All Revved Up
By Roger Peltier, November 2, 2017
I was having a refreshing conversation a few weeks ago. In relation to the affirmation “Love is the Spirit of this church…” a woman said, “I used to have so much trouble with the word “church.”
Being a Jew she much preferred the word “congregation” and she cited years of persecution as part of her position. Then she surprised me. She said, “I used to get upset about the word church, but then I realized that I am now a Unitarian Universalist and can be open to all faiths.”
BINGO! Pass GO! Collect $200 or, at the very least, Rev. Roger’s deep affection and approval. This woman had just articulated, most matter-of-factly, what took great introspection and more than a few years for me to learn: the hallmarks of Unitarian Universalism are Freedom, Reason and Tolerance precisely because they release us from the baggage of the past, making for a much lighter journey.
I like to say it this way: At my current level of UU practice I would wholeheartedly participate in a Buddhist sitting. And everyone knows that Yom Kippur is among my favorite holy days—apology and amends rank very high in my vocabulary. No problem.
But would I be as enthusiastic about say, going to confession? Or receiving communion? Why would I exclude a practice that billions find comforting? Sure, I’ve been bruised by the Catholicism from which I was raised—tremendously so. And I had to work especially hard at the amends of which I am so fond. But what other choice was there, really?
If nothing else, I can be a bit of a pragmatist. To me it seemed more preferable to do the work that would free me from the mental prison of old hurts than it was to stay shackled to the unchangeable past. And that was the key: the past cannot be changed; the future is pure freedom.
For some, that kind of freedom comes with too high a price. It is easier to hold on to the familiar, even if it is uncomfortable. Everyday people damage their hurting feet because it seems easier than getting new shoes. But trust me, friends, having walked in the same religious pain as many of you, there are better options.
Here’s the catch, though: the freedom in UUism is not free. You have to work for it: you have to use good, solid reasoning and open your mind to ideas different from your own; you have to be willing to be wrong; and you have to want to try and test and tolerate unfamiliar terrain until the path becomes your own.
In a spiritual practice of inclusion, one is likely to find that all roads, in fact, do not lead to Rome; they each lead to something new and interesting and worth our exploration. As well all faiths do not lead to Catholicism, but they do lead to deeper self-understanding, a fuller sense of wisdom and an invitation to kindness.
Practice, my friends, practice until you can say, “I’m a Unitarian Universalist and I can be open to all possibility.” And so you will arrive at great affirmation.
See you in church.