Reflections on the Unitarian Universalist Religion
In October 2003 the UUCLC had its first service outside in Library Park because we were displaced by the Pedal Around The Puddle event, an annual meet for bicyclists who race around our lovely Clear Lake. I must admit I felt a little exposed out there. There was a part of me that secretly cringed at the idea of being so public. I must admit I am actually a bit uncomfortable about belonging to groups of any kind. Yet, here I am, standing before this congregation performing as a semi-minister on many occasions, and exposing myself as a Unitarian Universalist to the world.
I want people to like me. I want them to agree with me. I want them to say, "Yes, I'm with you. We are on the same spiritual path together by virtue of the fact that we are both on a spiritual path." Instead, a part of me shrinks when I am confronted by this dreaded question, when posed in a spiritual context: "So, what is your foundation?" I don't shrink because I am afraid of the question. I shrink because I know the person asking most times will not like my answers. I know I will face the judgment of God written all over their face, the smug turn of a half smirk, the flash of "heretic non-conformist" mixed with "poor lost soul in desperate need of a savior" look in their eyes, and the swelling of the spiritual breast plate as they gird for battle with me, the demon incarnate.
One day a woman came to our service named Carol. She is, apparently, someone I would describe as a refugee from Mormonism. She told several of us she was uncomfortable about the service we did that week because it struck her as a little too "churchy" — the hymns and service particulars reminding her too much of what she did not like about being a Mormon. I was one of several people who assured her that our services are like the weather... you should stick around because they will change from one week to the next. She also asked us about our "foundation", and apparently found our principles resonated with her. She simply did not like the too-Christian orientation of the service that Sunday and said she'd give us a few more tries.
A critical analysis of the Bible is essential for understanding the essence of the book and why it is so important to our culture. Even though the Bible is rife with inconsistencies, many people in our society blindly accept doctrine that it is supposedly based on as the only legitimate foundation of all wisdom. Read the Bible for yourself. Think about the implications for the story of how the ten commandments needed three tries to get published. Indeed, consider the extraordinary partnership between Moses, the man, and God, his creator... that the man was able to talk God out of destroying his chosen people in a fit of rage, and that the man took it upon himself to destroy what God had written in his own fit of rage. Consider how God's commandments apparently assign the same weight to killing a person as lying about them. What a problem this presents to those who insist on a rigid "foundation". We are encouraged to not second guess God, or apply man's standards of understanding, yet it must be done all the time in order to impose some measure of reasonableness to a system of beliefs that is fundamentally unreasonable.
Fundamentalists claim the Bible is called the unerring word of God. It can be contained in a book or it can be contained on a chip no bigger than a postage stamp. The question is, can that voice be contained at all? Is it stuck, fixed, glued, embedded in the past, or does it change over time. Does God change? Does God speak to us outside the confines of religion or dogma? Is every message received outside those parameters not be trusted because it is an attack from Satan? I'll tell you one thing — a God of absolutes would not have allowed Wal-Mart to be open on Sundays, or daytime soap operas to exist, or animals to become extinct.
So the question still remains: "What is your foundation?” That question sometimes is a difficult one for us Unitarian Universalists. Just by our very nature we tend to not wish to codify, or classify, or contain our insights into spiritual consumerables. We prefer to do our own thinking, thank you very much, even though having those thoughts may take us to levels of ambiguity, self-doubt, and loss of direction. We, religious refugees, are very uncomfortable with the trappings of religion. We tend to spend an awful lot of time pursuing that dangerous pastime — that devil's workshop, otherwise known as thinking.
You see how easily I slipped into the negative to answer the positive? I automatically attempt to answer the question "What is your foundation?" by discussing what is not my foundation. Although I would never presume to speak for all Unitarian Universalists, I'll take a shot at answering the question.
I believe the wisdom of God cannot be contained in a book any more than God can be confined to a single thought or purpose. I believe God is continually revealed in me because I am as much God as God is me. I believe all ten commandments are embodiments of only one overriding imperative — "that ye love one another" (St. John 15:12). I believe Jesus found the Christos that I am striving to be. I believe that all people are my brothers and sisters. I believe in the basic goodness of humanity because I believe in the basic goodness of the God whom we created and who created us. I am not afraid of God and believe that God is powerful enough to deal with me directly and loving enough to never abandon or condemn me.
I believe we will not progress towards true peace in our world unless we grow up spiritually. To do so, we must be willing to take responsibility for our spiritual growth. The universe is full of answers and mysteries, truths and insights. God has changed and so have we. Our friend, Harold Camping will finally be able to attest to that after October 21, 2011. Humanity must look beyond borders and principalities, we must accept that we are all genetically bound to the same ancestors, and we must expand our understanding of God as we expand our understanding of ourselves and the universe in which we live.
As for me, when confronted by the question "What is your foundation", I should be more willing to share that foundation with others, even if they recoil at what I have to say. I should challenge them as they do me. I should ask them "Why does your God need to be defended? How come you have to read about your God in a book? Why are you so separated from your God? How come your God needs your help in communicating with other human beings? Do you really believe in a vengeful, jealous, and wrathful God who has placed you outside of his grace until you believe his son is your savior? Better yet, do you believe a God would destroy the entire universe because of the transgressions of humanity?"
I have a lot of questions like that. Maybe those questions should be raised all the time. A healthy debate is just the thing to encourage understanding and foster common wisdom. The challenge to engage in a healthy debate is what we Unitarian Universalists are all about. So, if anyone wants to know anything about us, tell them that is one of our foundations... then invite them to a friendly rumble.
About this blog.
This blog is a place where many of the confluences of my life can be shared. I am, at the core, a creative person. I approach everything from that basis... whether composing symphonies, playing the cello, being a serial entrepreneur, writing sermons and essays, flying airplanes, or creating software apps. I am deeply passionate about creativity, issues of social justice, and spiritual enrichment. These are fundamental to everything I do. Welcome to my journey!