The Essential Oneness of Ethical Ideas

An Address by Ida C. Hultin, 1893

World's Columbian Exhibition 1893
World's Columbian Exhibition 1893. Stock Montage/Getty Images

Day 10, Parliament of the World's Religions, 1893 Columbian Exposition, Chicago. 

About This Address

This address to the 1893 Parliament is presented in the language which Rev. Hultin used. The speech is reproduced here as printed in The World's Parliament of Religions, Volume II, edited by the Rev. John Henry Barrows, D.D., Chicago, 1893.

About the Author

Ida C. Hultin (1858-1938) was raised a Congregationalist, and initially served several independent liberal churches in Michigan.

From 1884, she served Unitarian churches in Iowa, Illinois, and Massachusetts, including Moline, Illinois, where she was serving at the time of the 1893 Parliament. She was prominent in the Western Unitarian Conference, at one time vice-president of the Central States Conference of Unitarian Churches. She was also an activist for woman's suffrage.

Rev. Hultin was an "ethical basis" Unitarian, active in the Free Religious Association (as was Jenkin Lloyd Jones of Chicago, a key organizer of the 1893 Parliament). These were people who already defined themselves beyond or outside traditional Christianity. They sometimes talked of a "religion of humanity" or "rational religion." Many considered themselves the next generation of transcendentalists. While the ideas are not the same as late-twentieth-century humanism, the development in that direction was well underway in the thought of women and men like Ida Hultin.

Suggested Reading:

The Essential Oneness of Ethical Ideas Among All Men

Ida C. Hultin, 1893

Full Text: The Essential Oneness of Ethical Ideas Among All Men by Ida C. Hultin

Summary:

  • An ethical sense is universal, and trying to understand self, other selves and a relationship to an Infinite Self has long been a purpose of human history.
  • Right and wrong are about purpose, not outward circumstances and conduct.  Sin and evil help the soul develop.
  • Moral questions are beyond theology and churches. God is in every day, and obeying that voice and finding truth is not bound by any church or creed.
  • Churches and creeds have ignored justice in history.  Ministers justified slavery while others, not dogmas, freed the slaves.
  • The "woman-half of humanity" has also suffered because of theological ideas and institutions. Throughout the world, women have gained religious liberty by paying attention to the inner ethical sense in humanity.
  • "Churches as a whole do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, minister to the sick, turn prisons into reformatories, and unite to stay the atrocities of legalized cruelty. If churches were doing the humane work of the world there would not be needed so many clubs and associations and institutions for philanthropic work, and as outlets for the ethical sense. Men and women in the churches and out of them do this work, while theologians are busy with each other and the creeds."
  • Men and women of all religions, countries and races, even without formulating beliefs, have been working to do those things.
  • Defining God is less important than finding him in daily life.  Theology requires an ethical sense to be spiritual advancement.
  • The Christian name is less important than the Christ spirit.  Speakers from Japan and India mentioned what has been done in the name of Christ, and called for better Christianity.
  • We all need to learn humility, be less boastful, grow together in understanding.
  • "When asked for definitions that define, man stands dumb, even before a grass blade, and he is growing more reverent in contemplation of the all-wise, the all-true, the all-good and all-loving. Even as a little child is he learning to enter the kingdom. Spelling out the best name he knows for his highest ideal, and hoping, loving, trusting more than he can word or think."