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Saturday, May 17, 2003

Unitarian Universalism watch.

My friend Richard Higgins writes in the New York Times about the flare-up UUA President Bill Sinkford has caused among religious liberals by urging "Unitarian Universalists to reclaim a 'vocabulary of reverence.'"

In recent sermons, talks and articles, Mr. Sinkford said he was struck by the fact that the association's Purposes and Principles, or mission statement, "contain not one piece of traditional religious language, not one word." The statement has inclusive generalizations about human dignity, justice and "the interdependent web of all existence," but omits mention of God. It serves well as a broad ethic, he said, but does not do much "to capture our individual searches for truth and meaning."

Explicit religious language would better acquaint people with life's "religious depths" and "ground them in their personal faith," Mr. Sinkford said in a recent interview. It would also help liberals wrest religious language back from the religious right, he said.

Higgins describes the outrage Sinkford's statements have caused as "a firestorm of protest from humanists," which is certainly true — you should see the mail we've received at UU World — but it is important to note that some of this is really an expression of a battle taking place within the humanist movement. Two competing manifestos are circulating — one from the adamantly antireligious Council for Secular Humanism and another from the more irenic American Humanist Association — in an attempt to promote a humanism for the 21st century. The new AHA manifesto does not reject or dismiss the religious impulse in human beings — and it is being signed by secular as well as religious liberals.

The challenge for Unitarian Universalists will be to find ways to help people explore and celebrate the religious impulse — something some UU humanists can't or won't do, to be sure, but which many other religious humanists have always done.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 17 May 2003 at 11:41 AM

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Next: A vocabulary of reverence.

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