I believe that all of us have a theology that defines who we are and how we can make our world a more beautiful place. My doctoral thesis is aimed at helping leaders discover that theology for themselves and as a group in their spiritual leadership in the congregation (the Thesis is entitled “Creating Theology Together: A Curriculum for Spiritual Leadership Development”). I believe that too often Unitarian Universalists are overly concerned with the horizontal relationships of meaning; giving breadth to our spiritual understandings and welcoming those who are different into our midst. Rarely do we give adequate attention to the vertical dimension; exploring how our individual and communal meanings deepen our purpose to a greater power. Giving name to those individual theologies will be part of our journey together. I am, broadly speaking, a natural theist, an enchanted mystic with leanings towards the Holy. Through my spiritual practice and luminescent experiences I have felt the presence of a power in my life much greater than me. I reluctantly call this power “God” or God/Power. However, because I also believe in the use of reason to explain the universe, I am unable to define this God/Power beyond these fleeting encounters. I do believe God/Power is made manifest through what Henry Nelson Wieman terms the “creative interchange” we have with one another. We can, and often do, create deep meaning and hope out of our relationships with one another when it seems impossible to do so by ourselves.
I believe God/Power holds an attraction that pulls each of us towards each other in what the feminist theologian Monica Coleman terms “Gods calling”. The attraction of God’s calling is therefore calling us forward into the world as agents of change and hope. And yet, my explanation for our place in the cosmos is tentative at best since God/Power exists beyond the rational. My theology rests in my belief that we are here to make our world a better place within the larger cosmological context of an expanding universe. While I can’t say with certainty that the “universe is good” I can say that we have a responsibility as co-creators with God/Power to make the universe, or at least our little corner of the universe, better.
My theology is immanently pragmatic. Pragmatism is, to quote William James, a philosophy with a purpose, which “unstiffens all our theories, limbers them up and sets each one at work”. A pragmatic theology then is an orientation to the world, a way to look at the world, and a disposition of living in the world, that limbers a community such as a congregation to act in the world. I concur with James that “truth is one species of the good”. Unitarian Universalist theology is by nature provisional. That said, there are theological values we can hold up in common: Hope, Love, Grace and Beauty to name a few. Whether individually or collectively, I often describe our religious tradition as “more process than product”.
I believe that theology must direct us towards action as much as it explains our place in the cosmos. Theology does not tell us what to believe –that must be determined through a careful reflection on our experience, reason and intuition – but rather what we should do with what we hold ultimately meaningful. If I believe that my calling is to co-create God/Power in the world, then I am equally called to create that good which I believe represents that God in the world. I am called to create a theology with a congregation that can reach beyond such relativism to the bold possibility that we are here for a greater and more unifying good than ourselves as subjective beings in the world.