Star UU blogger PeaceBang set off quite an uproar with this post on covenants. In it, she passionately proclaims that religious covenants always originate with God. She offers a way to interpret that in humanistic terms, but says that attempting to form covenants without reverence is blasphemy. She knows she’s being provocative – she says “I just said BLASPHEMY! But dern it, I mean it.”
I remember enough from Baptist Sunday School to know she’s not wrong. Biblical covenants were God’s promises to his people. But that’s not the whole story – the writers of the Bible used the term “covenant” because it meant something to their readers. If there hadn’t been a tradition of covenants – sacred contracts – between people, the idea of a covenant between God and people wouldn’t have made sense.
Comments on PeaceBang’s post are mostly polarized – some agreeing with her idea that covenants within a church (even a UU church) must begin with a recognition of the sacred. Others feel that automatically excludes Humanists and other non-theists.
Can the many spiritual traditions within Unitarian Universalism ever agree on anything of any religious importance?
Rev. Diana and I have had a series of occasional discussions on the question of whether there is a religious center in Unitarian Universalism and if anything resembling a UU spiritual practice is possible. I’ve blogged about it here and here. It seems to me that there isn’t, that we’re destined to forever be a confederation of individuals and never a church.
And then there’s this excellent response by Patrick Murfin. He points out that the Channing era Unitarians offended the original Congregationalists, the Transcendentalists offended the Channing folks, Humanists offended the liberal Christians, and now people like me are offending the Humanists. There is nothing new under the sun. Murfin says the only way we can live together is through covenants – covenants that originate with us, not with “somebody’s idea of God.”
That we can do. But is it religion? Can a covenant create a spirituality capable of inspiring and sustaining us through the trials and tribulations of life? Can a covenant connect us not just to each other, but to something truly bigger than ourselves – whether that ‘something’ is a being or just the ideals of humanity?
I don’t know.
For now, Unitarian Universalism is a home for me, a safe place to learn and grow, to practice and to serve. I have friends and opportunities here I could find nowhere else, at least not in this geographic location. For now, I’m going to keep searching for that elusive UU center, even as my personal center is growing more and more firm in my Pagan and Druid practice.
It’s going to be an interesting ride.