Forrest Church on Universalism

UU World is reprinting (republishing? reposting?) some of the late Forrest Church’s writings. Here’s a rather long essay titled “Universalism: A theology for the 21st century.” As I like to remind people, I was a universalist long before I set foot in a UU church, so this piece has much in it that appeals to me. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

Some recent discoveries in physics and cosmology make no apparent sense according to known canons of rationality. Probing the mysteries of the universe and the mind, researchers on the cutting edge of knowledge find themselves moving freely between the rational and transrational realms. Where does that leave the poor camp followers, who believe in science but don’t embrace mystery? Having traded God for truth, they are left with neither.

In a principled flight from irrationality, rationalists betray reason by losing sight of the transrational realm, where rationalism is not rejected but transcended. This is the realm of myth and parable, of poetry and paradox. Wholeness cannot be achieved until the two realms—of sign and symbol, fact and fancy—are explored as one.

When people boast to me that they don’t believe in God, I ask them to tell me a little about the God they don’t believe in. Almost surely, I don’t believe in “Him” either.

Universalism itself can be perverted in two ways. One is to elevate one truth into a universal truth: “My church is the one true church.” The other is to reduce distinctive truths to a lowest common denominator: “All religion is merely a set of variations upon the golden rule.” The Universalism I embrace does neither. It holds that the same Light shines through all our windows, but that each window is different. The windows modify the Light, refracting it in various patterns that suggest discrete meanings.

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About John Beckett

I’m a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’m an ordained priest in the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. I’m the Coordinating Officer of the Denton, Texas Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. This year I’m also serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

I write as a spiritual practice. It helps me organize my thoughts and work through ideas and concepts. It helps me evaluate my beliefs and practices against my core values and against what I know (or at least, what I think I know) to be true. It helps me interpret my experiences (religious and otherwise) in ways that are both meaningful and honest.


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