I recently read The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, and I figured it’s about time to make a post explaining my faith system.
What is Unitarian Universalism?
From the main website itself, Unitarian Universalism is a theologically diverse religion, that encourages people to find their own spiritual path. UU’s have an incredibly diverse mixture of backgrounds, ages, and beliefs. Atheists can be UUs. Jewish folk can be UUs. Christians can be UUs. Each person’s spirituality is unique to themselves, and this religion honors and reflects that.
From the guide:
Because Unitarian Universalists vary considerably in our individual views of spirituality, ministers are accustomed to supporting parishioners in a wide range of theological belief. Whether you are a theist, atheist, humanist, pagan, Deist, nature mystic (the list continues), you find yourself in a category known only to yourself, or you keep changing your mind, the minister will welcome you.
Unitarian Universalists hold the principles as strong values and moral teachings. As Rev. Barbara Wellsten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.”
- 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
From the pocket guide:
Unitarian Universalism is not attached to particular beliefs; rather it is committed to specific work– striking a balance between openness to differing viewpoints on one hand and fierce advocacy of shared ethical claims on the other.
Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal faith. Rather than a common theology, we are bound by our common history, our affirmation of each person’s spiritual quest, and the promises we make to one another about the spiritual values we uphold.
What led me to Unitarian Universalism?
My religious journey started back when I was in elementary school, and my parents took me to the local Methodist Church. Looking back, I didn’t really care too much for going – it was just more work on top of schoolwork. It was another book to read (the Bible), and worst yet, it was “permanent” consequences for making mistakes in life. Luckily, I was never tormented there (for being a closeted gay at that point), while some people had serious struggles with their church, but I wasn’t getting any kind of fulfillment from it either, except perhaps some moments volunteering in the nursery and looking after the children during worship services.
From the UU Guide:
Most people don’t question their social and religious customs. Most simply follow the conveyor belt of life.
This was where I was spiritually until the moment I put high school behind me.
As I entered college for the first time in 2006, I decided to shed my attachment to any religion, and defaulted to Agnostic. I had just enough shred of belief that there was something out there that it was an unanswerable question, so I didn’t fall neatly into the category of Atheist.
In spring 2008, I had a professor who was a UU minister (and happened to be teaching an LGBT Studies course at my school) and I noticed that several local events LGBTQ related were happening at the local UU church. I decided to start reading more about it online, and it really struck a chord with me. I liked how it wasn’t about one set book, that it took different viewpoints together, and was more like a college course on religion and spirituality itself.
In 2011, I started going to a church that was near me (In the meantime I had gotten caught up in the drama of failing out of school and moving to the north side of Milwaukee), and the more I went, the more I started to feel at home there. I related very much to the sermons, the people were very friendly, and I felt like it was a place where I could grow as a person. Not that I dealt with dogma at my childhood church, but I do tend to mentally associate dogma and anger with the halls of a church, having seen so many people use their religion as a sledgehammer on others.
Just before I came to Vermont, I started traveling to other UU Churches in the area (and one down in Missouri when I was there for a weekend), and continued to fall in love with the style and feeling. I’ve even been to the UU Church in downtown Burlington, which is the very Church that “Church Street” is named after.
My biggest challenge in actually going in to listen to sermons and connect with the community comes from my introversion. It’s difficult for me to go into a large room with around a hundred or so other people by myself and get comfortable where I am. I have a dream about meeting someone either romantically or platonically and going to sermons and getting more involved with them. Basically, It’s not something that I know I can do alone, but part of the magic of spiritual community is that friendships are made and it shouldn’t be too difficult to be a part of it.
From the guide:
The sense of awe that kindles the heart of a man when he watches the morning sun strike his bedroom wall and realizes how glad he is to be alive in that moment…
I have moments like this from time to time. This is what gets me out walking, what gets me wanting to see the world. This is what makes me want to listen to other people’s stories, and understand what makes each individual “tick.”
What are my core beliefs as a UU?
The way that I can combine almost all of the core values in the seven principles can be summed up like this:
I listen to as many different people’s life stories, learn from their experiences, and use that information to make myself a better person. From there, I use that wisdom to go out in the world and make a change for the better.
This applies to even the people I “meet” on television. Many people out there complain about reality television, but what I do like is that it showcases real people’s life stories and experiences. I constantly tell people how I’m a blend of so-and-so and so-and-so, and I mean that. I care about others, and some individuals I meet in life have so much of an impact that I made little adjustments to the way I see life, based on what they’ve told me. Mostly for the better, but I’ve also learned some life lessons from rotten people and what they’ve experienced. At the end of the day, every person has value. Even The Doctor has said:
All of this is why I have the whole blog series, My Inspirations.
From the guide:
A good sermon can provoke a decision that moves a person in a whole new direction. It can lift up a portion of our lives, holding it in just such a light as to reveal facets we couldn’t easily see before. A good sermon can tug us further down the path toward a difficult forgiveness or remind us of our inestimable value as persons in a world that values little. Sermons can remind us of basic things we’ve forgotten, help us to learn and unlearn, show us how to reframe the seemingly impossible ideals so that we do not lose hope. I’ve heard sermons that have helped me question an easy faith, even wrestle with God.
I’ve had this experience a handful of times. But each time I have it, it’s incredible. It makes me yearn to hear more UU Ministers speak.
In a Unitarian Universalist congregation, anyone can write a meditation, preach a sermon, or lead a worship celebration.
I still have a long way to go as a UU. But the important thing is to keep listening to others, and keep learning.