Unitarian Universalism: An American Faith

Unitarian UniversalismThis will work quite well in the United States, though biblical Christian churches must flee from it like the plague.  Of course, I think this is the opposite of historic Christianity, but I post the following dialogue to show you part of the “core-values” of many Americans who are “religious.”  This kind of stuff makes the NYT bestseller list because most average Americans think in these terms.

Mr. F, is it true that you’re a minister?
Where’s your church?
-We’re standing in it.
But this is a bookstore and its a Friday.
-Yes, but you might also choose to see it as a cathedral of the human spirit – a storehouse consecrated to the full spectrum of human experience.  Just about every idea we’ve ever had is in here somewhere.  A place containing great thinking is a sacred space.
Really?  Just what kind of minister are you?
-Unitarian Universalist.
And you hold services in bookstores on Fridays?  You’re putting me on.
-No, but I am giving you an example of how Unitarian Universalists think.  More than anything else, our religion is defined by an attitude.  An open-minded point of view.  About everything and anything….  A church is not just a specific building, but also a way of looking at the building you’re in at the moment.  …A religion is not contained in a single book; there’s something religious in almost any book.

And so the conversation goes – it is America’s faith for sure, and this book (A Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism by John Buehrens and Forrest Church [Boston: Beacon Press, 1998]) talks about it in terms of awakening, experience, deeds not creeds, the cathedral of the world, and so forth.  This is Thomas Jefferson + Socinus + liberalism + Emerson + a few traditional American values all wrapped up as a “faith” or “religion.” 

shane lems

sunnyside wa

4 Replies to “Unitarian Universalism: An American Faith”

  1. Wow… this reminds me so much of that section of Hart’s “A Secular Faith” when he notes how “Civic Religion” is really just about that which is practical and convenient; as such, the “inconvenient” aspects of Christianity (e.g., the incarnation, the atonement, the Trinity, total depravity, total inability, imputed righteousness, etc.) really have no place and thus Christianity (except for some completely neutered form which ceases to be Christian) really has no place in a society looking for pragmatics…. wish I had page numbers here but someone is borrowing my copy!


    1. If Hart is right (and I think he is), it would seem that something like the Manhattam Declaration is an example of civil religion, as it takes up convenient themes. Yet, those who would otherwise eschew civil religion are gobbling it up instead of “running from it like the plague.”


      1. Thanks guys, you’re right (I also was reminded of Hart’s stuff). There’s gotta be an apt illustration somewhere about how hard it is to peel the flag off of the cross. Does the flag rip or get stuck on? Or do we simply find a stick with morals written on it once the flag is peeled away?



  2. I’ve got no problem with this guy except where he uses (commandeers) the term church. You’ve got to hand it to him. He’s making a decent living as a group psychiatrist in the left hand kingdom. Slightly more respectably than, say, a drug dealer.


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