Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Unitarian Universalist Conversions

Do we convert to Unitarian Universalism?

I would think not, and if I recall right, the two times I've signed books, the Minister told me I was not rejecting any past beliefs or traditions as part of my signing.

It seems for conversion, one would need to change from some past belief; and that's exactly what I was NOT doing when I signed. The Minister (I think) said so.

Now, if someone believes they are converting, we as a Church are not particularly equipped to find them wrong on it either. We don't see into the soul. It's not what were about.

So what exactly is happening when we covenant with a Church?

8 comments:

Paul Oakley said...

If religion is ABOUT beliefs, and if each religion represents a unique configuration of belief(s), then conversion would almost certainly involve a change/rejection of a previously held belief or beliefs and/or the addition of a new belief or beliefs.

But is religion really about belief (at least as we generally understand the term today)? Karen Armstrong, et al, think not. If she is right, then changing belief is not and cannot be a definitive feature of conversion.

Furthermore, if religion is ABOUT beliefs, Unitarian Universalism is not a religion. Most of us believe it is a religion though.

If religion is not defined by belief per se, then change of belief can never be the essence of or requirement for conversion.

I prefer to look at the word "conversion" in a more Catholic sense, meaning a change of life. Many contemporary UUs speak of our religion's transformational power or its access thereto, of our worship and other shared activities as a locus of transformation. If people experience transformation, they are converted.

But it has nothing to do with signing your name in the book and becoming a member. You do not become converted by joining but by doing and experiencing. This, it seems, might be the real meaning of the old and worn catch phrase, "Deeds not creeds!"

In this interpretation, it is impossible to convert TO Unitarian Universalism, but hopefully the member would convert WITHIN Unitarian Universalism.

Bill Baar said...

...it is impossible to convert TO Unitarian Universalism, but hopefully the member would convert WITHIN Unitarian Universalism.

I like this notion if the sense of it is that doing Church eventually converts one into a new person. We are the better for doing Church.

Chalicechick said...

I said this back on my blog where Bill denies that converting to UUism is possible: I made most of my spiritual changes between being a Christian and a UU.* I've grown some since then, of course, but NO CHANGE was as fundamental as the one where I accepted refining belief throgh reason as a way of living and believing and left behind adhearance to biblical and pastoral authority.

I consider this change, not of belief, but of way of acquiring belief, a conversion. I'm not sure why Bill is so hot to deny those of us who felt a conversion the use of the term and tell us how wrong we are.

But it's a lot more annoying than the occaisional crack at Christianity that he has his undies in a bunch over, and a lot more disrespectful of other peoples' faiths.

CC

*And no, the moment of signing the book was not the moment of conversion, but I suspect if pressed on the point most religions would say that the official ceremony of joining the church is merely the symbol of the conversion and that the true conversion is the change in our hearts when we realize that we should and will join the new church.

A couple commits to love, honor and cherish each other a long time before they say the vows, the wedding is merely a symbol and a public declaration of what has already taken place. Signing the book is the same deal. Duh...

boston unitarian said...

Hello,
One of my favorite quotes is William Ellery Channing's response to the question put to him in later life asking if he had ever had a conversion experience. He replied,"I should say not, unless my whole life may be called, as truly it has been, a process of conversion."
Thanks for the post and Blessings, BU

Bill Baar said...

Well I don't know if I said converting to UUism is impossible.

We don't ask anyone to give up a belief, but if someone choices to give up a belief, I suppose it's conversion.

But like I said, I haven't heard many UU's describe joining our Church that way either.

Chalicechick said...

(((Well I don't know if I said converting to UUism is impossible.)))

You were pretty emphatic on the point that one coldn't convert to UUism, actually, "We don't have a faith one converts too." you said, then "I don't think anyone can covert to UUism because is there is no creed to convert too." even after I told you that I viewed it as a conversion.

(((We don't ask anyone to give up a belief, but if someone choices to give up a belief, I suppose it's conversion.)))

Or give up an old method of arriving at belief and accept a new one, which is the fundamental change UUism asks for.

((((But like I said, I haven't heard many UU's describe joining our Church that way either.)))

And you also said that your entire evidence for this was your memories of some New UU classes you "haven't been to in a long time."


CC

Chalicechick said...

To be clear, he said those things in a comment thread on the Chaliceblog.

ogre said...

Tangent here: I believe that the understanding is that we covenant with each other, not with the church.