Tuesday, March 22, 2005

"I Am Convicted" (Con.)

For those of you who are following the thread of the March 16th post, "And I Am Convicted," I'd like to refer you to the comments section, and particularly to my exchange between myself and a religious educator, Steve Caldwell.

I hope our conversation will encourage you to consider these questions: are
Unitarian Universalists generally even aware of the theological differences between liberal and conservative (or orthodox) forms of Christianity? Are they in your congregation? Are the youth? If so, can they articulate those differences with any confidence, even if liberal Christianity is not their own chosen spiritual path?

Does it matter?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what liberal and Conservative Christianities are? Are they the Christianities that conform to liberal and conservative political views (or worldviews)? Or are they liberal or conservative interpretations of a religion? Or are they liberal or conservative interpretations of the New Testament? Also, are you sure we should conflate orthodoxy and conservative religion? And just where does Fundamentalism fit into this continuum? I'm sure these sound like trite or insufferable questions, but I insist that am not trying to bog down a useful conversation. I'm just suggesting that a clear conversation cannot be had without clear definitions.

I'm pretty sure I'll be taken to task for even mentioning my personal muddle, so I apologize in advance.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

Nobody's taking you to task.

Liberal Christians take a more liberal approach to the bible and to their spirituality.

My folks, who taught me as a kid that the bible is metaphor, are decent examples.

Conservative Christians are more likely to take a more fundamentalist approach/

I'm assuming a better explanation is coming along, but I hope that holds you for now.


Blogger PeaceBang said...

Hi Anonymous,
Not bad questions at all. When I say "liberal Xtianity" I am thinking of Channing's "Unitarian Christianity" -- benevolence of the Deity, positive view of humankind, God's happiness when we do well and do good, reading the Bible with critical faculties intact, de-emphasis or outright rejection of the Trinity (remember that Universalists are/were often Trinitarian),focus on living Jesus and Christ of Love, less emphasis on Pauline materials than on synoptics, stuff like that.
Christian Fundamentalism is characterized by Biblical literalism and absolutes.
When I say "orthodoxy" I am referring to the Christianity as it was in the day before the Unitarian controversy, which emphasized "right/correct belief" (ortho+doxy) and orthopraxy (right practice) as a condition to salvation and inclusion in fellowship.

Hope that helps. And sure, for the purposes of this conversation we might as well conflate orthodoxy and conservatism - mostly because I'm extremely tired today, don't feel well, and haven't had a cup of coffee yet.

Blogger fausto said...

In my experience some but not a majority of UUs who were raised Christian know the difference between liberal and conservative Christianity. The ones who do know the difference tend to be more sympathetic to Christianity, expecially liberal Christianity, even if they don't want to be considered "Christian" themselves.

A majority of UUs raised Xtian seem to have migrated to us as a haven from overly rigid or abusive variants of Christianity, and seem to retain from their upbringing the view that the rigidity of whichever sect they left is an essential trait of "true" Xtianity. They can't conceive of a valid variety of Xtianity that lacks the faults they see as inherent, and so reject it all. UU converts like CC who were raised liberal Xtian but simply found it too narrow and confining, rather than pathologically toxic and hypocritical, seem less common. I would also guess that most UUs who didn't grow up Xtian don't know and aren't interested in knowing about the fine points of Xtianity.

Likewise, most UU youth with no prior personal exposure don't seem to have much of a clear idea of what Xtianity even is, much less the range of internal doctrinal differences, but they do seem to share a view that there's something basically wrong about Xtianity so that smart people like ourselves don't need to be concerned with it. As a kid in my congregation recently said, in all sincerity, "You can't be Christian and belong to our church". (Which is an especially ironic thing to hear in "our church", where the front of the sanctuary is still adorned with a cross and verses from Matthew, John, and Paul.)

If relatively few UUs understand the differences between liberal and conservative Xtianity, there seem to be even fewer UUs, youth or adult, who appreciate that our own Unitarian and Universalist antecedents practiced an authentic version of liberal Christianity that is still capable of offering a valid faith path today. (I daresay that more adults in my church probably wonder what those New Testament verses are doing up there on our wall than what meaning they offer to UUs.) And if you say at Coffee Hour that UU thelogians like James Luther Adams or Charles Harteshorne or Rebecca Parker have continued to keep the liberal UU witness alive within the larger Body of Christ right through the present day, people will look at you like you've just sprouted a third eye while you were talking.


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