World Religions: Orthodox Christianity and Universalism Compared Term Paper

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World Religions: Orthodox Christianity and Universalism Compared

This paper compares the Unitarian and Universalist Church and philosophies with the Orthodox Faith. It incorporates an interview with subject "Suzy" a member of the Unitarian church at Foothills Unitarian Church. This religion is far different from the Orthodox upbringing I am accustomed to, and provides an interesting case for comparison and contrast of the two faiths and religious beliefs.

While on first glance one may assume that these two religions are in complete opposition to each other, they actually share many of the same beliefs about humanity, justice, equality and spirituality. The primary differences between the religions rely on their interpretation of scripture, and adherence to or (or lack of, in the case of the Universalist perspective) church dogma and creed. These ideas are explored in the synopsis provided.

Unitarian Religion Overview: The Interview

The Foothill Unitarian Universalist Church, located at 1815 Yorktown Avenue in Colorado, serves the Northern Front Range Community. Considered by many a "liberal" religion, my interview with member Suzy of this faith confirms the belief systems are much more non-traditional and what many may refer to as "metaphysical" than most traditional religions as defined by most world religious texts.

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In our interview, I asked Suzy what exactly the belief structure was supporting or providing the foundation for the Unitarian Universalist faith. The church itself was much like most Catholic churches I have visited, only slightly simpler in design without much flash and minus many of the iconic figures one would normally associate with a Christian faith, or even a non-Christian faith such as Buddhism (also very symbolic in nature) or Orthodoxy (the religion I will compare Unitarian Universalism with).

Term Paper on World Religions: Orthodox Christianity and Universalism Compared Assignment

The Unitarian church is a world religion associated with Unitarians (members of the church) and Universalists (the terms are often used interchangeably) throughout the world; as Suzy noted, members of the church focus on greater acceptance of the good of all people in the world. According to the faith community and documentation provided on the church by said interviewee, those calling themselves "Unitarians" believe the following: (1) that every person is worthy of dignity and respect; (2) all human relations should incorporate justice, equity and compassion in their daily interactions; (3) it is acceptable to welcome people of other faiths into the congregation for guidance and support; (4) it is important to encourage spiritual development among all people and (5) it is important that people attending church adopt a "democratic" style process where the goal is to create a world spiritual community that works toward freedom, liberty and fairness to all humans of the world (Foothills, 2006).

Comparison and Contrast of Unitarian With Orthodox Faith

The Orthodox faith, including religions like Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox faiths, have in common many dogma and creed that must be followed by members of the congregation. Unlike the Universalist belief, which offers a "free pulpit" with no dogma or restricted creed to follow (Foothills, 2006) the Orthodox faith incorporates many traditions and spiritual practices based in the Christian faith and within spiritual documents as the bible and gospel for example. The Orthodox faith maintains that every human being is "unique and irreplaceable" and that each person represents and possess "an irreducible uniqueness" (Chirban, 1996, p. 1). In this sense, the Orthodox faith is similar to the Universalist faith, which as my interviewee noted encourages and respects the uniqueness and diversity of all people on the earth. The Orthodox faith suggests that there is a single God, a Creator, that is aware of each individual human and their particulars, and that for each person there exist a unique or divine purpose or plan (Chirban, 1996, p. 1). This too is similar to the Universalist belief that all people are worthy of spiritual growth and congregation, and that spiritual and humanist teachings can counsel people and call them to respond to God's love (Foothills, 2006). Chirban (1996) notes that within the Scriptures it is written that within every person exists a hidden "mystery, a secret shared only between that person and God" and that all people are made in the "divine image" of this supreme being, and hence capable of "salvation" when people are realistic in their idealisms and understanding of their "personhood" (p. 2).

If we continue to view the Orthodox faith along these lines, one might assume that the Universalist faith shares in common much of the same features as the Orthodox faith. There are however, many differences that exist worth exploring. The first notable difference is as noted previously, that members of the Universalist faith do not follow one creed or dogma, and often base their spiritual traditions in more modern, metaphysical and "earth-based" belief systems (Chirban, 1996, p. 2). Christians following the Orthodox religion however, focus more on the idea that at the center of existence and of human faith is God, who has some control over our existence, and who cannot be separated from individuals, because human beings are made in the likeness of their creator (Chirban, 1996).

Members of the Orthodox faith would not argue that human beings are made in God's image; what is different however, is each person's perception of what that image means; much of Orthodox scripture and doctrine rely on strict interpretation representing God as something that is unintelligible and "self-contained" (Chirban, 1996, p. 3). There are universal rules and laws of existence that one must obey to be a member of the Orthodox faith, and some of these include rituals including the ritual and sacrament of marriage and communion. Some rituals and sacraments, including that of communion, are required for one to speak of God or worship in the faith or church of an Orthodox-based community (Chirban, 1996). The Orthodox faith focuses on the conception of God as existing of three persons - which according to Chirban (1996) include "The Father, Son and Holy Spirit" each existing in a "reciprocal relationship" (p.3). Members of the faith must accept this as fact and insist in the Holy Trinity as the divine salvation.

This is very different from the Universalist approach to spirituality and religion. While within the Orthodox community members are encouraged to follow one faith, and believe in one doctrine, consisting of many principles, rules, creed and much structure, the Universalist faith suggests that people live in harmony not with a Holy Trinity, but rather with "the rhythms of nature" (Foothills, 2006). The Universalist faith affirms that renewal of the spirit is possible through means other than by communion or baptism, as is required of members of the Orthodox faith. Rather, the Universalist faith believes that many people can be prophetic and god-like in nature, with the power to confront evil with justice (Foothills, 2006; Chirban, 1996).

Members of the Universalist-based church like Suzy are much more apt to be guided by science rather than what they refer to as "idolatries of the mind and spirit" (Foothills, 2006). Worship of a particular entity is not necessary, as the Unitarian believes that all faiths are acceptable; what is more important within this belief structure is that all human beings believe in the circle of life, and adopt the philosophy that it is important to engage each other with mutual trust and support, and to acknowledge the role "mother earth" has on our existence and ability to reproduce and sustain life now and in the future (Foothills, 2006).

Members of the Universalist church as Suzy are encouraged to look within themselves to understand their purpose and vision, and to look to others to expand their vision so they can become better human beings. Someone is not punished or judged for actions they commit as long as they adhere to the belief that everything we do in life must be in harmony with what is good, just and ethical for the global community. No one is stigmatized for their interpretation of what God "is" and what God "is not."

Following this thought process, one may believe as I learned from my interview, that a member of the Universalist church may also be of Orthodox faith; however, it is unlikely that the Orthodox church itself would acknowledge the Universalist faith as they believe, as do many other Christian religions, that the Orthodox faith is the one "true" faith, and that all other faiths are "wrong" or diverge from the spiritual path that is set forth by God himself.

Interpretations of Self

Unitarian is more likely to believe it is important to dig within their own self to define who they are and what their self rather than divine purpose is; this contrasts sharply with the Orthodox belief that one's self is derived from God, and the view of themselves in light of their relationship to God, as all beings according to the Orthodox tradition are made in the likeness of God. It follows then that people following the Universalist belief system would encourage greater self-exploration and a more outward acceptance of things "metaphysical" or mystical in nature.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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