Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Forty-two

The Forty-second Day
(Tuesday, April 16, 2019)

Creative Interaction—the Saving Reality

“The order of value which commands the devotion of a religious person or group is never a private possession. It belongs by right to all humans living. . . .

“In what we call inquiring religion, as over against the dogmatic, . . . . the religious devotees do not think that they alone have the truth about the saving reality in which all human living must find whatever supreme fulfillment it can ever have. They confess that their knowledge of it is very limited and very partial. They are just as sure of its supreme importance as the dogmatists, perhaps even more so, because they do not have the restiveness and ‘rebel doubt’ which occasionally must assail people who feel that they and their tradition have all truth about it which has been vouchsafed to humankind. But the inquiring type of religionist knows that there are other insights, further knowledge, additional perspectives, and great possibilities of development in our apprehension of this most important reality. That type knows, furthermore, that this growing apprehension, full of vision and more open access to God can be attained only in the way that all truth grows, namely, by creative interaction with many different minds, many different cultures, many different insights, and the pool which is of many traditions. Therefore, such people go forth not to validate their beliefs, for they have no desire to validate them. They want to correct and enlarge them. They go forth not to save other people from the black hopelessness and error of their ways, but to enter into that creative interaction with them, that sharing, that mutual criticism, correction and enlargement that comes from cross-fertilization, filler appreciation and interchanges of thought and spirit. Thus for the inquiring religion the missionary enterprise is preeminently the way by which the road that leads to the Highest is made more plain and broad and open for all . . . It is the way of salvation for all people themselves and their cultural group along with all others. The missionary enterprise becomes the road that leads to God, for the one who has faith and inquires. . . .” (Wieman & Wieman)

A person cannot have a sense of saving truth and not feel compelled to share it with others, all others. But how we go about this becomes all important. If we do so openly, expectantly, hoping to learn as well as teach, we will succeed. If we go forth only to convert, we will fail. The truth of God, the growth of mutuality, cannot be given or taught. It can only be grown into by those who are open to learning as well as teaching. And we know that all of the human faiths have something worth our knowing. (Donald Szantho Harrington)


Universal God, make us want to share our religious insights in ever widening circles, ourselves growing deeper and more broad-minded, richer and more useful, the farther our from our home bae we may be able to reach. God, gather us in, and help us to raise each other up. Amen.


Gather us in, thou Love that fillest all;
Gather our rival faiths within thy fold;
Rend each one’s temple veil, and bid it fall,
That we may know that thou hast been of old.

Gather us in: we worship only thee;
In varied names we stretch a common hand;
In diverse forms a common soul we see;
In many ways we seek one promised land.

Thine is the mystic life great India craves;
Thine is the Parsee’s sin-destroying beam;
Thine is the Buddhist’s rest from tossing waves;
Thine is the empire of vast China’s dream.

Thine is the Roman’s strength without the pride;
Thine is the Greek’s glad world without its graves;
Thine is Judea’s law with love beside,
The truth that censures and the grace that saves.

Some seek a leader in the heavens above;
Some ask a human image to adore;
Some crave a Spirit vast as life and love;
Within thy mansions we have all and more.

—George Matheson (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 418)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 249)

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.