2013-06-12

When the Spirit Says UU

Yay for our team! Let's celebrate ourselves. It’s a good idea to do that every once in a while. Yay, us! Give our own selves a pat on the back.

It’s great to be a Unitarian Universalist! Yeah!

We don’t mean any slight to any other world religion when we say this. We are not at war with other tribes. We’re just proud of our own (or, if we have transcended pride, say rather that we are especially grateful for our own). If your heart and conscience lead you to follow a Muslim, or Christian, or Jewish path, more power to you. That's just not our path.

Actually: Don't Believe ANYTHING You Think
Sometimes people in those other faiths think they’re right. But let’s be honest. Sometimes we think we’re right. I appreciate what I saw on a bumper sticker once: “Don’t believe anything you think.”

The reality is, pretty much all of us are suckers for our thoughts. We all believe our thoughts. There's a saying:
"The world is divided into those who think they're right."
That's the whole saying, because everyone thinks she's right. So let’s also keep that in mind as we celebrate Unitarian Universalism.

In many ways, we don’t choose our faith beliefs, they choose us. It’s up to us to be true to them, to do the work of cultivating them to their fullest flower. Whichever seed got planted in you: do the work of cultivating it to its fullest flower. The flower of liberal religion is rooted in the understanding that revelation is continuous, there are always new things to learn, that our community is based on freely entered covenant, that we work for fairness in the whole world, that conflict is a good thing, and doesn’t mean any side is evil or wrong, and that a better world and a richer life is possible for all of us. That is the root grounding from which liberal religion grows.

It doesn’t mean you can believe anything you want to. Let me tell you a story about that. What you want to believe might be what is easy – a theology that is superficially attractive, doesn’t require much thought or creative work. You might want some belief that you can hold and gaze upon like a pretty crystal: beautiful and static. But hearing and heeding what your heart, mind, and conscience dictate requires effort. Thirty years ago, I was 24 years old. Neecie Vanston and I were members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco, Texas. Neecie was 70-years-old, which, you know, doesn’t seem as old to me now as it did when I was 24. She came up to about the middle of my chest. Neecie was a long-time and dedicated member of that fellowship. She had been part of the small group that founded the Waco UU Fellowship back in the 50s. I was newly returned to the fold after having been unchurched since high school. I didn’t understand that distinction between the easy and lazy believe-anything-you-want-to and the disciplined quest to discern your own heart and mind’s dictates. One Sunday in Waco, during our holiest sacrament -- the coffee communion after the service -- I made the mistake of blithely blurting, “We’re Unitarian Universalists. We can believe whatever we want to.”

Neecie overheard that remark. And she turned around. I will never forget it. It was a religious moment.
“You think I believe in what I do because I want to?” she said. “I believe this because I have to. You think here in Waco, Texas my life wouldn’t be a lot easier if I could be a Baptist? But I can’t. My conscience won’t let me. If this were about what I wanted to believe,” Neecie continued, “about what I found it convenient and easy to believe, you wouldn’t see my face here on Sunday morning.”

Unitarian Universalism: It’s not about believing anything you want to. It’s about being free to believe what you find you have to – because your conscience won’t let you believe otherwise. You got to do when the spirit says do. You got to UU when the spirit says UU.

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This is part 1 of 3 of "Yay for Our Team"
Next: Part 2: "UU By the Chuckle"