When I meet with people who have heard of Norton Unitarian Church and are interested in what we are doing, inevitably the question comes up: “So what is Unitarian Universalism all about? What is this church about?”
It is a complicated question that, realistically, takes a lifetime to answer. It’s also one that requires an answer in under thirty seconds. My answer is not terribly eloquent but it gets the point across.
“Unitarian Universalism is generally left-leaning. We were the first people to ordain women to the ministry, and we accept all people, regardless of race, class, or sexual orientation. That’s a core value of our faith. At Norton Unitarian we believe we need to love all people and to think. Doing both at the same time can be very difficult, but it is what we believe we are called to do.”
To love all people and to think. That’s the heart of what has kept me in the UU faith for the last several years, and it is what has sustained my ministry. It is why I keep coming back to this religion, and why I have faith in what we do – what Norton Unitarian Church is all about.
It’s not an easy thing to do, at least not for me. One of my favorite articles on this subject was written by UU minister Meg Barnhouse and published not long after the terrible shooting in the Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Meg wrote about how she had met the shooter at a Unitarian Universalist summer camp several years before, and how she had struggled with his views at that time. She wrote:
“We love to think of ourselves as open-minded, but it’s hard for us to be open-minded toward certain people and their views. Maybe it’s just me that has a hard time, but I think I’m not alone in this. I argued with him, too. I do affirm the worth and dignity of every person, but I never promised to affirm the worth and dignity of every idea. Some ideas are oppressive and not well thought out. They lead to violence and injustice and really bad behavior. I try to argue with respect and kindness, but it’s hard when the person you’re talking to acts like a jerk. If I were the Dalai Lama or a UU saint, I would be able to, and I hope that will come in the future, but I am sure not there yet.”
To love all people and to think. To love the shooters who are terrorizing our churches and schools and grocery store parking lots, while knowing that what they are doing is completely and totally, gut-wrenching wrong. It’s not easy to do both of these, at least not for me. Sometimes I would much rather sit in judgement of another person than engage in the struggle of loving and thinking.
To me, a religion needs to be something that we strive to live up to. It needs to be something that we can’t “complete” or “be without knowing it.” It has to be something that guides us – something that helps us to live better lives and become the best people we can be.