Monthly Archives: January 2008

What is Church?

In his (somewhat bewildered) response to the GA08 brouhaha, Rev. Daniel O’Connell speculates that for some people General Assembly functions as “church,” and that this could explain why they feel so personally outraged that i.d. will be checked.  He, on the other hand, feels that church is his fellow UUs and what they do together, and contrasts this with the idea that “church” refers to a physical building on a specific location.

So what is church?  Do UUs generally think of church as “that place we go on Sunday”?  Or “that thing we do on Sunday (and possibly other days)”? One sometimes hears people say things like: “Man, she gave some good church this morning!”  That’s usually in response to a particularly rousing sermon or service.  Are there indeed people who think of GA as church (there certainly are worship services during GA)?  How do you use the term church?

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Universalist Quote of the Day #9

“Although a defensive war may be considered lawful, yet we believe there is a time coming, when the light and universal love of the gospel, shall put an end to all wars. We recommend, therefore, to all churches in our communion, to cultivate the spirit of peace and brotherly love, which shall lead them to consider all mankind as brethren, and to strive to spread among them the knowledge of their Savior and Redeemer, who came into the world “not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

Minutes of the General Convention, 1790

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Universalist Quote of the Day #8

“A belief in God’s universal love to all his creatures, and that he will finally restore all those of them that are miserable to happiness, is a polar truth.  It leads to truths upon all subjects, more especially upon the subject of government.  It establishes the equality of mankind–it abolishes the punishment of death for any crime–and converts jails into houses of repentance and reformation.”

–Benjamin Rush, letter to Jeremy Belknap, 1791.

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Universalist Quote of the Day #7

“God’s laws have not been given exclusively to any church.  God’s laws are the ways of living found to be good for us.  Truths are derived from the experiences of men and women living, not apart from the world, but within it–in all the temptations, problems, and perplexities of the daily round of human relations.”

–Dr. Clinton Lee Scott, Religion Can Make Sense.  Boston: Massachusetts Universalist Convention, 1949: 3.

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Universalist Quote of the Day #6

“To the Universalists, heaven in its essential nature is not a locality, but a moral and spiritual status, and salvation is not securing one place and avoiding another, but salvation is finding eternal life.”

–Phineas T. Barnum, Why I Am a Universalist. Boston: Universalist Publishing House, 1890: 4.

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Transient and Permanent: 2007 in brief review

Many UU bloggers are writing recaps of their output for 2007 in hopes of nomination for the annual UU Blog awards. There’s nothing here that merits special recognition, but reviewing previous efforts is a worthy project in and of itself. Thankfully, it’s also a short one for Transient and Permanent, because while this is the continuation of an earlier blog, it wasn’t resurrected until September.

Much of late 2007 was devoted to the continuing series Book Notes, which chronicles in brief primary and secondary sources that may prove interesting to those investigating (professionally or otherwise) the development of liberal religion in America. A number of posts also arose from commentary on current events in Unitarian-Universalism, either at the denominational level or on other blogs. Probably the best post of last year was stimulated in this way, Manufacturing Outrage as Religious Practice, in which a Ritual Studies perspective was applied to the protest (and anti-protest) culture of UUism. Perhaps a runner-up would be Defining American Liberal Religion or its follow-up Are Reason and Optimism Toward Human Nature Necessary Components of Liberal Religion?, although the former post was too long and dense to draw broad commentary from readers.

Unlike the vast majority of blogs, Transient and Permanent is not written in the first person. While this has certain advantages, that will probably always keep it from being among the best blogs–there are inherent limitations to the sort of posts that can be made, and the more detached voice cannot inspire the sort of comradery and familiarity that particularly active and enjoyable blogs produce. Nonetheless, hopefully Transient and Permanent will remain a useful resource for folks interested in thinking about liberal religion, in both its historical and present incarnations.

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Universalist Quote of the Day #5

“The young lady received us with much kindness and condescension, while, as I glanced my eye upon her fine countenance, beaming with intelligence, mingling pity and contempt grew in my bosom. After the first ceremonies, we sat for some time silent; at length I drew up a heavy sigh, and uttered a pathetic sentiment, relative to the deplorable condition of those who live and die in unbelief; and I concluded a violent declamation, by pronouncing with great earnestness, He that believeth not shall be damned.

“‘And pray, sir,’ said the young lady, with great sweetness, ‘Pray, sir, what is the unbeliever damned for not believing?’

“What is he damned for not believing? Why, he is damned for not believing.

“‘But, my dear sir,’ she asked, ‘what was that, which he did not believe, for which he was damned?’

“Why, for not believing in Jesus Christ, to be sure.

“‘Do you mean to say that unbelievers are damned for not believing there was such a person as Jesus Christ?’

“No, I do not; a man may believe there was such a person, and yet be damned.

“‘What then, sir, must he believe, in order to avoid damnation?’

Why, he must believe that Jesus Christ is a complete Saviour.

“‘Well, suppose he were to believe, that Jesus Christ was the complete Saviour of others, would this belief save him?’

“No, he must believe that Jesus Christ is his complete Saviour; every individual must believe for himself that Jesus Christ is his complete Saviour.

“‘Why, sir, is Jesus Christ the Saviour of any unbelievers?’

“No, madam.

“‘Why, then, should any unbeliever believe, that Jesus Christ is his Saviour, if he is not his Saviour?’

“I say he is not the Saviour of any one, until he believes.

“‘Then, if Jesus be not the Saviour of the unbeliever, until he believes, the unbeliever is called upon to believe a lie. It appears to me, sir, that Jesus is the complete Saviour of unbelievers; and that unbelievers are called upon to believe the truth; and that, by believing they are saved in their own apprehension, saved from all those dreadful fears which are consequent upon a state of conscious condemnation.’

“No, madam; you are dreadfully, I trust not fatally, misled. Jesus never was, not never will be, the Saviour of any unbeliever.

“‘Do you think Jesus is your Saviour, sir?’

“I hope he is.

“‘Were you always a believer sir?’

“No, madam.

“‘Then you were once an unbeliever; that is, you once believed that Jesus Christ was not your Saviour. Now, as you say, he never was, nor never will be, the Saviour of any unbeliever; as you were once an unbeliever, he never can be your Saviour.’

“He never was my Saviour till I believed.

“‘Did he never die for you, till you believed, sir?’

“Here I was extremely embarrassed, and most devoutly wished myself out of her habitation; I sighed bitterly, expressed deep commiseration for those souls who had nothing but head-knowledge; drew out my watch, discovered it was late; and, recollecting an engagement, observed it was time to take leave.”

–John Murray, Records of the Life of the Rev. John Murray, Late Minister of the Reconciliation and Senior Pastor of the Universalists, Congregated in Boston. Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1816.

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