Unitarian Universalists Believe What We Must

This post comes courtesy of Adrian over at the UUXMNR blog. We shared it everywhere else, and are now reposting the text, with permission. Thanks to Adrian, and please comment on the original post if you would like to engage with its author.

I’m tired of people claiming that Unitarian Universalists don’t believe anything, or that we are just a social—or worse yet, political—club. Where does the notion come from, and why is it so easily perpetuated? Every Unitarian Universalist that I have ever met has either known precisely what they believe in, or have been somewhere on the path of discernment, discovering just which beliefs resonate with them and which do not. Mainly we are both of these types at the same time. I know this is just a shade of difference from that latter type of person, but I don’t know anyone who believes in nothing. Who believe in nothing? How does one believe in nothing? Everyone believes something about the nature of reality and our existence in it, right?

I am also weary of people claiming that Unitarian Universalists can believe anything we want to. Although I find this to be a slightly less offensive position than the first, I find it to be equally untrue…or at the very least, ambiguous enough to warrant serious doubts. Unitarian Universalists don’t believe just anything. True, we believe many different things, but is that really saying the same thing? There are other non-credal faiths out there. What makes us the ones that people just don’t get? Let me try to explain non-credal: we are not required by any institution to accept any theological position as true and binding which does not resonate with and originate within our own spirit. Non-credal doesn’t mean non-belief, and it doesn’t mean belief in any- and everything. It means that Unitarian Universalists believe what we each must believe.
Yes, I believe what I must believe. I believe that God is present within everything that exists, and that we all exist within God. I believe that God is not a person, but that I am personally connected to, related to, indebted to, enamored with, and dependent on God. I believe that everyone else is, too, but that we each speak from our own experience and background, and thus use the words of our own language to describe what we can only describe very poorly, perhaps ineffectually. I believe that I, with God, can make a difference in people’s lives, including and perhaps especially my own. I believe that many Unitarian Universalists who are not me will not believe any of the things I just listed and may bristle at all the “God-talk”. I believe that that’s OK. I believe that how we treat one another is more important — and a better indicator of the presence of God in our lives — than the differing beliefs we hold and the words we choose and use to express them.
Do I believe these things because I want to? No. I believe them because I have to. Life simply does not make sense to me if I don’t believe these things. I would be in perpetual despair if these things were not true, because every fiber of my being tells me that they are. If I could believe in whatever I wanted, I would believe that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God the Father Almighty up in Heaven, that He is my Lord and Savior, and that He came to Earth, suffered, died for my sins, and rose from the dead to offer me eternal sanctuary with Him now and at the end of days. Why would I want to believe these things? Because that’s what most of my family believes; and because I don’t like conflict, I don’t always enjoy being on the outside of the in-group (it gets lonesome here), and life in the United States of America might just be a little less rife with tension if I believed as many others claim to believe. Yes, I would believe these things if I could believe whatever I wanted. But I don’t believe these things. And not just because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. My beliefs are not a matter of desire or volition.
Being a Unitarian Universalist is a tough job. We have to figure out what we must believe, many of us by learning from what others believe and sifting out the things that don’t evoke in our spirits a sense of the Divine, while retaining those things that do. Our institutions do not determine or proscribe what those precise things might be, but we collectively share guidelines to help us along the way. We agree to walk with one another on the journey, in love. Sometimes that walk is exciting and filled with joyous discovery and revelation. Sometimes it can be boring and dull as anything—but the point is that we do it together. My boring jaunt on any given day with other souls might provide that life-changing and life-affirming moment that they need to make their own connection to the Divine. Who am I to deny them that opportunity? Who am I to deny it to myself?

Unitarian Universalism is a saving faith. The more ways and opportunities we have to connect to the Divine, the better. Hallelujah!

So no, we do not believe in nothing, and we do not believe in everything. Each of us struggles to uncover what it is that we absolutely must believe. How do we put an end to the perception that we are “just a club”? How can I stop being annoyed by these misconceptions?

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