On August 16, 2020, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed those attending the Community Miracles Center’s Sunday Gathering. Below is a lightly edited transcription of his talk.
Thank you very much for joining us. So nice to see so many people here today. I am very happy to be here. This is a very important date for me for many reasons. It is an important date for the world today for many reasons. It is the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. A lot of things are celebrated on this day. I do want to acknowledge Mr. Presley. But, it is also the anniversary of me arriving in San Francisco forty one years ago in 1979.
I came here, never having visited before. I came to move here. I had two suitcases and a backpack. It was a very momentous thing, because I had never been on a commercial airplane before. I flew here to move here, never having visited here, with two suitcases and a backpack and with $2,000. I thought that was going to be more than enough to set me up in San Francisco.
It is also the anniversary of a spiritually significant thing called the Harmonic Convergence which was held in 1987. That was a very significant thing for the Community Miracles Center because we took part in this. I have talked about that in other years. I am not going to get into that too much today. The Harmonic Convergence was on August 16th. I moved to San Francisco on August 16th.
The title of my talk today is "Be Not Afraid." "Be not afraid" is a very significant phrase. The phrase, "be not afraid" or some derivation of it, maybe just "fear not," is actually the most common phrase in the Bible. It is the thing that Jesus is quoted as saying more than anything else he said in the Bible. There are varying counts of how many times it is said. One source I looked at today stated it was said 103 times.
Send CMC a tax-deductible donation via PayPal or your Credit Card to support this work. "Thank you!"
So, 103 times in the Bible, Jesus says "Fear not" or "Be not afraid." It is a very, very important thing. We are living through a time – and I see a lot on social media and in the discussion that there is – of fear out there in the world. There is a lot of what I would call fear mongering. There are a lot of people who are speaking words of fear and who seem to have a vested interest in making people afraid or keeping people afraid.
So, a "monger" is a person who promotes a specified activity, situation or feeling especially one that is undesirable. So, when somebody is a fear monger, they are promoting fear. They are promoting a fearful situation or a feeling. Nobody wants to be fearful. It is definitely undesirable. So why do people do this. They do it to manipulate behavior. They feel that if they can make people afraid then they can control their behavior. We all do this at different times.
I see it going on in the society a lot. It is going on with the pandemic. You hear people say, "You don’t like wearing a mask, you are really going to hate being on a ventilator!" They say things like that. Of course, we would all really, really hate being on a ventilator. Do we need to put that out there? Do we need to put that image in people’s minds? Not only do they say things like that, they show diagrams on Facebook of what it is like. They show tubes down your throat and into your lungs and what it is like being on a ventilator. They show people on ventilators that are half conscious or are kept unconscious. It is a pretty awful thing being on a ventilator.
We do this with a lot of things. We do it to make people afraid. I think that we as A Course in Miracles students can challenge that. I certainly don’t want to do that. I want to make people hopeful. I post hopeful things and hopeful links, and I try to challenge the fear at a variety of levels. I sometimes challenge it at a worldly level and I sometimes challenge it at a more lofty level. This seems to confuse people a lot. I get attacked for it a fair amount of the time. I know what I am doing. I am just trying to put out a message of hope and joy and freedom. Many people still want to protect their fearful perception of things, and so they challenge me on it. Sometimes, they out and out attack me on it.
When we put out fearful messages, we can find fearful things to talk about. A Course in Miracles has a couple of passages that talk about the messengers of fear that we send out there to go find fearful images in the world to then bring back to us. The Course says, "[Fear’s] messengers steal guiltily away in hungry search of guilt, for they are kept cold and starving and made very vicious by their master, who allows them to feast only upon what they return to him. No little shred of guilt escapes their hungry eyes. And in their savage search for sin, they pounce on any living thing they see and carry it screaming to their master to be devoured." (OrEd.Tx.19.51)
These are pretty graphic images for A Course in Miracles. This is what we do when we fear monger. If we are bringing forward fearful messages and fearful imagery for people to look at and get afraid so that it might manipulate their behavior, that’s exactly what we are doing.
A little later, A Course in Miracles says, "Send not these savage messengers into the world to feast upon it and to prey upon reality. For they will bring you word of bones and skin and flesh. They have been taught to seek for the corruptible and to return with gorges filled with things decayed and rotted." (OrEd.Tx.19.52)
If we send out fear’s messengers, we will see fearful things. If we put out these fearful things for other people to see, that’s what will happen. It will make people fearful and guilty. Do we really want to do that? It will only help people choose fear and guilt for themselves. Do we really want to do that? I want to spread words of hope and peace and strength and bliss. I want to be able to say "WooHoo" and look at this and isn’t this great. WooHoo!
Six of us went out to dinner last Friday night at a restaurant outside, and it was great. WooHoo! That was wonderful. That was hopeful and peaceful and I felt strong and blissful. A Course in Miracles says, in the reading, "Make no one fearful, for his guilt is yours." (OrEd.Tx.13.12) That’s a very interesting passage. It is equating fear and guilt. It doesn’t say, "Make no one fearful, for his fear is yours." It says, "Make no one fearful, for his guilt is yours." It must be that guilt and fear are exactly the same thing. Remember in the Bible, "Fear not." "Be not afraid." This is the most common thing that is said in the Bible. ACIM still has the same message. Don’t be afraid. And certainly don’t work at making anybody else afraid.
Jesus says in A Course in Miracles, "In this world you need not have tribulation because I have overcome the world." (OrEd.Tx.4.22) We are supposed to use Jesus as a model, an example, of someone who has overcome the world. If he can do it, we can do it. We do not have to buy into the fear. We have to stop sending out fear’s messengers.
A Course in Miracles says that right below this perception that we have, there is a significant level of fear. I think that the whole pandemic has really exposed that, and that’s a good thing to have it be exposed. ACIM says, "You are severely tempted to abandon [Holy Spirit] at the outside ring of fear, but He would lead you safely through and far beyond." (OrEd.Tx.18.87) When ACIM says that we will be severely tempted, we should take notice. It means that we are going to be severely tempted. I understand people giving in to the fear because it is a severe temptation. But the Holy Spirit will lead us through that and far beyond. We have to stay connected to our guidance so that we walk through that fear.
A Course in Miracles says, "The circle of fear lies just below the level the body sees and seems to be the whole foundation on which the world is based." (OrEd.Tx.18.88) We are seeing that. The whole foundation that this perceptual world is based on is this circle of fear. But, the Holy Spirit is going to lead us through that. We have to be able to follow the Holy Spirit through the seeming terror and there is going to be a severe temptation to let go of the guidance and start reacting defensively to the fear. One of the ways that we do this is to share the fear which is the fear mongering that goes on a lot, and I think we need to be aware of.
Fear is a problem. Fear is the basis for all of the problems of the world. Fear and guilt are the same thing. A Course in Miracles says, "... the last thing that can help the non-right-minded, or the sick, is an increase in fear. They are already in a fear-weakened state." (OrEd.Tx.2.58) So, it’s the fear that caused the sickness in the first place. Sick people are in a fear weakened state. We certainly don’t want to make them more afraid. The whole world is in a sickness right now with Covid-19. It is in a fear weakened state. We certainly don’t want to make the world any more fearful.
Remember what A Course in Miracles said that I have already quoted, "Make no one fearful, for his guilt is yours." (OrEd.Tx.13.12) We will feel guilty if we do it and we will just feel more fearful if we do it ourselves. Find something to say "WooHoo" about. Find some joy to share. Maybe, they won’t agree with the thing you are choosing, but hopefully they will be able to tap into your joy, and to your exuberance, and to your bliss, and to your peace, and to your strength, and to your hope. They will be able to instill that hope into themselves, and they will be able to heal.
There is an oath that doctors take. It is usually called the Hippocratic Oath. One of the lines in that oath is, "Above all, do no harm." Now that line, "Above all, do no harm" wasn’t actually in the original Hippocratic Oath. It is actually something that was put into it a couple centuries ago. But, it is maybe the most famous line in the oath. "Above all, do no harm."
It was realized that doctors and people in the medical profession were practicing things that sometimes did more harm to the people than good. I talked about this a couple of weeks ago. For centuries, one of the main things that doctors did was blood-letting. They would come over with a big basin and they would cut your arteries, your veins. You would bleed a certain amount. It was thought that there were poisons in your blood, so drain them out. Then, you could produce new blood with less poisons in it. It makes logical sense. I can see why people probably thought that it would heal them. But, now we see that as a pretty barbaric procedure. People don’t do blood-letting anymore.
Let’s think about some of the things that we still do. We bombard people with cancer with deadly radiation. We give them poisons, because we believe the poison will kill the cancer cells faster than it will kill the other cells. These are pretty drastic behaviors. I think there will come a time when people will think that those are really barbaric.
So above all, do no harm. We need to understand that perpetuating fear and being a fear monger is doing harm. So above all, don’t do it. Don’t scare people to manipulate their behavior. If you feel strongly about something, present the strong logical, rational case about why it is a good thing to do. Fear is never going to help you present that case.
What is the A Course in Miracles procedure for healing? It is really very simple. Recognize the misperception, offer it up to the Holy Spirit, ask for guidance, and embrace that guidance when you receive it. Let me repeat. Recognize the misperception, offer that misperception up to the Holy Spirit, ask for guidance about it, and then embrace that guidance when you receive it. I don’t think that is going to do anybody any harm. In terms of "Above all, do no harm," I think that is a pretty good foundation for us ACIM students to be sitting on.
I have asked the Holy Spirit to give me a new perception about what is going on. What is something positive going on with our society and the world? What I keep getting is, uncovering the unacceptability of sickness and death for everybody. Everybody just looks at that and sees that and knows it is unacceptable. And of course, they don’t want it. I see them working to not have it. They are doing the best they can. I can bless that. I think that we A Course in Miracles students can offer them something a little better, a better approach at least to those who are willing to hear it.
Much of the approach that people choose is like blood-letting, and radiation therapy, and poisonous chemotherapy. They are things that actually end up doing more harm. "Above all, do no harm." A Course in Miracles’ way of approaching these things doesn’t do any harm. That is what I want to promote.
People are really seeing that it is just not acceptable to be sick, and debilitated, and then dying. Dying doesn’t have to be like that. In the Song of Prayer, it talks about a different way to leave the physical plane. Then it talks about the usual way at the end of a sickness. The Song says, "It does not come because of hurtful thoughts and raging anger at the universe." (Song.3.II.1:9) We get sick because we have hurtful thoughts, and we are attacking the universe. We believe we are part of the universe so that attack manifests in our bodies. The Song says, "It does not come because of hurtful thoughts and raging anger at the universe." (Song.3.II.1:9) The Song continues, "It does not come in forms that seem thrust down in pain upon unwilling flesh." (Song.3.II.3:2)
So leaving this physical plane, what we might call "dying", doesn’t have to come in forms that seem to be thrust down in pain upon unwilling flesh. I think that that is what people really know intuitively, and that is why they are reacting so strongly to this Covid-19 disease. They are rejecting it at a certain level, and I think that is actually a very, very good thing. We have a responsibility to give them a way to effectively reject it that doesn’t end up doing more harm than the Covid-19 disease might be doing. That is a real "WooHoo" message. I am willing to give that message in every way that I can.
A Course in Miracles says "You were not meant to suffer and to die. Your Father wills these dreams be gone. Let truth correct them all." (OrEd.WkBk.107.8) That is the message I want to give to people. I do not want to be a fear monger. I understand that this is the way the world is set up. This is our society. I read this week that the National Institute of Health (NIH) is now doing a study on what will be the most effective way to convince people to take a Covid-19 vaccine when it comes. They know that there is a huge resistance right now that is growing to taking a vaccine. They also know, from their thought system, that they have to get a large percentage of the population to take this vaccine or it won’t be effective.
They have listed all of these arguments they are thinking about using. They are going to test them. One of the arguments is, how well will guilt and shame work? They are going to test this idea. How about you don’t get the vaccine, and then you contract the virus. While you don’t get really sick, you bring the virus back home and give it to your parents or your grandparents. Then they die. How are you going to feel then? That is exactly how it was worded. They are going to test that, like test marketing, to see if that will get people to be compliant and get a vaccine. I understand from their point of view. They are doing the best they can. They want people to take a vaccine.
"Above all, do no harm." Don’t be a fear monger. Don’t be a guilt monger. It is never going to help anybody to make anybody guilty. Make a great case for the vaccine. Talk about how effective the vaccine is. Make sure that it is effective. Talk about how safe the vaccine is. Make sure it is safe. Make a great case for the vaccine. That is they way to get more people to take it.
Make people feel guilty and ashamed if they don’t take it? That is fear mongering. That is guilt mongering. I don’t want to be any part of that. When you start hearing that, know where it came from. It came from governmental agencies trying to figure out what is the most effective way to manipulate everybody. That is not a "WooHoo" message. That is not the message that I want to give.
I think there are a lot of great "WooHoo" things going on. I got a great "WooHoo" yesterday. Maybe people won’t agree with me, but I think that this is a message of hope. It happened Friday actually. There is a large megachurch in L.A. It is called Grace Community Church. They were meeting inside, and then there was a court order for them to stop meeting inside. They fought the court order, and on Friday the judge gave them a stay and told them they could meet inside as long as they were practicing social distancing and wearing masks. The pastor, John MacCarthur agreed to that and thanked everybody. Today, right now, Grace Community Church is meeting indoors, social distancing, and wearing masks. For me, that is a "WooHoo" moment. This church is just as essential as everything else.
I can go to Costco, with a mask, and practice social distancing which doesn’t work all that well at Costco. A church, that can probably practice social distancing and mask wearing better that Costco can, they certainly should be able to meet as well. I am happy about that. I am happy about religious freedom. I am happy that the First Amendment is being recognized. The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; — or the right of the people peaceably to assemble."
"WooHoo" for Grace Community Church that you are meeting with social distancing and masks. You are giving people the right to practice their religion. If I have the right to go to the bank and go to Safeway under those conditions, I believe that church is even more of an essential service than that.
Don’t fear monger. If you have a case to present, present it positively. Really present it positively, and then accept that not everyone is going to agree with you. Because, as I said the last time, the right wing and the left wing still fly the same bird. Everyone has got their own opinion. Not everyone is going to agree with you.
There is a really great thing going on in our culture right now. We are questioning the necessity of sickness and death, the way that it appears. We A Course in Miracles students don’t want anybody to be afraid. We don’t want anybody to have more fear. We are going to spread "WooHoo" messages of hope, and joy, and peace, and bliss. We are giving people something that not only does no harm, but actually does a tremendous amount of healing and good.
That’s my talk for today. Thank you very much! ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently serves as the CMC's Executive Minister (10.25.2021). He is also the President of the CMC Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the September 2020 (Vol. 34 No. 7) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.