Friday, August 18, 2006

The Cow

Remember the cow?

The cow is officially birthed!!

I am in the finishing stages of editing and I only have to put together the bibliography.

It was a painful paper to write, which is why it took so long.

It moved me to a final assessment of Ralph Waldo Emerson's contribution to Unitarianism as a fatal blow to the 19th century religion that I know and love through Channing, Ware and Clarke.
I had known this for a long time, but it wasn't until I studied it deeply this summer that I could see that RWE's total failure to develop a doctrine of the church along with his doctrine of the self would eventually kill classical Unitarianism. It's not his fault; he resonated with a lot of people and they beatified him and became Emersonians who called themselves Unitarians. They became the majority among us.
Unitarians were devoted to disciplined self-culture. Emerson, by the time of his 1838 "Human Culture" lectures, had given up the idea of discipline as the means to moral progress.

It's too complex to go into here, but I've learned two things:

1. My blogging is very much like RWE's journaling. I do it every day to talk to myself, but I'm lucky in that I have you out there to talk back, and he didn't have that.
2. I believe in my claim that, in the most recent iteration of the UU Principles, with their failure to refer in any way to a transcendent Source of love, their failur to mention love at all, and their entirely humanistic, horizontal orientation, classical Unitarianism literally, officially and irretrievably flat-lined in the 1980s.

There's a LOT more to say, and I will be happy to share my paper with those who want to see it. I think I will be, anyway.

12 Comments:

Blogger Joel Monka said...

I would be very grateful to be allowed to see it- the subject interests me deeply, and you, unlike many church scholars, can write!

22:16  
Blogger fausto said...

In fairness to RWE, he tried to leave us. He resigned his pastorate and took to calling himself a Transcendentalist, not a Unitarian. It wasn't that he failed to develop a doctrine of the church; it was that he found no useful role for the church in the intensely individual form of spirituality that he followed and spoke of. It was we ourselves who dragged him back, over his dead body as it were.

I'd love to meet the cow sometime.

22:57  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

We dragged him back and canonized him!!

You two can meet the cow if you PROMISE to be constructive in your criticism, especially in my slap-dash treatment of the Universalist side of things (for which BITB should spank me, and will, but I'm writing for a prof who doesn't know much about either U, so I had to be kind of elementary in some points)

23:06  
Blogger Bill Baar said...

count me in...I'd like to read it..


somehow thought, it seems hard to hang something that happened in the 1980s on RWE.

00:16  
Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

I like fausto's point.

If there had been a church of Transcendentalism I'd probably have joined that first.

00:35  
Blogger Ole said...

Count me in, too, please.

04:39  
Blogger revel said...

If it lives in one of us, it lives still; when we speak the truth of what we have seen, and what we think we know, the Source lives, moves, breathes... in us.

14:49  
Blogger Jordan Stratford+ said...

I don't think I've ever asked a woman this, but...

Can I please see your butt-cow?

jordan@johannite.org

16:46  
Blogger Roger Kuhrt, PhD said...

PB--send me the Cow (butt and all) I will attempt to find the filets and will treat the rest with respect.

Cheerfully, RK

02:50  
Blogger marker said...

I would like to read your paper also. The Transcendentalists have been an interest of mine since undergrad. It's probably how I got to UU. Thanks for offering!

06:31  
Blogger Greg said...

Can I see the cow too?

15:48  
Blogger Ron said...

Rambling thoughts: the theology aside, which I suspect from glimpses you are right on target about (and reminds me I need to help get out to wider circulation Carl Scovel's essay of a few years ago "Beyond Channing and Church"), your mention of journaling and RWE reminded me of a truly wonderful essay on RWE's essays by that truly great contemporary essayist William Gass. It is in his collection Habitations of the Word.

19:15  

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