writing about Unitarian Universalism's Public Ministry and Public Theology. Standing at the intersection of UUism and the history of the present. Also, by necessity, UU growth. I welcome your comments; however I moderate them, so they do not appear immediately. I especially welcome you to follow my blog.
We believe that human beings should be free to choose their beliefs according to the dictates of their own conscience.
We believe in original goodness, with the understanding that sin is sometimes chosen, often because of pain or ignorance.
We believe that God is One.
We believe that revelation is ever unfolding.
We believe that the Kingdom of God is to be created here on this earth.
We believe that Jesus was a prophet of God, and that other prophets from God have risen in other faith traditions.
We believe that love is more important than doctrine.
We believe that God's mercy will reconcile all unto itself in the end.
Peter Bowden recently asked for "a reality check" on this formulation over the UUGrowth Lab Group Page on Facebook, and the comments are pouring in.
First of all: her statement is not a summary of what most UU's believe, expressed in the terms with which most UU's think.
I would say it is an liberal reinterpretation of Christian doctrine through the lens of human agency and greater free will. If one starts from a belief that human beings everywhere have the power to make effective choices which will either improve the human condition or not, and then applies that understanding to Christian doctrine -- what you get is pretty close to what Rev. Sewell proposes.
UU's do this a lot. One of the most common covenants of our churches is a similar reinterpretation of traditional Christian theological categories. It's like an equivalency chart.
Love is the Doctrine of this Church, the quest for truth its sacrament, and service is its prayer, etc.
You ask about our "doctrine"; we say "love". You ask about our "sacraments", we say "quest for truth". How do you UU's "pray"?; we do "service". Etc.
I think that it necessary, especially for our ministers, to be able to explain what we believe in terms that the wider Christian community can understand. It's an absolute necessity for our seminarians if they intend to graduate from a Christian seminary. And there are lots of communities in the USA where a UU religious professional simply has to explain what we think to regular people who think in those traditional terms.
But the results are not a UU theology that sums up UU religious and spiritual thought. Its an exercise in working backwards from current UU positions about the human condition to answer the historic questions in Christian theology in ways that will support our conclusions. It's like when august bodies of Church leaders think hard and come out with statements that say that hot sex is a gift from God. It's pretty clearly stating what they already thought in the language of the Church.
We believe that people can make effective moral choices. We really do. So, we will have to reinterpret the doctrine of original sin into something else. Same with the fallen nature of humanity, and the necessity of salvation from without, the existence of heaven and hell and the divinity of Jesus as being necessary for our salvation. None of those doctrines can serve as premises for a full belief in human agency.
To be blunt, we like the Ballou's because we are already universalists. We like Channing because we were already very doubtful about the divinity of Christ, usually because we were doubtful about the divinity of God.
Unitarian Universalists who are not interested in Christian theology will find little of value in Rev. Sewell's comments. And they will say that UU's don't need or want a theology, if you define that word as a structured and internally consistent system of understanding of Christian thought.
Notice that Rev. Sewell's piece tries to answer the misconception "you can believe anything you want and be a Unitarian Universalist." I think that it sometimes it would be more accurate to say "you can't believe anything and say it out loud as a Unitarian Universalist without offending some other UU, who will let you know."