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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.