“Today and in the near future, there are two alternatives: fundamentalism or interreligious dialogue” - The Dalai Lama

As readers of this blog will know I am very concerned to explore how one might continue to be intimately and creatively related to the Christian tradition but without at the same time remaining wedded to what many of us see as increasingly problematic institutional forms of it; problematic both in social and political as well as philosophical and theological terms.

Clearly one helpful thing would be to reframe our understanding of what it means to 'be a Christian' and, inevitably that process today involves some kind of real inter-religious dialogue. This blog (which is all my Sunday addresses are - it is simply that I present them in person each Sunday morning) tries to map out various way by which we might achieve this reframing and, in some cases, to report and reflect on how we are already doing it.

Well, because it is the Christmas carol and readings service this Sunday and I am relieved of address writing duties, instead of giving you my thoughts on the matter I'll take this opportunity to point you to what seems to me a very interesting and valuable piece of writing connected with this 'reframing' by James W. Heisig entitled Christianity Today - The Transition to Disestablishment. Hesig is Director of the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture. You need to scroll down this pdf copy of Inter-Religio to find the article.

Have a very happy Christmas and, if you can, please do join us on Christmas Eve at 6.30 for our communion service and/or on Christmas morning at 10.30. For those of you who can't get here I'll try and get my Christmas Day blog up on Christmas Eve in case anyone is minded to read it on the day itself.

P.S. The picture is of my own Zafu in my study. Regular readers of this blog will know that I nicked a photo of my friend Kev's Zafu for an earlier post because I forgot my camera that day and couldn't take one of my own. He noticed. So, now I'm putting right a very, very minor sin . . .


Yewtree said…
Hi, nice to find another UK Unitarian blog. I'm a Wiccan Unitarian.

I think/assume that Christian Unitarianism already acknowledges other faiths as valid, simply by not acknowledging the Trinity. If you follow the Arian "heresy", so that Jesus isn't part of the ultimate Divine source, it means there must be other gateways to the Divine source. Also it means that the Divine can be revealed in every culture through reason rather than through the specific Christian revelation.

I am encouraged by the Phoenix Affirmations drafted by John Spong, which affirm other faiths as valid (as many liberal Christians do).
I think you are right.

However, one thing I'm concerned to achieve in interreligious dialogue is to ensure that we don't make the mistake of reducing all religious to the same underlying universal religion. This is a liberal imperialist tendency that many Unitarians (in various forms) have, historically, succumbed to. I think it is clear that different religious traditions are unique and, because of that, provide genuine and irreducible experiences of 'the other.' You comment on my blog "A liberal stands up for Jesus" noted, correctly I think, that we could never be sure we do not simply see the Jesus we want to see. There is always a very real danger that we can do the same thing in interreligious dialogue and just see in another religion a disguised version of our own. But, to use our own religious self-definitions as an example, Wicca is not Christianity and vice versa. To reduce one to the other would be to misunderstand our important and life-giving particularities. Anyway, if they were really the same what would be the point of dialogue and the encounter in the first place? Of course, none of this means that we don't share many things in common!

Thanks, again, for taking the time to comment.
Yewtree said…
Hi, I think there are two forms of the universalising tendency. One is to say that the same human spiritual journey can occur in all faith traditions (even though dressed in different cultural metaphors), therefore all religions are valid and we can all learn from each other. The other is an imperialist tendency to say that all faiths are true but one is a fuller revelation than the others and therefore everyone should convert to that one. I also think there's a big difference between saying all religions are valid and saying they're all the same. And between saying that there's a common human spiritual journey and that there's a universal religion.

My own basic assumption is that each person's spiritual journey is unique (while sharing common features because we are all human) and therefore they will see the Divine in an unique way.

I joined the Unitarians because I share the values (and a lot of the theology), but I do think each tradition has its own life-giving particularities (good phrase).

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