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Letters from our Readers 6/2004


Dear Friends at AUC, 

Bravo! and Congratulations on the best issue of American Unitarian yet (Vol. 3, March 2004). Great new cover as well. I particularly enjoyed Carl Scovel’s review of the present state of Unitarian Universalism. Sadly, it does indeed seem that Unitarian Universalism has become “institutionalized Transcendentalism,” with little regard for tradition of any kind, with no one in most of the congregations willing or able to utter the “G” word in a sermon. In my own state of Maryland, there are no Unitarian churches in which I, as a liberal Christian, would feel welcome. If the online sermons are any indication of their theology, they are nothing short of boring. Since there seems to be a natural affinity between “broad church” Anglicanism and Unitarian Christianity, I will continue (with Unitarian sympathies) to attend the Episcopal Church, where I can enjoy a beautiful liturgy, excellent preaching, and a welcoming atmosphere.

I admire Mr. Scovel’s bravery in stating that we should take another look at some older doctrines that no doubt most Unitarians, as well as other groups, thought were long buried. We should always be willing to seek new ways to reflect the Light of Christ even if it means revisiting and reworking some older ideas.

Mr. Scovel is right to suggest that we should not hang our hats on the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar. While some of their conclusions may be enlightening, I have found some to be flawed. If Jesus was just a failed Messiah, wandering Cynic (Crossan), or a Palestinian country bumpkin, then why are we still talking about him two thousand years later? Recently, I have been reading several books by N.T. Wright. He is the new Bishop of Durham (UK) and was a member of the Jesus Seminar. He often argued against Funk, Crossan, Marcus Borg, his friend and sometime verbal sparring partner. (They have written several books together.) Wright is one of the best New Testament scholars around today and he has a rare ability to put forward fresh new ways of looking at theology. While I do not agree with all of Wright’s conclusions, I rarely come away without some new insight. He writes for academia as well as for us “regular folk.” I would highly recommend his work to your readers.

Kudos also to Steve Jones. His “Rethinking the Purpose of the Crucifixion” was brilliant. It is all too easy for modern Christians, theists, atheists, and humanists to dismiss the meaning and power of the Cross as medieval nonsense, especially when the more simplistic explanations are put forward by conservative churches and films like “The Passion of the Christ.” The event of the Crucifixion is truly “multi-faceted” and if we fail to recognize its many gifts and meanings, we are missing Jesus’ message for and encouragement of our discipleship.

Please continue with all your great work. I look forward to the next issue, and I will continue to keep you all in my prayers. 

In Faith, Freedom and Reason,

Joanne Horrell

Baltimore, MD


Dear American Unitarian, 

After reading the article, “Why Jesus of Nazareth?” (Vol. 3 Issue 1), I thought I would write.

I have been a Christian Pastor and was called by God to be a pastor. Christianity, I have always thought, was about two things: 1.) Our relationship with God. 2.) Our relationship with people. This is found in Mark 12:28-31....

I don’t know when God came into my life. Perhaps He was always there. But I  became aware of His presence at 15 or 16. (I am now 55.) So I have had a personal relationship with Him for at least 40 years.  God actually talks to me on a regular basis. (Yes, God does talk to His people. Otherwise how do you think it all works?) This fact seems to have been forgotten by the mainline churches. And I wonder if it has ever been taught in the Unitarian Church. I have been a UU for 15 years and I have never heard it said. Religion without God is lacking something.

Once one has a personal relationship with God, one’s attitude to things changes. The UU Church is a nice club, but a church without God leaves a lot to be desired.

So why is a Christian Pastor in the Unitarian Church? Mostly it is because of my many experiences with God.  God put doubt in my mind about Hell. Now I believe in Universalism. Also came to see that Jesus was only a man, not a man/god. As the first scripture [cited] says, “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Jesus said it himself. If there had been a Trinity, why didn’t he say it here? In any case I think he was reiterating Deuteronomy 6:4….

It is my belief that Jesus was a Jewish Mystic and had an intense personal relationship with God, and this is found in John 14:10, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (NRSV). And in John 10:30, “The Father and I are one” (NRSV). This verse apparently means, so a mystic explained to me, that Jesus was a mystic and this is how a mystic feels after they have had a unitive experience with God. 

Pastor Marcus Hamilton-Smythe

Socinian Mysteries, Australia

© 2004 American Unitarian Conference