Monday, October 30, 2017

Seven Theses of Unitarian Christianity

We're currently remembering the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther allegedly hammered his "95 Theses" to the church door in Wittenburg, on 31st October 1517.

This has got me thinking about hammering my own theses to a church door (figuratively). From time to time it is worth trying to articulate what my tradition stands for like this. So here are my Seven Theses of Unitarian Christianity:

Our understanding of ultimate truth and meaning is partial, every word we utter when we talk about religion is ultimately wrong, because words cannot capture Reality. We will not make statements that will stand for all time because every generation needs to seek truth afresh and build on the work of the previous generation. Nevertheless, we must speak our truth as we understand it right now, in humility and hope.

1. God is love and God is loving. 
Though we do not claim to understand what we mean when we use a word like "God" - though we recognise that "God" is just a label we place on something which is an Ultimate Mystery - we recognise the testimony of mystics and prophets that God embraces us with a wild and passionate love beyond our understanding.
Therefore we reject completely as a lie any doctrine or idea that contradicts the love of God, such as eternal punishment in hell for any person.

2. God is here.
God is not "in heaven" or some other realm of reality, but intimately present in every moment of existence. There is no gap, none whatsoever, between every day reality, and the divine reality. We are surrounded by love and beauty.

3. Paradise is here.
When God's love and presence is recognised in this reality, we awaken to earth as paradise, or as the kindom of God. Our purpose in life is to awaken to this paradise in all we do. Jesus, in his acts and storytelling, is the great teacher of this truth.

4. The purpose of the church is to seek paradise.
We open to paradise here on earth when we join together in the church. The church is a parable of paradise, the Beloved Community, where we learn together to become disciples of love. It is a great feast where we join together in communion with one another and with God.

5. We are children of God.
We recognise that every person had sacred worth and value. Every person contains the divine spark. Nevertheless it takes a disciplined effort to let that divine spark grow within us and for us to answer the calling of our lives.

6. We must wake up.
We are committed to a way of life and a way of spirituality that will awaken us and free us from all that keeps us asleep and enslaved. We commit to a life of truth-seeking, prayer, simplicity, humility, compassion, hospitality, justice, love, forgiveness, and nonviolence.

7. God is still speaking. 
Though we recognise Jesus as our teacher, God's truth, love, and beauty is not limited to any one person or tradition. We value, and learn from, all the great religions of the world. And we recognise that there is yet more light and truth to break forth from the divine.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How can we be joyful in dark times? (video)

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Can I be a Unitarian and not believe in individualism?

Recently I've been thinking a lot about Unitarianism. In some moments I even question whether I am, in fact, a Unitarian.

And for me it has come down to this question: if I reject individualism can I still be a Unitarian?

What I mean is that I'm considering this sort of a definition of Unitarianism:

  • Individual Unitarians can believe whatever they want to. What matters if that you come to your own conclusion and Unitarianism offers the freedom to do that. 
I have decided that I wholeheartedly and passionately reject this idea. I think it comes from our neoliberal individualistic culture and I think it is a philosophically and morally bankrupt idea. I reject it. 

If I do reject this idea, is there a still a place for me in the British General Assembly? Or is this essentially the creed of the General Assembly, and if I don't sign up to it, I should leave?

Why do I reject it? Well, honestly, so many reasons. I think it's impossible to build community based on this idea. I think it precludes the possibility of people in any way growing in their spiritual life. I think it bears almost no resemblance to what Unitarianism has actually stood for across its global 450-year history. I think it indulges selfish awkward people who disrupt community life. I think it offers no challenge for people to become better. I think it makes church incredibly boring. I think it actually allows people to concentrate more on beliefs, not less. I think it's actually impossible to build faith community on this basis. I think it fails to make faith do what it's supposed to do - offer meaning-making stories. I think it's not true, I think there are lots of beliefs that are precluded by Unitarianism. I think it leads to "iChurch" where people want church to be about "me, me, me." I think encourages a weird counter-dependent relationship with orthodox religion. I think it prevents people from healing from their previous harmful religious experiences. I think it fails to offer children growing up among us the solid spiritual foundation they deserve. I think it makes us arrogantly believe we are better than other religions. I think it encourages a dysfunctional anti-authoritarianism that prevents any kind of leadership or useful change. I think it fails to appeal to people with no religious background. I think it makes it impossible for our theological and religious ideas to evolve any further. I think it kills progress. 

Ultimately I think, along with the recent American book Turning Point that this idea is killing British Unitarianism. I've genuinely come to the point when I believe this individualism is a hostile virus that has infected British Unitarianism and is killing it off wholesale. 

So... again I turn back to my question: if this is my position, if this is what I believe, is there a place for me in the General Assembly? Is there a place for someone who does not sign up to this vision? Or is this vision, this definition of Unitarianism, now mandatory? 

Is it possible to be a Unitarian, to be affiliated to the GA of U and FCC and reject the model of individualistic Unitarianism? I would really like to know.