How many Unitarians does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one. And man, is it boring.

Based on my most recent church experience, I’ve decided to stop identifying churches by name, and to stick with their denomination only. I don’t want these posts to seem like restaurant reviews, because it’s not about whether it’s good, it’s about whether it works for me. And the Unitarians, God bless ’em, don’t work for me.

Having said that, I’m immensely glad that there are Unitarians. Their core principles meet up with many of the reasons I’ve always been agnostic. Check out what The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Christianity says about them:

Current Unitarians hold that God is not one in three persons but rather a single entity. They also believe God is good and human beings are good, too. This makes Jesus not an incarnate God sent to redeem a sin-ridden humankind, but a great moral teacher filled with God who did great things as an example for us all.
[snip]
They don’t think the Christian Bible is an exclusive source of spiritual guidance and truth, and in fact draw from lots of religious traditions and even science, nature, and human intuition to promote spiritual growth. Unitarian Universalist churches hold two key principles in common: congregational independence and toleration for all forms of religious belief and practice.

There is a lot to like in all that. The appeal of Christianity is often diminished by the insistence of some of its followers that it is the only source of salvation (a belief not limited to Christians, I hasten to add) and wisdom, and that all other sources are not only wrong but even demonic. I once heard of an article that condemned yoga as an evil practice, and anyone who’s practiced yoga knows that its only evil is in wearing you out physically. Christianity is undermined by overheated fears like these.

Anyway, having said that there’s a lot to like about Unitarianism, I didn’t enjoy a Unitarian service. I missed the pageantry and the emotion and the sense of ritual and tradition. At times it almost felt like a panel discussion. I think Unitarianism’s strength is in its removal of some of the more specific Christian trappings, at least in appealing to those who would like to be Christian without all the Christianity. (This is a whole separate topic, on which more later.) But by doing so, it loses those of us who would like the toleration but with a side of pageantry and…well, awesomeness, for lack of a better word. I may not agree with everything they say at Our Lady of the Green Clock, but mass there is an emotionally enormous ceremony with overwhelming impact.

A caveat: It should be noted that Unitarian services in other states may be completely different. But I’m living in the land of the Scandinavians, a people not noted for their emotional displays. If you want to see a demonstration of this, I think the best way is to watch a bunch of Minnesotans sing “This Little Light of Mine.” They try, they even clap, but there’s a little something missing.

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6 Responses to “How many Unitarians does it take to change a light bulb?”


  1. 1 Chuck Warnock January 16, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    If you can get a video of the Norwegian “This Little Light of Mine” you’ll be the hit of YouTube. Great post and I agree with you — Jesus was only intolerant of the intolerant religious leaders of his day. A lesson for us all.

  2. 2 Robin Edgar January 16, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    Well unfortunately there is no shortage of intolerance within the U*U religious community these days. Many non-U*U descriptions are highly misleadding as is a fair bit of U*U propaganda as well. There is plenty of anti-Christian and more broadly anti-religious intolerance and bigotry found throughout the U*U religious community. This intolerance is usually practiced by the militant atheist faction of “Humanist” U*Us but one sometimes see anti-Catholic intolerance practiced by “Christian” U*Us as well.

    I like Chuck Warnock’s assertion that Jesus was only intolerant of the intolerant religious leaders of his day. I am often accused by U*Us of being “anti-U*U” but what I am intolerant of is the anti-religious intolerance and bigotry that degrades U*Uism and various other U*U injustices, U*U abuses and U*U hypocrisy.

  3. 3 hdolezalek January 17, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Well, I think we can all agree that every denomination has its share of tolerance and intolerance. We shouldn’t tar any denomination with the brush of some of its members. There are offenses and graces among the Catholics, the Presbyterians, and maybe even the Quakers, for all I know. All religion offers an ideal, and no religion is without its followers who can’t live up to it.

  4. 4 Neal Watzman January 18, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Although I was born Jewish, for the past 15 years I have attended a UU Congregation. My wife, who is not Jewish, and I found it an excellent spiritual home, particularly for our children. All of us have been able to experience the richness of all the world religions and spirituality.

    Intolerance. A challenge to UUs as well as many people. Let’s face it, a “religion” that espouses and welcomes those from all spiritual paths is going to have those who are less tolerant.

    It might even be a bit of an irony. Intolerance of those who are intolerant.

  5. 5 Kevin Kezar January 18, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    I grew up in Minnesota and now live in Indiana. Thanks for the chuckle regarding the Minnesotan rendition of “This Little Light of Mine”. Your description is right on as I recall this very song being sung in the same fashon as you described a thousand times in my youth……don’tcha know.

    Kevin: Ha! Oh, you’re a native, all right. They mean it, they just can’t quite pull it off. – Holly

  6. 6 hdolezalek January 19, 2007 at 12:06 am

    Neal, I think that’s the point of the Unitarians: A spiritual home for those who have to find a compromise that more conservative churches can’t offer. That’s why I said I was glad they’re around, and I’m glad you’ve found them. 🙂


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