Yesterday, my significant other asked me to do something, and I jokingly said “no”. Jokingly, she asked me if it was against my religion or something. I had a small epiphany in that moment.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definitions for Religion include: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.
Religion requires some ideas, or Principles, that believers adhere to. A religion has to have a cause; to be for some things and against others. A religion requires that the people in it have some kind of common faith and practice that strives to do something, whether in the hearts of the faithful or the world at large.
I have a religion, but it has been made very clear to me over the last few weeks that it is not Unitarian Universalism. It has become clear to me that Unitarian Universalism does not really exist as a thing, because there is no way to define it. If there is nothing that we stand for, collectively and unabashedly, then we wear a meaningless label that reeks of all but the worst stereotypes lobbed at us by the likes of The Simpsons and Steven Colbert. I have ideas, and I will even go so far as to say that I believe in things. More over, there are things that I stand against, not just on principle, but as matters of faith.
I love my congregation because we have a covenant that makes me feel like part of something bigger than myself that has the potential to make our community a better place. I want to continue to help, in my small way, “To grow spiritually healthy people who promote love and justice in the world.” It isn’t much by way of theology, but we have a doctrine of love, the sacrament of searching honestly for truth, and the prayer of service to the community and the world. Those are things I can believe in, but they are not enough for me.
I relish the goals of the UUA, as stated in the Principles and as carried out by the Side of Love campaign, the Welcoming Congregations and Green Sanctuary programs. I love what we try to be, but I long for a movement that tries as hard to be lively as it does to be inclusive. I want to be passionate about what we stand for, rather than the constant debate about whether standing is a good idea. I want a tradition that actually leaves marks on the hearts and minds of my children and gives them something to be proud of.
I have figured out that there is no meaning in the label Unitarian Universalist for me. It means nothing, and I will sadly have to abandon my personal use of it, as it is less descriptive than calling myself “progressive”, “spiritual”, or even “mindfully human”. Since the only definitions of UU come from either membership rolls that anyone can buy into, or our critics, I refuse to submit to it at all for now on.
So, to my critics: You win. I will stop trying to change your beloved nothing. I am moving on to try and define something that has meaning in the world. I’ll see you in church.