Sunday, August 13, 2006

Does "Unitarian Universalism"describe us anymore?

My readership constantly surprises me. When I write something, I frequently find that my commenters challenge my assumptions, and rightly so. I privately think of this as me "getting hit with the clue baton."

Yet again, I find that some of y'all were thinking a step beyond where I was. In my thread asking people if they considered themselves "Unitarian," "Universalist," both or neither, Clyde's response:

Unitarian Universalist is the chosen name of the faith community that I identify with, I would think we could have found a different name...

and CK's response:

Unitarian Universalist, but since I'm a humanist agnostic, I don't really consider those categories relevant for me personally.

Both sort of surprised me, to be honest. As I wrote, I'd been focused on redefining the terms to something I could agree with.

But it's true that a lot of the commentors don't seem to identify with either term.

I know this has come up before various places. But I'm asking it here mostly because the responses seem to beg the question.

Is "Unitarian Universalism" just a name for us now? If the individual words don't have any meaning for us anymore, should we change the name to something more descriptive or perhaps easier? (e.g. I've heard "Church of the Free" proposed by someone I respect a lot.)

who doesn't want to personally, but she identifies with those two terms more easily than a lot of people here.


LaReinaCobre said...

I am with Clyde and CK. The term UU describes my community, not my actual beliefs.

kim said...

If Unitarian (and Universalist) referred to the Oneness of the Web of All Existance, then Unitarian would be fine.
I like the name for historical reasons. It's a long and honorable history.

fausto said...

I like the theologies of Untiarianism and Universalism because they speak to me directly and powerfully in the present, not as mere historical curiosities. I agree with everyone who says that we are more than that now, but I also lament that we do not do far more to preach and proseytize our historic theological positions, because they are still alive with power and meaning and the ability to minister to people who are not being reached by any other denomination in any other way, and because they are uniquely ours. I feel like a stranger turned out of my own home is some UU congregations where the prevailing attitude is, "That is what we once were, but we are not that any more, so please, close the book on that chapter and move on."

Bill Baar said...

The names describes a tradition and history.

It's a very American sort of religion i.e. a religion that's hard to describe as a religion, because we're a very untheological sort community; as are most Americans.

So Unitarian Universlism doesn't capture a theology or set of beliefs, but it describes a tradition and has a history.

Steve Caldwell said...

The terms "Unitarian" and "Universalist" as they are classically used probably don't reflect our current theological diversity.

For example, "Unitarian" traditionally has meant a belief in the "oneness of God." And "Universalism" has traditionally meant a belief in "universal reconciliation with God" or "universal salvation."

Given our tradition of freedom of belief along with the inclusion of Atheists, Agnostics, and Pagan Unitarian Universalists, we've moved from "one God" Unitarianism to "one God ... more or less" Unitarianism.

Our views on salvation have also changed as well. Instead of worrying about Hell in the afterlife, we try to prevent the Hells that can happen in this life.

I'm OK with the "Unitarian Universalist" name reflecting our history and not our current theological diversity.

Keep in mind that the possible disconnect between the historical label of one's faith tradition and where one is theologically today also exists in other faith traditions besides Unitarian Universalism.

For example, Rev. Rebecca Parker (President of Starr King School for the Ministry) is dual-credentialed as a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist Minister. I don't think that the term "Methodist" as was traditionally understood captures the reality that Rebecca is a Methodist minister.

ogre said...

If the U words have to mean what they meant originally, in their Christian theological contexts... no. They don't describe us, or me, or my faith.

But that's not where I stand.

For me, they say we're all one, we grasp the unity of al things, all people, all beings... AND that what happens to any of us happens to all of us.

I could probably mine them for more richness, but my brain is mush from finally battering my way through outr taxes (extension filed, then procrastinated...) and having an optical migraine.

I think we'll come back around to those words and re-understand them and mine them for a lot of value.

But in the end, any name is just a name, and not the thing. I mean... what does "Roman Catholic" mean without an explanation of what it means?