Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Uh oh: Here come the Christian humanists!
The polite fiction that Mrs Philocrites and I are an "interfaith couple" because she is Episcopalian and I am Unitarian Universalist — a fiction maintained more by the UUs than by the Episcopalians — will clearly evaporate if mainline Protestants adopt a label I already claim: Christian humanist. Sure, the phrase juxtaposes two theological positions that many Unitarian Universalists believe stand in opposite corners — which is always fun! — but the Christian Century puts in a good word for abandoning "liberal Protestant" or "mainline Protestant" and explicitly embracing the larger tradition in which my theological liberalism clearly belongs:
Humanism captures liberal Protestantismís emphasis on intellectual exploration, on doing theology in conversation with other modes of knowledge. Since the Renaissance, humanism has designated a movement that takes learning seriously and celebrates the ability of scientists, poets and historians to expand knowledge and shape the world. Christian specifies that this appreciation of human freedom and potential is not ungrounded or unlimited, and that human identity is not simply whatever humans want it to be. As creatures of God, humans are most truly themselves when fulfilling divine purposes. And it is ďin Christ,Ē the divine and human one, that we learn what it means to be fully human.
The magazine's subtitle puts it simply each week: "Faithful living, critical thinking." That's the goal of my ecumenical household.
Sadly, though, if liberal Protestants abandon the much-abused word "liberal," we Unitarian Universalists will be virtually alone in openly claiming the liberal theological tradition. And it seems that as UUs struggle to recognize distinctions between liberal theology and liberal (partisan) politics, we're growing unsure about the term ourselves. (Most "conservative" Unitarian Universalists have, in my view, simply embraced one among several varieties of liberalism — which is why I refuse to abandon the word liberal in a Unitarian Universalist context.)
So I'll be glad to see Christian humanism catch on — but I'm not throwing in the towel on liberalism. "Mainline," however, really is a polite fiction that needs to go.
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 24 May 2005 at 8:38 AM