Ignorance Is Not A Sin, Pride Is: Climate Science and Congress

I am not a Mexican. I have ever even been to Mexico. If you were to ask me about the authenticity of a particular restaurant, I couldn’t help you. What if, on the other hand, you asked 20 Mexicans, and 10 of them said “Absolutely authentic,” and 5 said “Pretty close,” and 4 said “Well, not from my part of the country,” and one said “No”? I would trust that it is authentic, wouldn’t you?

I am not a coder. All code looks a little random to me. If you asked me if a bit of code were efficient or well done, I could not answer you. I would ask a few friends. If I asked 50 friends to evaluate it, and 25 of them said it looked great, 15 of them said “I think it looks good, but that’s not a language I am really skilled at, so maybe it could have been done better,” 7 of them said “It will defintely get the job done, but it could be more efficient,” and the last three said, more or less “No”. I will still use that code with confidence.

Like so many members of Congress, I am not a scientist. Like members of congress, I have not really studied the issue of climate change and I could not hope to make reasonable predictions about the effects of greenhouse gasses and global temperature shifts. Like Congress, I am not ashamed to say that I don’t have the expertise to make predictions or reasonable hypotheses  about the effects of energy or economic policy on the atmosphere and how that will change the habitability of the planet. That isn’t my job.

Honestly, that is what should be great about having career politicians; we should elect people who know about policy and law and economics to handle those things for us because we can’t all be experts in all things. Like us, politicians call for plumbers when they have a leak or doctors when they are ill because, like us, their job focuses on a different skill set and knowledge base. Like us, they shouldn’t all be scientists, because they need to know the legal system, the financial system, how our highways are built and repaired, and many other aspects of creating policy to make the country run better.

The problem is that many of these politicians are looking at the science, reading the conclusions of scientists, and, not understanding it for themselves, they are ignoring what the professionals are trying to tell them because the truth is comfortable.

The federal government has several divisions that are paid to do research and make predictions. Those divisions have helped us prepare for tornadoes and hurricanes. They have helped us target missiles and fly aircraft into dangerous situations. They have taken us to the moon and landed a robot the size of a small SUV on Mars. They have proven that they are good at science, and they warn us that climate change is real, and that humans are impacting it in a substantial way. That means that we could change our actions and have an impact on the course and rate at which this change is happening, and that certain actions will improve the stability of the countries and infrastructures currently in place.

When it comes to war, the Republicans are on the record saying that the government, and especially the current president, should trust the generals. They believe that the people who have fought in and risen to lead our military are trustworthy on issues of national security. The Pentagon has had military scientists looking at this, and the US military has concluded that Climate Change is a threat and that renewable energy needs to be a priority in national security. Why aren’t we listening?

When it comes to atmospheric science and the ability to look at the big picture here on Earth, few human institutions come close to the resources of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. They put most of our satellites in orbit, and they track weather patterns and changed to geography. We pay them to do it, because we need that information. Their mission is the advancement of science with the intent to “benefit all humankind“. They have been tasked with the non-partisan job of making the world a better place for people. They warn that climate change is a real threat to human civilization as we know it.

Over 97% of the papers taking a position on the cause of global warming agreed that humans are causing it.

97% of scholarly papers from scientists working on the issue take the position that humans are driving climate change.

More importantly, as with the examples I opened with, we can trust that the people who know what they are talking about agree that human activities, especially the release of carbon that had previously been trapped underground in fossil fuels like oil and coal, back into the atmosphere, are making the problem much worse. Scientists who are working in the field of climate change overwhelmingly agree that it is a problem, and that we can make changes that will lessen its impact.

Now, of course there are some who look at the same facts and come to different conclusions. That happens in every field. Literary scholars argue about author intent. Music scholars may argue about the historical value of certain composers. Biblical scholars are the reason that there are over 40,000 different denominations of Christianity. And, this is a really good thing in science, as the point of peer review is to be skeptical and make sure that the facts point to the conclusion reached. We need curmudgeons and malcontents to keep everyone on their toes and honest. Sometimes, the facts available require a change to the conclusions that science has been working from. That is how we discovered climate change to begin with.

What we see here, though, isn’t scientists arguing about methodology or conclusions. What we see here is an overwhelming consensus of professionals who are being ignored anyway because what they have to say is inconvenient. We have lawmakers admitting that they are not scientists, in the same way that the President of the United States is not a general, and instead of listening to the experts and taking the advice of the majority, they are choosing to do nothing on an issue that threatens us all.

“I am not a scientist” should be a bold statement of ignorance and willingness to listen to professionals. Instead, it is being used as a smoke screen to dishonestly claim that no one knows what the facts are. The folks doing so should be ashamed of their hubris.

The Principles of UU Evangelism

When was the last time you said to someone, “I had lunch at the best Italian place today”? Have you ever said to someone, “There is a farmers market every Thursday over off the highway, if you want better, local produce”? I can’t be the only person who has tried to convince people to visit at a small, locally owned business instead of a box store or chain restaurant. Have you ever let someone know that there is a local charity that needs the kind of items they might have otherwise set out on the curb? Have you ever talked to someone about an issue that they seemed misinformed about?

Evangelism isn’t foreign to many UUs. We just don’t apply it to our religion, which is a shame, because we are often driven to tell people about things that are exciting to us because they promote our Principles.

Part of the difference is that we have let Evangelism be owned by fundamentalists. People tell me that the definition of the word is to talk to people about Jesus and the Gospels of the Bible, and that it has no relation to Unitarian Universalism. Do we really believe that we have no place for Jesus in our religion? That would be a painful thing to hear for our great theological fore bearers, of whom we are so proud. When did we stop teaching “love your neighbor”? What would Unitarian Universalism be without non violent protests, where we “Turn the other cheek”?  Our Biblical message is part of our larger religious message; is it not as worthy of being shared as any other?

Some people have said that it goes against something fundamental in our Principles or beliefs to be excited and talk to people about why being a Unitarian Universalist matters in our lives. I would like to counter that, by saying that, just as we pray differently, worship differently, and fellowship differently from most Christian churches, we can evangelize in a way that still honors our Principles. Just as we haven’t, as a movement, given up those other words (nor should we), we shouldn’t give up the idea that we have a great message to share through personal evangelism.

We affirm and promote the idea that we honor the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Doesn’t that mean that we should be telling people that our church accepts who they are? Shouldn’t we make sure that they know where to find a community that will make room for them, as they are, and let them grow into the person they were born to be? Valuing their worth and dignity means wanting them to know that we offer something different in a church. It means telling them that, if they need it, it is there for them. Inviting people, warmly and sincerely, to join us honors their worth. Letting them choose for themselves honors their dignity. Shouldn’t we make sure they are aware of Unitarian Universalism as an option?

Unitarian Universalist congregations also covenant to “Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations”. How can we grow if we are never challenged? How can we grow if we allow our churches to stagnate and age without seeking out new members? Our mission requires fresh ideas and new talents every year, to tackle fresh obstacles and meet changing needs. Our growth requires that we hear other perspectives and that we consider new information. Our mission requires that we engage people in conversation, and that we seek out people who hold different ideas than those already represented in our congregations.

The most likely sticking point, I think may be in our commitment to “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning”. As I said last week, “I believe that we can’t convert people to Unitarian Universalism; you have to come to it already knowing that it is right for you.” I also believe, though, that we can plant the seeds by talking about our Principles, and I am proof that those ideas will stick with some people, and they can come to accept them, even if it wasn’t their first reaction. I have never advocated for beating people with copies of “On the Origin of Species” or “Guiding Principles for a Free Faith“. It wouldn’t do any good. Instead, let us lead good lives, do good in our communities, and make sure people know that we are expressing our faith and living out our Principles. We can tell people about how our congregations are families that accept and embrace our uniqueness. It isn’t about conversion or convincing people of anything other than that our church helps us be better people, and that we have a place in it for them, too.

It isn’t against our Principles to talk to people, to educate them and try to influence their decisions. Our Principles actually call on us to try to change our communities for the better. It cannot run contrary to those saving, loving, accepting ideas to share them with others, to widen and strengthen our beloved community. We cannot proselytize in the manner of fundamentalist. Ours is not a faith that comes with answers, and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. We can talk people through that, if they are willing to listen, but only if we are wiling to share. There are people you encounter every week who need to know that they can be loved for who they are. We need to extend an invitation to join in our work, because our beloved community is incomplete without them.

Evangelism isn’t in opposition to Unitarian Universalist Principles. It is required by them. As with so many other religious terms, we just need to come to our own understanding of what it means to evangelize. We can do it in a way that respects the personal quest for truth, while still proclaiming the worth and value of each person we encounter. If we have something great to share, how can we claim to better the world while keeping it to ourselves?

Why Unitarian Universalist Must Embrace Evangelism

My normal blog entry works up to a point. I spend time on the facts and details and build my case before making the statement that I am trying to convince readers of. Not today. Today, I think my point is pretty clear, and while I will back it up below, I want to make it now and tell you exactly why Unitarian Universalists need to create a form of evangelism that works for us:

People need us to tell them about our loving, inclusive faith communities. We need people to join us in our work to create and expand our beloved community.

I recently took the time to again listen to a presentation that Peter Morales and Don Southworth gave in 2000 about Unitarian Universalist Evangelism. It is a great presentation, and I highly recommend listening to it. There is an MP3 for it, which can be found on UUA.org, near the top of an article entitled “Evangelism: Letting Our Love Reach Out“. In this presentation, Rev. Morales say that he feels shame when he hears people say things like, “I was a UU for 20 years, but didn’t know it.” He says, rightly in my opinion, “…it means that we haven’t done the very simple thing of communicating who we are.”

On that same page, the UUA itself claims that we have a responsibility to reach out to others, and tell them who we are while we are working to improve our communities. As they put it, “Evangelism is the natural result of a deep belief that we Unitarian Universalists have something important and precious to offer. Evangelism is founded on the beliefs that people have a need for religious community, for deep relationships, for spiritual exploration, for social involvement.”

That is the first half of my claim: People need us. They need to know that they can be loved for who they are, even as we encourage them toward spiritual and personal growth. There are people looking for what we provide. They want us to find them, and we should want them to find us.

I feel like the second part of my thesis shouldn’t need to be defended, but I’m not known for being brief.

We need to share our Principles. They are 7 imperfect statements that form a very functional framework for how humans can share our planet and its limited resources with the rest of creation. If we agree that we should “affirm and promote” them, then we should be eager to tell people about them and how they shape our lives, individually and as communities who gather around them. Certainly, not everyone is ready to embrace them all, but if we can find even one that a person agrees with, then we can find problems that we can agree to work together on.

More over, I firmly believe that people who are exposed to diversity learn to see it as a positive thing that makes a community more adaptable and capable of addressing a wider range of problems. I believe that an educated person will see that a rational approach to the world, as opposed to one guided primarily by superstition, will see that reason and scientific study have solved many more problems than has faith alone, and I hope they will see that science and religion do not have to be at odds when each is given its proper authority. Crucially, I believe that a person who has embraced both diversity and education will find themselves more drawn to liberal religion. It is a position held by a great many fundamentalist, too, who denounce reason and learning, lest their flock find their teachings too constrictive.

If we share, we will grow. Even those who do not join a UUA-member congregation will still be better allies for our social justice and outreach. Our willingness to speak up and define ourselves will help us find partners, and it will help those who already embrace our values become members of our communities and our movement.

We have to be willing to speak of the salvation we offer; salvation from oppression and self-doubt. We need to believe that we have a message worth sharing. We need to stop being embarrassed by the language of religion, and start challenging ownership of ideas like God, Sin, and Spirit.

We need a Unitarian Universalist form of Evangelism that involves more than protests and Pride floats. We need to wear our affiliation proudly when we go out in the world and do good, whether it is volunteering at a food bank or just giving a tourist directions. We need to let the world know that our faith shapes our lives, and that there is a faith for those who want to bring a type of heaven to everyone here on Earth.

The Almighty: Images of God

While far from unanimous, the Western world has largely settled on the idea of Monotheism, or at least that is what the majority would currently profess to, if you asked them. Most of the people on Earth, the world’s Christians, Jews, Muslims, and followers of many other religions with fewer believers, are monotheists in dogma and doctrine.

The trick to monotheism is the idea that there is one creator, who oversaw, designed, or even hand-crafted the universe according to a plan. There is much disagreement about the intent, and whether this being remains “hands on” in the operation of the universe is certainly up for debate. The essence, though, is in the creation and the idea of a design or plan for the universe. As we try to understand this force of creation, our main focus and most valuable tool is our ability to understand what was created.

Thus, there are, even within monotheistic religions, many different views of what this creator wanted for creation and why there is a creation at all, and most importantly how we are supposed to react to the creator and the rest of the creation. Each person, even in hearing the same words, even those who internalize the same stories and doctrines, must shape their perception of God around their experience with creation.

For many of us, our understanding of God is, at the most basic level, the idea that God is almighty and powerful. After all, isn’t the creation of the universe enough to indicate the absolute power over the universe? We shape our idea of God based on our idea of power. The things we see as “Powerful” and “Capable” become the things we ascribe to God.

This is why many depictions of God give the creator a masculine body, and generally one that is elderly, with white hair and a beard, but also physically fit and imposing. God, of course, would have none of these traits, inherently. If the creator of the Universe is still in existence, then our concept of age clearly does not apply, and even if, as Genesis tells us, man and woman are both created in the image of God, then God must not conform to our gender roles or sexual characteristics.

What we are left with, then, in my opinion, is an image of God that mimics our image of power. The people in power in the Middle East and in Europe were mainly older men, and that became intertwined with the idea of power and authority. Being the ultimate in both power and authority, God, in those cultures, took that form in their collective consciousness. Whether this was God’s intent, or just the only way that certain people or groups could relate to the idea of The Almighty, we may never know.

Many ancient peoples and pantheons held that the creation of the universe was the act of a primordial mother, or a primordial “couple” forming Earth and Sky. The primary Greek creation myth was one of the Feminine Primordial Gaia, who created her own mate and birthed the Titans, who gave birth to the Gods, who created the world as it was known to the Ancient Greek people, who understood on some level that the planet was much older than their civilization, and incorporated that into their mythology. Ultimately, though, the world of the Greeks was ruled by men and by Gods who took the power for themselves, making it theirs by right of strength. In a way, this mirrors the progression of theology through most of the world: masculine figures taking prominence, and eventually displacing any divine feminine figures more or less completely.

Clearly, then, our image of the divine is shaped by our perception of potency and the essence of what makes something powerful. Many people see power in strength. Many see it in some form of magic or in the promise of technology. In reflection, some deities are strong, some wise, and some clever, but the monotheistic God is usually all three. Gods are born of ideas, and powerful ideas become powerful deities. Likewise, the attributes that you ascribe to God say a lot about what you value in leadership, in relationships, and in your life.

It is important, then, to consider what you really think  about God, and not just what you have been taught, or what you say in front of others. Is your true concept of the divine as loving as you say? If so, then how is that love manifested in the world? How do you emulate it? Is your vision of God vengeful? Does that make you vengeful, too? Does that improve your relationships? Is your God forgiving? Does that help you to forgive? Has that been healthy for you?

Another common and important factor in monotheism is that God is “good” and that the intent of creation was to give rise to life, and ultimately to intelligence, and that intelligent life was meant to have a relationship with God. We are meant to be “good”, helping to bring about what God wants in the Universe. Being like God is being good.

By really examining your view of God, and thus your perception of what makes one “good”, you can shape your whole being. If you know that God is vengeful, and live in fear, then you are likely to resent those who see God as loving, and live at peace with their place in the world. If you know God in absolute terms, then you will be distrustful of science, revelation, and even your own senses. If you know there to be no God at all, then it is possible to fall into arrogance and conceit, looking only at the world around you for your sense of purpose and power. Your image of God both often both dictates and mirrors your best and worst traits.

Robert Ingersoll once said that “There can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven.” This is the essence of what I am trying to say: As long as we value anger, discrimination, and vengeance as divine traits, it will be impossible to remove them as cultural institutions. We must examine our concept of God, and decide, objectively, if it matches our understanding of what is good in the world. If you wouldn’t respect your God as a neighbor, then you have to understand that your image is too small and too personal. We need a universal God, who is good without resorting to divine dispensation. We need a God willing to give us our curiosity and senses in order to use them, rather than one seen to tempt us with knowledge we are forbidden to seek. We need a God who loves all humanity, rather than picking and choosing based on situation of birth. We need to see God for what God must be, rather than for what our tribal ancestors had hoped was a champion for their way of life.’

It is said that most people have some instinct for good, and that this “conscience” is an echo of the voice of God in our lives. Whatever the origin, we know what good is. Our understanding of the Universe, both of what is true and of what feels right, must be applied to our understanding of the creator. What is wrong to do to one another in any other cause is also wrong to do in the name of God, or the name of God isn’t worthy of our worship and reverence.

 

What we are, what we are not, and what we could be:

We have a name that has never, in our 52 years, spoken to who we are.

We have a dysfunctional claim to Congregational Polity, though some of the membership accounting and so much of the business is dictated from Boston.

We have congregational authority to ordain ministers, granting any sage or fool the title of “Reverend”, yet the UUA sets a high bar for “fellowship” that ensures that only the politically savvy and financially committed receive the blessing of medical care and the chance at a secure retirement.

We have several national campaigns with political focus that, while reflecting our values in general, take the focus off the congregations and the individuals and put them on “issues”.

We have 7 Principles that have no spirit in them, and sound like a UN resolution.

We have 6 sources, but no one cares if you ignore any of them, unless the one you ignore is the one they take personally.

We have 5 “Smooth Stones” which have depth and meaning, but aren’t all that accessible without interpretation and aren’t officially part of the bylaws the way the Principles and Sources are (though they are folded into the sources and they are cannibalized for the Principles.)

What we don’t have is an identity.

What we don’t have is unity of purpose. (Is it possible to be a Unitarian Universalist without “humanist”, “Christian”, “Pagan” or some other modifier?)

What we don’t have is a focus on personal growth and development.

We have a problem, and we keep trying to act as though it is the solution.

We claim to want to be “A religion for our time”, while failing, by most standards, to be a religion at all.

I love the promise of Unitarian Universalism, but it is a promise that is not being kept; potential being squandered.

I am not alone in being disillusioned by the traditions and momentum of our religion. Most young adults seem to share some of these concerns. Some are content to wait until we inherit leadership. A few are trying to work with the system. There have been Unitarian Universalist, even among our clergy, claiming that we have no future. I refuse to just watch. I refuse to simply wait for my turn. I refuse to “work with” a system that clearly doesn’t work.

I am evangelical about my liberal faith, grounded in multiple sources and aspiring to create a kind of heaven here on Earth; a bloved community of equals. My faith is not what Unitarian Universalism is today, but what we have today won’t last another 20 years if we don’t find and embrace a center. We cannot be “a religion for our time” if what we focus on is politics. We cannot expect people to come to us if we don’t focus on people. We cannot expect spiritual leadership from politicians and “organizers”. We need to be bold in our faith, so that we can find it again, if we ever hope to make it into something we can share.

Everything to Everyone: Defintions Mean Exclusions

This is something of a follow up to a previous post. In that post, I talked about how Unitarian Universalists have been much more vocal about their disagreements with my writing than have those of other faiths and beliefs. There is value in that, and we need to be having conversations about who we are, individually and collectively. Sometimes, though, the criticism seems to be reactionary, more than out of some concern for my personal search for meaning.

Last week I found myself being called out for “anti-Christian” remarks stemming from my assertion that Universalists were different from other Christian groups because they rejected the concept of eternal damnation. Now, this may still surprise a few people, but that is the definition of a Universalist, and it has a definition because it is contrary to the teachings of the majority of Christian denominations, both historically and today. Pointing out that I was proud of our theological heritage was offensive to a couple of people, and one person felt the need to lecture me on the topic. For the record, I consider myself to be a follower of Jesus, in line with my Unitarian and Universalist beliefs, but that is a post unto itself.

Now, I fully recognize that we Unitarian Universalists have a commitment to “encourage spiritual growth” and to help each other in our “responsible search for truth and meaning“. I understand that this means that we should discuss, question, and even debate ideas with our friends and fellow congregants, in a way that doesn’t detract from their own sense of worth or dignity. I tried very hard to live up to this with the strangers who have confronted me over the last few years of my personal ministry. I have attempted to remain civil and respectful to UUs, non-Us, and former UUs who have tried to inform me of some presumed deficiency of logic or contradiction in reasoning. I have learned a great deal from some of them, and I have been less successful in maintaining my grace and composure with others. The fact that most of them have been fellow UUs is still somewhat confusing to me.

We are different from other American religious movements, though. It is important to an understanding of who we are. Notice how little fuss we make about our belief in gravity? There is no page on the UUA website that talks about our acceptance of the heliocentric model of the solar system. Those aren’t crucial declarations for us; people who deny those facts are not going to be swayed by our reason and compassion. Instead, we write proudly of our Universalist belief that no one should be denied equal rights under the law or subjected to public ridicule and derision. We devote pages to our embrace of multiple sources of revelation and the right of conscience in creating a personal theology. We tell people why we are different, because it matters that we are different from the Catholics, the Hindus, and even other liberal faiths. We embrace a broader scope of human experience than most Western Philosophies, and many originating in Asia. We acknowledge an on-going revelation, which is a crucial part of our theological heritage, though not unique among faiths rooted in the teachings of Jesus. These differences matter. They are why Unitarian Universalism matters. We offer the world a rare combination of love, acceptance, reason, and honest searching for meaning.

This particular conversation turned from a general dislike of comparison to a concern that we should not be defining ourselves in terms of what we don’t do. That is important, and I can agree with that much of the argument, but every definition is also a limit that we impose on the word. If there is no limit, no distinction between what a thing is and what it isn’t, then there isn’t a useful definition. I’ve written about this before, if anyone is interested in further thoughts. Right now, I just want to say that, while we should aim to define ourselves in positive terms and by setting goals, rather than citing aversions, being proud of what we believe isn’t the same thing as telling others that their beliefs are offensive or the mark of bad people. I am a unitarian, too, but writing that there are those who believe that Jesus was/is God wouldn’t be read as an insult by those people; nor is my observation that universalism isn’t a universal belief.

We have to stop being so sensitive to our past, individually and collectively, if we want to have honest conversations about our future. Unitarian Universalists need to stop demonizing the humanists and the Christians alike. There are plenty of each who want to help move us forward; to help us stay grounded in evidence while exploring what science cannot yet map. There were people who held the Earth as a sacred whole long before biology and ecology proved them right, and there is a lot of other ancient wisdom that we ought to remember while science catches up to revelation. There are also a lot of clannish and parochial ideas that religion has codified that humanity needs to outgrow. We need to be willing to embrace all of our sources and to create our own identity as Unitarian Universalists. We might also consider creating a name that does the same.

Unitarian Universalism is a Strange Religion, Pt. 3

I have a Twitter account that is largely about Unitarian Universalist news and thought. I have a Tumbr account which is dedicated to Unitarian Universalist ideals and Principles, as I see them. I moderate a Facebook page devoted to Unitarian Universalism. As you probably realize, reading this now, I post a lot of my thoughts about Unitarian Universalism here on A Material Sojourn. I am also more than willing to discuss my faith and the Unitarian Universalist movement in real life.

It might not surprise you to know that this leads to a lot of challenges. Atheists questioning my theology. Christians asking me to defend my humanism and my factual-but-unflattering statements about mainline Christian denominations and groups. Pagans asking me to defend my concept of divinity and my panentheist view of the universe. I am literally challenged almost every week by someone who doesn’t like some aspect of my world view or some idea I hold about God and/or religion. Rarely, I have even made a single post somewhere that has both Atheists and Christians upset with me. I don’t know what I would do if these challenges weren’t almost always coming from other UUs!

The fact is, in being a vocal Unitarian Universalist, well over half of the people who attempt to call me out on my presumed heresies, fallacies, and prejudices are fellow Unitarian Universalists. I face much more criticism for my embrace of the 7 Principles from those within the movement than from outsiders. Almost every atheist who has ever denounced my personal brand of theistic humanism has been a UU (though the UUs have not actually been the loudest or most belligerent by a wide margin). Our liberal Christians seem every bit as likely to be offended by a comment as any evangelical Christian. Pagans, I have learned, are just more likely to be contrarian and love to explore the faiths of others. UU Pagans, obviously, have a double dose of that spirit.

We have so many UUs who feel that they have been slighted in the past, either by people of faith or for being a person of faith. We have so many differing views on what the future holds for our movement and for religion in general. The core of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist is being debated and it is in flux. We need to find that center, wherever it lies. We need a theology that speaks to us, and a vocabulary with which to discuss and share it. We cannot do that until we try harder to embrace each other, each in our own search, so that each personal revelation can inspire us all. Ultimately, we cannot be all things to all people. We should not make that our goal, either. We each are on a personal search for truth, that moves some to pray, some to mediate, some to read, and all to create a spiritual practice that fulfills us. We cannot, then, deny that some people will be more at peace in a monastery, a pristine glade, or a library than in our churches and fellowship halls. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have something to offer the world.

Ultimately, it is good that we have these discussions; when they are civil, they can be very enlightening. At some point, though, we need to establish a core, or we will loose the hearts of our members. People are tired of standing against things. People are tired of being defined by what we reject. That was the core message of one of my recent critics (more on that in the next post). We understand this, and people on the far ends, the more traditional who still relish Christian themes and vocabulary and those humanist who feel that our future lies in a rejection of all things supernatural, fear losing their place within the movement. The fact that both groups identify as strongly with Unitarian Universalism as any UU deist, UU pagan, or UU Buddhist, means that there must be a way to keep everyone in the family. What I can promise is that it is not going to be done by being spiritually timid. A religion that isn’t transformative is a religion that has nothing left to offer except a label, and our label isn’t impressive enough to stand in place of foundational teachings and transformative growth.

(For other thoughts on why this is a Strange Religion that I have embraced, please see the Strange Religion tag below)