Theological Dispute and Institutional Distrust
|Image by UU Media Works|
My comment on Facebook:
Leaving aside the question of offense, inclusion and exclusion; is the sentiment a transformative spiritual message? There is a strain of liberal spirituality which is argues that what already is is good enough, and that our spiritual work is to unlearn dissatisfaction -- to wake up to the wonder that is, and let ourselves be happy. Think of that Julian of Norwich fragment that says "all will be well." Julian placed her trust in God, but the humanist variety is that WE humans have all that we need to do whatever we define as our "salvation." But in the late 20thC, liberals also asserted that oppression/privilege was pervasive to the human condition. The two thoughts are in contradiction, and it takes very careful wordsmithing to avoid the gap. Our personal disputes over who is legitimately offended and who should lighten up are actually signs of a deeper theological disagreement.I should be clear: I don't think that these contradictory spiritual impulses are, in fact, bridgeable by careful wordsmithing. It's just that wordsmithing is all that we have at the time, just as we are now practiced at wordsmithing our way between the theological proposition that there is a God, and the opposing view. Just as the Council of Chalcedon managed to wordsmith its way between the proposition that Jesus was divine and that Jesus was human.
But wordsmithing aside, we should recognize this as a real live theological issue, about which we disagree. And none of us know with any certainty where "we", meaning the Unitarian Universalist movement, is eventually going to come down on it. So we read the signs.
When the UUA sends out a holiday card with such an image and such a quotation, it seems a signal of a deeper theological position: that the barrier to happiness is our habits of unhappiness and acquisitive desire -- that the Universe is ultimately OK; we're ultimately OK, but are blind to the vast cosmic OKness that surrounds us. It doesn't say that whatever one thinks of the Universe, human beings are not OK because we oppress/exclude/disrespect and that we ought to temper our gratitude with that understanding.
I have written elsewhere, (just today), my sense that our religious movement is tentative, amorphous, enervated and uncommitted. More or less, I think we are all jammed into a waiting room, waiting for something to happen. In the meantime, we don't really know where each other is at, and what each other are, in fact, waiting for. It's nerve-wracking, isn't it.