Sunday, August 31, 2014
If you don't know where you're going any road will take you there.
First, why does the principle stop with "our congregations" and not extend outward to the community and world? Unitarian Universalism is known for its inclusivity not its exclusivity and yet in this principle it explicitly makes an exclusive statement that acceptance and encouragement to spiritual growth is affirmed and promoted in "our congregations" and not throughout the community the congregation is ensconced in nor the world. Unitarian Universalists eschew evangelisation and proselytization, but it seems odd that UUs would not want to share their faith beyond their congregations. Perhaps this limit in vision in this third principle is why the denomination has remained very small and, in fact, is shrinking.
Second, "acceptance" and "encouragement to spiritual growth" have little meaning without a frame of reference, a model, some map, a context for what this might entail. This question of what is spiritual growth is not answered easily and depends on the practice of the fourth principle which is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Without some sense of "the truth" and some answer to the question of "what gives life meaning" we are lost when we try to answer the question of what "acceptance" might mean, and "encouragement to spiritual growth" might entail.
The Dali Lama has said that the meaning of life is happiness. The next question, "what will make me happy" is the humdinger, where the rubber hits the road. The devil is in the details as they say. Will tailgating and getting loaded before the football game make me happy. "Hell, yes." Hedonism many people believe makes them happy. I'm not sure that UUs would agree, certainly not all UUs. So what would Unitarian Universalism offer as an alternative to Hedonism as a pathway to achieve a happy life? Unitarian Universalism obviously has not come up with anything popularly recognized because there are hundreds of thousands of more people tailgating on any given Sunday at football games than ever attend a UU congregational activity.
Third, human beings are meaning making creatures and while Unitarian Universalism claims to draw from six primary sources, it does not do well in integrating the perennial wisdom of these six sources and so the nuggets of wisdom, gold, the diamonds of crystallized grace, get overlooked in the mud and slurry of nonessential nonsense in which these nuggets of wisdom are embedded. The function of the new religion of the 21st century should be to help us ferret these nuggets of wisdom out of the mines of these six sources, and yet this work is failing to get done and so people even if attracted to Unitarian Universalism wander on because while the acceptance may be there on the congregations part, it is not there on the seekers part because the encouragement to spiritual growth is not found only psychobabble and mediocre fellowship offered over coffee and scones. Acceptance is a two way street, and while congregations desperate for new members who can help pay the bills will accept just about anybody no questions asked, just sign the book, the seeker finds nothing of substance, nothing challenging enough, coherent enough, to make a disciplined commitment to which will facilitate the growth sought. And so UU congregations continue to be very small and losing members because they offer nothing coherent, substantive, meaningful to the growing population of "nones" in our society who state that they are "spiritual" but not "religious."
Fourth, in conclusion, Unitarian Universalism needs to develop more clarity about this "spiritual growth" thing. Do they even know what they are talking about or is this just psychobabble? Perhaps we will get a better idea when we move on to the next principle which is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. The huge danger which Unitarian Universalism has not addressed well is the old proverb that if you don't know where you are going any road will take you there.