A couple weeks ago, I listened to Rev. Audette share “a Unitarian Universalist perspective … on the life and teachings of Jesus” at the Cheyenne Interfaith Reading & Discussion Series. The audience included Cheyenne UUs and many people who were genuinely interested in learning about our unique point of view. (And a few who were curious about “the woo-woo church.”)
Rev. Audette presented a quick history of the Unitarians and the Universalists, their historic relationship with Christianity and how their heretical understanding of Jesus was central to that relationship. She discussed our modern Unitarian Universalist sources and principles and the complicated relationship that many UUs have with Christianity.
And then came the questions from the audience. Many of them were variations on “What do UUs believe about X or Y?” Rev. Audette would reply with a variation of “Each UU may have a different answer to that question,” or, “That isn’t a question central to our faith” and then field another bewildered question about “UU beliefs.”
Many of these questions seemed to come from a deep difference in world view. It is apparently a huge leap from “People in my faith believe the same thing about X and this belief defines our group identity” to “UUs have many different beliefs about X, and this diversity defines our group identity.” I think part of the difference is in the words of our covenant and mission, which I have been pondering over the last few weeks.
It’s probably safe to say that all faith communities want to live in peace, and yet we all struggle with our human-ness in achieving it. For many, peace is sought through order and conformity to a unifying set of beliefs. As UUs, we seek peace through diversity and responsibility. Our covenant obligates each of us to do the hard work of overcoming pain and conflict; we give and receive forgiveness, and we see the good in each other and the world.
Many faith communities work to help others. Is it fair to say that religious service is often based in unifying beliefs and commitments? Our desire to serve springs from our hearts and consciences as a way to show our commitment to the world around us. I am very excited that that our congregation chose three clear service priorities for the next year by the vote at the Annual Meeting: Standing on the Side of Love efforts such as LGBTQIA rights and immigration reform, child hunger and poverty, and our 7th Principle efforts.
The absence of one small word in a third phrase – to seek truth – makes all the difference in understanding our UU world views, and I think it is at the heart of what caused that audience to doggedly return to the idea of “UU beliefs.” Many religious people are committed to “seeking the truth,” while each UU is engaged in searching for their own truth. I hope that you will find many opportunities this summer to seek your truth.