September 26th, 2007


"A Theology" of Exclusion and Arrogance

A partial response to
"Universalism: A Theology for the 21st Century," by Rev. Forrest Church

Earlier this month, a friend of mine from my church recommended that I read a semi-recent (late 2001) UU World article by Rev. Forrest Church called "Universalism: A Theology for the 21st Century." My friend told me that she "admire[s]" the article, and that she'd "love to know [my] thoughts!"

I had in fact read Church's article, though it was some years ago. And, as regular readers of this LiveJournal are aware, I am well acquainted with Forrest Church. In addition to several discussions I have participated in on various Internet forums, this LiveJournal contains my all-too-lengthy responses to two Church works: his 2003 General Assembly sermon, "Born Again Unitarian Universalism," and the best-selling "classic introduction to Unitarian Universalism" he co-authored with former UUA President John A. Buehrens, A Chosen Faith. (I mentioned those same responses, twice quoting Church directly, in the sermon I delivered in my church in July 2006).

I've read plenty more of Church's material, and I'd like to find time to respond to more of it. For one, I think this more recent UU World article (in which Church both (a) savages the controversial 2005 Danish caricatures of Muhammad as "hate speech" that was properly silenced and (b) declares anyone who "dismiss[es] the world's scriptures" to be "as much of the world's problem as they are its solution") deserves a thorough rebuttal. But time is not always on my side. In any case, the point is that I know Rev. Church's work all too well.

In that light, I regret that I have to tell my friend that the 2001 article in question, "Universalism: A Theology for the 21st Century," is unfortunately just more of the same from Church. As usual, Church makes worthwhile points here and there--but, for me at least, they are entirely drowned out by the stunning number of nasty attacks, personal insults, and outright lies about nonbelievers that suffuse Church's article. Any notion I might entertain that Church's "theology for the 21st century" is amenable to me is buried under the overwhelming tone in his piece (as in so much of his work) of deep antipathy toward me and anyone who sees the world the way I do.

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