1. Welcome to Religious Forums, a friendly forum to discuss all religions in a friendly surrounding.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Our modern chat room. No add-ons or extensions required, just login and start chatting!
    • Access to private conversations with other members.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

A Blog for UU History Buffs

Discussion in 'Unitarian Universalism DIR' started by uufreespirit, Jun 9, 2007.

  1. uufreespirit

    uufreespirit Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2005
    Messages:
    24
    Ratings:
    +8
    Hi folks! I thought some of you might be interested in knowing about Jonathan Rowe's blog. Rowe is a "Philadelphia lawyer" (no, seriously), a college professor and contributer to several, mostly political journals and websites. The blog deals mostly with social and political issues from a libertarian slant--and Jon's not a UU (I think he said he's a lapsed Catholic)--but the material he posts there, regarding the "founders" of the USA, delves into the significant Unitarian and Universalist influences on the founding spirit and charters of this nation. I've found it very interesting to go back through the archives there, and yes, I also post comments there occasionally.

    If this kind of thing interests you, check out Jon's blog at...

    http://jonrowe.blogspot.com/

    What Jon suggests there, about the "Enlightenment thinking" (specifically a "theistic rationalism" and liberal Christianity which tended toward a unitarian theology) of the nation's founders, is right in line with what Rev. A. Powell Davies preached in Washington DC in the 1940's and 1950's, and wrote about in books like "America's Real Religion." It's definitely information that some zealous folks of "right-wing, orthodox Christian" faith would rather the public never know about. ;)

    Ron

    (http://faithofthefree.informe.com )
     
  2. uufreespirit

    uufreespirit Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2005
    Messages:
    24
    Ratings:
    +8
    ...under at the "UU History" sticky thread? :sorry1:

    Ron
     
  3. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2004
    Messages:
    12,020
    Ratings:
    +1,858
    Namaste, uufreespirit. Good to see you back! :)

    I would agree that that's an accurate assessment of where Unitarianism originated. The problem is that that's not where I want UU to be now.

    "Enlightenment thinking" and "theistic rationalism" do nothing for me spiritually. That's how we got our reputation of attending college-level seminars on Sundays instead of worship services. I did not feel any connection to UU until I came to All Souls in DC (Davies' church btw) and felt a real worship experience, and saw how it related in actuality (not just in theory) to social justice. That's when I said that this was something that I could get behind. If I just wanted rational discourse, I could get that almost anywhere (except in our government these days).

    The other problem for me is that "enlightenment thinking" and "rationalism" presuppose that there is one objectively right way to think. Enlightenment thinkers believed that humanity was moving onward and upward, ever closer to God and Truth, through objective reason. While I have the greatest respect for our founding parents and their noble goals, their perspective did not take into account that their perspective was just one possible perspective. For example, their views were from the lens of privilege.

    From my perspective, the Enlightenment was noble and essential but now over. We are in the post-modern era, and I much prefer the writings/thoughts of liberation thinkers.
     
  4. uufreespirit

    uufreespirit Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2005
    Messages:
    24
    Ratings:
    +8
    Hi there, Lilithu!

    I understand your point. I think that Powell Davies is a good example of the whole body--"mind-heart"-- combination that UU seeks to embrace...or should. But I certainly wouldn't want to discard the Enlightenment roots of our faith, any more than I would throw out the "radical Reformation" ones. The early "pre-UU's" were an interesting combination of rationalists and mystics (sometimes referred to as pietists), and I think that's what Powell Davies was all about. I think that what we need is a lot more of that "Davies spirit" that sees no inherent conflict between good, honest science, critical "Enlightenment" thinking and questioning and an empassioned liberal religion.

    However, I would certainly admit that the intellectual snoozefest that was UU in the 1970's and 80s was an over-reliance upon mind at the expense of heart and spirit. The first UU church I visited resembled more of a meeting of robots than a religious service. If it had not been for a nearby rural Universalist congregation, I might have never chosen this path.

    Again, I understand what you're saying. Over the years, I've heard my share of lecturing ministers and not nearly enough passionate, motivational ones. I just don't think it's necessary to discard either the Enlightenment or the radical Reformation just yet--or the kind of liberal democracy that together they've made possible. That, I believe, was Dr. Davies point as well, and one that I still believe is relevant to our future.

    Ron
     
  5. uufreespirit

    uufreespirit Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2005
    Messages:
    24
    Ratings:
    +8
    Saw your blog post about this. I really don't see that we're very far apart. I think some of us need a "sense of grounding" (some continuity with history) that allows us to say "I believe in this UU principle because..." To me, that's where our "stubbornly protestant" background comes in...the one that proclaims the inherent and sacred worth of the individual human being. From another part of that heritage/legacy comes the mystical universalism that says that ultimately we're all assumed to have both the same origins and destiny. The Enlightenment was largely an outgrowth of that radical Reformation process, which insisted that "thinking for ourselves" meant going beyond the authority of any one unquestionable body of scripture, and to try to embrace reality itself, even if it disagrees with the "revelations" of scripture. To me, this is both liberative thinking, and liberal religion (the words liberal and liberation, of course, come from the same roots).

    I think our real area of disagreement may be over my belief that liberal religion is a process, a movement, that continues in every age, but even if it's a movement, that doesn't suggest a need to discard all that has come before us...only to transcend it when necessary. When I embrace Hans Denck, or Francis David, or Sebastian Castellio, or Thomas Jefferson, or Benjamin Franklin, as parts of my "liberal faith," I'm not talking so much about where they were theologically in their time, but the attitude or temperament that they shared--and which I share with them. And, from what I've read here, it's a "unity of spirit" that we also share. It's just that, to me, that connection with those free-spirits in the past--and with the tremendous (sometimes total) sacrifices they made which brought us to where we are today--is just a part of a "radically liberative and "broadly integrative" movement and spirit in religion which (I would argue) continues unabated, with many of its goals still lying ahead of us (which, of course, is basic Powell Davies, who, alongside fellow "liberative thinker" Theodore Parker, arguably was the most influential, inspirational and motivational minister that American Unitarianism has ever produced).
     
  6. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2004
    Messages:
    12,020
    Ratings:
    +1,858
    uufreespirit, namaste.
    I have occasionally turned my RF posts/responses into blogs. There's only so many things that I can think about to write. :eek: Tho this may be the first time I mentioned someone by name. I tried to be respectful/non-antagonistic towards you in my post, which was not hard to do because I agree that we are probably not that far apart. But if mention of you makes you uncomfortable, I can delete it with my apologies.

    Otoh, if you're ok with it, would you do me a favor and respond to my blog? No one writes me back and I feel like I'm writing into the ether. :(


    We are not in disagreement. I haven't discarded Jefferson or Parker. In fact, I still quote both quite often as sources of authority. And I agree that we DO need to understand our roots. I was just responding to the perception, perhaps incorrect on my part, that the Enlightenment/rationalism is the ideal.
     
  7. applewuud

    applewuud Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2007
    Messages:
    283
    Ratings:
    +49
    This discussion makes me wonder whether UUism isn't overdue for a rebirth/transformation to incorporate the changes you talk about, Lilithu, and more. I love UU history, and feel the need to emphasize "enlightenment" thinking in a lot of discussions because it's a starting point to get us past some very negative, outdated theologies and into a context where liberation theology can exist. UUism has incorporated a lot more heart in the past decades, while managing to hold on to reason and avoid "idolatries of the mind and spirit".

    We have changed, but there aren't many outward symbols of this change. In the secular world, corporations that have gotten stale are sometimes taken over by new management that builds something new on the old structure (e.g., New England Telephone becoming Bell Atlantic, then Verizon.) Unitarian Universalism might need to be "repositioned" in the marketplace of ideas, and restructured for the 21st century. This is something almost constantly in the back of my mind as I struggle to figure out how we can take what we have and make it more effective for the future, before it's too late.
     
  8. lilithu

    lilithu The Devil's Advocate

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2004
    Messages:
    12,020
    Ratings:
    +1,858
    I've been aware for quite some time now that there are two different "religions" within UU, which get along most of the time but butt up against each other every now and then. "There is the UU of the Enlightenment, which believes that reason will lead us to "The Truth" and there is the UU of the post-modern era, which believes that there are multiple valid sometimes conflicting viewpoints.

    I was made painfully aware of this as the Statement of Conscience was debated at General Assembly. Two years ago, we chose as our Study/Action Issue, Moral Values for a Pluralistic Society. It was chosen largely because the Youth caucus wanted a strong statement of what it means to be UU in this age. What came out of that two year process was a anemic statement that did nothing to recognize our pluralistic society. In fact, it was a reactionary "defense" against pluralism, referring to the "objective" truths of the DoI/Constitution, Immanuel Kant, and the scientific method." As I looked at the penultimate draft, I wondered where the religion/spirituality was in this UU Statement of Conscience. Had we forgotten that we're not just a social club or political action group? As person after person got up to debate the minutia of this statement, I looked at their faces as projected on the big screens and into the sea of delegates, and what I saw was mostly white. Both white skin and white hair. Immanuel Kant and the Enlightenment won out in this Statement of Conscience. But I have no doubt, none, that had a more diverse group of UUs - both in ethnicity and age - been involved in the process, we would not have arrived at this document. If UU is truly going to have a meaningful transformation, power has to be shifted from those who hold it and more evenly distributed.
     
Loading...