By Anna Sachse
Any which way you slice it, all this seasonal fuss reminds me that I tend to think that most organized religion sucks—far too often it provides the impetus or absolution for judgment, exclusion, hatred, cruelty and murder in the name of war. But I also get why people want to believe in it—the sense of community, a reason to be your best self, the soothing nature of prayer and the comfort of a unifying principle.
Unity. That seems like a pretty good goal in these days when every election seems to highlight the fact that we are getting further and further apart. For that reason, one of the better religious options, in my opinion, is Unitarian Universalism.
With the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA; www.uua.org), you essentially get two religions in one: the Universalist Church of America, which originally organized in 1793, and the American Unitarian Association, which organized in 1825. They consolidated in 1961, but both groups trace their formation in North America to the independent, self-governing churches of colonial New England that covenanted to help one another in times of need. Overseas, their heritages reach back centuries to religious and social reformers in England, Poland and Transylvania. (Twilight lovers rejoice!) Although it has roots in Judeo-Christianity, it embraces theological diversity and claims no official creed. That is to say, each of the 1,041 congregations in the U.S., Canada and overseas are democratic in polity and operation; they govern themselves.
I like it. And here are seven other things I like—the seven basic principles that Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person. Everyone is included, not just the rich folks or the white people or the heteros.
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations. This is truly doing unto others as you would have done to you; not telling other people how to live if you were them.
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in the congregations.
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Seems like a more spiritual endeavor than simply trying to avoid God’s wrath and an eternity in hell.
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within the 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.
I am not a Unitarian Universalist myself. The spawn of a Jewish-in-blood-only father and lapsed-Catholic mother, who were both hippies, I follow no religion. But nonetheless, reading these principles truly fills me with the holiday spirit. They provide me with a spark of hope that maybe someday we will realize that we all must work together to keep this planet spinning. And that if we all put our energy toward love, respect and mutual support a little more often, life on our planet would suck a little less for a lot more people.
Have a Happy and Healthy Chanuwanzmas, ya’ll.