Monday, January 26, 2009

Where is Jesus and Buddha when you need them?

I am reading Richard Rohr's book Hope Against Darkness which he wrote with John Feister.

In the opening chapter, Chapter one, "The Postmodern Opportunity" he says some interesting things like, referring to Stephen Carter, "He says there's no belief in anything except power, possessions, and presige in America, while a religious fascade is kept up." p.7

A little further down on the same page he says, "In a market-driven culture like ours, things no longer have an inherent value, but only an exchange value. 'Will it sell? Will it win? Will it defeat the opponent?' These are the first concerns, and sometimes the only concerns of the market mind." p.7

And then he says, "The 'temple' of creation has then become a place of mere buying an selling. No wonder Jesus was driven to rage at such a scene, and consciously made 'a whip out of cord' to drive it out(see John 2:15)." p.7

"Once we lose a sense of inherent value, we have lost all hope of encountering true value, much less the Holy." p.7

I would seem to me that if Unitarian Universalism is to be relevant and meaningful in the postmodern world it must develop a theology of reverence for the inherent value of creation. Frankly, I don't see it. During my experience at PMUC, it was strikingly absent, and for over 35 years they have been operating on their savings and historic building with pulpit fills. The congregation has slowly died off and with the recent departure of alienated congregants, it is almost moribund with only about 15 pledges to provide less than adequate resources for continued operation.

Reading the debates of the UUA Presidential candidates also strikes me as very sad as rather than exercise moral and religious leadership, the candidates have been relegated to political roles pandering to interest groups within the church for votes to win. It is hard to imagine Jesus, or Buddha, doing such a thing.

Perhaps, as the postmodern view says, there is nothing sacred, and all is up for grabs. We can deconstruct the mystical into its component parts and capture it in the mundane so that it can be manipulated like objects for secular advantage.

I am looking for a religion which is based on something more than just the mundane. I am looking for a religion which has some sense of the inherent value of life that cannot be turned into a business for profit. I am looking for a religion which restores some sense of reverence and awe for the transcendent. It seems lost to me and I am wondering where is Jesus and Buddha when you need them?


  1. Based on what I have seen David I think you just might find Jesus and Buddha, to say nothing of Jeremiah, if you looked inside yourself a bit. Isn't that pretty much what Jesus said anyway? But yes, it sure would be nice if one could find an authentic religious community that actually practiced what it preaches. Maybe you and I should just completely ditch U*Uism altogether and start a brand-spanking new "designer religion" aka "cult". . . :-) More and more I am inclined to heed this little piece of advice from Jesus -

    And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’

    Luke 5:37-39 (New King James Version)

  2. Hi Robin:

    You are a very wise person and make a good analogy.

    I am not sure if the UUA is up to the task of facilitating a religious revival in the 21st century. Reading the transcripts and watching the videos of the debate, I have my doubts that the candidates grasp the needs for good leadership at the national level, and international level. They both seem to be good pastors, but this does not make one qualified for UUA leadership.

    In the postmodern world, Unitarian Universalism has been on the forefront of debunking long held "truth" of other traditions and watering them down into some sort of pablum for the masses except that the masses aren't eating because it has no flavor, not salt, no spice, no substance.

    UU must do a much better job of articulating what it is for rather than comparing itself to what it is against. I think that Universal salvation is something the majority of the population could get behind, but it is not preached in any meaningful way in our current society.

    All the best,

    David Markham

  3. I think Jesus made that particular analogy David, a couple of millennia ago. I just regU*Urgited it aka plagU*Urized it.

    "I think that Universal salvation is something the majority of the population could get behind"

    Well what really counts is if "Universal salvation" is something that God can get behind because, even if the majority of the population could get behind it, it means nothing if God is not behind it. . . That is a cautionary principle that applies to any and all monotheistic religious beliefs. I am much more of a Unitarian than a Universalist. I have my doubts about classical Universalism's theology of "universal salvation". It just may be wishful thinking aka blind faith. Not that I believe in traditional hellfire and brimstone capital 'H' Hell either but, knowing what I know about God, I am not convinced that there are no consequences for bad behavior in the hereafter. . .

  4. BTW It probably should be Where *are* Jesus and Buddha.