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Monday, February 17, 2014

Is there a torch in the new UUA logo?

UUA Logo, 2014
Thinking about the UUA's new logo (which was announced last week; I was not involved in developing), I was struck by the torch-like image in its center. I've heard people express dismay that it's no longer clearly a flaming chalice—but it occurs to me that the flaming chalice is only one relative of another symbol that is even older in Unitarian use: the beacon.

(This post originally appeared yesterday on my Facebook page; I'm reviving "Philocrites" briefly to give it a more public home. Hi everyone! I've missed you. There's a lot of commentary about the new logo worth reading: the first round is curated by Heather Christensen at The Interdependent Web; read it, and then see later responses by PeaceBang, Dawn Cooley, and Matt Tittle, and be sure to check in this coming Friday for another edition of The Interdependent Web.)

Beacon Press logo, early 20th centuryThe image to the right was Beacon Press's printer's mark (in several variations) for most of the 20th century. The beacon, for which Beacon Hill was named, was lit to warn citizens of approaching dangers in 17th-century Boston. (Think of a modest Puritan version of the warning beacons of Gondor!) "The idea of shedding light to warn of imminent dangers" appealed to AUA leaders when the press was named in 1902, according to Beacon Press's 150th anniversary history. Back in the 1990s, I put together a catalog of UU congregational newsletter names (don't ask), and I was impressed by how many used variations on "Beacon," "Torch," "Lantern," and other analogs. And of course symbols of public light—especially to warn, to call attention, to illuminate—have featured prominently in our tradition for much longer even than the century in which our largest publishing enterprise has been named "Beacon."

The flaming chalice caught on, I think, not just because it originated with the Unitarian Service Committee's work in World War II, but also because the lit chalice could so readily become a liturgical object, and by extension a domestic or personal worship tool. Here's my modest insight: The flaming chalice is an interior lamp, a flame to light indoors in the particular context of worship. As an emblem, it's tied to the Service Committee's public service history, but in our experience, it's a symbol of our religion as practiced in sanctuaries and homes. But it has a cousin in our symbolic tradition that is a flame lit in the public square: the beacon lit in times of public crisis, the candles held up in vigils, the lantern in the steeple.

The second image is from the UUA's 2012 Justice General Assembly vigil outside the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix. I see that (battery-powered) candle in the new logo.

Posted by Philocrites on 17 February 2014 at 8:39 PM | 0 comments

Selected writings, 1996–2008

I am no longer updating Philocrites. These are some of my favorite posts from the archives. You may also browse the full site archive or search for entries on other topics.

Unitarian Universalism
Questions the UUA Principles don't answer: Our Principles are thin, "wholesome abstractions" unless they happen to be embodied in practices and stories and ways of life. (2.6.04)
Do Unitarian Universalists have morals? We focus on the qualities of people's actions more than on specific deeds. (7.14.04)
Dogma and liberal doctrine: Unitarian Universalism has fuzzy borders, to be sure, but they are there. (11.21.02)
Scattered thoughts on a divided spiritual identity: Why "Unitarian Universalism" is my faith community but not my religion. (7.2.06)
Megachurch pastor: UUs just don't do transformation: Is it a feature or a bug that Unitarian Universalism is the religion you may already be practicing without knowing it? (12.17.08)
Too much C Major: The problem with a lot of what passes for Unitarian Universalism is that it's often tone-deaf to the complexity of our actual lives. (10.4.03)
On early Unitarian fears of 'popery': Nineteenth-century Unitarians had theological reasons to be wary of Catholicism. (1.30.06)
Isaac Newton's anti-Trinitarianism in the news: How "unitarianism" is a doctrinal leftover that Unitarian Universalists cling to somewhat irrationally. (7.29.07)
Liberal Christianity
The gospel of forgiveness: The story of 5-year-old shooting victim Kai Leigh Harriott anchors my Easter reflections. (4.17.06)
Cape Cod's scaaary Unitarian Universalists: Unfortunately for conservative Christians, liberalism is much broader and much deeper than "creeping Unitarian Universalism." (10.18.04)
Jesus the question: On the paradox of being a Doubting Thomas in a post-Christian church. (12.23.03)
Despair, resurrection, and liberal religion: Is there any legitimate reason to hope for anything beyond brokenness, tedium, and despair? (12.12.96)
We must not postulate simplicity: Reflections on A.N. Whitehead's observation, "So far as concerns religious problems, simple solutions are bogus solutions." (6.1.03)
Making it up, Revelation, and Revelation and relation: A religion needs a way of orienting or rooting its claims on people's loyalties, something on the order of "that's how it really is." (7.02)
A handful of liberal religious definitions: My short definitions of "theology," "religion," "faith," and "worship." (3.11.06)
The ontological imagination: An essay on William James. (5.29.99)
The reality of the symbol of God: An essay on Paul Tillich and Gordon Kaufman. (5.19.98)
The object of religion: An essay on Hegel and Feuerbach. (4.13.98)
The religious availability of John Dewey's God: An essay on John Dewey's A Common Faith. (10.30.97)
Polity and ethics
Inherent goodness got you down? Theological commentary on the mistaken view that "inherent worth and dignity" means "inherently good." (4.25.06)
Dogmatic non-creedalism: Unitarian "non-creedalism" has two quite distinct roots. (9.18.03)
Uh oh, here come the Unitarians and Universalists: What to say to earnest UUs who complain when someone identifies as a "Unitarian" or "Universalist." (5.17.07)
Limits of Unitarian Universalist congregationalism: "Unitarian Universalism" exists beyond the limits of congregational affiliation, and beyond the formal boundaries of the UUA. (2.15.08)
Baptism is more than signing a membership book: We have yet to imagine what a baptism into Unitarian Universalism would be. (2.23.08)
Survey: 0.3 percent of adults are Unitarian Universalists: My take on the Pew Forum survey that estimated that many more people identify as UUs than are members of UU churches. (2.26.08)
Authority in the spirit: Developing a doctrine of the liberal church: An essay in ecclesiology. (1.14.97)
Schleiermacher on true religious fellowship: An essay on Friedrich Schleiermacher's view of the church. (3.2.98)
Can a fundamentalist be a unitarian? On the unitarianism of Jehovah's Witnesses and the Biblical Unitarians. (8.13.03)
Was Channing a biblical inerrantist? The early American champion of Unitarianism believed in the reliability of scripture, not its inerrancy. (1.3.03)
"Words are not the only language": Henry Whitney Bellows's view of scripture: An essay on 19th-century Unitarian biblical interpretation. (4.5.97)
Beware "Old Testament" comparisons: I refuse to believe that most Americans have deliberately sequestered themselves in ideological ghettos. (9.23.04)
Banishing faith from politics? Good luck!: An argument for theological criticism of politics. (10.24.04)
Democrats need some "thick we's": The left should go to church. (12.12.04)
Two cheers for conservative liberals: Making sense of "conservative" Unitarian Universalists. (6.1.06)
Bush and Colbert, Lear and the Fool: Shakespearean commentary on the White House Correspondents Dinner. (5.2.06)
Is there political diversity among UUs? We should be careful not to make our politics into a new kind of orthodoxy. (12.26.02)
More than words: What would James Luther Adams have made of Hobbes's statement that "covenants, without the sword, are but words"? (4.30.03)
Resisting stem cell utopianism: A few thoughts on the differences between fetuses and human beings. (9.14.04)

Full archive