A Creed By Any Other Name Is Still A Creed

Steve Caldwell states in his reply to my post on the Purposes and Principles that I’m really misusing the word creed when talking about the use of the Ps-and-Ps. I do not believe that I am.

The Ps-and-Ps are placed EXACTLY where the NIcene or Apostle’s Creed would be placed in creedal churches’ hymnals.

In many UU churches, they are recited EXACTLY like the Nicene or Apostle’s Creed would be in creedal churches.

So while yes, Steve is right that in technical terms, the Ps-and-Ps are not a creed, they are being used as such in too many UU churches for me not to be concerned that they are in fact a creed.

I like covenants. I’ve heard many church covenants that are truly beautiful. The Ps-and-Ps have none of the beauty or eloquence of most of the church covenants that I’ve heard. So, in my mind, they are the creed. Because they are just as nonsensical and claptrap as the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds are.

So yes, dear friends, to me a creed by any other name is still a creed.

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10 thoughts on “A Creed By Any Other Name Is Still A Creed

  1. Amen

    At least insofar as a creed by any other name is still a creed.

    I have been telling U*Us that for years. The Ps-and-Ps as you call them fit these dictionary definitions of the word “creed” as I have already pointed out in the past.

    1. any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination.

    2. any system or codification of belief or of opinion.

    3. a formal statement of religious belief; a confession of faith.

    4. a system of belief, principles, or opinions.

    5. any system of principles or beliefs

    6. any summary of principles or opinions professed or adhered to.

    I disagree that they are “nonsensical” however I must agree that they are effectively “claptrap” in that they are “pretentious but insincere or empty language” or “contrived for the purpose of making a show, or gaining applause; deceptive; unreal.”

  2. Kim wrote:
    -snip-
    “I like covenants. I’ve heard many church covenants that are truly beautiful. The Ps-and-Ps have none of the beauty or eloquence of most of the church covenants that I’ve heard.”

    It’s a bylaws revision and we’re complaining that it’s bad liturgy.

    The secular equivalent would be saying the US Constitution is lousy poetry.

    We probably should decide if we want the Article II revision to be a bylaws revision or something else like liturgy or advertising copy.

    If the intended usage is bylaws, then it’s OK if it isn’t flowing liturgy.

    Perhaps it can be used as a starting point for creating a worship reading but it isn’t there in it’s current version of Article II or the proposed revision of Article II.

  3. Another quick observation — a major distinction between the traditional creed examples you mentioned (Nicene and Apostle) and the UU principles is the nearly total lack of ethical content in the traditional creeds.

    For example, the Nicene Creed has the following text describing the life of Jesus on the Earth (as copied from the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer translation):

    … he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.

    Everything that speaks to ethics and values that Jesus taught while walking the Earth is left out of this creed (e.g. Beatitudes, parables, Golden Rule, etc). It says nothing about how we should live our lives and be in relationship with our neighbors.

    It asks the reader to believe in a bunch of stuff about the nature of God and Jesus without making any ethical demands on the reader.

    In contrast, the UU principles in the current and draft Article II do present us with an ethical goal to work towards. Even if the language may be less than poetic to some, it does provide us with an ethical guidepost that can be useful in our lives.

  4. If U*Us bother to try to actually live up to the rather empty “covenants” expressed in the Seven Principles. . .

    From my perspective the Seven Principles are all but completely useless in that U*Us, at least the ones that I have direct relationships with, rarely actually *use* them in their human relations with me. Likewise many U*Us seem to be all too happy to disregard and violate the Seven Principles in their human relations with other people. I expect that’s what Kim was suggesting when she described the Seven Principles as “claptrap”. . .

  5. In response to the “creed” issue, one of my religion profs many years ago made the point that the various creedal statements (Nicene, etc) were at heart political statements, not statement of faith. They were a carefully crafted set of words that all factions could agree to AND THUS BE IN AGREEMENT on those words, even if they continued their own oppositional religious practices connected to those words. Of course, when those creeds were crafted, the notion of a personal expression of faith was reserved for those whose ultimate fate was the stake.

    If we assume that the central principle of UUs is that all are free to pursue their own truths, values, meanings, that also presumes that occasionally one or more of us may actually SETTLE on a truth or value or meaning and articulate it for the benefit of our fellows, acknowledging that it is OUR truth, at least for the moment.

    I wonder if, like my Baptist brethren and sistern, the case isn’t that the noncreedal nature of our particular faith is actually a utilitarian formulation, rather than a deep spiritual principle. The Baptists and several of the other dissenting groups found “freedom of religion” a vital principle when they were a persecuted minority but have grown less committed of that principle as they have moved into social ascendancy. Maybe we UUs have used the noncreedal principle as a rhetorical ploy that allows us to distance ourselves from distasteful (or tasteless) expressions of faith — until we have formulated something that fits us better.

  6. . . . and I confess, I’m at a loss to understand some of the tonal language on this blog:

    –“If U*Us bother to try to actually live up to the rather empty ‘covenants”’
    –“Likewise many U*Us seem to be all too happy to disregard and violate the Seven Principles in their human relations with other people”
    –“I disagree that they are “nonsensical” however I must agree that they are effectively “claptrap” in that they are “pretentious but insincere or empty language” or “contrived for the purpose of making a show, or gaining applause; deceptive; unreal.”

    About eight weeks ago in my church, two people were gunned down and six more wounded by a man who didn’t like what TVUUC stands for and has stood for for 60 years. I’ve watched the grieving families, the fellow congregants who duck under a table when someone knocks over a chair in the fellowship hall, the member who shaved off his lifelong facial hair and curls because he bore an uncanny resemblance to the man who used the shotgun, the ministers and staff and members (myself included) who have had to cope with the aftermath of the shootings (and remember even the resulting charity and good wishes created a huge burden on us the recipients).

    I know a man who GAVE HIS LIFE protecting people who believe in what you’ve labeled claptrap, and I know a hundred more by name who are giving their current life and energies to witness to the value of that claptrap.

    Contrasted with what those people are dealing with, this conversation seems rather caviling, rather breathless, rather posed — a religion of the salon, not of the streets.

  7. “A religion of the salon, not of the streets.”

    What better description of Unitarian*Universalism aka U*Uism?

    You and all other members of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian*Universalist Church in Knoxville have my sympathies and my condolences Bill but the tragic shooting in Knoxville Tennessee does not change the unfortunate facts and truths that result in my so-called “tonal language” here. I know too many U*Us, including plenty of U*U clergy and top level UUA administrators, who not only make little or no effort to actually live up to the purported “covenants” expressed in the Seven Principles but even willfully disregard them and flagrantly violate them in their rather inhuman human relations with me and other people. I disagree with Kim Hampton that the Seven Principles are “nonsensical” and said so. Quite regrettably however, from where I stand, and from where many other people whop have been mistreated by U*Us stand, the Seven Principles have been proven to be “pretentious but insincere or empty language” aka “claptrap” as have various other purported ideals of U*Uism. When U*Us abjectly fail and even obstinately refuse to actually practice what is stated in the Seven Principles and other claimed U*U ideals they effectively become “claptrap” because they are a. nothing but pretense, b. insincere language, and c. empty words. When U*Us refuse to practice what they preach their rather posed words appear to be “contrived for the purpose of making a show, or gaining applause”. They are definitely deceptive. They are regrettably unreal. . . To reference your wonderfully apt description of Unitarian*Universalism as it is all too often practiced, that I quoted back to you above, the Seven Principles and too many other purported ideals of U*Uism are all too often all salon and no street, aka all talk and no walk. . .

    You know a man who stood in the way of a shotgun, apparently attempting to protect people who he knew. I am not going to question his personal sacrifice or even his heroism. I will however say that if he gave his life so that other U*Us might live it does not validate the Seven Principles or any other claimed principle or ideal of U*Uism. Throughout human history people have similarly given their lives fighting for highly questionable ideologies and causes, religious or otherwise. You may well know I know a hundred more people by name who are giving their current life and energies to witness to the value of the Seven Principles. Quite regrettably however I know more than a hundred U*Us, including U*U clergy and top level UUA officials whose are devoting at least part of their current life and energies to making a total mockery of the purported Principles and Purposes of U*Uism and other claimed ideals of U*Uism. Their words and actions bear witness to the effective pretentiousness, insincerity and emptiness of that U*U language. I did not say that the Seven Principles in and of themselves were “claptrap” although Kim apparently did. I said that they are *effectively* “claptrap” as a result of too many U*Us, especially U*U clergy and UUA administrators, abjectly failing and obstinately refusing to actually “honor and uphold” the Seven Principles that they so insincerely and emptily “affirm and promote”.

  8. Robin,

    Glad you liked the phrase, tho you misapplied it. THIS is the salon — the streets are where I’ve seen UUs from mine and other churches standing up for civil rights, addressing LGBT issues, lobbying for fair taxation, tutoring and feeding people who can’t do it for themselves, and occasionally getting a little respite in the company of likeminded people.

    But I’m ready to concede that your experience of UUism has been significantly different from mine. Our paths are clearly askew, so I’ll leave the field to you.

    Best wishes for finding the kind of spirituality that will offer you a peace that is meaningful to you.

    Bill

  9. Bill,

    If “our paths are clearly askew”, and clearly they are, it has everything to do with the “paths” of most of the U*Us I know being significantly askew from both the letter and the spirit of U*U principles and purposes. Most of the U*Us I know, including too many U*U clergy and UUA officials, have fallen all over themselves to render the Seven Principles “claptrap” via their unprincipled words and actions which prove the Seven Principles to be not worth the paper they are written on or the breath they are spoken with.

    I did not misapply the phrase, “A religion of the salon, not of the streets.” I very appropriately *reapplied* it since it applies all too well to the U*U religion, at least insofar as what I have seen as my comment explained. A lot of U*U “churches” are little more than cliquish social clubs aka *salons* whose members emptily talk about principles and ideals that they rarely actually “honor and uphold”. On the rare occasions that these U*Us actually get around to doing a small amount of walking what they talk in their salon it is often in a pretentious and tokenistic manner. For the most part though their religious language is insincere and empty.

    Are there U*U “churches” out there that actually walk what U*Uism talks in an exemplary and consistent manner? One would hope so, and I expect that there are a few, maybe even more than a few. Indeed Tennessee Valley Unitarian*Universalist Church may well be such an exemplary U*U church, or it may not. . . I have already given it the benefit of any doubts I may have by suggesting that it may well be an exemplary U*U congregation. Allow me to introduce you to my religion of the street, or what one enlightened U*U minister once referred to as my “alternative spiritual practice”. . .

    http://www.youtube.com/user/RobinEdgar

    If I am in the street as a result of U*U injustices, abuses and hypocrisy (and not just those that directly affect me personally I might add) it is because Montreal Unitarians, UUA administrators, and too many other U*Us including U*U clergy, have rendered the Seven Principles “claptrap” via their words and actions, or indeed their failure to responsibly speak up and take action to redress the U*U injustices, abuses and hypocrisy that I am protesting against. . .

    Best wishes to and all the other members of TVUUC who were traumatized by Jim Adkisson’s murderous rampage. May you find healing and peace.

    Robin Edgar

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