Monday, November 28, 2016
On this blog I have often mused on the decline and possible death of Unitarianism. It's interesting to ask the question of why I do this. I think partly it's because I see British Unitarianism as being in a kind of a denial about it and I don't see that denial as healthy. I don't want to be negative, but I want to confront reality face on and make decisions based on that reality.
What if Unitarianism were to die? If we knew that was a certainty, how it would change the way we act and the kind of decisions we make right now? I find it strangely liberating. It's like - none of this stuff matters that much so we might as well chill out about it all, right?
Here's one scenario I can imagine happening: Unitarianism dies away in a few decades. Time passes, meanwhile Pentecostalism becomes the largest kind of Christianity in Britain and matures as a movement. But then, some people in Pentecostalism start opening to liberal ideas, start questioning the Trinity, eternal damnation and other ideas and eventually become a Unitarian Pentecostal movement.
Why shouldn't this happen? Unitarianism has spontaneously happened in different countries across the globe. In Britain there were movements of Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians who all became Unitarians. Why shouldn't that happen again in other denominations? History would suggest such a thing is quite possible.
So in 50 or 60 years time "our" Unitarianism has died but a Pentecostal Unitarianism now exists, a Unitarianism with Pentecostal worship and culture. And then they discover our tradition and start mining it for its treasures as they build a new Unitarian identity.
What do we want them to find in the archives? What will resource them well in the future? Will they be excited that we used the latest technology and trends (which by then will be woefully out of date)? Will they think we had good advertising? Will they be impressed by our accounts and healthy bank balances? Will they be inspired by our committee minutes and efficient meetings that we had by the bucket load?
Let me suggest that the answer is no.
But if they were to discover inspirational devotional material, sermons, theology, spiritual writings, and stories of a bold and fearless people living prophetic lives, then this, I would suggest would inspire them. And Unitarianism would rise again.
I'm not a seer and I'm not saying I can predict that this is how it will happen. It's just a hypothetical experiment. But then again, it's not a crazy prediction either.
But my point is this: even if we are going to die, it still matters the kind of thing we do, and what legacy we leave, and this might shift our priorities.
So I'm making a commitment now. I'm going to try, I'm really going to try to use this blog to give a much more positive and powerful message about our tradition. I'm going to try and let off the snipping and criticism and I'm going to try to do just do my thing. I'm going to try to just give my best understanding of the nature of this powerful and amazing tradition called Unitarianism. Because, maybe, this blog might be one of the things that's left over. And that's the legacy I want to leave.