Due to streaming problems on my end, I only caught the second half of Kaaren Anderson’s sermon for General Assembly Sunday worship an hour ago, but you can bet I’ll go back and watch the rest as soon as it’s up at the General Assembly events page. About the respect for different religions expressed by Karen Armstrong (Ware lecturer earlier in the week), she pointed out that Armstrong was not trying to argue common ground–the “all religions are the same at the heart” idea, which is problematic–but rather, to call each one to accountability to its higher authority. That authority being the same for all religions: does it increase compassion and connection?
That’s what my parents taught me was the test of our religion, and all religions. When I got older, I chose the one that suited my theology better than the one in which they’d raised me, but there was no question it had to meet the basic test of whether it made me a better person and the world a better place.
The track Kaaren didn’t take but that my mind went down, in those little detours that make up half of sermon-listening, was that since religion (as she said in other words) can wield the power of life or death, it is foolish to label any particular religion destructive or constructive. Or to blame religion per se, as writers like Christopher Hitchens do–but he’s always been a sloppy thinker. I’ve run into all too many UUs who tar all of Christianity or all of Islam with the brush of that religion’s undeniable acts of destruction.
And Unitarian Universalism, too, can inspire us to choose life, or it take us down the route of self-righteousness and self-absorption, which can be not only wasteful but death-dealing. I suspect the only reason we’ve never waged a religious war against non-UUs, the way Christians, Muslims, even Buddhists have done, is that we’re so badly outnumbered. I don’t mean that as cynically as it sounds, but simply as an acknowledgement that our religion, like all human creations, contains the seeds of good and evil. We have to choose what we will do with it.
All of this took a few seconds to zip through my mind. Meanwhile, Kaaren was bringing it back home, to why we join Unitarian Universalist congregations and what their purpose is. Inspiring.
Aha, and the service is up now. Back to church!