As a rule, your GetReligionistas are fond of the regular Belief Watch column that appears in the crowded front pages of Newsweek. But I have a bone to pick with the recent mini-feature that ran with the headline, "Stop Your Sobbing -- Now." It opens with a series of anecdotes about a preacher and author named Will Bowen. Here is the opening of all of that:
Will Bowen takes "uncomplaining" to an extreme. Bowen doesn't gripe about anything, ever. A reporter asks, "How are you doing?" "Great!" he answers. "Can't complain." Really? You can't complain? What do you do when your car breaks down? "I call the mechanic and ask him to fix my car." How about when something terrible and unfair happens for no reason? Everything happens for a reason, Bowen responds. "Absolutely. In my theology, that's what I believe." When he climbs into the pulpit of his church in Kansas City, Mo., each Sunday, he shouts, "God is good!" and the congregation shouts back, "All the time!"
Sounds like an interesting church. Later we learn about the aftermath of one of his sermons about positive thinking and the birth of a media-friendly movement to liberate people from whining:
... God has been very, very good to Will Bowen. Local news organizations picked up his story and Bowen wrote a book, now in its seventh printing. He went on the "Today" show and then on "Oprah." His church has mailed 5 million purple SPIRIT bracelets all over the world and continues to do so at a rate of 25,000 to 50,000 per week.
I realize that this is a short story. But I have a basic question, or two, or three.
What is the name of Bowen's book? That's easy to find out. It's called "A Complaint Free World" and it appears to be rather generic self-help material.
What is the name of this man's church? I realize that we live in a post-denominational world, yet it still seems a bit strange to me to make a reference to "his church in Kansas City, Mo." and leave it at that. I mean, is this man a Baptist? A member of the Assemblies of God? A non-denominational Protestant? If you read closely, you'll note that the church is actually pretty small, but it's getting all of this attention. Why? What is the message there?
This leads to my third question: What is his theology?
As it turns out, this man's congregation is called Christ Church Unity, which means that it is part of a very non-traditional group in the eyes of traditional Christian groups. It is part of the "New Thought" movement and the Association of Unity Churches International.
You can see bit of what the Unity churches are about in the credo on the website for Bowen's flock.
1.There is only One Presence and One Power, God the Good, omnipotence
2. If God is everywhere, God is also within everyone
3. Our thoughts create our reality
4. Pray affirmatively giving thanks for what you desire ...
We honor all faiths.
This is certainly not unusual, especially in the decades following what became known as the "New Age" movement. There is no reason to hide the Unity label. Still, I think that many readers would want to know if this pastor is, again, Baptist or Catholic or Lutheran or Pentecostal or Unitarian or Unity. It's good to know, in particular, why this pastor is an Oprah kind of guy.
References to "his church" are nice. But information is better. Much better. Readers deserve it, because information helps them know what is going on in the stories that they read.