. Your object is to know religionists and to further enrich your life, as well as theirs, but not with any thought of luring them away from their religion. We are NOT to be scalp hunters for the movement. The sure indication of the scalphunter is that when he fails to recruit a convert, he loses interest in that person as a brother or sister, and moves on to greener pastures. We should learn to tell the difference between the external displays, and the internal truth content of any religion. It would be wise, in my view, to acquire a sense of respect and tolerance for the pageants, the temples, and the sacred music of world religions. We must always assume that the forms used in religious services were designed and dedicated to the glory of God. The majority of the world's people seem to require material stimulants to spiritual growth.
It isn't fair to evaluate a religion by its outward rituals and trappings, but you can use this yardstick: "The truth and maturity of any religion is directly proportional to its concept of the infinite personality of God..." (*28:8) The best way to measure--not judge--but measure spirituality in an individual is by the fruits of the divine spirit that are demonstrated in his daily life. Consider these two examples: First, many sects and cults claim to have their origin in a divine revelation to an individual. Some of these visitations later prove to have been hoaxes or self-deceived frauds. Nevertheless, the believers are still spiritually uplifted, and exude an aura of goodness and love. The Thought Adjuster is able to counterpart the spiritual values that are acquired for permanent registration in the soul. Another example is Buddhism. Buddhism at this time has not quite evolved a personal God concept, but yet, the book says that "Those who believe this philosophy live better lives than many who do not." (*1038:4)
One way to enhance personal relationships with other religionists is to remember that revelation has often brought "...autocratic and intolerant theologic egotism. .." (*1012:4) There are millions of spiritual souls out in the world who do very well without the aid of an up-to-date revelation. In Ravensbruk Concentration Camp, Betsie, the sister of Corrie Ten Boom, prayed constantly. She even thanked God for the lice and the fleas that infested their wretched hellhole. Later the women learned the reason the guards never intruded in their barracks was because of the lice and the fleas. The women prisoners were therefore free to read their Bibles and to pray without interference.
Perhaps you do have more facts and truth than the other person; but perhaps she has more faith than you. You can become a borrower of someone else's living faith.
There are ways we can all avoid conflicts with other groups of religionists:
1) It has been the policy of the Brotherhood and Foundation never to pronounce judgment upon the various religions or their beliefs. Letters written from headquarters, and letters written by persons in the field could someday find their way into print. We like to think that all correspondence would be free of religious and racial bigotry.
2) Headquarter's newsletters never include anything that would offend religious groups. Many people who will never read The Urantia Book are going to be reading our publications instead. The Urantia Book and the movement will be evaluated by our secondary materials regardless of whether they are distributed from 533 Diversey Parkway in Chicago, or from the private homes of readers.
3) Our conferences and society meetings will someday become press and media events. Established religions will send observers. Many Urantia Book readers continue their memberships in the various religions, and they are intensely loyal to their traditions. (Membership in Urantia Brotherhood does not preclude concurrent membership in any religion. ) We have ministers, priests, Sunday School teachers, and students and teachers of comparative religions. These folks know that all religious truth is not confined to The Urantia Book, and they are offended by thoughtless slurs directed at world faiths.
To a greater or lesser degree, all religions are striving for the betterment of mankind. Jesus set out to enrich the religions of his time, not to downgrade them. We are not at war with any religion. Our mission is to gradually enrich the religious thought of future times, not to attack religions, and not to overthrow them by violent revolution.
Our Relationship to Christianity
Most Urantia Book readers have ideas about how the book could be presented to religions, Christianity, in particular. First, let's review a little history:
The fourth epochal revelation--the coming of Christ Michael--was bestowed directly upon the group that had the most advanced concept of the One God. They were the Jews of 2000 years ago. For a while after Pentecost the believers in Jesus continued ". . as a sect within the Jewish faith." (*2068:3) Then the apostles began receiving a flood of converts from among the Greeks.
The apostles, who were Jewish, were faced with the question of how to deal with these non-Jewish proselytes. The Urantia Book says that ". . . the apostles at first endeavored to impose the requirements of Judaism upon their converts." (*2064:2) Converts were forced to observe dietary laws and hygienic practices until Paul put an end to it.
The fifth epochal revelation--The Urantia Papers -- originally found lodgment among a group of people who not only carried on the One God tradition, but who also had the best version of the life and teachings of Jesus--the Christians. Most of the current readers of The Urantia Book are Christian, or come from Christian backgrounds. Just as the apostles grew up in Jewish homes, so did many of us grow up surrounded by Christian customs. What would be more natural than to transfer familiar usages into Urantia Brotherhood and Urantia Society activities? "Why not," you ask, "let the movement conform to the pattern of the Christian churches? Why shouldn't it become a branch of the Christian family of religions? After all, doesn't one third of the book consist of the life of Jesus? If we conducted ourselves more like a Christian organization," you reason, "wouldn't we be more appealing to 'other' Christians?"
Was Jesus' message of faith and salvation intended to remain exclusively in the possession of the Jewish people? Of course it wasn't! Here's a lesson from the past we can apply to today: The Greeks and Romans of the first century were ready for the One God concept. Judaism had the One God. But Judaism was not appealing to the gentiles because it consisted of a complex system of laws and customs. The simple message of the loving heavenly Father came along, carried by the early Christians. It was much more acceptable, and was quickly adopted by the Greeks and Romans. (*2073)
Modern Christianity is described in three places in the book (*1011, 1032, and 1084) as having become so Occidentalized with the cultural patterns of the white races that the Christianized version of Jesus' teachings is virtually unacceptable to the other races and religions of today. We are commissioned (*1041 and 2090) to present this newly revealed vision of the life and teachings of Jesus to Christianity, and we must applaud any prudent efforts to bring further enlightenment to Christianity. However, this imperative also includes the injunction to take the message of Michael to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to peoples of all faiths. Whether we go to them, or whether they come to us, I believe that the Jews, the Muslims, or the Buddhists of today should not have to take on the coloration of neo-Christianity to join the fellowship of Urantia Book readers. They should not have to hurdle our ingrained cultural patterns.
The book warns that: "No revealed religion can spread to all the world when it makes the serious mistake of becoming permeated with some national culture or associated with established racial, social, or economic practices." (*2064:2) The best hope of spreading the teachings to the greatest number of people is to keep them free of any connection with any religious group. To identify The Urantia Book with one system of thought will close the doors of acceptance to all others.
Possibly the most vital question we should be asking is this: What is it we should actually be introducing, or "mainstreaming" to other cultures and to world religions? Note carefully: when they write about carrying the message of Jesus to the religions of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and all others, they never, anywhere, imply that the entire revelation--the complete system of thought that is The Urantia Book--should necessarily be introduced to those religions. They emphasize the message of Jesus; the gospel of Jesus. (*2086, 1041, 2090, and 1866) Too often, I think we confuse the book with the gospel.
Readiness for the Revelation
A few individuals are aggressively searching for new answers to age-old questions, and for these people, channels now exist that truth seekers can tune into what will eventually lead them to the book. Admittedly, we need to expand the number of channels. However, as many of us are aware, most of the people on this planet are not ready for The Urantia Book. That doesn't mean they don't know and love God. It may simply mean that they lack the skills to read a complex book like The Urantia Book. Many of these folks could certainly respond to small grains of truth and to sincere ministrations of love and service.
The fifth epochal revelation has arrived during one of the most unstable periods in human history. There needs to be a new force on this planet. The forces of evil have usually been better organized than the agencies of good. The organizations of disunity are more direct than the movements of amity. There is no reason at all why this has to be. We know we must not " .. make the mistake of fighting evil with its own weapons." (*1580:3) But spiritual power can be as invincible as the forces of corruption. Conspiracies exist to carry out assignments of anarchy. Why can't there be conspiracies to incite a spiritual revolution? Progressive spiritual reformation can be just as well planned as the designs of destruction.
A number of Urantia Book readers are conducting programs in which the teachings of the book are presented in an intriguing format. The book is not mentioned as the source of inspiration. Quotations or paraphrasings are not used. Aperitifs of truth are metered out in bite sized portions. These spiritual revolutionaries are, in effect, assuming a combined role: They are multiple Melchizedeks, patterned on the forerunner of Michael's bestowal; they are a battalion of John the Baptists, performing as did the herald of Jesus' mission. On his trip to Rome, Jesus, himself, prepared the religious leaders to receive the later-appearing fuller gospel. We are still in our trip-to-Rome stage. Those just mentioned individuals and groups that are detached from the official Urantia organizations are performing wonders that the Brotherhood and societies would not dare to attempt today. They are laying the groundwork for the later appearing fuller revelation. There is room for many more workers in this field of endeavor. When the world settles down and begins the search for higher values, it will surely recognize the revelation, if we all do our work today.
I recently surveyed the teachings of Jesus and counted 134 separate discourses recorded in the Jesus papers. Of the 134 talks, only 24 were delivered to large groups of people. All the rest, 110 out of 134 sermons, lectures, speeches, and parables--were spoken to single apostles or to very small clusters of people. As a rule, the most explicit sermons were delivered to the smallest number, usually no more than one or two at a time. When appearing before a large audience of non-Urantia Book readers, one might wish to keep this in mind: To the multitudes, Jesus said the simplest things. To the large gathering he simply built upon already familiar scriptural passages. He never tried to awe the masses with descriptions of the hosts of unseen beings or tales of the mansion worlds.
He sent the apostles out two and two. They were instructed to knock on doors, to talk to people personally, to minister to them, to comfort the sick and dying. They were to proclaim the love of the Father and the joys of sonship with God. The key to the spread of the revelation rests primarily with you. The world has never been particularly moved or changed by observing examples of exclusive idealism. It is possible to become a fount of ideals in your normal work setting or your home community.
Beyond every other consideration, your mission is to introduce the Father to those who do not know him. Your imperative is to comfort them with the assurance of his watchcare and his desire to have them succeed in every worthwhile goal throughout eternity. In fact, if you don't make these courageous efforts to minister to your fellow men and women, history will look back and call you GOD'S FROZEN PEOPLE!
Heed Jesus' advice to ". . ever be wise in your choice of methods for presenting the good news to the different races and tribes of mankind." (*2042:2) Tailor your ministry. Individualize your approach. Become sensitive to spiritual cravings. When you encounter someone in personal difficulty, don't simply give him a list of quotations, or even The Urantia Book, without another word of cheer. Seize every opportunity for personal service.
Handing someone a brochure is not the same as preaching the gospel. The Urantia Book is very important; it is here to save souls. Read and study and learn the book, but the "gospel" is not a 2000 page book. The "gospel" is not that the book has arrived. In Jesus' own words: "The fact that the dead rise is not the gospel of the kingdom." (*2054:4) The "gospel" is not .in that the universe is a gigantic ellipse, with Paradise at the center. The "gospel of truth" is not that the planet Urantia evolved through the vegetable and animal stages, had nine races, etc., etc.
The world will be ready for all of these facts in due time, but meanwhile, mankind still cries out to hear these truths: The "gospel" is that God is the Father of all mankind; that all men and women are the sons and daughters of the Father in heaven. They need have no more anxiety about their eternal future, because the "good news" is that right here on earth they are really beginning their ascent through the universe toward the goal of the Father on Paradise.