Friday, August 27, 2004

Unitarian Universalism

My church (fellowship) is an incredible community. And my faith (Unitarian Universalism - also known as UU) is one I will never relinquish, at least as far as the principles and core beliefs are concerned. Are there flaws, misconceptions, hypocrisies, and otherwise annoying behaviors among UUs? Absolutely. And that's just counting my own contribution!

I have always been UU, really, since I had any real religious consciousness. I was raised... "Christian" (Anglican, Presbyterian, and a smidgen of Catholic schooling.) I encountered numerous people during this experience that I hold in very high regard and to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

But I never could really call myself a Christian, because I never really believed that Jesus was God. I had (and still have) a great deal of respect for what Jesus said. I was a mega-pacifist as a child because I knew that this was Jesus' message. What *would* Jesus do, after all? Would he ever agree to dropping a bomb on *anyone*? No matter how bad or irredeemable that person might seem? Let alone children? Anyway, my motivation in holding these beliefs was to play the part of a real, bona-fide Christian. Well, I'm not. My values are mostly Christian ones, yes. After all, just being part of U.S. culture is going to involve some incorporation of Christian values. But I am at the core UU. Ironically, my (overt) pacifist political stance kind-of faded away along with the pretense of my Christianity. (Especially ironic since UU as a denomination is much more "pacifist-leaning" than Presbyterianism...)

My mind: Says pacifism is not always the answer, not even usually the answer, maybe it's... occasionally the answer... should be considered as a possible answer in certain situations.

My heart: Cries for justice and defense of decent people *however* that may be acheived. (My heart is kind-of a crybaby about political stuff generally, and I don't usually count on it in the voting booth...)

My soul: Well, my soul is still pretty darn pacifist (I recognized this on 9/11... I'm assuming here that your soul is located in your gut.)

So I'm a "closet pacifist". And I go around defending war-supporters in my congregation - go figure.

But while my soul retains some lingering childhood beliefs, I have never, at any time, with heart mind or soul, accepted that Jesus is God. Nor do I accept God as He is commonly presented. And I don't regard the Bible as a Holy Book; my respect for it is the same as that for any other religious document and no more. (Reading "The Happy Heretic" or "The Skeptic's Bible" sometimes gives me solace, though I'm not an athiest.)

I *can* say that I have known God, though I cannot define God. (The only thing I will insist is true about God is that no one else *really* knows anything either.) My most recent self-challenge has been to break the habit of thinking of God as male, primarily by intentionally visualizing Her as female. This practice has helped me in many ways to break other habits of conceptualizing God - habits that limit understanding and true connection with a force that simply says "I am that I am". For example, is God all about order and symmetry and grand cathedrals and Bach cantatas? Is God a mighty and ominous figure? They say "God is all-powerful." Well, what is power? Can it be held by a round-bellied matron? Can God be found in a spider that's missing a few legs and yet still striving to survive on the jungle floor? (stolen from Barbara Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible") Can God be found in childbirth, that messy, slimy, painful, primal process which yeilds a life - a life
screaming, clawing, weak and vulnerable, yet so beautiful. Of course God is there. This kind of thing is mostly where God can be found. Can I love this God with all my heart, mind & soul? Yes, I can, and I do. And I continue to seek even greater understanding.

Thankfully, UU is a place where I can safely explore these ideas, and many others. It might seem rather chaotic from the outside. Actually, it's rather chaotic from the inside too. But it's worth considering that many of the "weird" ideas accepted by Unitarians and Universalists in the 18 & 19th centuries are now fundamental principles of American philosophy, rarely questioned even by the Religious Right. Food for Thought.


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