Tuesday, October 25, 2011

UU and me

This school year, my daughters' Shakespeare class is held in the multi-purpose room of a Unitarian church. I was the 'room mom' this past Friday, so I stayed in case I was needed and perused the bulletin boards and pamphlets available. 

I was baptized Episcopalian, spent an extended time with the Quakers, and hopped around with the Methodists, Presbyterians, and non-denominational Christians for a while before my family and I became Catholic when I was twelve and a half. My mother was involved with a Buddhist/New Age guru when I was a kindergartener, so I have a non-Christian experience as well. This is the first time I have been to a 'church' that officially believes that there is no final truth to be taught by a church.

Here is their mission statement:
"We the members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of ______ , united by our religious liberal tradition seek truths and meaning, and commit to right action. We will nurture our congregation and carry our principles forth to better ourselves, our community and our planet. To these purposes, we pledge our hearts, our hands, our minds, our means."
An Invitation from Rev. Jan
"When I first visited a Unitarian Universalist Church, it felt like coming home. I never knew such a place existed. I knew more then about what I didn't believe than what I did believe. I wanted a place that would encourage my questions and honor my skepticism and provide a community at the same time. What I have found over the years is a place that has inspired me to move beyond focusing on what I don't believe to what I do believe. And more importantly, it is a place beyond belief. It is a place that emphasizes our freedom to believe whatever we must in order to live ethical, loving lives and helps connect us to something bigger than ourselves. Our good news is that "we need not think alike to love alike." If this is what you are looking for, I hope to meet you soon at a Sunday morning worship service. Come nurture your spirit and help heal our world."

The problem with all this social justice in a no-supreme-truth setting is that 
  • it is inconsistent (I'll explore this idea tomorrow)
  • they have their eyes only on this world
  • they do have a supreme truth (at this location, I'm not certain if UU's 'doctrine' is centralized)- this truth is God is 'green.' 
UU members have their eyes on this world only
  • None of their literature nor their 'liturgy' is focused on the afterlife. Officially, it exists only for those UU members that want (or "must") to believe in a heaven. At this location, UU members lean towards Buddhism and Humanism. 
  • Their liturgy focuses on making personal moral choices with no guidance from the outside (ie. dogma or religious leaders) and singing of self-acceptance and self-healing
  • This philosophy is clearly at odds with nearly all religious traditions. For Christians of all kinds, we do everything with eternity as our motivation. For a mother, we can make caring for our children a prayer to God, aligning ourselves with those saints of old who experienced the same struggles. As far as I could see, the only concrete reason to be a 'good' parent in the UU tradition is because "I choose to treat my baby with good care because I am a humanist."
  • But keeping your eyes on this life can be a plus. How many times, reader, have you changed a baby on the floor of a Catholic church's bathroom?  I have, many times. This UU church (with posters declaring "We stand with Planned Parenthood!") has a fully stocked changing table, a baby toilet, a baby toilet insert for a big toilet, and two stepping stools for little ones to wash their hands. I say, if the Catholic Church is going to preach pro-life, we need to start with changing tables in all bathrooms. A little dignity goes a long way for a new mother.
The supreme truth- God is GREEN
  • Since this world is all there is, ecology is the true religion for (this congregation) UU. One can believe anything when attending a UU church, except one must accept ecology as a requirement. 
  • UU members drive electric and hybrid cars as 'statements'- they realize that coal is burned to make the electricity to fuel the cars, but raising ecological awareness is the important aspect of driving a hybrid.
  • For other religions and for Christians, ecology can play a large part in our theology but for contrasting reasons with UU members. We are superior to plants and animals and thus should be stewards of creation. Animals may be used as food for humans. Resources (such as oil) may be used by humans. We compost to make our gardens grow better, not because composting is a sacrament. We recycle because we can get good use out of resources again, not because filling dumps is an insult to Gaia.
  • But being GREEN can have its upside, too. I love that the members leave a coffee cup for after church. I love buying free trade, organic coffee and chocolate. I have no problem with recycling- even though sometimes the recycling company just throws it all together in the landfill. I totally agree with reusing and thrifting, but for very different reasons than these UU members have. I am trying to live a simpler life so that I can be closer to those things not of this world. Lots of possessions tie us down to this world. I am trying to keep my eyes on heaven (Mary) even as I have worldly cares (Martha).


  1. *sigh* Why does the ease at taking care of one's children in a church seem to be inversely proportional to the church's opposition to birth control? When my first child was about 3 months old I took a Sunday off work and we, along with some friends, took the 60 mile journey to the closest parish offering the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Mass. When I got into the ladies' room, I found the following note above the trash can: "Please do not throw diapers away in the restroom or in the kitchen or in the dumpster. TAKE THEM HOME WITH YOU." The changing table that someone had so generously donated when I was attending that parish in my teens was covered with stuff. We have not been back, but apparently the family with 10 kids sitting in the front wasn't insulted. If I'd gone into any pro-choice Protestant church, I'd have had a nice changing table with a place to throw away my diapers and someone would have let me know where there was a nice comfy chair for nursing.

  2. Look, do us all a favor:

    If you don't like Unitarian Universalism, then stay away from that Church. We won't come into yours and point out all the problems (and speaking as a former Catholic, Catholicism has a slew of them.)

    You speak of a Supreme Truth as if it is an advantage. Personally, I see it as a potentially dangerous flaw. People are willing to die, and more dangerously, to kill for what they consider Supreme Truths. For me, the biggest advertisement for Unitarian Universalism over the past 100 years was the 9 / 11 attacks. That, my friend, is the ultimate conclusion of a "Supreme Truth."

  3. Expat- if you come back to read this response- I'm interested in why UU exists as a church and not as a social justice group that has decided to help homeless and advocate for environmentalism and abortion rights. I understand that different UU congregations have different causes they might take up- but if the UU believers believes that no truth is more important than others, why is there a need for 'chalice lighting' and such?

    One supreme truth that UU could get behind- the dignity of the human person simply because they are human- but by embracing this truth- they would have to advocate for all life and I think that makes them uncomfortable

    Thanks for commenting- and I didn't go into that coffee hall looking to critique the UU community- I just found it interesting

    My 'position' or questions about UU might be better explained by the post I wrote the next day- I don't know if you read part 2 of this

  4. I do agree about Catholic churches not being baby friendly. Our parish has no place to change babies and no place to nurse them. I keep meaning to ask our pastor if we can organize something. Maybe find a used changing table and rocker and make a mom's room in one of the basement rooms.


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