The Rev. James Ford marks Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Divinity School address as the moment when “the ‘new infidelity’ was brought home to the institution of Unitarianism.”
While Unitarianism had rejected the trinity and focused salvation on “character,” on the actions of the individual in her or his life rather than through a vicarious atonement achieved by Jesus’ death, it was nonetheless deeply rooted in biblical Christianity. . . . Emerson . . . explicitly [rejected] the necessity of scripture as divine revelation. Instead he declared that the intuition of the individual was sufficient to find one’s way.
This created a firestorm within Unitarianism. A fire that has not yet burned itself out. (Monkey Mind, July 15)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden explains why he is a “post-theist.”
I bought a new Ford truck, not a Model T. Why? Because a Model T, even though it revolutionized the automobile industry, is no longer an efficient mode of transportation in the contemporary world. . . .
This is how I view “god.” It’s not that I don’t believe in the god concept. It’s that I don’t think the concept is good transportation in our contemporary context. (Quest for Meaning, July 17)
Love, love, love
The Rev. Amy Shaw suggests that the word “because” should not follow the words “I love you.”
Loving you because implies that there is an alternate world in which I could not love you, because. Or a world in which my love for you would change as you drew nearer to some select goal that you and I shared. (Loved for Who You Are, July 14)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern objects to the word “bromance.”
In our culture, we don’t need a special name to describe the relationship between two women who love each other, love to spend time together, and are not romantically involved together nor seeking to be. We already have a term: friendship. What disturbs me about the embrace of the “bromance” term is the shunning of the obvious, available word.
Is there something so extraordinary about a close, loving, non-romantic relationship between men that we need a cute, arch term for it? (Sermons in Stones, July 14)
in the complete stretch of history i can see how
every time i felt this pull
to join with someone
it was because there was some part of them that i needed
to learn by heart (Rebel with a Label Maker, July 16)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum criticizes religious language about “brokenness.”
One of the most radical things we can do in the face of oppression is to counter messages of brokenness with proclamations of wholeness: I am whole; I am loved; I am worthy; I have inherent worth and dignity; You are whole; You are loved: You are worthy; You have inherent worth and dignity. You are loved — just as you are.
This doesn’t mean that we are perfect. It doesn’t mean that we never do harm. But we are still loved. We are whole, just as we are. (Loved for Who You Are, July 16)
Katy Schmidt Carpman writes that babies remind us our own interdependence. (Remembering Attention, July 14)
Creating new worlds
The Rev. Scott Wells notices that there was only one new congregation welcomed at this year’s UUA General Assembly, and wishes there were more.
To keep from shrinking, we need new congregations, and one isn’t enough. We need leaders with experience to foster new congregations, and one isn’t enough to found them.
So, again, I’m happy for Original Blessing. I only wish it had some cradle mates. (Boy in the Bands, July 15)
The Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss says it’s not too late for the UUA to move to Detroit. “Detroit has replaced Silicon Valley as the place where pioneers will create the real 21st century. Religion is about creating new worlds out of old chaos: let’s pull up our stakes and get busy.” (Politywonk, July 14)
Justin Almeida’s first attempts to explain UUism to his new classmates were “a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff,” so he worked out a more formal elevator speech.
Unitarian Universalism is rooted in liberal Christianity and developed out of the reformation. It is now a pluralistic, non-creedal religion that believes truth resides in the individual as informed by experience, tradition, family, culture and history. We have seven principles which guide our congregations, all of which boil down to ‘there is one love and nobody is left behind. (What’s My Age Again?, July 9)
I think to show love doesn’t mean you tell people where to go to church or if they should go to church. It just means you spend the time you have with them in a loving way. (Loved for Who You Are, July 9)
As the Beatles knew, denizens of post-industrial countries may exist in utter isolation. We often shop in anonymous supermarkets rather than bustling markets. We buy clothing off a hanger, not from the source of the craft. As Robert D. Putnam pointed out, many of us bowl alone. (Quest for Meaning, July 10)
Should the goal be to not go back and dig up but to walk forward and look straight ahead? Should I leave “her” behind me and just be who I am right now? What in the hell is wrong with who you are right now?
Bam! Lightbulb. (Adventures of the Family Pants, July 10)
During a stressful summer of “mothering from afar,” Jordinn Nelson Long also struggles with the question of doing and being “enough.”
My faith tells me there is no hell, but amazingly, that doesn’t touch the fear of damnation here, on this earth.
Not by others. . . .
What I’m afraid of is bigger and deeper, a theological matter for our time. The final judge will be the limits of each 24 hour day and the reality of opportunity cost and the truth that to love is on some level to leave your heart lying helpless. (Raising Faith, July 4)
Religious freedom, religious bullying
The Rev. Marti Keller, responding to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, writes that “We need to find ways to talk about the ripples of oppression and harm that may inevitably stem from this ill-considered verdict while not losing focus on the women in this country who were originally targeted.” (Leaping from Our Spheres, July 10)
[Any] clever person can find a link of some sort between whatever they don’t want to do and the commission of some act they consider immoral by someone else. Alito is encouraging Christians to develop hyper-sensitive consciences that will then allow them to control or mistreat others in the name of religious liberty. . . .
I focus on Christians here for a very good reason: Given that this principle will produce complete anarchy if generally applied, it won’t be generally applied. (The Weekly Sift, July 7)
We wish to talk with others who struggle with these issues, not in order to concede to intolerable positions nor make peace with every opponent, but because they matter to us, and it is the duty both of a government and a civilization to grapple honestly with such questions. (Sermons in Stones, July 3)
John Beckett believes Americans too often confuse religious freedom and religious bullying.
Religious freedom means you are free to believe, worship, and practice as you see fit. It means you are free to advocate for your religion in the public square. It means you are free to live your life by your values and to encourage others to do the same.
It does not mean you are free to coerce others to believe, practice, or behave as you would prefer, nor does it mean you are free to ignore your obligations to our wider society.
That’s not freedom. That’s bullying. (Under the Ancient Oaks, July 3)
Perhaps the biggest take away for me from General Assembly was the emphasis that “Love Reaches Out” means partnering to create social change with those whom you may in many ways differ from politically or theologically. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, July 8)
In the last generation, I’ve seen a revolting amount of ecclesiastic “mansplaining”: condescending depictions of Universalism, out of a Unitarian lens, to re-cast my tradition as something sweet, loving, emotive, poor, rural and homey. The whole thing reeks of Victorian sexual politics. (Boy in the Bands, July 6)
Inviting us to draw our own conclusions, the Rev. Meg Riley prays for Dr. Ersula Ore, assaulted by the police for the minor offense of jaywalking.
Dr. Ore, you are in my prayers today. You and the thousands of other people of color who are forced to prove that you have a right to walk home, and upon whom the burden of proof always rests. Please know that you are not alone—that tens of thousands of white people, as well as the people of color who share your experience of being told you don’t matter—are with you and will be with you as you ask for what everyone wants: Respect for your worth and dignity. (Quest for Meaning, June 30)
To protect our own rights of dissent, we must unfortunately defend someone else’s right to be an asshole.
That does not mean we have to step back and let wolves lose upon the sheep. It means we have to take action to confront the wolves ourselves, to offer our bodies, if necessary, in their protection. It demands a lot from us. Giving up comfort, giving up safety. It means, as the theme of this year’s GA says, Reaching Out in Love. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, June 27)
The Rev. Elz Curtiss suggests that William Ellery Channing’s book, Slavery, is useful for countering the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.
Much of today’s political breakdown rests on the inability of secular and free-range left wing leaders to articulate a comprehensive philosophical counter to conservative religious arguments. Happily, William Ellery Channing has provided here, in one document, everything we need to lift our stature in current debates. (Politywonk, July 1)
Loved for who you are
“Loved for Who You Are” is a UU outreach project you can participate in by sharing its message, or sharing your story. For inspiration, here are a few posts from “Loved for Who You Are” this week.
We are so quick to define ourselves by our jobs alone in this world, when our respective purposes aren’t at all limited by what we do 9 to 5. . . . [What] the world needs . . . is garbage collectors who are great Moms who also lead scout troops and sing in choirs.
That is a life with purpose. (Loved for Who You Are, July 2)
Brave souls, thoughtless choices
The Rev. Tom Schade looked for stories of courage at General Assembly—ones that didn’t involve heights, fast-moving rivers, or fire.
I heard of a minister who changed the Christmas Eve order of service.
Another recently settled minister told the largest donor that no, they did not get to veto decisions of the Board.
Someone told a UU Republican that just because no one agreed with them, it didn’t mean they were oppressed. (The Lively Tradition, June 30)
I watched yellow shirts push past, walk around and yes, even climb over residents who had been waiting for up to 2 hours to see this event. From my vantage point among the local crowd, what was intended to be a “witness” turned into more of a “display” and somewhat of a distraction. (Spirituwellness, June 29)
Religion, spirituality, and philosophy
Andrew Mackay responds to a recent article in Atlantic magazine, which criticizes the casual syncretism of contemporary spirituality.
Mobility in the spiritual realm should not be viewed as intrinsically bad. . . . The dynamic behavior of the newest generation may be a move past the sense of obligation and communal pressure to conform and stay in one religious institution.
To end, it is important to not oversell traditional religious practice, and to dismiss 21st century spirituality. The two have much to teach each other, if they will listen. (Unspoken Politics, June 29)
For me, Unitarian Universalism is a philosophy, a way of thinking about and organizing reality, the nature of knowledge, and existence. . . . AND yes, Unitarian Universalism is a religion because it’s not just a way of thinking about the world, but also a way of acting in it. (Doubled Up in Love, July 2)
We’re publishing early this week because of Independence Day. Here’s some advice from Jacqueline Wolven to help you enjoy your weekend.
Get offline and start doing something. Anything. Take walks. Get a hobby that you love. Learn something new. Cook real meals. Dance badly in your living room. Really, anything would work to allow you to experience life in the way that you want to and not transfer all of the millions of emotions that you are experiencing from others online. (Jacqueline Wolven, June 28)