May I let my voice be a clarion call. I will use these words for justice. I will use these words for truth. And humour.

Monday, June 25, 2007


the second coming, and five important things for a 21st century religion

On Sunday, i ended up at one last lecture/workshop at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, which I mistakenly thought was titled "The Second Coming," on account of a guy who was walking around the conference center with a quickly-assembled sandwich board (including duct tape) with the words "The Second Coming" on it, saying that Rev. Bill Murry's lecture on the new religious humanism would be delivered again in a conference room of the nearby doubletree hotel. Silly me, I thought it would have something to do with how religious humanism would be connected with the second coming, but after getting home and looking through the GA program guide, the title of the course was "Reason and Reverence: Religious Humanism Today" and the description had nothing to do with any second coming whatsoever. I was there because the S.C. is totally my bag, and wanted to be kept abreast of where UUs were on the subject, but even though it had nothing to do with that, I did learn a bit, especially what the part he said about the five essential things for a 21st century religion (do a search on the link above for "viable religion").

During the Q&A at the end of the lecture, a woman expressed great concern about how it seems that the voice of UU has lately been swinging further toward the theistic end of the spectrum and leaving humanism in the lurch. I waited in line for the Q&A mic, and then expressed my thoughts to her concern -- that humanist/atheist religious naturalist, humanocentric theism, and theistic universalism are each models of looking at the nature of the world, and rather than seeing our situation as a matter of choosing either one or the other, we could choose a "both/and" system, allowing ourselves to understand the world from several viewpoints. This would be in a manner similar to an exploration of human personality types; we don't have to hold up Jungian archetypes or Myers-Briggs models as the exclusive end-all be-all answer. Each provides us with different information and handles for communicating and understanding. Likewise, if we can see the world from more than one religious model, we can have a greater understanding.*

Additionally, and in support of UU president Rev. Bill Sinkford's call for embracing more religious language, I said that if UU humanists are to attempt interfaith dialog (which I believe is critical, since there are 299,800,000 non-UUs within America), we need to be able to translate a humanistic understanding into theistic language. And I think that is entirely possible. Though not a humanist myself, I do draw from what I've learned from it, and want to find a way to engage with revealed religions and mystical religions, based on the well-grounded (but metaphor-poor) understandings provided by humanism.

After I'd suggested the above, while many had signalled agreement with what I'd said, the dyed-in-the-wool humanist woman who I was responding to was shaking her head, and another asked me, "How can you respectfully say 'How's your God working for you?' ?" The question seemed, and still seems, not directly related to what I'd spoken to, so after saying I didn't follow where she was coming from, I decided rather than stealing time from Mr. Murry's Q & A session to engage her in tangential dialog, I'd just bow out and remember the question for later.

On the train from the conference to the airport, I did spend some time thinking about it, and I think there's a lot to be said for that question: "How can I respectfully ask (of Christians, I will assume she meant) 'How's your God working for you?' ?"

*In retrospect, I must acknowledge that while it is important that we entertain and understand other belief systems, or theological models, practice is another thing. When we have to roll up our shirt-sleeves and get right down to practice, each of us has a single model that operate from. That model may be a personalized variant of the religion we've been taught (e.g. - a practioner of Methodism, Lutheranism, or 7th-Day Adventism is going to have some idiosyncracies in their belief system that differ slightly or even greatly from the official line). Or that model may be an eclectic hybrid with wisdom gathered together from more than one religious belief system. In either case, the more closely we hold each of the elements of our belief system to our heart/mind, the more that element is going to affect our action/practice, and those elements from other models that we are only just considering and hold further away -- those elements will not affect our practice in any dramatic way, if at all.

Like any miracle
You are as easily ignored
-Helmet, Almost Out of Sight

colors: grey with light blue (portland skies)

mood: okay

chant/prayer/mantra: make it yr best.

pax hominibus,

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Re. - "How can you respectfully say 'How's your God working for you?' ?"

Saying "your God", or indeed "your god". . . can be interpreted as being somewhat disrespectful, especially to a monotheist, because it can imply that the person's god is one god amongst other gods or that the "god" of the person is not even real. I expect that many people would find the phrase "your god" to be somewhat condesc ending although it might get a pass from polytheists who choose to worship one god in particular. . .

As a monotheist I can say that God probablty is not very impressed with U*Us these says. . . Indeed some people seem to think that Unitarians aka U*Us are spitting in my God's eye. . . I would have to agree with them based on my experience of U*Us.
robin, thank you for that. it sheds a little bit of light for me, and is a reminder of a succinct need for clarity in my word choice.

first, "your god/God" was the wording of the woman who was querying me. i would choose another way of saying it, perhaps "your understanding/version of God" or "your relationship with God."* i wonder how the faith of theists is affected as the world around them, apparently controlled or influenced by their god/God, is bombasted by injustice and catastrophe, as we are now seeing with more clarity in the world today?

*one cardinal mistake people make is to assume that our use of the word "God" revolves around the same definition as others with whom we are dialoging. i try to understand God as widely and limitlessly as possible, but have come to recognize that unfortunately not everybody does. in fact some people feel very intensely that their particular understanding is the only understanding that's right. further, i feel that my understanding of God (wide, ineffable and limitless) is "the" right one. go figure.

also, i will consider your issues with the UU church as a reminder that any interfaith dialog i work to develop would do well to consider that many UUs may be equally, if not moreso, dismissive of what i'm going to be saying than would be christians and muslims.
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