Still a Unitarian Universalist?

by Elias Blum

Increasingly these days I find myself wearing the ‘Progressive Christian’ label. Whereas once I might have given my religious affiliation as ‘Unitarian Universalist’, I’m now much more likely to say, ‘Progressive Christian’.

This so confused one of my friends that I was recently asked, ‘Are you still a Unitarian Universalist, or have you finally grown out of it?’

The answer I gave, in essence, was the following:

I am both a Unitarian in christology (believing that God is one and that Jesus was a human prophet) and a Universalist in soteriology and eschatology (believing that all will be saved, set free, healed, restored and reconciled, as the kingdom comes on earth as in heaven). I also take a critical, non-literal view of the bible (as the recorded wisdom and experience of the Jewish and early Christian communities, in which reflections of the divine may be found, but not the inerrant word of God).

But, for me, all these are variations on and interpretations of christianity. At the centre, it’s all about following Jesus and being in God’s holy spirit in order to be part of God’s plan for the restoration of the world and the bringing of shalom. That means there are some things that are more true, more right, more worthy of being listened to and accepted, than other things. That means there are ethical imperatives that make a calling on our lives.

I find that the contemporary Unitarian Universalist movement (on both sides of the Atlantic) has gone too far away from that; it has lost its centre in Jesus, lost its faith in God, and lost its passion for the building up of the kingdom. It has become a sort of post-modern, self-centred, syncretic religion of its own – with a bit of paganism-lite and a few non-offensive parts of Buddhism tacked on to new age consumerism.

I once even started a Unitarian Universalist house church, which went well until it was taken over by people who wanted to do meditation and yoga and didn’t want anything to do with Jesus. I don’t have time for that.

So the ‘Progressive Christian’ label, while it allows room for both unitarian and univeralist theology within it, keeps the focus more squarely on the Christian part, and that’s what I try to put at the forefront.