Last week in my doctoral seminar I was trying to explain to the room of mostly very conservative Christians about Unitarian Universalists, and presenting my plan to write a dissertation on the relevance of covenant to our contemporary congregations.
People tried to be respectful but when I initially described our theological pluralism, their faces were studies in bewilderment. A religion where everyone is free to search for truth and meaning? A religious tradition that welcomes atheists and makes no effort to convert them? Whaaaat? (When someone asked the inevitable question, “But why would an atheist want to go to CHURCH?” I replied, “I don’t have time to try to answer that,” earning chuckles from the few liberal Christians in the room who are acquainted with UUism.)
I tried to steer the conversation away from feeling I should offer apology for Unitarian Universalism’s mere existence and into a place where I could get feedback from the group, who are a lovely and earnest people (and who represent six different nations).
At the end of my presentation, a Baptist peer offered this: “I get the image of training wheels. Is Unitarian Universalism a sort of training ground for faith? After they begin with your church, do they then leave you?”
I was so furious I could not answer beyond a “No, they don’t leave.” His question was specifically asked in the context of covenant process, as in “After you all develop a non-Theist covenant together, do they take off in droves, hungry for the Living Word?”
I mean, of course some of our people leave. I’ve been hollering about that for years and years — especially about how our children leave in droves because we give them nothing substantive within the great wilderness of FREEDOM.
His inquiry deserves a fuller answer, though, and I’m finally getting calm enough to give it.
No, L., they don’t leave our congregations. In fact, quite the opposite. They have left YOUR congregations to come to Unitarian Universalism. They are not riding the training wheels of faith. They have taken OFF the training wheels of the creedal, doctrinal faith traditions that would seek to fill their heads with proscriptions, superstitions and unproven certainties, and now they’re riding free and upright.