Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: A Place of Wholeness: A Program for Youth Exploring Their Own Unitarian Universalist Faith Journeys

Activity 4: We Can Believe Whatever We Want

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Write "Agree" on one sheet of newsprint and "Disagree" on another. Post them at opposite sides of the room. Make sure the space is clear at all points along the continuum.

Description of Activity

This activity addresses the idea that, as part of a free and liberal faith, "we can believe anything we want." Participants explore this misunderstanding in relation to the fourth Unitarian Universalist Principle of a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning."

Begin by asking, "Is it true that as Unitarian Universalists we can believe anything we want?" Allow a few minutes for responses. Tell participants that this is sometimes said of our free and liberal Unitarian Universalist faith. Ask the group:

  • Have you ever heard this statement before, or thought or said it yourself?
  • What do you think would lead people to come to this understanding of Unitarian Universalism?
  • Is it true or are there beliefs or actions that are integral to a Unitarian Universalist faith? What is the center that holds us together?

Break into groups of three for five minutes to discuss the statement "As Unitarian Universalists, we can believe anything we want." Ask participants to brainstorm personalities, beliefs, groups or actions that conflict with a Unitarian Universalist faith. Tell them to formulate these conflicts as affirmative statements. For example, "You can be a Unitarian Universalist and a Nazi." Give each small group a sheet of newsprint and markers to record their statements. Bring the groups back together and have them post their newsprint.

Explain that they will now use one statement from each group for a continuum activity. You may use more than one, as time permits. If participants had trouble coming up with statements, you can suggest the ones below. Some of these statements present obvious conflicts, but others may provoke lively discussion and disagreement:

1) You can be a Unitarian Universalist and believe that some people are predestined for Heaven and others for Hell.

2) You can be a Unitarian Universalist and believe that humans have control over the earth's resources and can do with them whatever they please.

3) You can be a Unitarian Universalist and believe that marriage should only be between one man and one woman.

4) You can be a Unitarian Universalist and support wars.

5) You can be a Unitarian Universalist and believe in a god that rewards some people and not others.

Point out the "Agree" and "Disagree" signs posted on opposite sides of the room, and explain that after each statement is read aloud, participants should place themselves along the continuum based on to what extent they agree or disagree with the statement. Invite members of the small groups to read their own statements aloud. After participants place themselves on the continuum, invite volunteers in different places on the continuum to share why they are there.

When all the statements have been read, ask participants if it is true that Unitarian Universalists can believe anything they want.

Close with a short discussion based on the question: What is meant by "free" and "responsible" in our fourth Principle promoting the "free and responsible search for truth and meaning"?

Remind participants that the "free and responsible search for truth and meaning" is rooted in our community and shared values, which affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all people (first Principle), and acknowledge our role in the interdependent web of all existence (seventh Principle).

Ask, "How does the free and responsible search for truth and meaning" relate to James Luther Adam's First Stone that says, "Revelation is continuous?"

Including All Participants

Make sure that there is adequate space for people with mobility challenges to participate in the continuum. Provide the option of sitting or standing.