If you’ve ever studied Unitarian Universalist theology over the course of history, you’ve seen that again and again, UUs choose to be “this worldly” in orientation. Over the course of the past few hundred years we proposed that human beings can improve themselves in this world, not a heavenly one. We proposed that this world could be made better if we acted for good. We proposed that hell is only something we make in this world, not something to be threatened with after we die. And we proposed that the human life itself has sacred worth and meaning and that wasting and abusing it is an epic tragedy.
But lately I’ve been reflecting on the many ways that our churches would do well to describe the ways they aren’t attached to the habits and practices of this world. We UUs are not only called to make this world better. We are often called to do so by subverting the dominant paradigm, by creating and living a counter narrative to the world as it currently presents itself.
Which of these following counter narratives does your congregation employ? In big and small ways, church is most visibly relevant when it makes a space to be different from everyday life, to be redeemed from all that is wrong with the world. What would you add to my list below? Whether big or small, your congregation’s voice for a different and better way matters to our country and to all living things.
- The world wants us to separate by all kinds of identity, but our church can be the place where different people with different identities connect;
- The world wants us to fight with each other in ways that diminish us, tear us down and send us away from each other, but our church can be “a place where you can be safely challenged, and not feel like you’re going to end up alone because of that.” (2010 Middle Collegiate Church study of Millennials);
- The world privileges those with power like white people, men, and the economically advantaged by putting them in the center, but our church can center people and voices who are marginalized elsewhere;
- The world wants people to think of themselves instead of their neighbors, but our church can create a We where there would otherwise just be I;
- The world wants us to be connected at a remove, using screens and keyboards to reach out, but our church is a place where we have experiences side by side and conversations face to face;
- The world wants elders to be ignored and dismissed, but our congregations can galvanize elders to be agents of change;
- The world wants us to find value in wealth and entertain ourselves by purchasing, but our church can remind us that there is joy, fun and value just in being, and novelty in creation;
- The world wants caring people with privilege to feel overwhelmed and impotent and withdraw from justice work, but our church can help us have agency, direction and impact;
- The world wants us to despair, but our church can demand joy as part of its defiance.
- How else is your congregation creating a counter narrative to make the world a better place?