“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 8 of Spiritual Practices and Reflection: Claiming the good news of Unitarian Universalism

I'm a lifer. That is to say I've been a Unitarian Universalist for almost all of my life. I love this faith tradition and its history and stories. I love how our faith evolved, as our Unitarian and Universalist ancestors wrestled with doctrine, dogma, knowing and unknowing.

Essentially, this is where they landed:
We can follow the teachings of Jesus because they are deep, powerful, and transformative teachings, and they show us a new way to be human, to care for one another, and those outside our "tribe," whether they're man or woman, young or old, Jew or gentile, immigrant, exile, or outcast. We can follow Jesus (and his teachings) for this reason, not because he is God, and not because we must believe in his death and resurrection for our salvation. (This is the essential Unitarian claim. And of course, we're invited to follow the teachings of others, as well, as they help us live into our full humanity.)
We can trust that "God" loves the whole creation. Everyone is held in that love. We don't have to prove anything to be worthy of that love. And in turn, because we are loved, we are called to love fiercely, to persist in love, to turn love into justice in this world. Ultimately, love wins. (This is the essential Universalist claim.)
It's continued to evolve, of course, but these claims essentially boil down to these one liners:

     "We believe in the idea of one God (Unitarianism) and no one left behind (Universalism)."
"We believe in a love beyond belief." (Love trumps every boundary, barrier, or ideology that human beings construct.)
    "We don't have to think alike to love alike." (This is from Frances David, a 16th century Unitarian.)
Or simply: Love wins. (Love transforms us, and calls us into new ways of being, that nothing else does. At the end of the day, love is more powerful than fear, or even death.)

So here's the reflection question for today: "If you identify as a Unitarian Universalist, how do you name the good news of our faith? What is the good, saving news, of our Unitarian Universalist tradition?"

I'm looking for something deeper than, "It's the community," or "You can believe whatever you want (not true!)," or "It's the social justice work..." Lots of places have community and do social justice work. In your own words, what is the good theological news of Unitarian Universalism?

...I almost shared my list of what I think some of the good news is, but I've decided to wait, to see what shows up in the comments section, and then I'll add my two cents worth.


Nancy Jones said...

Thank you for undertaking this series. It's not easy, I'm sure, to post every single day for a month. I for one am reading your postings faithfully...

To answer your question: For me, UUism has offered a path that allows me to honor aspects of my childhood Christianity that still speak to me, without dancing around the aspects of Christianity I long ago rejected: notions of guilt, sin, obedience ... the church's historical abuses of power. It's a denomination that allows me, indeed requires me, to develop my own theology, an undertaking I take quite seriously. It's life-affirming, thought-provoking, and totally nourishing.

Again...thank you!

Bill Baar said...

What authority is there in UUism to tell us we can't believe what we like? In fact we can not believe in much at all, or have thin, transitory, flip-floppiness sorts of beliefs. I think were the only church for those who find only voids and should take some pride in just that.

afreefaith.com said...

We love all people for just who we are (sometimes despite what we do), and also for that wonderful person each of us can be. We love the world for just what it is (despite what it is, sometimes), and for that wonderful thing, with our help, it can be. We embrace the beauty of diversity, the glorious imperfection, of what is, and we also yearn for what can be, understanding that it will take all we can do or more to make the world we dream about.

Rev. Matt Tittle said...

I've been preaching the following words for years, and preached them again yesterday:

Unitarian Universalism has so much good news to share:

- Good news that you have inherent worth just as you are, not as someone else would have you be.

- Good news that human goodness and restoration can and will triumph over human evil and destruction.

- Good news that you are free to choose your beliefs based on human reason and your inner spirit.

- Good news that you don't have to check your doubt at the door and pretend to believe in a single truth that does not speak to you.

- Good news that you are not alone in this vast, indifferent, and yet miraculous universe.

- Good news that someone in your church, if nowhere else, loves you and will care for you in the best of times and worst of times.

- Good news that you have a spiritual home that comforts and cares, challenges and stimulates you.

- Our saving message is that you are loved just as you are. That you are valued for who you are.

- Our saving message is that in this beloved community you can face the unavoidable reality of all that is tragic in life, and still maintain the also realistic hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

- Our saving message is that the human condition is ultimately good, even though it doesn't always seem that way.

- Our saving message is that you can always lay your burden down here and look deep within yourself and beyond yourself for the truth that will set you free.

We are saved from the intense pain and suffering that are a natural part of life. This does not mean that we are ever immune from pain and suffering...simply that we know we can endure and overcome it again and again and again...because we have faith in the human condition.

Eric Cooperstein said...

The good news is that UUism calls spirituality by so many names that each of us is bound to recognize at least one with which we can connect.

Elle Sachs said...

When I was a child, there was a bible titled "The Good News." Why is Jesus the only one spoken of who shares a message of love of "good news?" I know our UU roots are in Christianity but we have grown beyound that? Haven't we? Why am I UU? What pulls me in? Some of you may remember this..."May this flame kindle within us, the warmth of compassion, the glow of love, the fire of commitment, and the light of truth."
That is what draws me, my internal flame