Free Universal Theological Translator with Membership

New to Live Oak? There are some metaphors you’ll hear us use occasionally, which serve as shorthand for a larger (hopefully helpful) concept.

One you’ll hear about is the “Universal Theological Translator.” This metaphor comes not from religion, but from the tv show Star Trek. (Which some will argue is a religion unto itself.)

In the Star Trek universe, there is a device available called a “Universal Translator.” With it, you can land on any planet and because of the device you can understand the natives, and the natives of the planet can understand you.


Not everyone has that device. But you, as a Unitarian Universalist, do. By virtue of being a Unitarian Universalist, you have the universal theological translator. You are equipped with the openness to ask questions, and the commitment to religious pluralism to swap some of their language for words that make more sense to you. When they say, Allah, or God, your brain subs in “Spirit of Life.” And each one of us has our own translator. Maybe yours subs in Goddess, or Universe; when they talk about Jesus saving them, you can hear the underlying message of someone feeling adrift and alone, but finding a bigger message to believe in.

It is a gift to have this device, and the more you use it, the better it works. It means we can often have really good conversations with people seemingly very different from us. We can create relationships. And in doing so, we can model what it is to be in relationship with people with whom we may have very different understandings about religion.

There is a Zen Buddhist metaphor, “finger pointing at moon.” The lesson in it is that if someone points at the moon, don’t look at their finger and think it the moon. It’s simply pointing to it.

In religion, we can get caught up in discussing the finger, e.g. the metaphors or the words themselves, and miss the richer discussion of what we are trying to point to.

Lucky us, to have such a marvelous invention!