Sunday, May 13, 2007


What is the division within Unitarianism?

I think it might be simplistic to speak of Christian and non-Christian. A more accurate way I think is to talk about different attitudes towards tradition. Some Unitarians see what has gone before as important, others much less so.

Of course us liberals in general have little time for tradition. But I am very much of the opinion that tradition does matter. It's the radical catholic in me. It matters where we've come from, our story so far. We are not bound by that story, but our own story does emerge from that. We need roots.

Although often people put the label 'Christian' on me, it's not one I freely use for myself. I may do one day, but I am still of two minds of whether I want to use the label 'Christian' or not. I am still unsure what that might mean.

But one thing I am is a traditionalist. I don't want a religion made up yesterday. I don't want something disembodied from its history. Whether we still want to call it Christian or not, I think Unitarianism has to be rooted in its Christian history, just as Christianity has to be rooted in Jewish history, it doesn't make any sense otherwise.

We have to know where we're coming from, and know the mistakes of the past. I was reading A Chosen Faith yesterday, which I read very early on in my Unitarian faith, and I think in general it's a good book, worth returning to. But one section slags off Karl Barth and neo-orthodoxy, without recognising the context in which that theology emerged. That context was the failure of liberal theology, and the fact that liberal theologians in Germany, and Unitarians in Britain and the US loudly supported the First World War, without realising the horror of what that war would be like. In Britain at least we still haven't recovered from that blow to our liberal theology. We forget that history at our peril.


Blogger Rich said...

The word 'division' is not quite right here either. Something like 'spectrum' or 'variation' might be better.

For example: I generally disagree strongly with views you have on making Unitarianism more about God - I am a Unitarian myself precisely because I am an atheist who enjoys church and reaps many of the benefits of a church without having to believe in God.

But this is not a division between me and you, because I subscribe to your blog and I love to read what you write on this subject - it makes me feel proud that I am part of a religious movement that is able to accept and promote such radically different viewpoints.

9:16 pm  

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