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Can Unitarian Universalists Really Believe Anything?
Can Unitarian Universalists Really Believe Anything?

Contrary to What You Might Have Heard, UUs Don't Just Believe Whatever They Want

Unitarian Universalists (UU) are a strange bunch. In any given gathering of UUs there may be someone whose faith is based on the teachings of Jesus, someone who has a daily meditation practice, someone who sees God in nature and someone who doesn’t see a god in anything. And yet they can all sing the same hymn and worship together.

You may meet Unitarian Universalists who believe there’s a divine spark in each of us and others who believe that to be human means to have a fun mix of good and evil. And yet we come together to support one another and grow spiritually.

There are some UUs who believe God has a plan for them and others who believe they are in control of their own destiny. And yet they can all join together to fight for immigration reform, reproductive justice, LGBT + rights and racial justice.

We truly are a theologically diverse spiritual community. Because there is such a diversity of practices, ideas and beliefs some might say “UUs can believe whatever they want.” They’re almost right, except for being pretty wrong.

You see, as a Unitarian Universalist you can have different beliefs than another UU. You can even appreciate the beliefs foundational to other religions as true for some people even if they are not true for you. But when it comes down to it, UUs can’t just believe whatever they darn well please and still call themselves UU.

In fact, even the idea that UUs believe that people of other religions or no religion can believe whatever they want is not entirely true. We actively work to dismantle those beliefs and practices in the world that we believe cause harm to people, groups and our earth.

READ CAN UUS BELIEVE ANYTHING WE WANT?

Unitarian Universalists believe in covenant. We commonly think of covenant as a sacred promise we make to one another to create an inclusive and welcoming community. But that's just a small aspect of the power of covenant. We also believe we are part of the covenant of life that leaves no one out of the circle of love. Former president of the UUA Rev. Bill Sinkford describes Unitarian and Universalism respectively as,

"One God, no one left behind."

We believe we have a responsibility to stand up to those people or groups who are tearing the fabric of the covenant of life and help repair those tears. We also believe well will be imperfect at doing so. As Martin Buber says,

we are a "promise making, promise breaking, promise renewing" people.

As Unitarian Universalists we believe...

 

All souls are sacred

You can't believe that someone deserves more or less love because of their skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, how much money they make or owe or because they’ve done something good or bad and still be UU.

READ "A UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ THEOLOGY"

All Souls are Sacred is a truly radical statement

There is a unity that makes us one

UUs do not believe that we’re all separate, isolated individuals who need nothing from others and have nothing to give others.

READ "OUR SHARED FAITH"

Aspen trees are rhizomes so all the roots in a grove are connected

Courageous love can transform the world

Believing that it’s ok to get what you want or make your point through violence and coercion OR that you can just sit back, relax and the injustices of the world will work themselves out is not UU.

READ "WHAT DO UU's BELIEVE?"

Unitarian Universalist Commit2Respond climate justice march

In salvation in this lifetime

UUs can't believe that it doesn’t matter how you behave while you’re alive or that the only reason to be “good” is to have a cushy afterlife.

READ "10 THINGS I WISH EVERYONE KNEW ABOUT UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM

Before I die I want to help heal the world

And that truth continues to be revealed

You can't believe that you know everything there is to know or at least can find out everything there is to know because the be-all and end-all capital T Truth is written down somewhere and still be UU.

 

READ THE THEOLOGY OF UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS

These 5 statements of faith are known as the 5 Jagged Rocks and were created by Nancy Bowen and some religious professionals in the Unitarian Universalist Association Mountain Desert District. They are an adaptation of James Luther Adams' 5 smooth stones of religious liberalism which, if you're not familiar is a reference to the biblical tale of David and Goliath. As David used stones to slay Goliath, so we as a liberal religion can use these 5 statements of faith to overcome hate, prejudice, division, exclusion and brokenness.

So, the next time you find yourself about to say or agree with the statement that "UUs can believe whatever they want," just remember we believe:

All souls are sacred  There is a unity that makes us one Salvation in this life Courageous Love has the power to transform the world And truth continues to be revealed. 

 

 

About the Author

  • Jennica first joined the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in 2014. She began her ministry with youth as a youth advisor at First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, her hometown, in 2008. Since then she has served as Youth Program Coordinator and Religious Education...

Comments (8)

Ed Selby (not verified) 1 year 10 months ago

Snoozie - my experience tells me otherwise. Four UU congregations over the span of 25 years - all of which embraced what can only be called "theism" in one form or another, and expressed an unambiguous dismissal of challenges to those forms of theism - have led to the conclusion that atheists need not apply. The "free and [add emphasis] responsible search for truth and meaning" means nothing when questioning beliefs in "guardian angels" is seen as hostility.

Sooozie (not verified) 1 year 10 months ago

That's just not true. Unitarian Universalism is officially a religion without faith or creed: its foundational seven principles are only about acting morally, and none of them specify belief in God as a requirement.

Caleb (not verified) 1 year 8 months ago

For me, I have found the word "responsible" in the fourth principle to call me to consider reflectively the 6 sources when thinking about what I believe. It demands that I think, that I am self-aware of my own beliefs (and prejudices) and be continually asking myself why I believe what I believe. To me, responsible believing means putting in the time and effort to ask the hard questions and attempt to find some answers.

But the 7 principles themselves I also view as a barrier to believing "anything." Jennica's 5 points depicting some unity among UU belief can easily be linked back to the principles, and I choose to embody the common connection of the principles to the ten commandments in that I try to follow them faithfully. Which is not to say that I haven't asked myself WHY, but that I don't view following the 7 principles as optional to being Unitarian Universalist-- if you're not trying to embody them you're not really living the faith.

jennicadavishockett (not verified) 1 year 10 months ago

Just came across this quote from Harvard comparative religion professor Diana Eck, “Unitarian Universalism is not the lowest common denominator; it is the highest common calling. The world
is in need of your theology.” Love it.

jennicadavishockett (not verified) 1 year 10 months ago

That's a good point Peggy, it's important to remember there can sometimes be a disconnect between Unitarian Universalism and Unitarian Universalists.

Peggy (not verified) 1 year 10 months ago

That's why the best thing I have done to deepen my faith is attend GA where I feel a much stronger spirit and connection... After GA in Providence I went home and told people "we were actually singing and dancing in the aisles and waiving our hands during worship!" It is so nice to have that two way street between the faith center (I am calling GA that because it is where the most faithful tend to converge if they can afford and access it) and our churchs with their diversity.....

Ed Selby (not verified) 1 year 10 months ago

I concur on every point.

Peggy (not verified) 1 year 10 months ago

Hi all, I loved Jennica's piece and found it gave me a great deal to reflect upon and explore. I think it is really important to discuss the non-negotiable stones of our beliefs, and edges of our willingness to embrace the beliefs of others. And I don't really sense any disagreement with either the stones or the limits here. Instead, people are frustrated by what they have seen in their UU churches: "People in my church don't tolerate or accept X". I see that as something worth discussing but it doesn't undermine Jennica's points. I don't think her piece is intended to be a description of life in all our congregations but more of an aspirational statement of who we are at are best or who we must become... And I personally think we are becoming it... I have witnessed the kind of intolerance that bruised people here... about ten years ago.... I don't experience it now. I see us evolving to a place where we really understand how rich the brew is when all sorts of beliefs and experiences come together in worship....

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