Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Response to Andrew Brown

Andrew Brown makes some interesting points on his blog. Unfortunately he doesn't allow comments, but asks for feedback by email so I've just sent this to him.

Dear Andrew,

I’ve been reading your blog, which is very interesting and stimulating. It is a shame that it is not on a format like blogster or wordpress (and I don’t really know anything about what’s the best thing) where comments would be possible and debate more easy.

In regard to your entry beginning ‘This, then, is my dilemma’ I have a few thoughts that I wanted to share. (I’m also posting this on my blog).

I think you bring up some very important points but I have some concerns. Are the two different Unitarianisms really ‘very different’ and entirely incompatible? When Channing preached the ‘Unitarian Christianity’ sermon he divided his thoughts into two sections: the methods used by Unitarians in approaching the Bible and the doctrines that Unitarians believe by approaching the Bible in this way. It seems to me Unitarianism has always been a method and an outcome of that method. Channing and others assumed that free rational people will naturally come to the conclusion of Unitarian Christianity. He was wrong. Free rational people can come to different conclusions about religious questions. And that is our problem. The question we are presented with is then: which is most important: the method or the doctrines that were the outcome of the method? It seems to me if you take away either what you’re left with isn’t Unitarian. This is a quandary.

I’m uncomfortable with you using the word ‘entryism’ for non-Christian Unitarians (or I was once I looked it up on Wikipedia to understand what it was). The fact is many of those people grew up in Unitarianism and were told ‘this is what Unitarianism is’ as children. Although we may disagree with definitions of Unitarianism given to them I think it would be quite offensive to them to suggest they are invading aliens in the religious community that has always been theirs.

I share, I think, your sense that Unitarianism needs more depth and more sense of its own tradition. Unitarianism is a deep spiritual tradition, and we’ve largely forgotten the legacy behind us. But it is also an evolving tradition, and I don’t know how you can limit that evolution without being creedal. There are limits, but how are those limits to be policed? Or, perhaps, how do we remain rooted in the centre?

I want to keep asking the question, ‘how does this relate to what has gone before?’ And maintain that to belong to a religious tradition requires that you do relate yourself to what has gone before. But I don’t want to dictate how each individual answers this question. I’m not sure people need to self-identify as Christian. If someone can thoughtfully answer that question without identifying as Christian then do you think that that is a problem? And if it is, what can be done about it?


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