Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Heresy and Healing

Many people became Unitarian-Universalists as an alternative to faiths of origin that no longer rang true. As Rev Thom points out, there are a number of ways to be a 'heretic,' some more constructive than others. But the most difficult heresy is one that returns to orthodoxy and reexamines it.

If you are or have ever been in a close relationship, I want you to imagine that. It can be your husband, wife, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, even a real close friend, or a relative. Now imagine something that you are different, or opposite about... In relationships, we do this, don’t we: I’m messy; she’s clean. I’m a morning person; he’s a night owl. I’m organized; she’s disorganized. Got it? Take a moment and come up with your own example? I want to propose that some of these dualities we think of are not absolutely true, but are for us sort of a myth. That we are not really all the time either one thing or the other, but we are a lot of times both. And your partner is both too. Most people are both messy and clean. Both outgoing and shy. Both reserved and adventurous. Sometimes one and sometimes the other, but that within each of you individually there lies some trace of both of these. However, we tend to polarize our differences to construct our own identities, but these identities, in turn, don’t allow us to be wholly who we are.

I’m proposing that we are all, in a way, actually both orthodox and heretical...

This is perhaps the greatest heresy of all. The heresy that ever seeks to expand upon any belief system or doctrine or religious institution, the heresy that proposes that yet more may be possible. The heresy that may bring back as new what had formally been rejected, that sings old words but sees them made new. The heresy that connects things and makes them whole, and frees us from assigned roles, frees us from reactivity and rejection, that frees us even from the new roles and definitions we’ve constructed for ourselves.

The whole sermon is interesting, so I do suggest following the link...

But I find the idea of radical heresy freeing ourselves from our own constructed roles and definitions very compelling. For when we become too enamored of the products of reason, that is where dogmatism, stubbornness and strife begin to grow.

Here is a practical example: global warming. The old orthodoxy was that technological progress is beneficial, and that the earth is resilient. The heresy came when environmentalists asserted the earth's ecosystem can be damaged if we're not careful. However, the greenhouse effect has become orthodoxy both within and without the scientific community, despite a number of serious logical flaws (most saliently, in my mind, is the lack of temporal correlation between global temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels during the 20th Century). I don't know whether the industry-->CO2-->climate change causality chain is true, but I do know that I will be regarded as a heretic by questioning it.

What Rev Thom is saying, though, is that if a global warming believer will have the most success by re-engaging the idea of technological progress and commercial activity as having the potential to benefit the world rather than rejecting them altogether; not least because it is impossible to do so.

We had a service in my UU church this week about global warming, and if you replaced the words 'greenhouse gasses' with 'sin' it would have had both the tenor and the content of an evangelical revival meeting. This service lacked the sensibility to meet the 'nonbeliever' half way, and see what kernel of truth might lie in doubt. When we have shed all doubt, we have shed the capacity to reason.


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At 8:31 AM, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Hi Jeff,

I would say that what you have presented here in this thread would make an excellent reading for World Day of Conscience. I invite you and all other UUs to participate in the first observance of World Day of Conscience in your own ways on March 29th, 2006. I have many ideas about diverse ways that World Day of Conscience could be observed but I am open to plenty of suggestions from others. I will start a brain-storming thread on the WDC blog for the purpose of gathering as many suggestions as possible and sharing them with all those who choose to participate. I do hope that you and many other UUs will accept the invitation and try to organize local observances of World Day of Conscience on March 29th, 2006. At minimum there should be a successful inter-religious event observed up here in Montreal.

Allah prochaine,

Robin Edgar

At 8:33 AM, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Oops! Forgot to create a link to the blog.

World Day of Conscience


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