Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why Unitarians need to experience orgasms (spiritually)

The joke goes something like this:

A Unitarian finds a fork in the road. One sign points to "Heaven" while the other points to "A discussion about heaven." The Unitarian follows the path to "A discussion about heaven."

There's a lot of truth in that joke. In fact I think the situation is sort of worse than that. I would categorise the Unitarian situation as more like this:

A Unitarian finds a fork in the road. One sign points to "an orgasm" while the other points to "A discussion about orgasms." The Unitarian follows the path to "A discussion about orgasms."

The problem with our religious life, most significantly about our worship life, is that we believe we are worshipping by having a discussion about worship, or praying by saying clever things about prayer. It is as ridiculous as believing you are having an orgasm by attending a three hour lecture about orgasms. The two do not compare.

We gather, sing songs, listen to words, and somehow think we have worshipped. So many times, we have not. We have merely talked about these things. Worship, prayer, God, grace, freedom, love are things that must be experienced directly, not discussed or debated.

The purpose of worship is to experience things, not to talk about things. Worship itself is an experience, a verb, a practice, a habit, not merely a concept up for philosophical examination.

You can talk all you want about sex. You can read poetry and biological explanations for it. You can analyse it scientifically, sociologically, culturally. You can read reflections on the matter from various cultures and periods of history. But none of these things are having sex. None of them come close to the human visceral and physical experience of making love. None of them can in any real meaningful way tell you what it is like to have an orgasm.

You have to experience it. Anything else, though interesting and informative, doesn't really get to the heart of the matter. If you want to know about orgasms, you need to experience one.

No actually, scrap that. Who the hell cares about knowing about orgasms when you've experienced one? The experience is primary, the knowing about it is a secondary thing, perhaps interesting for specialists, but not actually necessary, and maybe sometimes a complete distraction.

When we gather for worship, the purpose is worship itself. The purpose of an orgasm is the orgasm itself. Worship is not about hearing something interesting, informative or clever. Worship is about worship. Every time. Do not say "today's service is about social housing and here's two informative readings and here's my thoughts about the issue, interspersed with some pleasant thematic music" rather say, "Holy! Holy! Holy! We enter now the deepest experience of transcendence," or better, sing it!

Visitors do not stay in our churches because we fail to offer them any real substantive experience. They like our values and our approach but they do not find anything spiritually real in what we offer. We need to offer real religion, in a liberal and open way, not just liberalism with a sprinkling of religion as an afterthought.

I want Unitarians to desire orgasms enough to leave the discussion about orgasms and actually try them for once! I think you'll find, once we do that, we'll not be too bothered about the discussion.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Chris said...

This is an excellent and very timely post. I particularly identified with the following paragraph:

'Visitors do not stay in our churches because we fail to offer them any real substantive experience. They like our values and our approach but they do not find anything spiritually real in what we offer. We need to offer real religion, in a liberal and open way, not just liberalism with a sprinkling of religion as an afterthought.

This was precisely why I stopped identifying as a Unitarian and why I rarely attend Unitarian services now. I greatly admire the tolerance, liberality and openness of Unitarianism but I found myself always having to look outside of it to find meaningful spirituality, which I eventually and thankfully found thus making Unitarianism itself somewhat irrelevant to me. My only connection with Unitarianism now remains the friendships that I made while I was a Unitarian.

I am truly grateful to Unitarianism for helping me to think more openly, and for giving me the confidence and the 'safe space' to do so. I do not regret one moment of my brief life as a Unitarian and live with its positive legacy, but ultimately I found it to be a religion far too concerned with issues of governance and unpleasantly obsessed with how to attract new members while neglecting, if not actually hampering, the spiritual/religious heart that might have engaged me more profoundly by igniting my spirits with the beauty, mystery and sacredness of the numinous.

I wish Unitarianism well; it has an important voice, and I hope it finds its soul.

11:32 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right. Unitarianism has become an intellectual pursuit - a church of smart arses.

5:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris expresses the biggest issue facing Unitarianism as a "religion" very well.

There is a problem with retention.

People may well be coming through the door, armed with high expectations based on what they read on the web etc, and then what?

Then they meet the reality.

And let's be brutally honest here, the issue is not about "growth" but "survival" for most groups.

Hence the observation about a religion "far too concerned with issues of governance and unpleasantly obsessed with how to attract new members "


Many workplace communication related courses use videos to film individuals so they can critique their own performance and learn about how they come over.

Perhaps this might be a good use of Unitarian TV?

Yes it is good to film and highlight the bigger groups with the good guys - Ant Howe @ Kingswood - and we assume Stephen himself of course (!!)

However it might also help some of the smaller groups to see their total interaction across a worship session.

If you walked into this group for the first time and this is what you encountered, would you want to stay?

Trouble is such a group might take one look at the resulting video and end up closing because of the shock.

So on second thoughts, perhaps not, but still a useful thought process.

5:53 pm  
Anonymous Cody said...

" ...the way you make love is the way
God will be with you." "Breadmaking" by Rumi

12:54 pm  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...

This point was re-emphasised for me today reading The Inquirer's report of the Psychical Society lecture about "spiritual experience[s] characterised by overwhelming love."

Literally a lecture about this experience, rather than seeing our primary purpose in gathering to be to open ourselves to this experience and to let it guide our lives.

10:37 pm  
Anonymous Nick Honneyman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen I just realised that I left my email address on my comment, would you be able to remove it please so it's not picked up by spam people. Thanks, and well done on a brilliant blog too! Nick.

6:43 am  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...

Nick, I can't edit comments so I have deleted the whole comment on your request. All the best. Stephen.

11:24 am  

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