Thursday, November 27, 2008

Can You Name This Creature?

It looks almost like a Phoenix, doesn't it? - rising from the ashes of something that has been burnt in its entirity (holocaust?), yet carrying with it both the vow of "never again," and the promise of a new and wiser beginning. Or perhaps it's a dove, or the spirit in the form of a dove, rising into heaven, where it might "stand again" (anastasis?) and inspire others to follow and embody it whever they are led.

[And my sincere apologies to those of you who object on theological grounds to my comparing these two terms (and these two birds); it's not intended as a profound theological statement or profession of doctrine - it is simply a random association of two etymologies with two familiar myths, or a familiar myth and a horrifying truth, or two "truths," or...]

But before we go much further, what it actually just so happens to be (and I think I have this right) is a Demographic Map of the United States of America plotting the outcome of the last election in shades of Blue and Red based on the percentage of the popular vote, and "normalized" geographically for population density.

This is the bird that bears on its back the burden of all of our dreams and hopes and expectations.

This is the Creature which we have created by Word Alone: by breathing OUR Spirit over the face of the Deep, and hoping it will be good.

It is a cultural Rorschach of the Spirit of the Age, a reflection of the Archetype of the Zeitgeist.

I dunno. Whaddya say we call it a "Barack?"

Monday, November 24, 2008

From "An Essay on Man" by Alexander Pope

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall:
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why Do You Ewes Use "UUs?"

I have to admit, as ackward and tongue-twisting as "Unitarian Universalsm" may be, it is infinitely preferable to the acronym "UU." And I don't even want to think about the connotations of "UUism," much less "Unitarian Universalist TM." This whole on-going discussion about whether or not UUism is a form a liberal Christianity, a post-Christian Protestant heresy (open, of course, to inspiration from ALL the world's great religious traditions), or actually an entirely New Religion altogether seems as pointless to me as the seemingly interminable debates about whether or not certain semi-obscure celebrities from a century or two ago ever actually "signed the book." But here's my larger point....

So many of these discussions seem to boil down to anxiety about identity, legitimacy, and a desire for better "branding." And with that anxiety and that desire comes a whole history of baggage around issues of anti-creedalism and freedom of conscience, together with both a perceived need and a profound reluctance to articulate "Things Most Commonly Believed Among Us To-Day." And this reflects yet another tension at the center of our movement: our understanding that "all ministry is local," and that the proper location of the authentic religious/spiritual life is within a covenanted local congregation and community, and the ambition to develop a higher public profile, grow in numbers and influence, and become a more powerful presence on the religious landscape.

So with all that water now under the bridge (at least until the tide turns again), here's something that I've often wondered about, and in particular have been wondering about again lately. Despite the great pride we take in being "a church without a creed," we are the ONLY denomination I can think of off the top of my head that takes its name from two explicitly theological doctrines: Unitarianism = a belief that God is One (i.e. radical monotheism, and more explicitly the rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity) and Universalism = a belief that All Souls shall ultimately be reconciled to their Creator (i.e. Universal Salvation: the "no Hell" church). So here's my Question: can one be a good "UU" and still find meaning in the doctrine of the Trinity (never mind Pantheism, or its opposite Atheism), or believe that SOME souls, at least, are going to Hell, and deservedly so?

Just a few random thoughts, after having just finished teaching for the God Only Knows just how many times the "UU Identity" portion of our "New UU Explorers Class."

Friday, November 07, 2008

...and the home of the brave....

Yes. "Free at last, free at last, Great God Almighty, we are free at last." And I'm not really certain whether we should Praise God, that Supreme, Divine Being Who gives us life and gives life meaning...or simply thank our lucky stars...but this has sure been a very special week all over the world. And despite the incredible amount of chaos that still seems to reign over much of reality, I feel as if we all at last have at least turned a corner.

Now comes the TRULY hard work -- the challenge of coming together, agreeing on our priorities, defining our objectives, goals and desired outcomes, allocating our resources to match those priorities, and doing the work that needs to be done. Just doing the work. Believe me, there is plenty of work to go around for everyone. I hardly know where to begin.