Saturday, June 27, 2009

Monkey Mind: Who is a Christian? Musing on Universalism and What it Means to Me and What it Can Mean to Unitarian Universalism

Monkey Mind: Who is a Christian? Musing on Universalism and What it Means to Me and What it Can Mean to Unitarian Universalism

What's in a name?

Thought I'd reply to something James Ishmael Ford wrote over at Monkey Mind.

But rather than launching into a long discourse about the respective aromas of roses and turds (cf. Romeo and Juliet II, ii, 1-2), I thought I'd simply observe that sometimes it seems to me as though "We UUs" make much too big a deal about what we call ourselves.

Or shall I say, how we label ourselves. Brand ourselves.

Most Protestant traditions deriving (on some level) from the Anglican tradition have taken their names from a distinctive form of ecclesiastical polity (Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, the "Society of Friends"), or something distinctive about their liturgical practice (Methodist, Baptist. "Quaker"), or simply taken on the name "Christian" as a generic marker of their shared faith tradition.

But Unitarianism, Universalism, and "Unitarian-Universalism TM" are all derived quite specifically from two distinctive (and heretical) theological doctrines: the belief that God is One, and that ALL Souls shall ultimately be reconciled to their Creator.

Which, lets face it, are both great doctrines, even though I doubt few of us these days give them much thought in ouir live-a-day lives.

But then comes Grammar, and those dreaded hyphens. Typically in English the adjective precedes the noun, but this is not always the case. Are/were we, actually: Universalists who also believe in a Unitarian Christology? Unitarians who believe in a Universalist Soteriology? Both at the same time, and freethinking Christian heretics to boot? Some sort of other deeply-hyphenated (and profoundly personal) amalgam of adjectives (say "Unitarian-Universalist Pagan Feminist Vegan Taoists), however we might chose to identify ourselves in public or in private?

And then there are the ever-more-clever "Jewnitarians," "Unipalians," and "Smorgasborgians?" Is it still possible to be JUST a Unitarian or a Universalist any more? And what if a few of us decided on our own simply to scramble things up for awhile, by becoming "The Association of Universalists and Unitarians" (or AUU/U&Us for short)?

And then there is always the Christian piece. And the question of whether we are trying to describe ourselves individually, or our movement as a whole: theologically, or historically, or institutionally. Are we a sect, a cult, a liberal protestant denomination, or perhaps even our own "new religion?" (and how do these things differ from one another?)

Or in the alternative, are we basically still "Enlightened Puritans" who believe in Freedom, Reason, and Tolerance?

This is WAY too complicated for my poor little head. I think I'm going to go pray about it for awhile....