Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Thirty-six

The Thirty-sixth Day
(Wednesday, April 10, 2019)

Religion Shaping History

“Religion is the way in which we endeavor to deal with the superhuman. Increase of human control over the social process does not mean that we will be any less dependent upon the growth of meaning, which we have seen if the reality of the superhuman in our midst. It does not mean that God, working in ways that are beyond our power, will be any the less operative in history. Quite the contrary is the case. We shall be more dependent upon the superhuman growth of meaning than we have been in the past. . . . When we are constantly reconstructing the social order in basic ways, there is bound to be great loss of old meanings. Therefore the meaning of life will decline, swiftly and fatally, unless there is continuous growth of new meaning.

“This danger that people in times of social control will ignore their dependence upon God for growth of meaning, is no mere speculative menace. Again and again it has happened that when people have achieved means of control over their own ways of living, they have neglected to give highest loyalty and prime concern to growth of meaning . . . They have not yielded themselves to the creative, transforming power of growth of meaning . . . They have not given supreme devotion to God. The consequence of this refusal to give primary importance to the superhuman growth of meaning has been a steady decline in the meaning of life . . .

“We are being tested again in this old way. We will be exercising more power and so have more at stake. Can humanity be trusted with power to direct the social process in human history and still remember that it is made for God and God alone? Or will we throw off that ancient allegiance and divine sovereignty and so find ourselves in a world full of activities but so barren of meaning and value that life ceases to be worth the living?

“Which way we shall go will depend very largely on what sort of religion we develop.” (Wieman & Wieman)

We live in an age of burgeoning human power, power to command material wealth from the earth, power to change the course of human evolution. Yet it is power also to pollute the atmosphere and the great waters, and to set human against human in wars which could wipe out all human life. We desperately need guidance in how we wield that power, and humility in the face of its divine and demonic potentials. It is not by chance that the age of power coincides with the dawn of folly. (Donald Szantho Harrington)


Our God, You are that Power which appears in and rewards mutuality of life’s relations. You seek to make us more sharing more supportive, more enhancing of one another. You have bound us indissolubly to all the generations of the past, and those yet to be. Help us to live and work in this realization. Amen.


From age to age how grandly rise
The prophet souls in line!
Above the passing centuries
Like beacon lights they shine.

Through differing accents of the lip
One message they proclaim,
One growing bond of fellowship,
Above all name one Name.

They witness to one heritage,
One Spirit’s quickening breath,
One widening reign, from age to age,
Of freedom and of faith.

Their kindling power our souls confess;
Though dead they speak today:
How great the cloud of witnesses
Encompassing our way!

Through every race, in every clime,
One song shall yet be heard:
Move onward in thy course sublime,
O everlasting Word!

—Frederick Lucian Hosmer (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 423)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 231)

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.