Early Urantia Movement History Reconsidered

Early Urantia Movement History Reconsidered
 
I recently came across two rather disturbing but very interesting, well-written books that shed light on the early years of the Urantia movement. These are “The Religious Crisis of the 1960s” by Hugh McLeod, and “The Origins, Nature, and Significance of the Jesus Movement” by Kevin John Smith.
 
Both books focus on religious and cultural transformations taking place in America, Europe, and Australia between 1957 and the late 1970s.
 
This was a period of time during which millions of people turned out to hear Billy Graham preach. The Second Vatican Council was held in Rome between 1962 and 1965 as church leadership struggled to find ways of adapting teaching and practice to be more relevant. Major academic efforts were under way to try and discover Jesus separate from the dogma and tradition which had grown up around him. The greatest expansion in higher education in American history took place during this time. The sexual revolution, new theological explorations, political radicalization in the anti-war movement, social radicalization in the civil rights movement, and a changing economic climate all contributed to a period of profound social change.
 
The experimentation with and embrace of eastern religions was an unprecedented event in American religious history which, combined with growing religious pluralism, contributed to the beginning of the decline of the church as an important social institution. Religious activism on college campuses was at an all-time high in the late 1950s and by the 1960s Campus Crusade for Christ was a major player in universities across America.
 
Religious books as a proportion of all books sold peaked in 1958.
 
The theological writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Francis Schaeffer’s work at the L’Abri community in Switzerland attempted to bring fresh intellectual insights and contexts to Christianity. From June 12 to June 17, 1972 more than 100,000 high school and college students gathered together in Dallas at Explo '72 where Campus Crusade offered a training program in personal evangelism for young people. 
 
The Jesus movement subsequently developed into an influential undertaking which, along with the rapid growth of charismatic Protestantism, changed approaches to worship, teaching, and belief across the board in both Protestant and Catholic churches as well as spreading a revitalized Christian message into Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The youthful leaders of the Jesus movement are now ministers and administrators in the trans-denominational urban mega-churches that dot the American religious landscape.
 
And during this period of time Urantia leaders were suing readers who were attempting to bring the Urantia Book into the conversation, trying to prevent readers from distributing books, advocating a no-publicity go-slow policy—during this period of time which religious scholars now consider to have been the most significant period of readjustment of religious and spiritual values in American history.
 
McLeod and Smith's books amount to nothing less than a damning indictment of early Urantia movement leaders who failed to embrace the opportunities of their time, failed to appreciate the degree to which the revelators held back publication of the book so that it would coincide with this period of post-war social and religious readjustment.
 
These same leaders (may their souls rest in peace) then proceeded to establish policies based on second-hand fragments of apocryphal notes rather than on the robust and aggressive evangelistic imperative with which the revelation itself challenges its readers. In the process an unprecedented opportunity to bring a saving revelation to the world was lost; a world which was fully mobilized (and probably prepared by the seraphim) to seek new religious and spiritual insights.
 
Competent, experienced leaders with financial means and wide-spread connections in media, anxious to get the revelation out to the world such as Clyde Bedell, Harold Sherman, and Sek Seklemian were marginalized and ostracized. Even Dr. Sadler was reprimanded and restrained in his efforts to make the revelation relevant to Christianity. Mediocrity came to dominate. And a reluctance to fully engage the world still remains today in the administrative hideaways of Urantia institutions. Future generations will not look kindly on the 'leadership' of the early years of this revelation, its hagiographic preoccupation with the forum and the contact commissioners, and the lost opportunities of a lifetime.
 
Inform yourself by spending some time with Smith and McLeod and become more familiar with the sociological and cultural aspects of our undertaking--especially if you're a young reader envisioning a lifetime of serving the revelation. Question everything. Refuse to perpetuate fear and mediocrity.
 
It’s not too late to re-evaluate the world views of our institutions and redirect them to more productive ends--all Urantia is waiting.
 
 
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