Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Of Ministers and Movements

My Unitarianism started at age 5 in the 1950s when my father took me to Sunday school at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, DC. The minister there, A. Powell Davies, was responsible for extraordinary growth in Unitarianism in the area. Davies believed that Unitarianism needed to end its identification with Christianity and become a world religion.

Now, nearly 60 years down the pike, most UUs would agree that we are no longer a Christian religion even though there are many Christians among us. Despite our bumper sticker claims to being the "Uncommon Denomination" (which implies that we're still Protestants), I frequently hear references to UUism as a "movement."

It's hard to describe what I think of the use of the word "movement" without giving into the temptation to be scatological. UUism isn't a movement; it's a religion.

All the UUs who say that they are spiritual but not religious are doing themselves and UUism a disservice. What they may be trying to say is that they are not theists. Yet they should learn from UU religious humanists that you can defined "religion" in a manner to include atheists and agnostics. You don't have to be a believer to be a UU, but once you join a UU congregation, you are religious whether you know it or not.

My hard-won understanding acquired through the sturm und drang of seminary is that the critical difference between spirituality and religion is that only the former can be a solitary pursuit. Religion is a messier business; it involves other people.

It is in the nature of the free faith that is UUism that it's often difficult to define what is inside and outside of our tent, what it means to be a UU, and the role of ministry. These are worthy challenges that we must undertake if we are to continue to build our legacy.

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