Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What is Unitarianism?

I'm working on our new website at church, and writing a bit about Unitarianism. This involves striking a balance between my understanding of Unitarianism, my congregation's, and my national community's understanding. Here's what I've got.

Unitarianism is a liberal and creedless faith, rooted in the Christian tradition, yet on a spiritual adventure in search of truth, justice and healing for the world. We are a faith community for those on a spiritual journey, for those who believe there is still more to be discovered in religion. We believe in religious exploration – through the intellect and through the spirit. Through the intellect we explore religious questions in sermons, lectures, courses and dialogue. Through the spirit we explore through worship, music, ritual, meditation and prayer.

Though we are on a spiritual journey, we are not only concerned with our own spiritual enlightenment, but know that the world today cries out for justice, compassion and healing. We believe religion is useless if it does not result in real prophetic compassionate living in our everyday lives. Therefore our religious journey also includes service to humanity and the world.

Unitarianism draws on many sources:

First and foremost the direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder that some of us name as “God.” Unitarians believe that there is a divine spark within each person, and that each person can have direct access to that divinity, without needing a priest or book to mediate between us and the Divine.

Secondly the teaching of the first century rabbi Jesus of Nazareth. Unitarians see Jesus as a fully human teacher and seek to follow his radical teaching of justice and love. Jesus taught that the realm of God is within us, that love comes before law, and that we should be on the side of the poor and oppressed of this world.

Thirdly the spiritual insights of all of humanity. Unitarians believe that revelation is not sealed or limited to only one particular religion. So many of us draw inspiration from many world religions including Buddhism and neo-paganism.

Fourthly the intellectual insights of all humanity. Unitarians see reason and science as giving important insights into the world. We believe the search for truth must involve both head and heart, both reason and intuition, both doubt and faith, both science and religion. We seek truth in science and philosophy and all of humanity’s (and our own) rational enquiries.

Drawing on these sources each Unitarian is free to come to their own beliefs, to name the Holy in a way which makes sense for them, and to be themselves in a community that celebrates diversity.


8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds great! (except perhaps for the 'neo-paganism' bit - perhaps you should say Nature-based faith or Naturalist philosophy?)

I just wish the whole of Unitarianism was more like your vision - then it would be something exciting yet with firm foundations.

6:30 pm  
Anonymous Tim (S Manc) said...

Sounds good to me. It certainly fits my beliefs quite well, if nothing else.

I agree with Anon on the neo-pagan bit, and I think the part beginning "Through intellect we explore religious questions in sermons, lectures, courses and dialogue..." is more aspiration than reality for many Unitarians.

Let us know when the site goes live.

8:57 pm  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...

What's wrong with neo-paganism?

It's true these things will state aspirations we may not always live up to, but it helps when we name those aspirations.

10:10 am  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...

Oh and I should also correct myself. When I say "I'm working on the website" I mean I'm working on some of the content, a member of my congregation is actually building the website.

10:15 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neo-Paganism just sounds a bit naff and new age... Unitarianism, as you say in your other excellent post, has had a long tradition of using Nature as a pointer to the Divine - but 'Neo-Paganism' just reminds me of people playing druids.....

9:36 pm  
Blogger Paul Oakley said...

For the record, I'm coming at this from a gay, American, nontheistic, pantheistic, Unitarian Universalist perspective strongly influenced by Jewish writing with my right great toe occasionally swishing the waters of non-trinitarian Christianity. I am an iconoclast who loves icons and an anti-creedalist who loves liturgy. And at age 49 I am beginning seminary training for the UU ministry.

I think your statement is generally well worded but agree with Tim that neo-pagan might not be the most communicative term.

My concern is not the same as Anonymous's about conjuring up images of people "playing druids," an unnecessarily demeaning turn of phrase, it seems to me.

Rather, neo-pagan refers more to the relative recentness of a group rather than to the nature or content of their beliefs and practices. The neo suggests that they're still wet behind the ears. If you intend, as I believe you do, to indicate that Pagan thought and practice has valid things to offer the Unitarian, I suggest you leave off the neo and just call them Pagans.

Have you chosen just Buddhism and Paganism because those are the only (or primary) non-Christian sources members of Bank Street Unitarian Chapel gain inspiration from? I do recognize that you are not intending to list every possibility...

8:29 am  
Blogger Yewtree said...

Yes, I would leave out the Neo in NeoPagan. I am not a Pagan any more but I always objected to being referred to as a Neo-Pagan.

And Paganism may be many things, but it is not New Age. The two are quite different.

I like this, but I also liked your earlier piece about how Unitarianism brings about spiritual transformation. To my mind, that is what religion is for, so it's pretty important.

11:25 pm  
Blogger Yewtree said...

A further thought... by transcending mystery, do you mean ontological or epistemological transcendence?

Also, it's probably a good idea to define worship (a word that has been much misused, though not by Unitarians).

1:23 pm  

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