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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

God is a Verb

Universalists and Unitarians in America (2011) by John Buehrens is excellent background to the church we have been attending: All Souls UU in DC.

Unitarians and Universalists: All-American denominations, one more out of rural, the other more out of urban areas. Both emerging from Christian tradition but one more tending to a spiritualist dimension beyond any religion; the other more tending to a rational transcendentalist dimension beyond any religion. Both considered liberal (and almost came together as the Liberal Church of America) in reaction to Calvinist evangelicalism. Both with strong history of social justice action beyond faith and works. And cradle for many great leaders, known and unknown, for social, racial, and economic justice.

Their concept of God varied from spiritual principle to loving parent, but totally opposed to God as the mean Father or punishing Judge of the evangelicals. And their concept of humanity was certainly different from mainline Protestant and Catholic traditions which saw even infants with original sin requiring the sacrifice of God Himself in human substance and unity of believers with that sacrifice in baptism. For Unitarians and Universalists, sin or evil exists in the world, but within each person is the divine spark that can grow to fight and overcome that evil--as was demonstrated by Jesus of Nazareth and other great spiritual persons.

"Unitarian" may once have referred to the one rather than three-in-one doctrine of God, but now means that we are all one together against racial, sexual, and class divisions. "Universalist" may once have meant the belief that all persons are saved, but now means we are all universally related on a voyage to human progress. "Transcendentalist" may once have been the belief in a universal Divine Spirit, but now means the ability of the human spirit to transcend--that is, to advance past the prejudices, injustices, and inequalities of the present.

Is there a place for God in this liberal humanist tradition? God, whether conceived as principle of personal unity or personal agency of Love, is not a proposition to be affirmed or denied. Neither ardent theists nor principled atheists, neither true believers nor holders of absolute truths allow for transcendence. Transcendence, often referred to as the spirit of life and the spirit of love, is not a being or state of being, not a place or a time, not an idea or belief. Transcendence is an act, a passing, a voyage, a going beyond the normal, the ordinary, the status quo, beyond beliefs and creeds and the world-as-it-is towards the world-as-it-could-be.

In scholastic philosophy, at least the neo-Thomist kind, God is defined not as matter (though the font of all matter), not as form (though informing the whole), but as Pure Act. God is not a noun; God is a verb.

Transcendence is all of us living and acting with each other, with our earth, with our universe to co-create our selves and our world. Transcendence is the ethical and political activity of achieving freedom and justice for all. No more, no less.

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