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Not long after I became a Unitarian Universalist, I was lurking on a UU chat list when a conversation began about the Trinity. Someone argued that a great deal of Trinitarian Christianity, in the United States, was largely binitarian: lots of emphasis on Jesus and God the Father, almost nothing about the Holy Spirit. This was not only the kind of interesting conversation that made me very happy to have found UUism, and “binitarianism” an accurate description of most of what I heard on Christian radio, but it made something click for me, because I thought, “Geez. The Holy Spirit is the only aspect of God I actually believe in.”

So I am troubled by The Onion’s news brief headlined God Quietly Phasing Holy Ghost Out of Trinity. It was just called to my attention today, but it’s dated 2003, and apparently the Holy Spirit has been out of the picture since Easter of that year.

Oh well. It can be in exile. I still like it, love it in fact, and it’s still the only part of the traditional Trinity that I consider divine. God the Father, if He exists, is not someone to whom I would sing praise. Annie Dillard wrote, “We have not yet encountered any god who is as merciful as a man who flicks a beetle over on its feet,” and while I think that is overly sweeping (there are kind gods out there), it does apply to the God described in the Bible, who frequently neither demonstrates compassion nor asks it of us. Jesus, in contrast, begged us to be loving, and I aspire to follow many of his teachings, but his presence in the Trinity is problematic on account of his being purely human. But the Holy Spirit? A force, invisible but palpable, that moves us to create beauty and goodness? That’s what moves me to deep reverence.

One strand of historical Unitarianism rejected the Trinity because the Biblical evidence of a Holy Spirit was thin. But if, as the old joke has it, Unitarians are those who believe in “at most one god,” then for me the Holy Spirit–elsewhere known as the Ruach HaKodesh, which translates “the Breath/Spirit of the Holy,” or the Shekhinah–is a good candidate.


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