Outstretched Wings of the Spirit, Day Seven

The Seventh Day
(Tuesday, March 12, 2019)

A Path Through the Maze

“A belief becomes a faith when it shapes the way of one’s living, when it determines what one shall live for. It is not a faith merely when it is accepted as true. . . .

“A worthy and workable faith will be a hierarchy, with the most general belief in supreme control over the living of the individual, and less general ones in subordinate places of control. The controlling belief . . . will be that there is a reality that is most inclusive of all values and hence supremely worthful. This last is a general belief about God. It should be supplemented with many more particular beliefs. But a faith becomes productive if much evil when it allows any of these particular beliefs to take dominance over the general one. . . .

“When we learn to distinguish between the valid and invalid grounds of belief, we can survey undismayed the vast medley of religious beliefs and find a path through the maze. . . . Take for example the very important proposition: Love is better than hate.” There are three concepts here to be clarified: Love, Hate and Better. The concept of Better puts us at the very heart of the problem of value. . . . The Better is that activity which has more connections of mutual support, mutual enhancement and mutual meaning with other activities.”  (Wieman & Wieman)

What we believe is important, but our beliefs do not become religious until they transform our ways of living. They transform our ways of living only when we find them convincing, and can organize them into hierarchies of supreme and lesser goods. When lesser goods are made paramount, such as, for example, serving one’s own family—as each of us must and should—the lesser good becomes an evil, for it stands in the way of the large love of humanity and God. It prevents the growth of mutual support and enhancement, and thus of meaning, in the wider reaches of life. (Donald Szantho Harrington)


Correcting God, help us to believe, but guide and guard us against our lesser loves, that we may not put love of family or country above the growth of Your wider mutuality. Help us to experience the love that is all inclusive, that knows no bounds, yet brightly burns at every level of life. Amen.


One to every [soul] and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause,
God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes on forever
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble
When we chare truth’s wretched crust,
ere the cause bring fame and profit,
And ‘tis prosperous to be just;
Then is is the brave [one] chooses,
while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude makes virtue
Of the faith they have denied.

Thought the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ‘tis truth alone is strong;
though its portion be a scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
and, behind the dim unknow,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch o’e [God’s] own.

—James Russell Lowell (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 319)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 220)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980.