Life and Health

The UU in Me

I’ve decided to try something a little bit different and write a series of posts; this is the first one outlining the series.  

There is a lot of Christian influence in the blogosphere which isn’t a bad thing but it isn’t part of my home or my parenting in the strictest sense of the word. I’m not anti-Christian: one of my good friends (and blog inspirations) Earl Grey and Yellow is a Christian blogger, I was raised Catholic, went to Quaker (AKA Friends) grade school and Catholic high school; there are many things I admire about the Christian faith but I do not identify as a Christian.   

I wanted to write something that related to us religious “nones” (atheists and agnostics) or the “spiritual but not religious” camp which according to recent numbers by Pew Research stands at almost 30% of the US population.  I feel like sometimes we don’t have a voice.  There seems to be a lot of noise around religion and politics, religion and parenting, religion and….  People tout that the US is a “Christian Nation” (which it’s not) and it seems that everywhere you turn there are religious zealots of every flavor pushing for the “right” answer to anything and everything (and I don’t necessarily mean the Right Wing answer).  In my experience so far, there is no “right” answer to everything and anything. There are always grey areas and messy middles but allowing myself to question, keep learning, keep growing and be okay with sometimes making mistakes allows me to continue looking for the right answer for myself and my family.  

At this point in my life, I feel I most resemble an atheist as Richard Dawkins describes it: “My objection to supernatural beliefs is precisely that they miserably fail to do justice to the sublime grandeur of the real world. They represent a narrowing-down from reality, an impoverishment of what the real world has to offer.”  The natural world is a beautiful place and almost all of my “spiritual” moments have happened in the presence of something in the natural world.

As I’ve progressed through my third decade on this planet I have come to believe that most people inherently want to do things “right” according to societal norms but there are a whole host of circumstances that push people to the wrong answer.  I have been raised in a relatively comfortable and privileged environment. If my parents ever worried about how they were going to put food on the table or a roof over my head, I never noticed as a kid and for that comfort and stability I am eternally grateful because I see more and more that this is not the case for a large group of the population.  This privileged upbringing has allowed me the security to explore, learn, and grow up into someone who’s not constantly in fight or flight mode so it has allowed me the time to ponder philosophical and ethical questions of my own. Through this I have come to some conclusions and was able to join a congregation that fulfills me in a way that my childhood church never did.

About ten years ago, I was just about to turn thirty and longed for a community.  Some of it stemmed from jealousy of other people’s connections through their churches; some of it came from the desire to find a group of people I could connect with in ways that I hadn’t with other people and some of it was just wondering how I would raise a future child.  So as most millenials do, I took to the internet and did some searching.  I came across the “what religion are you” quiz by Beliefnet.  Because internet quizzes know you and can shine some insight into your soul right? 

I took the quiz and it told me I was a “Unitarian Universalist” or UU for short which I had never heard of but found there was a congregation nearby.  The Sunday before Halloween the Mr. and I went to service.

We got there, and waited for service to start.  We weren’t sure what to expect since we didn’t do a whole lot of research before we got there and just decided to roll with it.  As service starts, someone dressed as a wolf and another someone dressed as Little Red Riding Hood started to skip into the sanctuary.  The Mr. leans over to me and whispers, “What kind of church is this?”, I shrugged and answered “I don’t know.” The Mr. was also raised Catholic but had fallen away from the Church years ago.

We were in brand new territory.  Used to the ritual and structure of the Catholic Mass or the un-structure of the Quaker meeting of my grade school, here we were at a completely new place with new “rules” and new people so we decided to make the best of it.

Since that initial visit a decade ago, that place has become and increasingly important part of my life as I’ve grown into adulthood and parenthood.  It has not always been pretty or easy and there are days where I really struggle with the place because there aren’t a lot of prescribed rules. The UU rules are deceptively simple but really hard to put into practice.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has seven principles:

  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

 There is currently discussion about adding an 8th but since that hasn’t been approved at this point I’m going to leave it out of the discussion.  

There are six sources of “knowledge” that contribute to what is called our living tradition.  From the UUA Website: 

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

As you can see, there is a lot of room for interpretation and a lot to draw on to do life “right” which is great because I never really felt comfortable with the “one true path” but this one doesn’t give you all the answers.  I feel like one of my students wishing for someone to give me the answer but ultimately understanding at the end of the project why they haven’t so I could figure it out on my own.

When I first checked out the local UU church, I thought this may be some hippy religion that started during the 1960s or 1970s but it actually has a long history dating back to 1793 for the Universalist side and 1825 for the Unitarian side in the US which then merged in 1961.  I was impressed to find out about the history of this denomination and the many famous people it can claim.

Over the next 7 weeks I am going to be writing about the seven principles and how they influence my life, my parenting, and my work so I hope you’ll join me for this exploration.

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