Thursday, September 17, 2009

What is a Unitarian Universalist way of life?

I have been reading Peter Berger's classic book, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of A Sociological Theory Of Religion in which he describes the social construction of reality of which religion, of course, is a big part, whether people are believers and go to church or not.

A key concept of Berger's is the nomos which is defined as the meaningful order or sense that is imposed upon the discrete experiences and meanings of individuals. This nomos is a social construction which gives people a sense of "that's just how things are" or "that's how things are supposed to be". Some people would call it "common sense" which everyone knows.

The nomos is so ingrained in the culture that it is unconscious for most people and the individual believes that reifications are "real" in concrete and tangible ways when they really are what Berger calls "objectifications" which are born of humans projections and externalizations of his/her experience. As the true believer says, "I don't think there is a God, I know there is a God," and the interesting question which an impartial observer might ask is "how does this person know this and why do so many people agree with him/her."

Well, there is social agreement because that is what people have been taught and it is what is commonly agreed to be the case. Whether it actually is or not, is beside the point, and anyone who wants to argue the fact against the group is bound to loose the argument at best or get killed.

The nomos is a social construction, a social understanding, which is unconsciously believed in and thereby socially reinforced. People who take issue with these socially constructed understandings will be labeled heretical or traitorous.

Unitarian Universalists have a long tradition of acknowledging and supporting heretical thinking and positions, and therefore, by definition, never will be a part of the mainstream social status quo. Unitarian Universalists support the free and responsible search for truth and meaning which probably will often threaten the commonly held understandings of the time.

What kind of religion sets itself up to continually challenge the status quo and question the prevailing nomos without catapulting society into anarchy and chaos or set itself up for subjugation and assasination as we saw in Tennessee Valley Unitarian Univeralist Church?

Unitarian Universalists are more often perceived by society as being "nice" and not believing in much. The old saying is, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything" and UUs are often perceived as being wishy washy, not believing in anything and unwilling to take a stand on important social issues for fear of conflict. I think this is an unfair assessment of the UU faith, but the question of how Unitarian Universalists makes sense of the world is often begged and no one seems to have a terribly clear or good answer.

Michael Durall says that Unitarian Universalists need to live their faith. The UU faith needs to become a way of life if it is to grow. I agree with him, but find it difficult to describe what a UU Way Of Life is. I know what an Amish way of life is, and Roman Catholic way of life having been one, and I have a sense of what a Jewish way of life is, but a Unitarian Universalist way of life? What could that possibly be?

I am asking these questions seriously expecting answers. These questions cannot be answered in the comment section of this blog so I am starting the UU A Way Of Life Discussion Group and I hope you will join me. The on line discussion group is restricted to serious seekers only. If you are interested in joining please send me a request to join at david@davidgmarkham.com and I will send you an invitation.

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