A Theology of...

The Unitarian movement today does not draw upon a single theology. To speak of a singular ‘Unitarian theology’ is not to speak of a contemporary discipline, but the historical 18th and 19th century tenets of belief as espoused by people such as Channing, Priestly, and Martineau. These individuals held positions such as anti-trinitarianism, a rejection of the doctrine of original sin, and a rejection of the divinity of Christ. This somewhat confusing turn of historical events means that today there are many who would claim the Unitarian label, whilst not holding to ‘Unitarian theology’. As such, today one could be a Trinitarian Unitarian, or an Atheist Unitarian, or a Buddhist Unitarian. In saying that however, most would probably just askew the need to classify themselves altogether, recognising that no one narrative or religious perspective can encompass the breath of our human experience. As Walt Whitman put it, "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."

 

The Unitarian Movement

While one cannot speak in general terms of a contemporary Unitarian theology, there is a shared Unitarian tone which can be characterised as open-mindedness, valuing rational enquiry, and not accepting beliefs based merely upon authority. Rather, we hold up the ideal of individual exploration, each seeking meaning for themselves, and being accepted, held, and welcomed within community as they do so. We have a progressive heritage, and stood against many historical and contemporary social ills, slavery, acute social deprivation, racial inequality, gender inequality, discrimination against LGBTQ people, environmental degradation, and so on...


The Gathered Church

A community of people could not meet together regularly to discuss religion and spirituality, without a shared theology emerging. This is the nature of the gathered church; we are informed by the Unitarian movement as a whole, but also elements unique to our specific place and time: traditions, sacred texts, predominant perspectives, an inherited sense of where the community sees itself in relationship to the wider culture, the perspective and approach of current and former members and ministers. All of this, makes for an entirely unique character and quality. It is not unlike a shared language, through which the gathered community unfolds a single conversation week by week. It is with all these provisos in place, that I can then begin to speak of my personal theology. 


Me, myself, and I

My religious perspective is primarily shaped by the teachings and example of Jesus. Though I naturally cast the net wide, being fed and nurtured by many religious traditions, philosophical schools of thought, psychoanalysis, science, the arts, film, literature, and music. I am incapable of sitting still when it comes to religious inquiry, I have an unquenchable curiosity, which informs every aspect of my life and ministry. I am influenced most by ‘Death of God theology’ as articulated by Thomas JJ Altizer, a practice of silent meditation, quietening and emptying the mind, and ‘non-realism’ as articulated by Don Cupitt. This perspective can approximately be labelled as Christian Atheism, or a Theology of Negation.