Top Ten Things that Make Us Different from Other Churches (These Might Surprise You)
Unitarian Universalists sometimes get a reputation for not knowing what we believe, but we think that is just because our belief system respects the unknown, the mysterious, and the secrets of the universe. We do have a very clear set of beliefs, but they allow for a good amount of disagreement, wonder, and mystery about what is true about the universe...and we think disagreement and wonder can be constructive as we explore the mysteries of what it means to be a person of faith in this world.
#1 We don’t know who wrote the bible or what inspired them to do so.
The bible was written by many people, each part for a different reason. There are clues to who wrote what parts and why, but in this community, we see the value in admitting when we don’t know things. We like to explore ideas, question assumptions, and wonder about the unknown. By learning about what we don’t know, we grow in our knowledge. And although The Bible is indeed “the good book”, it isn’t the only good book ever written. You’re more likely to hear poetry by Sylvia Plath, the writings of Ray Bradbury, the lyrics of Leonard Cohen, or articles from this week’s news as you are to hear Christian and Jewish scriptures. There have been so much amazing authors over time, we make room for them all!
#2 There are many right ways to believe what is most holy, precious, and true.
We are a community of journeyers and spiritual adventurers, and, to be honest, most of us aren’t even seeking “The Truth”. We seek to experience holiness and mystery, but not necessarily seek to understand the truth behind it. Some of us do seek “The Truth”, but likely they believe that it is accessible through multiple traditions. We don’t believe that any religion has a monopoly on “The Truth”, and each religion offers an imperfect path to “The Truth”.
#3 It doesn’t really matter what rituals you perform or if you have accepted God into your heart.
Is it enough to receive communion each week if your actions are not creating more love on the planet? Is it enough to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior if you are not being kind and helping each other? Is it enough to go to Sunday Service if you are not making the world more just? We think not. When creeds and dogmas become more important than living a life full of love, how useful are those creeds and dogmas? Conversely, if a person is creating more love on the planet, being kind, and making the world more just...but is are not religious, is that a bad person? Of course not; that person's actions are amazing! That person is amazing!
#4 All people are worthy of love.
Go ahead and test us on that one. Name a person not worthy of love. There are people who are challenging to love because of their actions are beliefs, but they are still worthy of love. God would not create a person unworthy of love. The limitation on loving people is is self-imposed and not to be attributed to God or an external force. We should respect god's creation of each person by loving them...or attempting to love them. There are some people who are a challenge to love, but that is challenge is a calling for us.
#5 God doesn’t punish bad people after death.
Though we have as many opinions on the subject of what happens after death, you won’t find anyone here who believes in hell. We believe that no God would create imperfect people only to damn them for their imperfections. God's love is endless. God never gives up on us, even after we die.
#6 Religion should question politics...not lead it.
A church should never tell their congregation to be “pro-this” or “pro-that”, but we are a community of activists. As activists, we believe it is important for each person to question their values. Are our political actions based on love and compassion? Are our political actions supporting the protection of the earth from destruction? Are our political actions supporting politics that dehumanize people because of their economic status, immigration status, physical/mental ability, gender identity, or any other descriptor you could use as an excuse to reduce their rights? Love and compassion should lead your politics, not dogma.
#7 God did not create traditional roles for families or genders.
God purposefully, and without mistake or accident, created a world of people that live along many spectrums. For whatever reason, he gave us the gift of human diversity. Therefore gay, lesbian, bisexual, multiracial, and multicultural couples and families are fundamentally part of his creation. They are not divergent from his creation, they are an essential and purposeful part of his creation.
#8 Human beings are not the most important beings on this planet.
"We are all part of the interdependent web of all existence” is the closest thing you’ll find to a Unitarian Universalist creed or dogma. We don’t have dominion over the earth, it has dominion over us. We are dependent on it for our very existence. On a non-spiritual level, it is simply a matter of pragmatism and survival; on a spiritual level, we feel that we need to be grateful for this wonderful gift and show our gratitude through great care and respect.
#9 It is good to question your spiritual leaders.
We choose our minister as someone that we are eager to learn from. However, we also see them as a person that can and should be challenged by us. Our minister is certainly eager to share their truths with us, but they are equally eager to learn from our truths. When what we hold to be true conflicts with our religious leaders, we seek out debate, conversation, and understanding. None of us have all the answers, not even our spiritual leaders...and that’s okay.
# 10 We’re not perfect.
We promised ten things that make us different from other churches, but we could only think of nine. We’re not perfect, but we also admit our imperfections. That’s a good thing, right? Maybe that can be #10. It’s not perfect, but as Leonard Cohen says, “There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.” (See? I told you that we were likely to quote him. But it's true, isn't it?)