The Churchless God

Stephen Lingwood writes briefly about the paradox in Britain between high level of identification as Christians and low church attendance, and thinks about the alternatives the “alternative churches” (like Unitarianism) are offering.

In short people are interested in a church-less God, and Unitarianism is offering a God-less church.

He make a good point, and one Americans should note as our religious demographics are increasingly European-looking.

3 Replies to “The Churchless God”

  1. It breaks my heart to think of UUism as a God-less church. I must admit that I would have been turned off if I had heard that when I was first checking it out. I saw UUism as a church where you are free to find (or not find) “God” in whatever way or whatever form that has meaning for you. Not that there isn’t anything to find which is what God-less church says to me. I must admit that there are many in my church who do see it as Godless and can make those who disagree feel unwelcome. But I have heard the other voices and found much comfort in metaphors such as the church with stained-glass windows with each religion a different window giving a different view of the same light. I do believe in that light… that source… however one might name it or define it.

  2. It seems to me that this also represents the challenge of secular’ish spirituality without religious community. But I wonder if the British phenomenon is really like the growing American phenomenon of “I’m spiritual but not religious.”

    When I lived in Germany self-identification as Christian of the Catholic or Lutheran variety was quite high. Attendance at worship, and participation in congregational life were quite low. Deep down I found most Germans to be rather agnostic, with Church simply the locus for a sense of heritage and tradition (like celebrating your ancestral roots), combined with some ritual observances (baptism, confirmation, weddings, and funerals).

    In America I find that the Churchless God phenomenon has less to do with heritage, and more to do with individualism. We like having a church of one that fits nicely within our individualized beliefs. This takes the form of “personal Jesus evangelicalism” on the Right, and “everyone’s beliefs are true” on the Left.

    I’ll let Evangelicals comment on how this individualism plays out in their own community. Coming from the Left end of Protestantism (Universalism and Quakerism), the challenge this presents to our own churches is that this kind of individualism can become very corrosive to spiritual community. I always feel trepidation when we glorify figures like Emerson. The natural conclusion of his own Transcendalism was that the individual needed to get out from underneath the community because the community prevents the individual from having genuine spiritual experience.

    In my case I an only say that without spiritual community to challenge my thinking, I would have wound up with some serious idolatries in my head, and assumed their truth because they already agreed with what I already thought.

  3. it seems to me that UU’s have historically throught carefully and critically about the meaning and nature of God, yet today in contemporary UU we tend to just avoid the conversation about any collective belief and language. i find myself drawn to Theodore Parkers idea of the “River of God”.

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