That Old Transylvanian Religion
Unitarianism we celebrate today began nearly 450 years ago in Transylvania. The story I tell about the commitment to freedom and reason in religion has continued unbroken through the centuries, making Unitarians older than Methodists or Baptists, Pentecostals or fundamentalists.Who knew? Ken Macleod, apparently. What a strange and beautiful thing it is to discover that one of the few genuinely tolerant and progressive expressions of faith in the world has it's roots in the land of Vlad Tepis, the model for Dracula? Of course, Old Vlad is a hero in Transylvania, their equivalent of George Washington. But it's still an ironic and odd confluence, atheists finding god in th epages of fantasy and science fiction novels and an outlet for that spirituality in a faith that has its roots in the land of Dracula.
Most Unitarians seem surprised when this centuries-old heritage is identified. It is a surprise to discover that our roots go as deep as they do. The fact is, of course, that the central principle which brought together Unitarians in 16th century Transylvania is the same principle which brought together Unitarians in 18th century New England, and is the same principle which brings people into the doors of All Souls Unitarian Church in 2001. It is the principle of freedom in religion. This is our roots, and our roots go deep.
Everyone understands something about the idea of freedom. And most people do not associate freedom of belief with relig?ions. And to me it is our commitment to freedom that most distinguishes Unitarians from other religions I know. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that, in the context of our current world crisis, religious freedom, and particularly religious tolerance, are among the values this world could most benefit from today.
This principle of freedom leads us to a conviction that many other religions would repudiate: that it is far more important for our beliefs to be freely affirmed than it is for our beliefs to be correct. And further?more, it is far more likely that beliefs will be correct if they are allowed to be freely reached.
This is the underlying justification for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: freedom of speech and press and religion. Why? The First Amendment is an expression of a faith -- a faith that truth is more likely to prevail in an environment of freedom, and not coercion.
Our commitment to religious freedom parallels, therefore, our commitment to political and social freedom. Where there is repression, you are likely to find Unitarians and Universalists in battle against it.
If this keeps up, I may just find religion, after all.