Monthly Archives: September 2008

Beware the Radacious Priesthood

The Universalist Quotes of the Day posted here are drawn from explicitly Universalist sources, which in practical terms means they are almost always pre-1961 (when the Universalists consolidated with the Unitarians).  Since the 19th century was the true heyday of Universalist publishing, that’s the actual era that most of the quotes tend to come from.  Although it’s not all that far removed from our own time, occasionally words pop up in the old primary sources that make you scratch your head.  Today’s quote offers such an example.

Rev. Jacob Frieze cautions his readers that a critical time in Christianity is at hand, and warns that we may backslide into the dark ages, when a “radacious” priesthood held the human race in bondage.

What in the world is “radacious?”  Is it a misprint, intended to be “rapacious?”  That’s certainly plausible, since rapacious was a common term often used by Universalists and Unitarians alike to describe the Catholic priesthood, or even their Calvinist opponents in moments of great heat and fervor.  Is radacious a term that was known back then, but has dropped out of common usage?  If so, it might be a combination of “rapacious” and “audacious” or “radically” and “rapacious,” all of which would accurately capture the sentiment of the passage.  Or perhaps it has some other root?

For what it’s worth, “radacious” is actually in the language today, though it is an infrequent term used in a specific subculture.  In surfing slang, radacious is a synonym for “bodacious,” as in “That wave was totally radacious, dude!”  In this context it seems to be a combination of “radical” and “bodacious,” two more common surfer words.  But this is clearly a recent innovation.  Granted that Rev. Frieze did indeed preach in a coastal state (Rhode Island), it’s still rather hard to picture him boldly proclaiming the gospel of universal love to his fellow surfers while hanging ten on a totally tubular wave. . .

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Universalist Quote of the Day #119

“The present is an interesting period in the history of the church–the crisis is fast approaching, when it shall be decided, whether men shall be free, whether truth shall prevail, or the human race returned to the deluded subjects of the dark ages, and permit themselves again to be yoked and burdened by a radacious and tyrannical priesthood.  May we at all times, be up and doing.  God and prosperity require it at our hands.”

–Rev. Jacob Frieze, “Sermon XXIII.”  In The Gospel Preacher: Consisting of Original Sermons by Universalist Ministers.  David Pickering, ed.  Providence: John S. Greene, 1829: 186-187.

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Universalist Quote of the Day #118

“Love is an active principle and can never lie dormant; but is ever actively engaged in doing good to each and all.”

–Theopilus Fisk, “Sermon XIX.”  In The Gospel Preacher: Consisting of Original Sermons by Universalist Ministers.  David Pickering, ed.  Providence: John S. Greene, 1829: 150.

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Universalist Quote of the Day #117

“O, happy day that fixed my choice on thee, my Savior and my God!
Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray, and live rejoicing every day.
Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!

Well may this glowing heart rejoice, and tell its raptures all abroad.
Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray, and live rejoicing every day.
Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!”

–L. Mason, “Happy Day.”  Melodies of Heaven: A Collection of Hymns and Tunes for Social Worship, for the Use of Universalist and Other Liberal Christian Churches.  Edited by T. E. St. John.  Cincinnati: Williamson and Cantwell Publishing, 1874: 11.

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Meadville Lombard UU Seminary is Moving

Meadville Lombard, one of two remaining Unitarian-Universalist seminaries and a major archival resource for scholars of liberal religious history, is relocating.  The move from Hyde Park to Woodlawn (the next neighborhood south of Hyde Park) is expected to take place in 2011.  Woodlawn is a relatively poorer area, with far fewer local businesses and less density of population.  This move is, among other things, expected to help the students participate in community service, which is receiving a greater emphasis in the revamped curriculum.  Meadville Lombard will still be located near the University of Chicago, though it will no longer be across the street from the First Unitarian Church of Chicago.

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Universalist Quote of the Day #116

“‘Mr. Manson,’ I said one day, ‘does God send all unbelievers to hell, and are they tormented there in the flames forever?’

‘Certainly.  Haven’t you read that in the Bible?’

‘Yes.  Does not God love all men, and wish them to be happy?’

‘He surely does.  His tender mercies are over all His works.’

‘Yes; I know the Bible says that too.  Then I don’t understand about the unbelievers.  God need not have created them, unless he chose; and he must have known, before they were born, that they would sin and that they would soon have to be burned to all eternity.’

‘But you know that God puts it in our power to save ourselves; and if we neglect to do so, it is our fault, not His.’

‘But yet,’ persisted I, ‘God was not obliged to create a man who was sure to be an unbeliever.  Nobody said he must.  He might have prevented him from being born, and that would have prevented him from being wicked, and prevented him from going to hell.  Wouldn’t it have been much better for such men not to be born, than to live a few years here, and then be tormented forever and ever?’

I took my tutor’s silent hesitation for consent, and added, ‘Well, then, if it would have been better, why didn’t God do it?’

‘I cannot tell you,’ Mr. Manson said at last; ‘and I advise you not to think of such things as these.  It seems better to our human reason; but it cannot be better, or else God would have done so.’

As may be supposed, this putting aside of the question was unsatisfactory; and from that day I became a Universalist.”

–Robert Dale Owen, Threading My Way: Twenty-Seven Years of Autobiography.  New York: G. W. Carleton and Company, 1874: 64-65.

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Are UUs becoming comfortable with Christianity?

Peacebang posted a short video taken at the UU Christian Fellowhip’s GA 2008 table.  The speaker alleges that UUs at GA used to come up and challenge her, questioning why she would be there instead of off with the Methodists or some other more solidly Christian group.  But apparently now people are more likely to approach her seeking information on how to learn about Christianity.  In other words, there’s been an apparent shift from hostility or at least skepticism toward Christianity within UUism, toward a more open-minded, even curious attitude.  Peacebang affirms that this has been her experience as well.

Even within the current year, there’s been another round of UU blogging about how Christians are excluded from UUism or at least made to feel unwelcome on some level (the most recent dust-up was over the use of the term “post-Christian” to describe UUism).  So clearly there’s still plenty of anomosity out there, both toward Christians/Christianity and on the part of disgruntled UU Christians.  But perhaps this is a case of the blogs not being terribly representative of the situation on the ground in the churches.  It’s hardly a secret that some viewpoints are disproportionately represented online, as well as that people will exaggerate things in the virtual world of quasi-anonymity and few real world consequences.

What do you think?  Have you seen evidence that Christianity is getting a fairer shake these days in UUism?  Or do you think the opposite, that the profile of UU Christians has further deteriorated?  Have you yourself changed your opinions about the place of Christianity in UUism (or your own life)?

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