We Unitarian Universalists believe people should be free and responsible. We believe organizations should be democratic and open to new truth and fresh emotion. We believe in the good life, in happiness, but not at the expense of the good person, not at the expense of integrity. We believe in an integrated and pluralistic America, which reaches out to help a needy world while learning to use up less of the world in the process. We seek national security that spends more on economic conversion, energy independence, and personal health while spending less on armament and short-term profit. We honor traditions that work and rituals that satisfy, but we know that all such concepts are created for people, not people for them. Our creeds are built on individual searching and social responsibility, on experimental truths and experiential justice. We love our spiritual beliefs and high ideals through real people and natural beauty and living ideas. We try to live our religion directly as modest prophets of a grand tradition.
Our faith is a simple one. We expect only to try to discover the good life, to be happy, and to learn and practice, daily, being a good person, to have personal integrity and a practicing social conscience. We recognize that these are formidable tasks. There are many difficult issues and we do not agree on all of them. In fact, we celebrate our ability to disagree and still live with and love each other. However, there are plenty of important issues we do agree on. We are all opposed to racial prejudice and religious bigotry. We are all against terrorism and dictators. We all think women should get equal pay for equal work and have power over their own bodies and be able to be religious leaders. We believe in science, in education, in civil liberties, in this life and this world, in the hope and potential of the human species, despite the opposition of many individuals and powerful institutions to many of these beliefs.
Our Faith Asks
Our faith asks realism of us. It expects us to use all our senses and skills, our experiences and ingenuity, fully and regularly. If we are to truly live life, we must use the best of human tools to understand it. Science, technology, scholarship, all the experimental frontiers of human endeavor need to become part of our repertoire. We must face up to life's realities. Tragedy is real. Death is inevitable. Failure happens. Evil is often exceedingly persistent.
Our faith asks of us an affirming pluralism, which does not see human differences as only temporary or stupid mistakes but as reflecting a genuine need for continuing multiple paths and different answers and varied truths in response to the eternal questions. It asks of us a joyous and courageous will to create and to support human community and cultural progress. We are involved in something larger than our own short-term personal success or survival. We are involved in creating viable futures for the good earth and the human family.
Our faith asks of us a rigorous questing and deliberate nurturing of individual religiosity. Ours is a different way of being religious, but it is religious, fully, unselfconsciously, persistently. We delve into the great historical traditions, both appreciatively and critically. We develop relevant and meaningful practices that meet continuing needs of the human life cycle. We resist neither the deepest truths of the spirit nor the highest flights of the mind, resist neither the most passionate emotions nor the most disciplined philosophies or exercises.
Unitarian Universalism asks first and foremost that you seek to understand yourself and to make sense of the world around you. It asks that you take your reasoned and experienced truths and put your ideas into action in ways helpful to the evolving earth and to searching humanity. Whatever is eternal and essential needs you and me to do our unique and irreplaceable best in support of the human future.
We live in a real world, blessed with wondrous and awesome orders and meaning. If we open our eyes, we can be filled with its splendor and sometimes overflow with its grace and truth. This truth and beauty is greater than we are; it surrounds us and fills us, but we are also part of it – indeed, every one of us shares in this essential goodness. We are created and are creators of this grace. It is true no one has ever seen all reality no one has ever known completely the whole of this cosmic energy, but prophets like Moses and Gandhi have given us rules to walk in its path and teachers like Jesus and Buddha have been windows revealing it to multitudes of people. Thus, if we will, we can be sons and daughters of the essential divinity of existence, living in family intimacy with it, and making it known through our actions with people around us.
We believe in a first cause for the universe. We think that the universe has meaning and value and purposes. Many of us suspect there may be an oversoul - it seems often to be benevolent. Most of us certainly do have a strong sense of the grace of life and have had personal experiences and shared experiences understandable to us only as benevolent intentions partly separate from ourselves and the world we can explain. Generally, we do not think God can be defined, possessed, or manipulated. Some of us do not think God even wants to be understood or worshipped according to some formula. We agree that the essence of religion has to do with the affirmation of our lives and of all lives and with the daily practice of love with those around us, using all the energy wisdom, courage, and joy of which we are capable.
We believe in Jesus as a person with many good characteristics and teachings. We also believe, to various degrees, in a host of other prophets and teachers: female and male, ancient and modern from throughout the world. In important ways, Jesus is a model. For many of us, he is our most important prophet. We believe, with Jesus, that we are all children of God and that we save ourselves through our lives on this earth. Jesus clearly said that belie, alone is not enough. He clearly taught that deeds are most important than creeds, that love is more important than worship. Our religion, like his, celebrates life, affirms the senses, takes responsibility for the support and reform of human culture and for the support and reform of religious tradition. The essence of religion was summarized beautifully by him as "loving God and practicing love with one another."
We read the Bible and interpret it for ourselves. We also find religious truth and wisdom in a variety of other written works, ancient and modern from all over the world. We consider the Bible, like all other written works, a human book. It was created over many centuries, often written by people who had not been present at the original events on which the central stories and doctrines were built. Human beings often act and celebrate first and then create reasons and stories to explain their actions later. This is also true of the Bible. We believe that people must read the stories and decide what relevance and truth they have for them.
When we pray, we do not ask the partly hidden powers of the universe and of ourselves (what many people call God) to change the natural laws, to force fate, or to do magic. We pray as a way of reminding ourselves that there is a world beyond yet connected with ourselves and that there are mysteries and awesome wonders central to our lives.
We believe that the body dies and becomes again a part of the good earth. Much of our lives may be lost. Yet our portion of the world's goodness need not be lost. Through our truthful insights, our deeds of justice, and our habits of love, we can endure as long as humanity lasts and remain eternal in an evolving universe. Perhaps there is a heaven or some sort of new existence after death. We can hope, but we cannot know. We believe that all people find peace in death, and that the spirit goes as it will, larger and greater than any space or time.
Evil, Errors and Guilt
We recognize that all people do wrong. There are deeds we do that we should not have done, sins or errors of commission, and there are deeds we have not done that we should have done, sins or errors of omission. We need to recognize these wrongs, both of commission and omission, do what we can to make amends or restitution for them, whenever possible directly with the people harmed by our actions or inactions, and use the justifiable guilt we feel to change our behavior so as not to continue our past errors. However, most of us feel guilt for much that is not real, or is not really our fault, or could not have been avoided because it was simply chance or clearly inevitable. These are the abuses of guilt, and they have laid a terrible and unnecessary burden on humanity's shoulders. These abuses of guilt still make many peoples' lives nearly intolerable. Traditional religions carry much justifiable blame for these abuses of guilt. Our religion would like to liberate people from these false and unnecessary curses.
Five of the primary abuses of guilt are original sin, inherited guilt's, inappropriate cultural stereotypes, perfectionism, and the equating of our feelings and thoughts with our deeds.
Original sin is the idea that we are all guilty simply because we are born as human beings: "in Adam's fall, we sinned all." Unitarian Universalists do not believe in original sin. We recognize that both the world and the human species, including ourselves, are imperfect and incomplete, but we do not mistake this imperfection and incompleteness for sin. Unlike those who believe that they need to "wash away sin" in the act of baptizing infants, we celebrate new children for their innocence and potential goodness and greatness.
The concept of inherited sins or guilt's is the idea that, since our ancestors did wrongs, we inherit them and should feel guilty and sinful for them. We think this idea is nonsense. It is important to feel sorrow and anger for the misdeeds, mistakes, and violence done by others whether they are foreign or kin to us. However, no purpose is served by carrying the guilt's of former generations. These burdens of history should be learned from but not accepted as ours.
Inappropriate cultural stereotypes are the human tendency to take particular cultural models as normative. People often feel guilty for their life choices, not because these choices are wrong but simply because they do not match the current cultural norms. Unitarian Universalists believe that in the vast majority of human endeavors there is no one right way. There are many right ways and a variety of acceptable answers and styles in most human endeavors. This idea of philosophical pluralism is one of the most important concepts of our faith.
Perfectionism, the idea of roles with no limits and goals with no realizable objectives, leads to guilt because it defines us as failures. A limitless role defies continual perfect expression in real life. We need to learn to struggle with and to limit our inner perfect parent who always has the answers and for whom we can never fully succeed. Skill and wisdom are desirable; excellence is a worthy goal, but perfectionism is a foolish trap.
A fifth common abuse of guilt is to feel guilty for bad thoughts or bad feelings that we never allow to become actions. Jesus was supposed to have said that we should pluck out our wayward eyes and cut off our wayward hands, thus to have equated the thought with the deed, but we think he was profoundly wrong in making this equation. This mistaken equation is certainly not made only by Christians. Most people have some awful thoughts in the course of their lives and also some terrible, hateful feelings, but, for us, the core of human ethics is that there is a profound difference between considering murder and doing it and between feeling violent and being violent. For us, it is essential that this difference be recognized and maintained.
We urge people to accept liberation from these abuses of guilt, to abandon them as the useless baggage they are and to deal rather with their own genuine errors and the evils that they can actually hope to change. May we not tempt ourselves or others. Recognizing that evil exists, side by side with good in each of us, let us live so as to outgrow both our errors of omission and our errors of commission.
A Religion of the Highest and the Deepest
We wish to discover and to live a religion of the highest and deepest known to us. We wish to discover and to live the best of the world's wisdom, and the brightest of human examples. We want to be in touch with nature, and, sometimes, to be in courageous revolt against the accepted dogmas of the moment. We want to recognize how much each of us, here and now, has to give to the world. We find sustenance and support in the liberal religious tradition. We recognize that unknowns and mysteries remain. There are eternal questions, but there are also workable answers for our daily lives and feasible solutions for human needs. We want to remain always willing to think and to change, in our congregational lives as well as in our working lives. We hope to have the courage of our best intentions, the bravery to share our strong emotions, both out in the world and in our religious homes. We believe that strong feelings need not dissipate clear thinking.
We want to be willing to be radicals for truth, radicals for justice, radicals for love, and radicals for peace. The future demands brave innovation. However, we wish to avoid the liberal temptation of simply becoming conformists of the avant-garde who spout the newest language without the courage of persistent commitment. Individual integrity, intimate love, social justice, and world peace remain central responsibilities of our individual faith.
by Dr. John L. Young, Minister - Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville
@ John Young 1984
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