Friday, September 07, 2012

"The Unitarian Faith" by Rev. A. Powell Davies D.D. - Davies Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church

Quote from a sermon that should be read annually at UU Churches.  Too many lose site of this fundamental.

But is it true that a church can be founded upon individual freedom of belief and still possess a common faith? Will it not happen that the variations in belief will be so wide that no common faith is possible? The answer is, in the first place, that freedom itself is the basic precept of the Unitarian faith. Instead of people being bound together as a society of those who all believe - or are supposed to believe - the same things, Unitarians are united by their faith in freedom. This is a far larger faith than anything that is defined by dogma. What it means is this: that we can put our trust in freedom, both for ourselves and for one another, believing that we shall come closer to truth if our minds are unfettered.

What the churches of authoritarian belief are based upon - or if not based upon it, then restricted by it - is the fear that if people are allowed to think freely they will arrive at wrong and harmful conclusions, and therefore they must be told what they must believe. This certainly puts much less trust in human nature than does the Unitarian faith in freedom.

Perhaps, however, this trust may go too far. Suppose that in a given situation, an individual Unitarian insists that he is right and all the others wrong. The answer is that this can be a very healthy situation. Such a Unitarian is entitled to do all he can to prove that he is right - which, of course, he may be. It has happened frequently in history that one man has been right and all others wrong, as for example, in the case of Semmelweiss, or even of Copernicus. And if he is not so much right as eccentric, no harm will be done. Unitarians are not afraid of eccentricity.

This, then, in the first place: freedom is itself the basic precept of the Unitarian faith, both because it is the natural right of every individual person and because it is, as history proves, the best basis to go upon: and in reliance upon freedom, Unitarians are united.

"The Unitarian Faith" by Rev. A. Powell Davies D.D. - Davies Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church

4 comments:

materialsojourn said...

Free people do come to ineffectual, sometimes even harmful beliefs. That is not a theory, but a fact proven time and again by human nature throughout history. And I am not saying that they shouldn't be allowed to be ineffectual. In some cases, when they harm only themselves, I think even that must be allowed.

What I don't have to abide is people doing ineffectual, much less harmless, things in the name of my faith.

I do not seek to impose a creed or a test of righteousness, but i think there is a long gap between that and a call for covenant between us that says, if not who we are, at least what we will not allow in our collective name.

Certainly, I do not wish to outlaw the religious or the humanist, the Jesus-centered or the Earth-centered, as long as they respect all of our sources and promote all of our Principles. I do want a covenant that allows us to address when someone or some group has become irresponsible in their search for truth and meaning.

Why is it that so many UUs stop and the word "Free"? Why do so many ignore the obligation to encourage one another to growth? Why is it a sin to say that we could be doing more if we let loose certain traditions which are, in the modern world, more anchors than roots?

You do have a point in saying that freedom is an essential value. I have yet to read a single call from a Unitarian Universalist that seeks to do away with the right of conscience or the free search. I do, however, see many who are calling for "responsible" to get equal treatment, and for "spiritual growth" to become more than a throw away phrase designed to hang on to our tax exemption.

Bill Baar said...

Re: What I don't have to abide is people doing ineffectual, much less harmless, things in the name of my faith.

You have an example in mind here?

I'm not sure we can do things in the name of our faith. We can say our faith and tradition inspires us. Not sure anyone can do anything in our name w/o maybe a vote of a congregation or GA.

materialsojourn said...

Well, how about those militant humanist who are trying to remove religion from our religious tradition and faith from our faith communities?

http://uuhumanistsymposium.com/2012/08/08/errors-in-the-ways-of-the-uua/

And what is to stop a group of wayward pagans (to take a label that is easily splintered) who have no real interest in UU identity, but buy into the UUA to gain some measure of credibility? That's not too hard to imagine, with CUUPs groups and even one whole Earth Centered congregation that I am aware of.

I am not saying that these are actual, much less imminent threats to the stability of the UUA (if there is such a thing), but we do need to figure out what it means to be a UU. The world has changed a lot in the last 50 years. Heck, we've moved on to changing other worlds int hat time. The UUA needs to consider its role in the world today, and what we stand for. It shouldn't simply be a matter of who pays dues; it should be about a covenant with each other. It should be about Principles and a mission.

So, I can provide a few disturbing examples of where we are headed with our "anything goes" tradition. I can tell you that it leads to the death of the UUA as we know it. We have time to change, to revive it, but the tipping point is going to come on very quickly.

materialsojourn said...

Well, how about those militant humanist who are trying to remove religion from our religious tradition and faith from our faith communities?

http://uuhumanistsymposium.com/2012/08/08/errors-in-the-ways-of-the-uua/

And what is to stop a group of wayward pagans (to take a label that is easily splintered) who have no real interest in UU identity, but buy into the UUA to gain some measure of credibility? That's not too hard to imagine, with CUUPs groups and even one whole Earth Centered congregation that I am aware of.

I am not saying that these are actual, much less imminent threats to the stability of the UUA (if there is such a thing), but we do need to figure out what it means to be a UU. The world has changed a lot in the last 50 years. Heck, we've moved on to changing other worlds int hat time. The UUA needs to consider its role in the world today, and what we stand for. It shouldn't simply be a matter of who pays dues; it should be about a covenant with each other. It should be about Principles and a mission.

So, I can provide a few disturbing examples of where we are headed with our "anything goes" tradition. I can tell you that it leads to the death of the UUA as we know it. We have time to change, to revive it, but the tipping point is going to come on very quickly.