I was not alive, much less active, for the “Consolidation” that created the UUA. I have read a lot from those who were, trying to understand where we are heading. I may have some insights: The Unitarians won the culture war, but Universalists won the theology of the UUA. This is a terrible combination.
The Universalist theology is that God is a being of love, who would never create all of these living, breathing, feeling creatures to populate the Earth with the intent of punishing some of them, eternally, for thing they do in their short time on Earth.
Human power structures have been built on rewards and punishments for thousands of years, and the idea that the gods would also punish us for our transgressions seemed so very obvious for so very long, but it doesn’t fit with our concept of a god worthy of worship and reverence: powerful and all loving.
This has been rejected in the hearts, if not the heads, of most people. That is why it is so easy for evangelical Christians to believe that, while they know that their past actions are sins against their dogma, all they have to do is say that they are sorry and ask to be forgiven, and it will be done. To oversimplify: they know that God will not damn them to eternal suffering as long as they believe that he won’t. There is a gap there, though, in believing that God can do anything except forgive, and that anyone will be made to suffer eternally. Almost no one on Earth believes that they will be damned, including, I would bet, all the dictators in history.
This is the mission that the UUA needs to take up, then: Informing people that God loves them, just like they are, even as he wants them to be better and fulfill their potential. We need to convince our membership, and then send them out into the world. We need them to love, radically, and act on that love to change the world. When you love the world, you can’t help but be hurt by the pain of others. When you love the world, you won’t need to be part of the parade to be an ally. You won’t need dozens of other people dressed like you to feel brave in the face of injustice.
A while back, I found an image about Church being a hospital for broken people. That is partly true. We Unitarian Universalists need to take up the mission to literally Love the Hell out of the World. With this in mind, love really becomes a battle field, and we are fighters in a sort of war against fear, hate, and ignorance. It gets us hurt, to open our hearts to others. We really do share the pain of those who are suffering. Our churches need to be field hospitals. We need to focus on healing people, however large or small their hurts, and sending them back into the world to share love.
It is a radical mission, and one that we already pay lip service to. We need to embrace it. We need to make it personal. We need to focus on the people who show up on Sunday, or any other day, who are injured from loving too hard. When we heal them, they will be able to go out and love more, and when they hurt, they will come back. When they find others injured in the act of love, they will invite them back, too. When we are doing the spiritual work, we will see the kind of growth that will really sustain us.
We don’t need creeds. Creeds do not save people. We need dedication and love. We need Principles that mean something in the hearts of those who embrace them. We need to be willing to let love guide us to justice and peace, because that is the only way those ideals will last. Love is how we soothe individuals, the salve that they use to heal others, and the salvation that we bring to the world.
This is our fight for the future. This is our world to minster to and make whole. Go, love the Hell out of it.