A 10-minute introduction to Unitarian Universalism

On the Occasion of the Dedication of Grace Fellowship Hall

October 18, 2015
Rick Spradlin delivers a Unitarian Universalist message during our recent dedication of Grace Fellowship Hall.
Rick Spradlin delivers a Unitarian Universalist message during our recent dedication of Grace Fellowship Hall.

We come together this morning to dedicate this building to a common friend and to a common cause. But, what exactly is that cause? How do we explain to the world what Unitarian Universalism is and what is our message?

To put it in a nutshell, Unitarian Universalism is a religion whose notion of God is that of a loving father more concerned with his children’s behavior on the playground than he is with their grade in theology. Our message is, “common respect is more important than common belief for an ailing world.”

In a growing world with shrinking resources, the burning question on our mind is how do we help over 7 billion people learn to live together on the same big blue marble.

We are people of all agespeople of many backgrounds, and people of many beliefs. We create spirituality and community beyond boundaries, working for more justice and more love in our own lives and in the world.

Unitarian Universalism affirms and promotes seven Principles, grounded in the humanistic teachings of the world’s religions.

Our spirituality is unbounded, drawing from both scripture and science, nature and philosophy, personal experience and ancient traditions.

In Unitarian Universalism, you can bring your whole self: your full identity, your questioning mind, your expansive heart.

Together, we create a force more powerful than one person or one belief system. As Unitarian Universalists, we do not have to check our personal background and beliefs at the door: we join together on a journey that honors everywhere we’ve been before.

Our beliefs are diverse and inclusive. We have no shared creed, no dogmatic beliefs. For us, what you believe is far less important than how you treat other people. After all, belief is easy. It is love that is the truest test of personal conviction. No one can tell you what you should believe. Any theological position must come from personal insight and exploration.

We respect doubt more than certainty when it comes to the bigger questions of life. Doubt encourages us to continue searching for truth, certainty brings about the end of honest inquiry.

A simple analogy might help. Imagine two artists painting the same scene, two detectives investigating the same mystery, or two engineers designing a bridge over the same river. They might take completely different approaches. The paintings, theories, and blueprints might look nothing alike. And yet each one might feel a sense of comradeship and respect for the other’s work. UUs are like that. Many of us disagree about the answers, but we respect each other’s efforts to come to terms with the questions (4).

One of the stories that we like to tell our youth is “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” I’d like to close with the poetic version of that ancient story by John Godfrey Saxe:

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Sources and references:

  1. uua.org/beliefs
  2. uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe
  3. Doug Muder, “An Imperfect Introduction to Unitarian Universalism”
  4. John Godfrey Saxe

 

 

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