Monday, February 11, 2013

Where is God and What of Grace?

My colleagues, Judy and Paul, ask these questions of my recent post on our spiritual mission.

I said that our mission is to help people develop a cluster of virtues (I named self-possession, reverence, honesty, humility, gratitude/generosity, openness and fairness, only as suggestions and not as a code).  I said that I thought these virtues were transformative in individuals and transformative in society as a whole, and that by seizing this mission, our churches and congregations would become transformative, themselves.

Judy and Paul ask questions that ask me to explain the connection between my virtue and character oriented spiritual mission and the traditional questions of Christian soteriology.  What role does God play in our transformation/salvation?  How much of our salvation is the result of our efforts and how much is grace?

Fair questions.

I believe, as a practical and ecclesiological matter, that Unitarian Universalists will construct a wide variety of narratives about how it happens that these virtues grow within themselves.  Some will say it comes about through a strictly secular reflection on social practice; others through meditation, others through divine grace; others through psychological work, or by example, or through reading Mary Oliver poems.  And that Unitarian Universalists will contend with each other about those narratives.

I think that virtue-oriented moral reasoning is appropriate for this multi-faith world in general.  It locates the spiritual mission not in persuading people to believe X, or practice Y, but in developing these virtues as operative in their life.  It is pragmatic, not dogmatic.  "By their fruits, ye shall know them."

I think that Unitarian Universalism has already committed itself to become a multi-faith religious movement.  Like so many other things, it was a commitment that we made with little consideration for the theological substructure that would support it.  We have to understand our spiritual mission for the future will be based on that presumption.

Now, as for my own views:  My opinions of God and Grace vary from day to day.  My moral and ethical responsibilities remain the same -- to respond to the present moment with aliveness and courage -- no matter where my belief-o-meter needle is pointing.  It is not the nature of my unbelief that I ever think that I can be virtuous on my own.   I understand the virtue of reverence to include believing that  "all of this"is God's world, and not my own.  My understanding of humility includes knowing that my virtues will be exercised only occasionally, and that God's grace allows me to continue anyway.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Is Unitarian Universalism really multi faith?

Different spiritual practices, different preferences for poets and prophets we might cite in a sermon or allow to inspire us in a practical theological moment, but at least I see a core "religious humanism with a fondness engagement with society" for all most all the various tendencies in the UU world.