Sorry hun, them's the breaks

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PeaceBang, I knew it was just a matter of time. Today she wrote ("Why I'm getting more Calvinistic"):

I just don't think we can't be trusted with just plain Self-Culture in the manner that Emerson preached it, and toward which Channing and Henry Ware, Jr.'s optimistic Christianity pointed us.

Yeah, that's what I said a while back, and which is why today I call myself a Unitarian Universalist minister ("for identification purposes only", as they say in the petition trade) but am by no means a Unitarian. It has made me, in part, the Universalist I am today, and that was before -- both logically and chronologically -- I began to profess Trinitarian theology. Why the change? A matter of observation. Most theologians, lay or ordained, tend to fall in love with the philosophy that undergirds their beliefs and will often defend their philosophy even when the roof leaks and the foundation cracks. Rookies can be forgiven, if corrected, but seasoned ideologues are a menace. That's the difference between old and mature. Christianity suffers continually this way -- how else can it be used to champion every cause under the sun? Unitarian Universalism does too.

In short, Unitarian optimism starts off as reforming vision and morphs into an astigmatic blur, if a well-written and even pithy one. It doesn't need to, but it always seem to end there. I think what PeaceBang identifies as Calvinism is the plain observation that people don't improve automagically. Paul's self-reflection of doing what he doesn't want, and not doing what he wants has always read more true than protestation of self-culture. (Romans 7:19, see also 2 Corinthians 12:7) Not so much Calvinist as experiential, and there's nothing per se un-Unitarian Universalist about that which is one reason I can stay.

Obligatory Morrissey reference: Listen to "The Boy with a Thorn in His Side" on The Smiths album, The Queen Is Dead. (Wikipedia site) Hmm, that's probably not a welcome sentiment in Nepal.

6 Replies to “Sorry hun, them's the breaks”

  1. Scott, did you type “automagically” on purpose, or were you trying to type “automatically”? A very interesting terms you seem to have coined by accident!

  2. I LOVE “automagically!” I thought the same thing!

    Just to spite you, Mr. Wells, I’m going to re-read “The Oversoul” today and send Valentine’s to Mr. Emerson. I still love him dearly and resonate with him on many theological points (c’mon, you know he’s more nuanced than we’re giving him credit for) so let me say that while I’m definitely parting ways with our TREATMENT of Mr. Emerson, I’m not necessarily parting ways with the man himself. But as for his contribution to contemporary Unitarian Universalism? FEH.

  3. Automagically is a term a lot of Linux folk use to describe software (often installers and graphical interfaces) that “just work” without the users understanding why. Given Linux’s hobbiest-hacker grassroots, this seems to be accepted begrudingly as a good thing because it attracts new people to Linux, but I detect a kind of lament that these new people sacrifice a meaningful experience about what they’re using or doing. Fine for computers, I think, but not for one’s faith. The term appeals to me in part because I understand (the term grok would be better here) part of Universalism’s genius as its role of understanding as the door to communion with God.

  4. Not being a Linux person, I wasn’t aware of the term “automagically,” thanks for the explanation.

    Totally random comment: in preparing my syllabus for my upcoming course on liberal religious traditions in America, I was taken aback today by the discovery that I could in completely good faith sign on to the Winchester Profession.

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