From the beginning, Unitarians were reluctant to be defined or to define themselves theologically. They had significant differences with some of the other clergy; no one denied that fact. They simply refused to concede that those differences mattered. They, after all, were part of the religious establishment in New England and were determined to protect that role. When their opponents pressed them on what they believed, our proto-Unitarian forebears protested that discussion of theological differences could only prove divisive. As wide a range of beliefs as possible should be tolerated in order to move people gradually toward a greater truth. Throwing around theological labels would only confuse people and distract them from the real focus of religion, the real purpose of life—ongoing, endless, rigorous self-culture and moral improvement.After two years on my Church's board and one of those years as a VP for Programs, I never had a committee chair come before us and say they were at a loss to explain what being a Unitarian Univeralist meant.
Spending a year on the membership committee of Unity Temple in Oak Park in the 1980s, I was never at a loss to tell anyone what being a UU was about.
So am I unusual? Otherwise what drives this recurring meme of UUs baffled to explain their Church?
David B seems to buy into it in the article, yet the tradition David describes above seems clear enough --and good enough-- to me. A little caveat maybe that that endless and rigorous self-culture and moral improvement can fall flat; again and again. But it's a fine religion, and darn American of us too if Daniel Walker Howe's histories right.
Or is that Yankee North Americanism the problem for some?
I suggested that once on the Peace Makers list: that the real issue wasn't Just War Criteria and what-not, but what did it mean to be a US of American and how did that square with UUism (a most US of American Church). Few on the list chose to go there (in fact only Dan M. at Harvard thought it was a good idea).