Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

In Kate Tweedie Erslev's book, Full Circle: Fifteen Ways To Grow Lifelong UUs, she quotes a person who commented on her survey:

"I wondered why we spent so much time in Sunday school learning about world religions. Why didn't we spend more time on Unitarianism?"

As a newcomer I wondered the same thing.

At the Unitarian Universalist church I attended first, I was asked several times by one of the pulpit fills to "sign the book". When I asked what this involved, he said "Just sign the book. It means you are a member." When I asked what I had to do to become a member he said, "Just sign the book."

Just sign the book?

I had little idea what Unitarian Universalism is. 90% of what I have learned about Unitarian Universalism I have taught myself.

Erslev goes on to write:

"Sharon Hwang Cooigan describes a hunger for depth in Unitarian Universalism that can be met in part by incorporating the broader resouces:

UU young adults ask me: Is Unitarian Universalism strong enough to challenge me? Deep enough to deepen me? Real enough for me to be proud of? Fellowship and comfort are good things, but I can get that at the cafe. I want to know about the religion. I want to feel its power, not just believe in some principles on paper."

I would say that 95% of the Unitarian Univeralist thoughts, feelings, and behavior I have observed and been involved in is very anemic. It offers nothing that can't be gained somewhere else. I find many people who say they agree with UU values and ideas but see no reason to join our church. It's as if we aren't doing anything really important which is worth the time and investment of energy.

And so I struggle to figure out how we make our faith deep and real. I sense that the theology and practice is there, but I can't find it clearly. I pick up tid bits here and there, but nothing really substantive to sink my teeth into if you know what I mean.

Like the adult children in Erslev's survey, I want something with power that can give meaning and purpose to my life. Unitarian Universalism is too watered down, too accepting of other religions, philosophies, ideologies, without having much of a defining tradition, structure, and beliefs of its own.

It seems paradoxically that Unitarian Universalists defining strength, inclusiveness, is also its biggest weakness. It reminds me of the bumper sticker, "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything."


  1. I live in a city with TWO UU congregations. They’re both filled with nice people espousing values that I agree with. I went to both a couple times, but haven’t been back in years. I suppose the reason I haven’t returned is that, as you put it, it seems these churches offer nothing that can't be gained somewhere else. Do I need a church to live my values? Do I need a church to give my life meaning and purpose? Do I need a church for fellowship? Maybe not. Not that these things can’t be found in church, just that a church isn’t absolutely necessary.

    When I do go to church these days (which admittedly isn’t often), I go to an unprogrammed Quaker meeting, which I like because I don’t get a prepackaged sermon intended to provide spiritual uplift. It’s a bunch of people sharing whatever they have to share, make of it what you will. Sometimes you get a song or two. Sometimes you get 45 minutes of silence. Sometimes you get a rant from a paranoid homeless man. What’s it all mean? Who the hell knows. That’s what I like about it.

  2. This is a comment I left in your post from last February, where you talked about being a UURC (a UU Roman Catholic, that is). I'm Portuguese, so cultural influences-wise I think we share a common religious background. So, considering that this last post of yours refers to a constant fear of mine, i.e., that UUist folks often tend to be quite superficial (I'd say that 'UU spirituality' is about being free in your search, but also honest while you're at it), here goes that comment, quoted below:

    "Curiously, I've been trying to define myself too, since I'm pretty Trinitarian and love several things in RC spirituality, but I also love what I've learnt so far about UUism, and, oddly enough, I've been even thinking of starting some sort of 'UU fellowship' around where I live (the Azores, in Portugal... I would be a pioneer if I did). I often feel like I'm trying to reconcile two pretty different things, but both are deep in my personality. In practice, it doesn't look too strange to me; after all, I've been living it myself! But if I had to explain how it works to other people, I'd be at a loss for words.

    But then again, the Tao that can be named isn't the true Tao. Right?"

    Many blessings. And thanks for your blog.


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