“If you’re a Christian, why do you even come here?” The question makes me cringe. Yet it’s been asked of me in a Unitarian Universalist Church. As if we are anything but Christian. As if the fourth principle (of the seven principles in the Unitarian Universalist Association covenant) had been amended to say “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning as long as it doesn’t lead to Christianity of any sort.”
It was fairly insulting, especially since I’d discovered Christianity in the Unitarian Universalist Church. And the irony of this was, the person who said this to me had just said that she loved the UU church because here, “you can believe whatever you want.”
Um…no. No, you cannot believe whatever you want and call that Unitarian Universalism. We are not the church of Do-As-You-Please. Yet we have people who start out that way. People come to us – or to any religion – as they are, and we must meet people where they are. That’s what we do. And as a non-credal faith, it’s understandable that sometimes there might be some confusion as to what it means to be on a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. (Here’s a hint: responsible is an important part of that statement). But what happens when people never move from the spot they arrived in?
When I first came to the UU Church, I was young, and my faith was considerably less mature. What I’ve learned over the last 25 years or so is that this spiritual journey – it’s work.
It’s work to move beyond the wounds of old religious experiences that might have been unhealthy. But if people come to Unitarian Universalism wounded from another experience, this work is critical. Otherwise, we become little more than a waiting room.
I know we have churches where people are afraid to use God language for fear of potentially offending someone. We have people who get upset every time the Bible is mentioned. If this is how a person arrives, well, as I’ve said, we meet people where they are. But what of the people who are still complaining that they’re offended by the mention of God or Jesus 20 years after coming to a UU Church?
How does that serve their spiritual journeys? How are we inhibiting the spiritual growth of others when we refuse to use God language in church? Does that really speak to the third principle (acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations)?
If we continually cower behind the excuse that “someone might be offended, we will swiftly make ourselves irrelevant. Welcoming people where and how they are is wonderful, but we must then invite them to come along on the journey with the rest of us. Otherwise, we’re just a starter church. We can be so much more.
Unitarian Universalism has the potential to be a truly rigorous and deep faith, but because we must discover our own paths, it takes a conscious effort. We must nurture this.
So, why do I come here if I’m a Christian? I’ll tell you. Because this is where I became I Christian. Because this is the church that helped me to find the path to my free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and that led me to God and the Bible. Because I have an authentically universalist theology and I have grown in this faith. Because I refuse to be chased out of my own church for doing the theological work of being a member of the church. That’s why.
That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.