Wake Up in the Cathedral of the World

The late Unitarian Universalist minister Forrest Church suggested a thought experiment:

Imagine waking one morning from a deep sleep to find yourself in the nave of a vast, ancient “Cathedral of the World.”  At one end is the first altar ever built; at the other end is a shrine to the world’s newest faith; in-between is a long series of apses devoted to myriad deities, prophets, and teachings.

Builders are still at work here, having toiled from time immemorial, tearing down and raising up niches in this cathedral.  And their work will never be finished.

The Cathedral of the World has innumerable stained-glass windows, where light shines in–each beautiful in its own way.  Some are long forgotten, covered with dust; others are revered by millions, considered the most sacred of openings.  Each tells a story about the creation of the world, the meaning of history, the purpose of life, the nature of humankind, the mystery of death.

Fundamentalists claim that the light shines only through their group’s window. They believe in a God who looks only into their eyes.  Some even throw rocks through other peoples’ windows.

Skeptics, seeing the bewildering variety of windows and worshipers, conclude that there is no Truth in the light.  They won’t believe in a Divinity they cannot perceive directly.

Those on the Unitarian Universalist path see the cathedral differently.  They know how vast it is, and that our lives are too short and limited to contemplate or comprehend all of it.  Yet, they also sense that the whole is reflected in each of the parts, so they find meaning and direction where they choose to visit, learn, and participate.

UU theology acknowledges the partial nature of our understanding; respects differing insights; defends others’ rights to believe their own truths; and credits each with a measure of truth (with a small t), even those that may appear contradictory.

[published in the Red Rock News on February 4, 2022]