Since the shooting at the Unitarian church in Knoxville on Sunday that killed 2 and injured others, I’ve been pondering why I’m a Unitarian Universalist. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be preachy, and I’m not trying to convert anyone. If we were a preachy bunch we’d have grown a lot larger in the 500 years of our existence when we were deemed heretics. It should come as no surprise to any of you that a church I’m a member of still is considered heretical by many.
I’m going to share the 7 principles of Unitarian Universalism. Since it’s always about me, I’ll share how they apply to me. We require no one to believe these, but, if you don’t it’s not likely you will be happy being a member of UU.
#1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person
If a church accepts me then it’s obvious they follow this principle. Seriously, Maurice and I were embraced the moment we walked into the church. Not tolerated. While some have a hard time tolerating me sometimes, it’s not what I want from my community. Tolerance is what I do whenever the neighbors next door fight every night. I want to be respected for who I am and the differences we have.
#2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
This one is so directly linked with the first principal. We all know what justice is, but justice does not necessarily mean compassion and that is why they are both mentioned together yet individually. Sometimes it’s hard for me to distinguish this one from the first principle. Confused yet?
#3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
Again, please note the word acceptance, not tolerance. All races, creeds and colors are welcome to worship with us. Financially? Maurice and I are pretty close to poor due to my disability yet we go to a very wealthy church community. Does anyone care? No one gives a damn at all. We’re not expected to donate a fortune to help build a new wing on the church. Donating time and effort is equally appreciated.
When I got up in front of the entire congregation and announced that the illness I’d been dealing with was actually bipolar disorder, I received nothing but love and support. No one shunned me, in fact, most sought to understand. There are some who still don’t “get it”, but they still treat me with respect. Or at least as much respect as anyone gives me, which ain’t much.
#4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
This means a guy with a big funny hat doesn’t tell us what to believe. On Sunday Morning I may sit next to someone who practices Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Atheists, Agnostics or Christianity. One of our most popular classes is “Build your own religion”. That name is funny to me because Unitarian Universalism is a religion, but the class is to help someone discover their own truth, with the understanding that is likely to change over time.
#5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
Again, there is not a man in a funny hat telling us how to run our church. Each church makes decisions on it’s own either through it’s elected board members or a congregational vote. While it’s very rare, a church can even designate someone a minister. That means I could become one without any schooling. Don’t worry, it’s very rare.
#6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
We don’t isolate ourselves. We reach out to our community and the world beyond. Social Justice is a huge part of being a UU. We refer to it as faith in action. Saying the right thing isn’t enough, they must be followed by good deeds. Most UU’s don’t believe in the concept of Heaven or Hell. We generally believe they are concepts we live here on earth and thus require us to live by our principles in the time we are here.
#7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
Most people think of this as the Environmental principle, and it is very much so. Most UU churches are currently striving to be certified as green sanctuaries. This basics of this certification are to do things like install low flow toilets, low energy bulbs and offer recycling at the church, but it’s also much more. Our church participates with local immigrants in a community garden, we plant indigenous plants where outside growth has been introduced (a big reason why California has so many mudslides), and much more.
A large part of our 7th principal includes Peace and Justice, serving to prevent war and reduce nuclear arms. Basically, it doesn’t matter how many cans people recycle if you’re going to blow them up.
I hope you don’t feel like I was too preachy. I had to write this more for me than for anyone today. I’m a little deeper than normal because of Sundays events.