Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The word 'God'

The good thing about our small British Unitarian churches is that it's possible to have some dialogue in worship. I took a service on Sunday and we had some dialogue during the sermon about questions and beliefs we have.

The dialogue brought up for me the issue of the word 'God.' It seems to me most Unitarians don't have a problem with the idea of (some sort of) God. However, a lot of people have a problem with the word 'God' - associating it with a war-like vengeful God found in some parts of the Bible. A lot of people seem to prefer something like 'Spirit of Life.' The thing is if you say to any unchurched people out there 'Spirit of Life' they are either not going to understand you, or they are going to say, 'What, you mean God?' To which you'll have to reply, 'Well, yes.'

It's the same as saying, 'Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.' To which someone may ligitimately ask, 'What, you mean God?' To which you'll have to reply, 'Well, yes.'

So it seems that to serve the population in the churches I need to say 'Spirit of Life' and to be able to communicate to the world outside I need to say 'God.' This is the issue I think about a lot, how to balance the needs to those within the church, with the needs of those outside the church if we're going to attract them. What does it mean to be mission-shaped in this context?

My instinct is to continue to use the word 'God' along with other names, and to try to create a place where direct experience of God is possible. The problem with a lot of Unitarianism is that we stay at the level of words, without realising that the words point to a deeper reality.

Incidently, if present-day Unitarian Universalism took as its foundation the first source (direct experience of Mystery) rather than the first principle (inherent worth of everyone[which really goes without saying]) then I believe UUism would be more of a real coherent religion.


Anonymous Mike Killingworth said...

Well, I happen to agree with you that religion is either mystery religion or else it's little more than a cultural identification group.

Trouble is, those we can attract mainly want the former, while long-standing Unitarians tend (although they'd prefer it not to be pointed out) to the latter.

8:07 pm  

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