Did I scare you with that headline? Don’t worry, the talk radio station in question is KGO in San Francisco, and since it’s a San Francisco radio station, we’re not talking about Rush Limbaugh and other right wing commentators. If there’s such a thing as left-of-center AM talk radio, KGO is it.
On Sundays, KGO has a weekly radio show called “God Talk,” hosted by Brent Walters, who actually has a post-grad degree in religious studies. Yesterday, Walters did a three-hour show on Unitarian Universalism, which you can find online here. Thanks to Richard, a member of the Palo Alto church, who found this online. However, as Richard points out, “be aware that this is a rolling weekly archive, and if you wait a week it will be gone.” [Update: Victor has now put an audio file of this radio program up on his Web site (with commercials and news edited out) at: http://uustpete.org/RadioShow.mp3 Thank you, Victor!]
Brent Walters had posted an advance summary of the show online, and I’ll include it below the fold…
God Talk, October 25, 2009: Redefining Eternity
6:00 Hour—Our conversation on early Christian views about Jesus expanded from one to three hours last week. Listeners had much to contribute, and the exchange was lively. Since we did not discuss Unitarianism, a movement that opposed traditional theology on the topic, we cover it this Sunday. Beginning in the sixteenth century, we trace the development of this church to the present day. Even though most scholars identify it as “nontrinitarian,” since members reject all forms of the Nicene and subsequent creeds, its original belief system was far more comprehensive.
The first Unitarian congregation in England was formed in 1774 and in the States in 1782. They emphasized free will and responsibility and believed that human nature is neither inherently corrupt nor depraved. While not a unified denomination, most asserted that reason, science, and philosophy could coexist with faith. Labeled “liberal,” they reveled in pluralism while remaining committed to their core principles and beliefs. As the movement developed over the next century and a theological platform emerged, many members lost interest in its original intent and membership declined.
7:00 Hour—At the same time, another group formed around the notion that all people will be reconciled to God regardless of religious affiliation. The concept was called “universalism,” and while this designation is modern the point of view is ancient. A movement resulted that over time had several features in common with the Unitarian Church. In 1961 the two groups merged to create the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). This new alliance developed seven principles that most congregations respect today and includes issues such as: dignity, justice, compassion, spiritual growth, truth, and world peace.
They represent .03% of the U.S. population, but this does not reflect the impact both groups make on our society. Most members are active in political causes and promote civil rights as well as feminist, social justice, and gay rights movements around the world. Today the UUA is comprised of individuals from various traditions and points of view, and the number who identify with the designation “Christian” comprises only a bit more than ten percent. True to its original intent, universalism is still at the core of the belief system, and the origin of this perspective is found in a few early church writers.
8:00 Hour—We continue our discussion by taking a look at Unitarianism today, which has adjusted its message over the past century to accommodate the shifting currents of society. Many of these changes were the result of its merger with the Universalist movement, as gradually religious causes were transformed into political and social endeavors. As a result, a theological tempest brewed and a reform group broke from the main church a decade ago to establish the American Unitarian Conference. The reasons for the split and its present state are addressed.
Our conversation ends with the assertion that Paul the Apostle taught universalism, that is, he believed that all people regardless of creed or tradition are ultimately saved. We turn to the original text of his Romans letter to examine its contents. Paul wrote several statements that suggest he was persuaded, at least to some degree, that the death of Christ provided universal salvation for all humanity. If true, modern theology is out of step with one of its primary founders. I suspect that this discussion will provoke several objections and raise countless questions, and I look forward to the challenge. — Brent