Oh, behave!

Peacebang comments on her recent inclination towards Calvinism, and I think she brings up some good points-though having seen Calvinism up close and personal, I’ll pass on it ;)

Liberal religion-and all religion for that matter-has a fundamental duty to instruct followers in basic ethics. Everyone spouts off the “do unto others” and “judge not…” maxims, but few people think deeply enough about what they really mean. For a time Unitarianism was often summed up by Jesus’ two commandments to love God and love humanity. Sounds simple enough, and it is simple-but not simplistic. Unfortunately far too many people have taken it simplistically.

I wrote an article for the AUC monthly newsletter last month discussing the story of the Good Samaritan. Many people wrongly assume (thus its common usage in our language) that the Good Samaritan story is about some good guy who did a good thing; but its not. It’s about some guy who was part of a group that was commonly thought of as “bad” in Jesus’ society who did the right thing when all the “good” people in Jesus’ society found excuses not to do the right thing. The story challenges us to think about our fellow humans (back to the two commandments of Jesus) in a way that forces us to go beyond stereotypes and labels. In short, our ethical conduct towards other people cannot be simply limited to being nice to people we like or who are like us; we can’t be mean to the neighbor with the “W” sticker on his SUV just because we voted for someone else and drive a Prius.

Unitarianism has sometimes been too optimistic about humanity, as a kind of opposite extreme to the ideas of total depravity and original sin. Rather than focus on a deeper dive into what it means to love God and love humanity, all too often Unitarianism has glossed over ethical conduct and substituted politics or social activism for it.

I don’t think Unitarianism is incapable of providing the tools necessary to lead the individual to a life of ethical living, indeed I think it is well equipped to do so. I just think it needs to find its way back to the (in Peacebang’s words) “instructive influence of authority and tradition.” We have a wonderful and enlightening tradition, and in God we find authority tempered with boundless compassion, a model worth emulating.

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