Wednesday, July 05, 2006

the new church bulletin came out...i adore my minister. what she wrote in this month's bulletin definitely shows why, extremely well. it is infused with the beauty of unitarian universalism as a deeply personal (as opposed to institutionalized) faith, and also has a liberal sprinkling of humour.

“We offer a democratic way of being religious together, of sharing in reverence and wonder. We are inspired by the example of prophetic women and men, by wisdom drawn from the world’s religions, by Jewish and Christian reminders to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves, and by humanist teachings which counsel us to make use of reason and science. Warned against idolatries, together we seek the balanced growth of mind and spirit, knowing that human creativity does not flourish unless both realms come together.”—Rev. John Buehrens, for President of the Unitarian Universalist Association

That’s a pretty good thumbnail sketch of who we are as religious liberals. Describing our way of being faithful and faith-filled is not all that hard. It is simple, direct, inspiring, and good for the long haul.

Some people want to believe that unless a religion is harsh and abrasive it won’t be very effective. They are put off by our lack of rules and dogma. Harsh and abrasive is great if you are looking for a scouring powder, harsh and abrasive is great if you are trying to get rid of a pesky bathtub ring. But harsh religion has never done anything but make people smug and mean. Having a lot of rules and taboos has never made a religion great.

Some people think that unless a religion is as complicated as a Rube Goldberg device, it’s no good. Complicated is great if you are trying to program a VCR; complicated is fine if you are fixing a recipe clipped from Gourmet Magazine, but a complicated religion won’t do you much good when you are called upon to make split second moral decisions. If you are a Unitarian Universalist, all you really have to do is remember five little words—love your neighbor as yourself. Even those of us who can’t find our car keys most of the time can remember those five little words. Simple is better.

Some people even believe that a religion is great if it asks you to check your brains at the door, suspend your doubts and take everything on faith alone. Faith alone is good if you are inclined to buy prime real estate in the Atchafelaya Swamp; faith alone is good if you are planning to take the advice of one of those “psychic phone friends” that advertise on TV. But for most of us, the cultivation of healthy doubt is essential to our well-being. Doubt is no enemy of faith, but it is the foe of hocus-pocus.

Some people even believe that a religion can be measured by the extravagant promises it makes about future rewards—the old pie in the sky when you die. Extravagant promises are great, if you are buying a lottery ticket, or waiting for the Publishers Clearing House to ring your doorbell with a fat check. But I want to believe that living a moral, ethical, spiritual life in the here-and-now is its own reward. We UUs believe in being “good for nothing,” that is to say, we believe that the ethical life is its own reward.

That’s why I’m a Unitarian Universalist. It’s straight forward and uncomplicated, skeptical but not cynical. It teaches that there is nothing wrong with using your head when it comes to matters of belief. It preaches salvation through the cultivation of a good character, and faith as faithfulness to a moral and ethical path. What could be easier? Or harder?

Love and Shalom, Suzanne

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