Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reading the stoics, A Course In Miracles, and Unitarian Universalism - It's all vanity

I have recently begun reading the stoics, and I have long been a student of A Course In Miracles, and even though I am unchurched at the moment, I think of myself as a Unitarian Universalist.

The stoic philosophy is considered to be the foundational ideas behind the psychotherapy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The basic idea is that our thoughts are what cause our emotional distress, and behavioral dysfunction. Today in my study of A Course In Miracles, I am reading the chapter on Forgiveness and the Holy Relationship. UUs covenant to affirm and promote the values of the inherent worth and dignity of every person and the acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations and I like to add "in the world".

The first verse in the chapter on Forgiveness and the Holy Relationship reads" The betrayal of the Son of God lies only in illusions, and all his "sins" are but his own imagining." T-17.1.1:1 In other words, it's all bull shit. This seems to tie directly to the UU belief in Universalism. God, the Higher Power, Mother Nature, Life, whatever you want to call the transcendent loves us dearly and all the crap, the conditionings, the projections, the fantasies are illusions which we create. These illusions have very little or nothing to do with the essential reality of Love.

Throughout the day I forget this and get caught up in the nonsense. Every now and then, I catch myself, and pull back, step down, take a deep breath figuratively if not literally, and I remind myself that within me is the divine spark and this is part of the all, of everything, and I become aware of being one with everything, the universal. I rise above the nonsense and know that this isn't real and will pass away as surely as the next thought will come. Monkey mind the Buddhists call it. Being raised in the Christian tradition I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 1:2 Vanity of vanities, said the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Unitarian Universalism has taken a wrong turn from its spiritual underpinnings when it gets too involved in social justice issues. It might as well be the Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions or some other civic organization. It is easy to get caught up in the dramas of social justice and forget in the grand scheme of things, it is all illusions. We have to choose between God or Caesar and Jesus very aptly says "Give to God the things that are God's and to Caesar the things that are Caesar's." And when we, as UU's become hyper focused on Caesar and forget about God, we are in trouble, because we have given vanity a reality and importance it does not deserve. We are called to Universal Love and our church should help us develop and sustain this enlightened awareness. This is its mission and should be its vision. What helps you become a better person every day to awaken yourself and inspire others?




5 comments:

  1. I'm afraid I strongly disagree with your take on UUism and social justice.

    What goes on in this life is not an illusion, and is important. The reality is, that poverty and the things of this world dramatically affect people's capabilities to be all that they can be.

    If the notion of being one with the universe is to have any real-world meaning , it must include the notion of being in right relations with our fellow human beings. It seems to be impossible to be in right relations with our fellow human beings unless we pursue social justice.

    I agree that UU churches shouldn't be doing the same thing as the local branch of the Democratic Party or the Green Party, etc. And all of us should be humble about not having perfect knowledge of what specific programs/policies etc. might best promote social justice. UU ministers are not social scientists or policy wonks, and are not at their best when they try to be a Sunday version of social scientists or policy wonks.

    UU churches should be helping us be better people through what they do on Sunday and in other activities. They should be providing us with the community, message, role models, etc. that help us to have better characters and better behaviors. Part of that is the call to recognize all human beings as our brothers and sisters who deserve equal respect and dignity and justice. Part of that is calling us to be engaged in social justice work, but in a humble and non-ideological fashion.

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    1. Dear Tim:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      We have to live our lives "in the world" but not "of the world" as Jesus says. If we have faith we can move mountains. Stephen Gaskin, the Buddhist hippie teacher, said that "In the last analysis all we have to go give another human being is our own state of being."

      So if it improves your state of being to do social justice work then by all means do it and if it detracts from your state of being then maybe you are avoiding something that you should be paying more attention do.

      My comment was based on the observation that some UUs seem to act as if the raison d'etre of the church is social justice. As you point out, if that was the prime mission of the UUA and UU congregations there are other organizations and social agencies that do a far better job whose main mission is social justice in any number of areas. I can join those organizations or work with them if I want to do that. However, that's not what I am primarily looking for from a church.

      I guess what I am trying to say is that social justice is a manifestation of the spiritual and not the other way around and that Unitarian Universalism will serve us better when we have our priorities straight and focus first on the spiritual and then social justice will take care of itself.

      Mother Teresa said that she didn't do her social work because she wanted to be successful but because she wanted to be faithful. She said that Jesus said that the way to the Kingdom is "to love as I have loved." Mother Teresa said that she did her work because she loved to do it. Whether she was successful or not was in God's hands and didn't concern her..

      All the best,

      David

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    2. I love this, thank you. I am a new learner to ACIM, and have been investigating UU church, as I feel a deficit of spiritual community in my life. I spent the first half of my life as a confused and stumbling Catholic, and the second half recovering from that.

      Great blog!

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    3. Dear Ann:

      I would love to hear more about your journey. You can leave a further comment here or email me at davidgmarkham@gmail.com

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    4. The emphasis on social justice is not the problem, it is a symptom. Nothing is wrong with it per se. The same goes for the self improvement feel good stuff and the warmth of community stuff. These are all very well and good, but UUism, in it's effort to accept all and be undogmatic seems to have become dogmatically anti spiritual. On paper, UU would be a perfect home for those who believe in something like a "God" but who don't accept any of the religious ideas on offer about it. Such as Stoics. But in effect, though you are accepted despite your odd beliefs, they aren't really a part of the community or the worship. Since spiritual matters are too sensitive and divisive, there's nothing left but social action and meditation.

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