Sunday, June 29, 2014

Letter to the editor - God Revised doesn't live up to promise.

Dear Mr. Markham:

I have been following your series of articles this month about Galen Guengerich's book, God Revised, and I, once again, am struck by the blasphemous arrogance of Unitarian Univeralists who think that they can "revise God". Good luck with that as they say.

Having read Guengerich's book I am left with the impression that it is a hodge podge of academic nonsense they teach in seminaries that passes as the preparation for young professionals for the ministry. The only somewhat new idea I gleaned from his reading was his idea that gratitude should be the basis of a new ethic based on an awareness of our utter dependence on the world. However, Guengerich has shared this ideas before in the Unitarian Universalist magazine UU World and certainly aren't worth the price of the book.

Overall, I am somewhat pleased to see a Unitarian Universalist minister who has the cojones to get published by a major commercial publisher but I doubt the book will do very well with the intended audience because of its mushy premise and the lack of cohesiveness of the message. Unitarian Universalists are mocked in jokes about not believing in anything and so fall for everything. I don't think Guengerich's book helps with this perception which I was hoping it might. Guengerich writes on page 16 that his book will reconcile religion with the modern world. Does he accomplish this outlandish goal? Hardly, but he does get kudos for trying.

Guengerich fails in reconciling religion with the modern world because he tries to address the challenge using the old paradigm. Albert Einstein supposedly said one time that you can't solve problems with the same thinking that created them, and that seems to be what Guergerich is trying to do, and frankly, it doesn't work, at least for me.

What is it that is unique to Unitarian Universalism that can save the world? There are so many things, and while gratitude is nice, that's not it. Guengerich seems to mean well, but meaning well is not the same as doing it. There is a brokenness and imperfection in humanity that religion has always tried to address with its cosmological stories no matter what era, culture, religion, and Guengerich's revised god seems to overlook this basic element in human nature, let alone address it.

I wish I could be more positive in my letter to you. As you are aware, UUs value the free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and so I wanted to let you know where I am in the search and meaning making. I thank Rev. Guengerich for his effort, but there is a long way to go yet and I hope others will pick up the ball and continue down the field toward the goal line. Guengerich's stated goal of reconciling religion with the modern world is full of hubris and, as might be expected by a more temperate soul, doesn't live up to its promise.


Glen Daniels


  1. Sadly, I agree with Mr. Daniels. Rev. Guengerich falls far short of his self imposed goal. The book is an amalgam of autobiographical stories, Freshman year philosophy, half baked theology, and wishful thinking akin to a child believing in the North Pole because he believes in Santa and thinks that Santa has to have a place to make all the toys and other gifts for all the children of the world. The problem as Mr. Daniels points out is that Rev. Guengerich doesn't deal with the problem of evil and sin, and that human experience, of all things, is what religion, especially, is created to address. An ethic of gratitude in the face of a Holocaust, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, world wide poverty, over population, climate change, doesn't work until the underlying problem of human suffering, most of it self imposed, is addressed. Guengerich's "revised" god is a figment of his imagination and while I admire his courage in putting it out there, it falls ways short. Until UUs can deal with the problem of evil in the world, it will continue to lose membership.

    Thanks for the series of posts this month, though, and for suggesting God Revised as the book of the month.

  2. Guengerich's book is a lot of magical thinking and reminds me of a joke.

    Seven year old Mike was at the hairdresser with his mother and the stylist asked if he found a couple of dollars what would he do with them and Mike said he'd buy a box of tampons.

    The hairdresser was surprised and said, "Why would you buy that?"

    Mike said, "I've seen a lot of commercials for tampons, and when you have them you can go swimming, horseback riding, play soccer, and hang out with your friends whenever you want to."

    I guess if Mike could get a couple of bucks, buy some tampons, he'd be very grateful.