I (mostly) lurk on a closed Facebook Page for self-identified progressive Christians because reading people’s posts keeps me focused on evangelical UUism. My God, how I pray for a day when we can evangelize for participation in a truly inclusive, vibrant and mature faith. These people are just a few of the many I am convinced are waiting for us to live into what we keep claiming to be. Â I have lifted a few testimonials off of Facebook to similarly inspire my fellow UUs who are gathering right now for our annual convention in Providence, RI:
This first note came as a post on my personal Wall:
I just found out that because I don’t literally believe in bearded old guy in the sky I’m considered an atheist. Prlprlrlrl! ( Bronx cheer…) Why are there no churches for those of us who experience “God” in all things? I want to go to church! But there are no churches that “get it”. I can’t even begin to follow the concept of the trinity, it seems pointless. Churches are dying because they don’t/can’t/won’t accept that God is apprehended differently now. I am Not an atheist! God is immanent in my life. I want to celebrate this, without the crippling effects of dogma. Soo, thanks for listening.
I’m listening! And I believe that there should be LOTS AND LOTS of churches for those of us who experience God or “God” in all things!! I’m working on it! I believe that Unitarian Universalist churches should be those churches!
Some other testimonials from people who, on paper, should be able to find a community with the Unitarian Universalists:
> It never crossed my mind to leave Christianity. However, I have looked into other religions. And I see truth and beauty in all religions. I don’t think Christianity is the only path to God. Just like I don’t believe Christianity is the only religion that has a trademark and Patton on truth. But, for me Christianity is my path. And I can’t see myself going any other way. But, I can appreciate other religions and I can see beauty and inspiration in their beliefs.>While I haven’t done any extensive research, FOR ME Christianity teaches the full love of God – although I’m not buying in to the whole “atoning sacrifice” deal. I have my own way of interpreting the events of Jesus’ life and death and the message I get from it is that God neither controls nor abandons us, but loves us relentlessly [sound Universalist to you?]
Â I have struggled with belief, and still do. I’m actually seriously considering a Pagan path. So far, I’ve just incorporated Pagan spirituality into my Christianity, especially becoming more connected and aware of natural phenomena like moon cycles, animal behavior, seasonal changes. I’ll probably make the switch at some point. [To what, I wonder?]>I actually considered becoming a Buddhist for a while. After studying it, I found it to be a very wise and beautiful religion. But I never could get past the “alienness” of it. Like it or not, it was the Bible and the Gospel story that spoke to my personal and cultural roots. So I was very happy to discover progressive Christianity. Although I sometimes say to people that I practice a Christianity that has been informed by Buddhism. [This person has “discovered progressive Christianity” but has no identified religious community]>I tend to think of God in panentheistic terms: God has incarnated as the universe and also transcends the universe. I don’t think Jesus is mythical, but a lot of mythical things have been written about him, making it difficult to get at the historical man. The beauty I find in the Gospel story is that it presents an authentic spiritual path through death and resurrection.>Yes, I considered myself “spiritual, not religious” for well over a decade but in searching for some structure to able better teach faith my daughter, and also thru being impressed with the positive changes in my parents lives I was drawn towards Christianity. They go to a fundamental/conservative type church (“bible believing” is what they call it). It was great for about three years but then I started feeling like I wasn’t being myself. I was repressing a part of my sexuality to feel accepted. I agonized over this for almost a year until I realized that I really need to be true to myself or I would never be happy. My journey has led me to this [online only] progressive group. But in bring totally honest with myself, I feel like I do fine without a religion. I follow the golden rule and I am a good person. My parents would say, that’s not good enough because nobody is perfect…you have to believe in Jesus to get to heaven. But I just have a hard time accepting a doctrine that may or may not be true. This has led me to question the very existence of God, which I have never before questioned in my life…So now I can help but wonder if I am worse off. The main thing keeping me from wallowing in that thought is that I live life with no regrets and I acknowledge that everything we go through, “good” or “bad” makes it’s who we are and we can learn from it all, so despite feeling a little lost sometimes, I do not regret my journey to or from Christianity.One woman wrote about trying Unitarian Universalism specifically and being disappointed in it. When I posted an apology on our behalf and told her that I was sorry we had failed to minister to her, she wrote,
Victoria – I wouldn’t say the Unitarians failed me, I have never been one, though I have visited several times. My mother is one, as is my aunt. However, I feel like I need to be in a church where the people around me have the same basic beliefs rather than an anything goes philosophy. I do not have anything against the UU church, I just prefer to be a Christian church, does that make sense?
Yes, it does.
We can’t minister to everyone. But we use that as an excuse too often when we turn off or turn away people who are hungry for a religious community where theological reflection and study are central to the life of the church, not a special program for the “religious types” among them. We use that “we can’t please everyone” excuse when we turn off and turn away droves of people who want a worship experience that doesn’t tip toe around the question of God and doesn’t present God as a college lecture topic for dissection or historical analysis. To paraphrase the old joke about Unitarians, we’re still inviting people to sit and hear the lecture on Heaven instead of walking through the door to the place and the experience.
You know what no one wants to hear any more? The lecture about how the historical Jesus probably didn’t really go this place or say that thing. They don’t care. They can watch the History Channel at home.
As we gather in community this coming week, I hope we will talk about how to minister to more people. Not to “like-minded” people and not this demographic or that demographic. But human beings however they come. Not politically liberal enough or enlightened human beings we have hand-picked to welcome because we think they “share similar values,” which I consider a slightly ominous phrase when applied to people we haven’t yet met, as it sounds like an attempt to control the work of the Holy Spirit that is the force that gathers the gathered church.
I said in a recent lecture I gave on our covenantal tradition that we have too often forgotten that it is not we who populate our congregations by charisma, advertising, signage and invitations to people we personally know and like. It is God — the “magnificent, unnameable intensity” (Barbara Pescan) that has moved throughout all of time and history to gather motley crews of individuals together with the purpose of making of them a people, that gathers us.Â
If we really believe, as we claim to, that God (the ground of being, the Universe, evolutionary forces within humans) is relational and interdependent and loves (in its own impersonal way) diversity, we should be exploding with enthusiasm about our role in this cosmic trend. Not so we can grow our churches, not so we can get out the vote for “our” issues, not so we can win against the fundamentalists, but so we can live rejoicing.
If you have been reading me for any length of time you know how itchy slogans like “Love Reaches Out” make me. Â To me, right now, Love Reaches Out looks like a Unitarian Universalist sitting in conversation with any of the people whose brief testimonials I have shared above, listening without feeling the need to interrupt, interject their own story and beliefs, or informing that person about what Unitarian Universalist don’t believe before reassuring them, “But we think it’s okay if you do believe those things.” We have so much deeper a welcome to live into than that.
I’ll be the one with the aqua blue nails. See you at GA.