“Meaning, values, morality, and the good life must relate to facts about the well-being of conscious creatures—and, in our case, must lawfully depend upon events in the world and upon states of the human brain. Rational, open-ended, honest inquiry has always been the true source of insight into such processes.”
Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values
For years, and especially since the 2016 Presidential election, I’ve been very interested in keeping up with news and politics. I’ve avidly read online news sites and listened to satellite radio programs while driving in the car, but I’ve discovered that my consumption has contributed to a bit of hopelessness about the state of affairs in our country and culture. So recently I’ve decided to cut back on my news intake as an antidote to that hopelessness. In thinking about writing this month’s Vestry Visions, I was reminded that one of the biggest things in my life that gives me hope is our church family.
During my college and young adult years, I was a member of various evangelical Christian groups and about as dogmatic a person as you could find. Following a 2003 Father’s Day sermon at my parents’ church, during which Kevin and I had the “pleasure” of learning that we were viewed as “perverts,” I concluded that there was no way to reconcile my religious beliefs with who I was. Of course, the minister was speaking out of “love and concern” based upon his religious beliefs. Kevin and I left that day, didn’t return to any church for a long time, and for a while I rejected any notion of religion or religiosity. Years later, after the birth of our daughter Pluma, Kevin and I became convinced that it was important to find a community of people who shared many of our values. We were blessed, if you will, to discover the Unitarian Church in Charleston.
On several occasions since we’ve been members, I’ve overheard comments about our church by someone close to me who does not identify as an evangelical but is nevertheless a professing Christian, to the effect of, “What’s the point of having a church if the people don’t believe in God (or Jesus, or the Bible, etc.)?” I haven’t taken the opportunity to respond, but if I were to do so, a short passage from our announcements on many Sundays would serve very well:
“The Unitarian Church in Charleston is a thriving liberal religious community. We worship, work, and play together to meet our individual and group needs—be they intellectual, social, or spiritual. We welcome all who seek a religious home, free of creeds and based on reason, conscience, and love.”
Rarely a Sunday service at our church passes that I’m not moved in a powerful way—by the beauty of the sanctuary, the music, the liturgy, the words spoken from the pulpit. But what affects me the most is when I look around the sanctuary at the faces of the beautiful people who make up our church family and I realize how fortunate Kevin, Pluma and I are to be a part of such a welcoming, generous, kind, and caring group. I’m honored to serve on your Vestry.
I believe that the quotation above from neuroscientist and author Sam Harris applies quite well to our church. At the Unitarian Church in Charleston we are motivated to do the things we do, not because of religious dogma or creed, but rather by a search for ways to improve the well-being of ourselves, our communities, and our world. Whether it’s a beautiful Sunday service that inspires us; the coffee hour in which we find community; the many social justice efforts to which our congregants lend a shoulder; the coffeehouses, candlelight concerts, and comedy nights that entertain us; the religious education program that expands our minds; or the many (long) committee meetings that demonstrate our commitment to our causes– we are all fortunate indeed to be part of this church family.
Submitted by John Hyatt