"Faith of the Free"
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uufreespirit
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:12 pm    Post subject: Welcome to the "Faith of the Free" If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

[ -- by Ron Stevens]

"To a remarkable number of people, religious faith is
synonymous with conformity. A church which advocates
freedom of belief is in their minds a contradiction of terms...
Faith and freedom is not--or should not be--a contradiction."

-- Rev. (Dr.) John B. Wolf

"Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty; Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea."

-- James Weldon Johnson


-- WELCOME TO THE RINGING IN OF THE "HARMONIES OF LIBERTY"...to a different kind of "orientation" both toward religion and to life in general. Welcome to a "whole person" approach to matters of religion, for "head, heart and hands"...bringing together the free, inquiring and doubting mind; the active and healthy conscience, the unchained heart; and the boundless, engaged and justice-seeking spirit. And welcome to a truly dynamic, evolving, "living tradition" in religion, centuries in the making, but uniquely suited for the growing and sustaining of a truly "free and responsible", diversity-friendly, democratic society in the new world.

The words "free" and "society" may seem like a fundamental contradiction to some people, but we respectfully insist that they actually belong together-- and that those "harmonies of liberty" rightfully apply even to the deeper concerns of conscience...to matters of religion. Freedom and connection are mutually dependent and (when rightly understood) they are also mutually reinforcing: The greatest freedom can be gained in unity and mutual responsibility, and the most sustainable "unities" can be harvested from the fertile soils of abundant freedom. More than that, we believe that this working combination of utmost freedom and ultimate unity should apply just as much to the growing of "good religion" as to good society in general.


"I am not so much for the freedom of religion as I am
for the religion of freedom...I do not believe in a slave-holding God.
True religion must be free. Without perfect liberty of mind,
there can be no true religion."

-- Robert G. Ingersoll

"Freedom is the ground of all vital activity. Faith without
freedom is dogma. Love without freedom is an illusion.
Justice without freedom is oppression. In every instance,
freedom is the factor that sustains and completes the other
goal. It is the oxygen of the human spirit, the indispensable
element for growth and wholeness."

-- Rev. (Dr.) David O. Rankin

"The freedom of the mind is the beginning of all other freedoms".

-- Rev. (Dr.) Clinton Lee Scott


-- WE AFFIRM A MATURE AND MUTUALLY-RESPONSIBLE UNDERSTANDING of human liberation. Essential to that core premise -- that honesty and truth actually do matter, even in religion -- is the belief that freedom and openness are essential. But freedom and openness are not ends in themselves, but utilities in the pursuit of greater truth and honesty. It is important never to confuse liberty with license, diversity with chaos, or either tradition or novelty with superiority. As the Rev. Howard Thurman once proclaimed, "freedom is a discipline"...a sacred trust to be used wisely and responsibly. "Free society" belongs to all who would embrace the possibilities of utmost personal liberty (and inherent uniqueness), while also keeping mindful of the inherent commitments and responsibilities, connections and communities that nurture and sustain it.


**********************************************************


"Honesty is a basic...We have seen the tragedies brought on
by gullibility, by easy faith, by too many faith healers...and there are
those sad games played between people, when minister and congregation
don't tell each other his or her true feelings because it might upset the
other, for example...Let us not think that we can face the mystery
at the heart of the universe without our hardest, most individual,
and unique thinking. Let us face Love with honesty and the individuality
that is necessarily a part of honesty."

-- (Rev.) W. Alexander McEachern

"We are of different opinions at different hours, but we always may be said
at heart to be on the side of truth."

-- (Rev.) Ralph Waldo Emerson

"It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to
himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it
consists in professing to believe what he does not believe. It is impossible
to calculate the moral mischief that mental lying has produced in society."

-- Thomas Paine
(...from "The Age of Reason," 1794)

"Nobody entirely lacks the will to be honest, but most people settle for a
rather small share of it...All of us sometimes make some efforts to break
the bondage of the mind; only some are more obstinate than others.
Too many give up too soon."

-- Walter Kauffman

"The world is round. Sail as far as you will in search of truth. You will
encounter storms; you may be wrecked. But in the long run, the universe
is on the side of those who trust their own minds, value supremely
their own experiences, and dare to sail under their own, true colors."

-- (Rev.) Harry Scholefield
(...from "A Walk On The Beach")


-- WELCOME TO A "TRUE COLORS" APPROACH TO RELIGION which truly knows no contradiction between abundant freedom and honest, authentic faith...and even honest doubt. At the heart of our approach to religion is the belief that truth matters, and that personal honesty matters. Not that Total Honesty or The Truth are even attainable, but that -- even in religion -- we are committed to being as honest and as truthful as humanly possible -- both about what we know, but "an honest humility" to admit what we don't know...about the inherent limitations of our beliefs. The root of our "spiritual ancestors" insistence upon freedom of conscience and free-agency (or individual discernment) extended even to matters religion, was the idea of being authentic and honest to our own deepest convictions regardless of what others might try to coerce or force us to believe. It's been a historical response to religious hypocrisy, arbitrariness and triviality.

For centuries our spiritual ancestors have proudly carried the banner of what has been called "the critical way in religion", insisting on the right (and obligation) to "think for yourself"; to ask your own questions; to seek your own answers; to express your honest doubts; to grow a healthy, discerning conscience; to collaborate and compare notes and experiences with others; and to change and update your priorities and convictions as needed; the freedom to seek and to follow what is most true, good and holy along your own path, at your own pace; the freedom to humbly reach out and to listen to others, past and present...to collaborate, compare, and evaluate together, in order to make more informed choices, to recognize false assumptions, inconsistencies and prejudices, to grow in truth and wisdom. This is an approach to religion "for honest seekers and questioners"...for all who share a "holy curiosity" about life's big questions and deeper truths. It's for all people, everywhere, who value personal authenticity and integrity so deeply that they should be taken very seriously, even (or perhaps especially) in matters of religion and conscience.


**********************************************************


"We owe the modern principle of toleration to the
Italian group of Reformers, who rejected the doctrine of
the Trinity and were the fathers of Unitarianism...It was
under the influence of the Socinian spirit that Castellion
of Savoy [Sebastian Castellio] sounded the trumpet of
toleration in a pamphlet denouncing the burning of Servetus,
whereby he earned the malignant hatred of Calvin....
For a long time the Socinians and those who came under
their influence when, driven from Poland, they passed into
Germany and Holland, were the only sects which advocated
toleration. It was adopted from them by the Anabaptists
and by the Arminian section of the Reformed Church
of Holland. And in Holland, the founder of the English
Congregationalists, who (under the name of Independents)
played such an important part in the history of the Civil War
and the Commonwealth, learned the principle of
liberty of conscience...."

-- John Badnell Bury (1861 – 1927
...Irish historian, classical scholar and philologist")

"We are bound to be in the vanguard in the great struggles
for civil and religious liberty ... It is the duty of Unitarians
to be at the head of the army, that they should lead the forlorn
with hope, through the breeches of the citadel, and there
erect the flag on which we will subscribe, 'Liberty for all,
equality for all, the right and duty of private judgment.'"

-- Sir John Bowring (1792 – 1872)


-- WELCOME TO AN ONGOING "EXPERIMENT" IN FREED RELIGION. Never before in human history has there been a religious discipline so thoroughly and explicitly gathered around the principles of personal integrity (including an honest humility), authentic religious freedom, and a free, open and richly diverse society from which to discover and grow them. Our approach to religion is built around the "heremeneutics of religious liberty," a fancy-sounding phrase which basically just says that, to the extent that we fallible humans can ever really "know" ultimate things in this world. we are far more likely to find them by disciplines of free, open inquiry and critical thinking -- and by diversity, respectful dialog and sharing -- than by any other means. There is no better way to "get at" truth than by the path of freedom and openness. As John Stuart Mill (who attended Unitarian services in London in the 19th Century) expressed it, "the truth never suffered from an open argument". Welcome to "diversity informed", rather than dogma-driven and uniformity-based, treatment of religion.

Welcome to a faith-tradition for all who believe that abundant freedom is essential...not just to freedom "of" religion but freedom "within" religion as well. Not that we see freedom as an end in itself, of course, or as a stopping place of any sort. But, what better means than freedom for the unrestricted and never-ending quest for what is ultimately most true and meaningful, most valuable and of highest priority in this life we share? What better beginning place, than freedom, for the building of beloved community, and for more loving, more mutually respectful and more civil human relations in general?


**********************************************************

"...[T]ruth has no chance but in proportion as every side of it,
every opinion which embodies any fraction of the truth,
not only finds advocates, but is so advocated as to be
listened to....Not the violent conflict between parts of the truth,
but the quiet suppression of half of it, is the formidable evil;
there is always hope when people are forced to listen to both
sides; it is when they attend only to the one that errors harden
into prejudices, and that truth itself ceases to have the effect
of truth by being exaggerated into falsehood."

-- John Stuart Mill
(...from On Liberty, 1859)

"Liberty is not merely a privilege to be conferred; it is a habit to be acquired."

— David Lloyd George

"Only free minds can make a free world....
Only the free can choose."

-- Rev. (Dr.) Arthur Powell Davies


-- WELCOME TO A "DISCIPLINE" OF CHOOSING in which the quest for mental and spiritual integrity and the "duty of private judgment" are both highly personal and truly sacred. The word heresy has its roots in the word "choose". This "free mind principle" (also called the right of conscience) means being able to choose, as opposed to having right thinking and right acting imposed upon oneself by others, past or present. But although we hold intellectual and spiritual integrity to be among the the most important parts of our liberal faith-tradition, they are not understood to be fixed and final commodities, obtained once and for all times, but are ever-moving beacons continually leading us onward, demanding an ever-disciplined, never-ending questing of the humble mind and vital conscience, for greater truth and meaning, goodness and beauty, equity and justice.

Continued...


*****************************************************************

_________________
"Beyond the ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there." -- Rumi
"The Reformation Must Continue!" --- Friedrich Schleiermacher

____________________


Last edited by uufreespirit on Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:23 pm; edited 54 times in total
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:29 pm    Post subject: Continued... If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

,

"It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to
think with the masses or majority, merely because the
majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is,
or is not, believed by a majority of the people."

-- Giordano Bruno (1548 – 1600)

"Let me have the liberty of my faith as you have yours.
At the heart of religion I am one with you. It is in reality
the same religion; only on certain points of interpretation
I see differently from you. But however we differ in opinion,
why cannot we love one another?"

-- Sebastian Castellio
(...from "Defensio," 1562)


-- WELCOME TO A LIVING TRADITION IN RELIGION. To many people, this "free-spirited approach to religion" may not seem to be very "traditional" at all, but it (arguably) really is an alternative tradition in its own right, with its own special heritage and legacy worthy of consideration and celebration. Not so much a tradition in the usual sense, however...with fixed and rigidly protected views and practices...but instead is a dynamic and progressive one, where "revelation" is continuous, where the "new wineskins" of innovation are understood to be not only desirable but also inevitable.

There is no better place to look for the roots of our "Faith of the Free" than among a small and widely scattered group of free-spirited souls who, in the 1500s (and in some cases even earlier), began to react to perceived abuses and excesses and hypocrisies in the Catholic Church, but also among the major Reformation movements of John Calvin and Martin Luther. They sought a more authentic, more purified and more personally honest response to Christian thought and faith. Moreover, they increasingly sought out their own understandings of truth and revelation, rather than automatically relying upon those dictated and passed down from unquestionable church authorities. Among the major pioneers of this alternative tradition[/b] in religion -- sometimes called the "radical left wing" of the Protestant Reformation -- were courageous religious free spirits like Jan Hus (in Bohemia), Hans Denck (in Germany and Switzerland), Sebastian Franck (Germany), Guillaume Postel (Spain), Desiderius Erasmus (The Netherlands), Michael Servetus (Spain), Juan de Valdez (Spain), Lorenzo Valla (Italy), Bernardino Ochino (Italy), those who came together as the Socinian community (in Poland, Moravia and Transylvania), and Sebastian Castellio (in Spain). Their opposition to religious "business as usual" came from different directions, some of it more from a "mystical" and spiritual direction, others more "rationalistic", but their responses tended to be united by a similar spirit that earnestly sought out the most authentic and honest expressions possible of the message and vision of the prophet Jesus, uncorrupted by the authoritarian abuses and excesses and the political vested interests of the religious institutions of their day. Along the way common threads of anti-authoritarianism, democracy, free agency and an ultimate "universalism" among souls and their religious priorities often emerged.

It would be helpful and convenient if we could tie all of these early "spiritual ancestors" of our liberal faith together into a single, coordinated "movement"...but, alas, we can't do that. All we finally have are the Socinians and related radical groups of liberal Anabaptists and others who to some extent shared that liberal spirit...and individuals who continued to try to affect change within the established churches. As the Inquisition pressed the issue of religious conformity, the free spirits grew more resolute in the need for greater freedom and tolerance for diversity in religion, but they often did so at their own peril. In spite of it all, the faith of the freed spirit -- this "critical way in religion" -- continued to spread, especially westward across Western Europe, to the British Isles and then eventually to North America.


********************************************************************


"Soon after I had published the pamphlet 'Common
Sense' in America, I saw the exceeding probability
that a revolution in the system of government would be
followed by a revolution in the system of religion."

-- Thomas Paine
(...from The Age of Reason, 1794)

"But what do we mean by the American Revolution?
Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was
effected before the war commenced. The Revolution
was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change
in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations...
This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments,
and affections of the people, was the real American
Revolution."

-- John Adams
(...letter to H. Niles, February 13, 1818)


-- WELCOME TO THE OTHER REVOLUTION, another sort of "freedom movement" which is yet unfinished and still ongoing. Welcome to a fundamental change in "the system of religion" which went (and goes) beyond more free and open ideas of political governance...to embrace a more liberated, far less authoritarian and less dogmatic approach to matters of religion and conscience as well. Welcome to a "change in the system of religion", not centered around rightness of belief but about unity of spirit and uprightness of character.


"I trust however that the same free exercise of private judgment
which gave us our political reformation will extend its effects
to that of religion."

-- Thomas Jefferson
(...from a letter to John Davis, January 18, 1824)

"...Almighty God hath created the mind free,
and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain....
I have sworn eternal hostility against every form of tyranny
over the mind of man."

-- Thomas Jefferson
(...from Jefferson's original draft for the
Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and
from a September, 1800 letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush)

"Let the pulpit resound with the doctrines and sentiments
of religious liberty."

-- John Adams
(...from his 1765 "Dissertation on the Canon
and the Feudal Law")


******************************************************************


-- A FULL GENERATION BEFORE THE SIGNING OF AMERICA'S Declaration of Independence, a small but highly influential group of "liberty preachers" of Enlightenment sensibilities -- including Jonathan Mayhew, Ebenezer Gay, Charles Chauncey and Samuel Quincy -- already were passionately and effectively involved in making their cases, not for political independence, but for "freedom within religion" as well. They insisted that personal liberty of conscience and the "right of private judgment" be extended even to religion, and that its rewards, challenges and responsibilities were intended not just for a chosen few, but equally for all. Beginning as early as 1748 (in Mayhew's "Seven Sermons"), they prepared the ground both for the more widely-known "American Revolution" and, by extension, also for a second one -- which sought nothing less than a liberation of the entire human being, calling for an end to all submission and servitude of the "mind and heart" to the arbitrary rule of "kings and priests" alike, extending the fresh breath of freedom even into the realm of religion, and to the ongoing human quest for greater truth and ultimate meaning.


"We cannot bow before a being, however great and
powerful, who governs tyrannically. We respect nothing
but excellence, whether on earth or in heaven. We venerate,
not the loftiness of God's throne, but the equity and goodness
in which it is established...We believe that God is infinitely
good in disposition...not to a few, but to all."

-- William Ellery Channing
(...from his "Baltimore Sermon" of 1819)

"Is not 'rational religion' the only faculty of the soul that God
has given us, to render us capable of religion: and would men
persuade us to lay it aside, in order to become more religious?
A monstrous absurdity! 'Tis true, reason is fallible, weak and
liable to be imposed on; but still it is the only guide we have
to direct us in our searches after truth; for without it
we could neither distinguish good from evil, nor truth
from falsehood."

-- Rev. Samuel Quincy
(...from "Twenty Sermons," 1750)

"Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"

-- Daniel Webster


******************************************************************


-- WELCOME TO "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WELL-ANCHORED IN COMMUNITY". In the 1820s, early American Unitarian leader, the Rev. (Dr.) William Ellery Channing, describing the need for a free church of "liberal and catholic" sentiments, proceeded to set into motion a new movement and a new way of looking at religion and its faith-priorities. Although our approach to religion is deeply personal, it's understood to be neither private nor isolated. Recognizing that authentic freedom simply doesn't exist in a vacuum -- that it's truly meaningless apart from relationships, commitments, engagements and responsiveness -- we come together in supportive religious communities "of the freely connected and the freely committed; for the openly and boldly questioning, and for the honestly doubting and the humbly seeking". We welcome you to this new kind of church, both of abundant freedom and ultimate connection. As Unitarian Daniel Webster suggested (in a speech against "state sovereignty" in 1830), ours too is a faith-tradition of both "liberty and union, one and inseparable". As unique individuals, rich in our diversity, we come together in that "liberal and catholic spirit" as a religious community for mutual insight, inspiration and motivation, to explore the deeper questions and meanings of life -- that "ultimate reality" (regardless of the names we may give it) that holds and binds us all, and to develop our very best responses to it -- or, as one minister has described it, to give the "best that we have to the best that we can know".

*********************************************

"But, if I have to belong to some tribe, I tell myself,
make it a large tribe, make it a strong tribe,
one in which nobody is left out, in which everybody,
for once and for all, has a God-given place."

-- Albert Blanco

"To me, religion should include everybody and be concerned
with everybody. The more I learn about the actions of human
beings, the more sure I am that any activity that pits one individual,
one group, one nationality or one race against another is wrong,
and is not good religion."

-- Haynie Summers
(farmer, editor, Universalist lay-leader)


-- AGAIN, WE WELCOME YOU TO THIS GLOBAL GATHERING of people who have freely chosen to work and walk humbly together in the light of a priceless heritage. Welcome to a bold, alternative approach to religion...one of "abundant, enabling and empowering" freedom over conformity to arbitrary, authoritarian rules and rigid, limiting dogma; of striving for integrity over pretense; and of building bridges of compassion and goodwill -- and of unbounded love over barriers of animosity and fear. Welcome to a "diversity-informed" way of looking at religion that recognizes that in freedom truth lives, that in freedom love grows, and that in freedom worlds can change (...and healing can finally begin). Come and join with us as we celebrate and engage with this world through the freedom gateway. Whether you are a newcomer, a lifelong "UU", or "just plain curious," we're glad to have you with us, in a place where people need not think alike to love alike!

_________________
"Beyond the ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there." -- Rumi
"The Reformation Must Continue!" --- Friedrich Schleiermacher

____________________


Last edited by uufreespirit on Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:23 am; edited 14 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:50 pm    Post subject: But Why the Name "Faith of the Free"? If a post contains some illegal issues you may abuse on it - just click Abuse and fill the form Reply with quote

,

"Faith of the people everywhere, whatever their oppression,
of all who make the world more fair, living their faith's confession:
Faith of the Free! Whatever our plight, thy law, thy liberty, thy light,
shall be our blest possession."


-- BUT, WHY THE NAME "FAITH OF THE FREE"? The phrase appears to date back (at least) to a hymn composed by the Reverend Vincent Silliman for a convocation of Unitarian ministers in 1944. (The hymn is number 257 in the UU hymnal "Hymns for the Celebration of Life," by the way.) Its words speak of an "increasing heritage, monarch and priest defying," a "Faith of the people everywhere, whatever their oppression, of all who make the world more fair, living their faith's confession: Faith of the Free! Whatever our plight, thy law, thy liberty, thy light, shall be our blest possession" To me, those lines pretty much say it all. They describe a living heritage-- not so much of a shared theology, but of the immense value of a "free man's faith." It's not about unquestioning allegiance to "authoritarian truths" imposed upon us by others, but a stubborn insistence upon following the highest possible dictates of our own individual and unique minds and hearts. It's a shared commitment to "live our faith's confession"...to do whatever we can to "honor this gift of life" by finding ways to live together and work together peacefully, respectfully, and constructively. In other words, to me the message of this hymn is a highly positive one-- about the power of "freedom for" more than "freedom from," and about the never-ending, ongoing quest for greater "unity more than uniformity."

Rev. Silliman was one of the best friends and closest professional collegues of the Rev. Dr. A. Powell Davies, who became one of the nation's most influential clergymen during the middle part of the 20th century, and who "evangelized" that vision of a "Faith of the Free" in both word and deed, and through books and sermons that were heard by thousands. The influence of Silliman's and Davies' message and witness to an impassioned Enlightenment faith of both freedom and community -- gathered around two general (but arguably very important) theological assumptions...both the "sacred worth and inherent uniqueness" and the "ultimate connectedness/kinship of all souls"-- premises which he was convinced were (and still are) vital to both our nation and world-- have lived on, beyond the merger of the Unitarians and Universalists.

Another noted UU minister, the Rev. Dr. John B. Wolf, who served as minister to Tulsa, Oklahoma's All Souls Unitarian Church for some forty years, recently told me of the great inspiration of Davies' ministry upon his own style and passion, which has resulted in a vibrant UU congregation which now has about 1900 adult members and about 700 children, at least seven choirs, two spin-off congregations, and a community witness that continues to serve our liberal-religious movement with utmost pride and honor. (It was from John Wolf and his successor at All Souls, Brent Smith, that I had first become acquainted with the term "Faith of the Free.")

So, that vision...the vision of a faith "of the people everywhere, whatever their oppression, of all who make the world more fair, living their faith's confession" is one that, I believe, needs to be lifted high and often. The world needs to know about its alternative message -- of relational and respectful more than authoritarian and fear-motivated religion. And that's why I've decided to do my tiny part toward carrying forward and respectfully spreading that "radically-protestant, but Enlightenment-flavored" message of Hans Denck and Michael Servetus; of Sebastian Castellio and Francis David; of Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Parker; of Hosea Ballou and Clarence Skinner, and of modern-day prophets like Vincent Silliman, Powell Davies, James Luther Adams and John Wolf. I want to advance this vision of a "community of the freed spirit" that is deeply rooted in a unique living tradition, in a hard-won heritage. I want to share the good news of a legacy wedded, not to a once-and-for-all-times fixed body of doctrine but to some of the most noble and uplifting premises ever imagined...to the sacred worth of both the free, honest and boldly questioning mind and the loving, caring, compassionate and justice-seeking heart of every new generation. "Faith of the Free! whatever our plight, thy law, thy liberty, thy light, shall be our blest possession." Loving, respectful, questing, compassionate, justice-seeking community for the freed spirit: What better medicine for the healing of this faster-moving, ever-shrinking, deeply divided and wounded world?"

-- Ron Stevens

_________________
"Beyond the ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there." -- Rumi
"The Reformation Must Continue!" --- Friedrich Schleiermacher

____________________
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