Why more people should join the Unitarian Universalists

A relatively new version of the Flaming Chalic...

A symbol of the Unitarian Universalist Association

First, take a look at this video:

For more details, see here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

Over 30,000 divisions?! Remember this warning from Jesus himself: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” (Matthew 12:25) If his word is true, then the Church is useless. It has been divided against itself since at least 1054 AD, when there was a schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The leaders of the two factions actually excommunicated each other!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East%E2%80%93West_Schism

And things got only worse in the 16th Century with the Protestant Reformation, which was actually a fragmentation.

It must be noted that the whole issue of the Church being the Body of Christ was invented by the Apostle Paul, not Jesus. But we can be sure that they would have agreed that the church should have remained united. Instead, we find many streets where two or even three different Christian churches may exist within sight of each other. If their faith in Jesus really meant something, shouldn’t their members all worship together? The only time a church should split is when its members increase so much that they have outgrown their original building. More on that later.

The obvious question is, how do you keep a church united while also allowing its membership to grow? I would suggest that the church give up being dogmatic and allow its members to seek truth in their own way, while still giving them a loving community to support them, regardless of what specific theology they end up with.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) allows such a wide diversity of views and theological paths that it admits Christians, Jews, Pagans, and Atheists as equally welcome and committed members. Yet they are a single denomination that in fact arose from the union of two simular groups in 1961.

http://www.uua.org/visitors/theologicalperspectives/index.shtml

Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion that embraces theological diversity. Our faith has evolved through a long history with origins in European Christian traditions. Unitarian Universalism today is the result of the 1961 consolidation of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America. To learn more about the history and evolution of our faith, please see History.

While our congregations uphold shared principles, individual Unitarian Universalists may discern their own beliefs about theological issues. As there is no official Unitarian Universalist creed, Unitarian Universalists are free to search for truth on many paths.

We welcome people who identify with and draw inspiration from Atheism and Agnosticism, Buddhism, Christianity, Humanism, Judaism, Paganism, and other religious or philosophical traditions.

http://www.uua.org/visitors/theologicalperspectives/6633.shtml

For many Unitarian Universalists, Christianity provides insight and guidance. One of the shared sources of our faith is “Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

http://www.uua.org/visitors/theologicalperspectives/6665.shtml

One of the six religious sources from which Unitarian Universalism draws is “Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

Roughly a quarter of all members of Unitarian Universalist congregations draw inspiration from Jewish theological perspectives. Many Unitarian Universalist congregations celebrate some of the major Jewish holidays, including Passover and the High Holy Days.

http://www.uua.org/visitors/theologicalperspectives/6678.shtml

Pagans, Wiccans, and people who follow other earth-based spiritual traditions are welcome in Unitarian Universalist congregations. Today, a significant number of our members identify with an earth/nature-centered faith.

One of the religious sources of our faith is the “spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.”

http://www.uua.org/visitors/theologicalperspectives/6676.shtml

Many Unitarian Universalists identify with and draw inspiration from the teachings and practices of Buddhism. For example, a Unitarian Universalist worship service might feature readings from the Dalai Lama or the congregation might have a Buddhist meditation group. One of the central ideas that the two religions share is that each individual’s experiences and thoughts are valid sources of religious authority.

http://www.uua.org/visitors/theologicalperspectives/6191.shtml

Atheists are people who do not believe in a god, while Agnostics are people who think that we cannot know whether a god exists. Both groups are welcome in Unitarian Universalism.

Today, a significant proportion of Unitarian Universalists do not believe in any type of god. Our congregations are theologically diverse places where people with many different understandings of the sacred can be in religious community together.

http://www.uua.org/visitors/theologicalperspectives/6642.shtml

Humanism is a non-theist tradition that focuses on human potential and emphasizes personal responsibility for ethical behavior. Modern day Religious Humanism is largely derived from the writings of early American Unitarian Humanists, including Joseph Priestley, Thomas Jefferson, and John Haynes Holmes. Today, Humanism among the largest spiritual identity groups within Unitarian Universalism.

http://www.uua.org/visitors/theologicalperspectives/157801.shtml

Individual Unitarian Universalists may also find inspiration in other religious traditions.  Although Hinduism and Islam have not historically been part of our tradition, growing interest in these faiths is evident in recent courses, sermons, and writings on the subjects.

A Unitarian Universalist service may occasionally include scriptural readings from one of these traditions or find inspiration in holidays like Diwali or Ramadan.  Currently there are a small number of Unitarian Universalists who also identify as Hindu or Muslim, and their ranks may grow in the future.

Ideas and practices from Hinduism are welcome in Unitarian Universalism. Unitarian Universalism shares some of the values found in Hinduism, including the importance of a personal search for truth, the idea that all things are connected, and a respect for other religious paths. Unitarian Universalism welcomes many understandings of divinity, including polytheism.

Many Unitarian Universalists are interested in the history and culture of Islam, and more Muslims around the world have begun learning about our faith.

Note that we are not talking about denominations that have split off from Unitarian Universalism. These are all groups that are within the Unitarian Universalist Assocation and their members may all serve in the same building, worshipping together.

Here is the website of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship: http://www.uuchristian.org/

This is the website for Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness:  http://www.uuja.org/

Here is the website for the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship:  http://www25.uua.org/uubf/

We also have a website for the HUUmanists:  http://www.huumanists.org/

Then there is the website for the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans:  http://cuups.org/

There is even a website for UU Mystics:  http://uumystics.org/ (Aren’t all religions mystical?)

I mentioned earlier that a church can outgrow its building and split as a result. The case of First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church (FJUUC) may suffice to show how a religious community may grow and even diversify without turning against itself.  http://www.firstjefferson.org/

The church was founded as First Unitarian Church of Fort Worth in the late 1940s and after moving to an ideal location in the eastern part of the city,  grew until it was too large for its tiny building. So two small groups split off in the 1960s to form the Arlington Unitarian Universalist Church  http://arlington-tx-uu.org/index.html,  which remains a small lay-led congregation to this day, and Jefferson Unitarian Church, which failed to thrive and in 1980 merged once more with the original church, with the reunited congregation changing its name to the present one.

In the 1990s, despite enlarging the building of FJUUC, its membership grew to over 250, thus causing overcrowding once more. At that point, another split occured with UUs in the west part of Fort Worth forming the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church:  http://www.westsideuu.org/index.html

But that still wasn’t enough, so a few years later, yet another split occured, since some UUs living north of Fort Worth wanted a congregation of their own, which became known as Pathways: http://www.pathwaysuu.org/

These were NOT divisions over doctrine or how the churches should be organized, or anything other than natural growth and development of a thriving religious community. They are all united under the UUA, as well as:

The Southwestern Unitarian Universalist Conference of the UUA: http://www.swuuc.org/

The North Texas Association of Unitarian Universalist Societies:  http://www.ntauus.org/index.shtml

And at a global level, we even have the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists:  http://icuu.net/index.html

For those who want to work through their faith, and not merely go to church, there is a UU outlet for that too:
http://www.uusc.org/
http://www.uusc.org/about_UUSC

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is a nonsectarian organization that advances human rights and social justice in the United States and around the world. We envision a world free from oppression and injustice, where all can realize their full human rights.

Through a combination of advocacy, education, and partnerships with grassroots organizations, UUSC promotes economic rights, advances environmental justice, defends civil liberties, and preserves the rights of people in times of humanitarian crisis.

We also engage local communities through two experiential-learning programs, JustWorks and JustJourneys, which introduce participants to the work of our domestic and overseas partners — who are often on the front lines of addressing social-justice issues.

Our work is built on the conviction that all people are entitled to basic human rights, which transcend divisions of class, race, nationality, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, and gender.

We rely on our members and supporters — people just like you — to fund our programs. Anyone wishing to support human rights and social justice is welcome to join us.

UUSC is an associate member of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), but receives no general financial support from the UUA. Neither do we receive funding from federal or state governments or institutions, ensuring our independent voice.

The world in general, and America in particular, needs a healthy source of spirituality and community. I beleive Unitarian Universalism can fill that need. If we truly believe in religious freedom, then we should belong to a denomination that lives up to that  ideal and does not create tyranny over anyone. Let it be so.

9 thoughts on “Why more people should join the Unitarian Universalists

  1. Great video find, Dale.

    Little confused though — a UU using an atheist production as support?

    My parents are United Church goers and recently one of the denomination’s magazines had a cover article, “Why are we losing so many people to the Unitarian Universalists?” Seriously.

    I think I’m with you though. If churches looked at their role in the community as the most important thing, giving support and love regardless of specific theologies, they wouldn’t be in such political / doctrinal messes. Divisiveness is certainly conquering…

    And in terms of atheists, the issue of community has never really been addressed properly, from what I’ve looked into at least.

    • Little confused though — a UU using an atheist production as support?

      Why not? Atheists are welcome in UU churches, plus one can find truth and honorable positions from all sorts of people. That was actually noted in the blog entry above.

      My parents are United Church goers and recently one of the denomination’s magazines had a cover article, “Why are we losing so many people to the Unitarian Universalists?” Seriously.

      I would suggest that the United Church of Christ consider merging with the UUA. See here:

      http://dalehusband.wordpress.com/2009/12/07/religious-liberals-unite/

      Ironically, one of my concerns with the UUA is that it is losing its Christian background. If we become detached from our own history and fail to respect it, we doom ourselves to irrelevance.

  2. The United Church may be on the way towards joining, as you suggest.

    I read a book a while back by Gretta Vosper, a minister in the UC, in which she calls for a Progressive Christianity focused more on the community aspects. She and her congregation have almost completely removed all the doctrinal elements from their own services. They still work under the banner of UC, which is very surprising, but in some ways I see very little difference between her work and the UU.

    Well, except maybe that she seems to think that she is breaking new ground for Christians, or that she thinks she is at the forefront for change within Christianity…

    That concern of yours of ‘losing the history’ might be medicated by such a union with these so-called Progressive Christians…

    Have you heard of this blogger? http://churchofjesuschristatheist.blogspot.com/

    He wants to help in the development of a de-godded version of Christianity.

  3. And now I read this, which gives me even more hope:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-1017-putnam-religion-20101017,0,6283320.story

    Walking away from church
    Organized religion’s increasing identification with conservative politics is a turnoff to more and more young adults. Evangelical Protestantism has been hit hard by this development.
    By Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell

    October 17, 2010

    The most rapidly growing religious category today is composed of those Americans who say they have no religious affiliation. While middle-aged and older Americans continue to embrace organized religion, rapidly increasing numbers of young people are rejecting it.

    As recently as 1990, all but 7% of Americans claimed a religious affiliation, a figure that had held constant for decades. Today, 17% of Americans say they have no religion, and these new “nones” are very heavily concentrated among Americans who have come of age since 1990. Between 25% and 30% of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation — roughly four times higher than in any previous generation.

    So, why this sudden jump in youthful disaffection from organized religion? The surprising answer, according to a mounting body of evidence, is politics. Very few of these new “nones” actually call themselves atheists, and many have rather conventional beliefs about God and theology. But they have been alienated from organized religion by its increasingly conservative politics.

    During the 1980s, the public face of American religion turned sharply right. Political allegiances and religious observance became more closely aligned, and both religion and politics became more polarized. Abortion and homosexuality became more prominent issues on the national political agenda, and activists such as Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed began looking to expand religious activism into electoral politics. Church attendance gradually became the primary dividing line between Republicans and Democrats in national elections.

    This political “God gap” is a recent development. Up until the 1970s, progressive Democrats were common in church pews and many conservative Republicans didn’t attend church. But after 1980, both churchgoing progressives and secular conservatives became rarer and rarer. Some Americans brought their religion and their politics into alignment by adjusting their political views to their religious faith. But, surprisingly, more of them adjusted their religion to fit their politics.

    We were initially skeptical about that proposition, because it seemed implausible that people would make choices that might affect their eternal fate based on how they felt about George W. Bush. But the evidence convinced us that many Americans now are sorting themselves out on Sunday morning on the basis of their political views. For example, in our Faith Matters national survey of 3,000 Americans, we observed this sorting process in real time, when we interviewed the same people twice about one year apart.

    For many religious Americans, this alignment of religion and politics was divinely ordained, a long-sought retort to the immorality of the 1960s. Other Americans were not so sure.

    Throughout the 1990s and into the new century, the increasingly prominent association between religion and conservative politics provoked a backlash among moderates and progressives, many of whom had previously considered themselves religious. The fraction of Americans who agreed “strongly” that religious leaders should not try to influence government decisions nearly doubled from 22% in 1991 to 38% in 2008, and the fraction who insisted that religious leaders should not try to influence how people vote rose to 45% from 30%.

    This backlash was especially forceful among youth coming of age in the 1990s and just forming their views about religion. Some of that generation, to be sure, held deeply conservative moral and political views, and they felt very comfortable in the ranks of increasingly conservative churchgoers. But a majority of the Millennial generation was liberal on most social issues, and above all, on homosexuality. The fraction of twentysomethings who said that homosexual relations were “always” or “almost always” wrong plummeted from about 75% in 1990 to about 40% in 2008. (Ironically, in polling, Millennials are actually more uneasy about abortion than their parents.)

    Just as this generation moved to the left on most social issues — above all, homosexuality — many prominent religious leaders moved to the right, using the issue of same-sex marriage to mobilize electoral support for conservative Republicans. In the short run, this tactic worked to increase GOP turnout, but the subsequent backlash undermined sympathy for religion among many young moderates and progressives. Increasingly, young people saw religion as intolerant, hypocritical, judgmental and homophobic. If being religious entailed political conservatism, they concluded, religion was not for them.

    Sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer of UC Berkeley were among the first to call attention to the ensuing rise in young “nones,” and in our recent book, “American Grace,” we have extended their analysis, showing that the association between religion and politics (and especially religion’s intolerance of homosexuality) was the single strongest factor in this portentous shift. In religious affinities, as in taste in music and preference for colas, habits formed in early adulthood tend to harden over time. So if more than one-quarter of today’s young people are setting off in adult life with no religious identification, compared with about one-20th of previous generations, the prospects for religious observance in the coming decades are substantially diminished.

    Evangelical Protestantism, which saw dramatic growth in the 1970s and 1980s, has been hit hard by this more recent development. From the early 1970s to the late 1980s the fraction of Americans age 18 to 29 who identified with evangelical Protestantism rose to 25% from 20%, but since 1990, that fraction has fallen back to about 17%. Meanwhile, the proportion of young Americans who have no religious affiliation at all rose from just over 10% as late as 1990 to its current proportion of about 27%.

    Continuing to sound the trumpet for conservative social policy on issues such as homosexuality may or may not be the right thing to do from a theological point of view, but it is likely to mean saving fewer souls.

    Nevertheless, predictions of the demise of religion in America would be premature. More likely is that as growing numbers of young Americans reject religious doctrine that is too political or intolerant for their taste, innovative religious leaders will concoct more palatable offerings. Jesus taught his disciples to be “fishers of men,” and the pool of un-churched moderate and progressive young people must be an attractive target for religious anglers.

    To be sure, some of these young people will remain secularists. Many of them, however, espouse beliefs that would seem to make them potential converts to a religion that offered some of the attractions of modern evangelicalism without the conservative political overlay.

    Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard University, and David E. Campbell, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, are the authors of “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.” Information about a talk Robert Putnam will be giving on Oct. 21 in Los Angeles can be found zocalopublicsquare.org.
    Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

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