So I made a quick post the other night in response to a comment that Shawn at Lofi Tribe made and it got lots of comments going. Exciting in a way, but in another way not so exciting because it seems as if I inserted myself into a big discussion (Christianity in the UU faith/”new age” stuff in our faith, etc.) that I wasn’t really aware I was inserting myself into. I learned. Hopefully others did too. Yay for blogging.
Anyway, there were a few lines in the comments that I wanted to highlight as I think about our faith – where we are. (As as side note, I try to sort of not focus on this too much in my blog or sermons or work in general because it seems like Unitarian Universalists spend a lot of time “assessing” where we are and thinking about what should be our theology or our strategy or whatever, and sometimes it gets done so much I think we forget to just live our faith. Committee meetings or “discussions” or blog posts can only go so far – but I digress.) What I wanted to point out was this quote:
There are many paths to God. I just don’t want to tread every single one of them at the same time.
Which I think is brilliant and made me laugh. In the sense that I just picture people trying to do this – a little bit of Buddha, a pagan goddess here and there, some nice historical Jesus…. in religious studies talk this is sometimes called Shelia-ism – which refers to a study or article some time ago about a woman named Shelia who just picked the parts she liked from various traditions and knitted them together to make… Sheliaism. I think it is important to keep in mind that Unitarian Universalism is not – or, in my humble opinion, should not – be a salad bar of faith where you just pick what you like and throw it all together and do whatever you want.
Shawn Anthony pointed out a situation of “the senseless act of recklessly smashing together three or four different traditions and naming it something else. I have no problem with a Pagan, Native American Flute Music, and/or Egyptian/Greek/Christian Labyrinths. When they are all combined it is religiously ridiculous…” I think that this is a perfect example of Unitarian Universalism at its worst – Shelia-ism gone haywire – thinking that we can somehow just squish together this and that and that somehow that will provide the spiritual grounding that is needed for the hard work of justice and love lived out through faith.
I think, at its best, Unitarian Universalism can be a religious identity and community that comes together to support each other in our diverse spiritual paths, honoring the wisdom that various traditions (that we were possibly not born into) can bring to our spiritual journeys and work of justice, while at the same time grounding ourselves in Unitarian Universalist history, principles and purposes (which I happen to like, although I know some don’t). I think a balance between being Unitarian Universalist while at the same time being _________ (fill in the blank – Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, Humanist, something in between, atheist, nothing else, etc.) AND at the same time being aware of the traditions which we draw from that our not ones we were born into and being aware of the complex histories that those traditions have is tough. It is a lot of balls to keep int the air. It is why some people feel excluded. Others perceive the denomination as weird. As pointed out, it is problematic we fail so miserably at speaking to poor communities and minority communities. But I HOPE that even in all this difficulty, that it continues to be a project that people are willing to take on because I think it is an important one. Important to honor our Unitarian and Universalist histories…important to welcome people who have not been able to find a spiritual home in a Christian church, or a sangha or a temple…central to provide a faith where people feel as though they can recover from past religious hurt…important to welcome Christians who want a place where Jesus and the God of the New Testament/Hebrew Bible isn’t the only/main context in which to think about the divine…key because people on different paths have a lot to learn from each other and, I believe, have a lot to offer the world as a united faith community. And so on.
This is getting too long, as usual. I’m not editing closely again. We’ll see how this blogging off the cuff goes. I’m not sure what I think about the slight conflictish nature of the comments on my last post. I’m not one for controversy, but I try to remind myself that it is also important not to avoid controversy just because you don’t like it…. A good place to learn, if not always totally fun. We shall see how it goes, I suppose.