June 8, 2009
Appearing back to back, two articles in the Summer 2009 UU World Magazine caught my attention[ http://www.uuworld.org/currentissue.shtml .] Both echoed (for me) the closing quote in the “Blog Roundup” from Joel Monka: “UU itself is still like monosodium glutamate in my life – a flavor enhancer for what I already had, rather than a stand-alone religion in its own right.” Wow,” when I read that I thought, “The purpose of my life, as a UU Minister, is to improve the flavor of various religions.” In “Natural Aptitude” Laura Pedersen tells us it is hard to distinguish UUs from Hippies and says, “… UUs believe that there is truth to be found in all religions, but no one relgion holds all truth.”On the next page, Ken Collier tells us that “Religion is about the healing of brokenness,” which is a powerful purpose but, though he speaks of the religions of Buddha and Christ, he says nothing about UUism being “a religion.” He ends with the idea that religions are just different cultural methods of achieving the same goal of wholeness and healing. Furthermore Pedersen notes that UUism is not so much a choice as a found quality, “Finding that one is UU is “… like discovering that one is gay or has a natural aptitude for clog dancing.”
The point for me is that even if a candidate for the UUA Presidency tells us “We are the religion for our time,” the fact is that most of us do not think we are a religion, but either a smorgasboard of religions, or something that enhances the flavor of religion cooked up somewhere else. To be sure, there are many who think we are a particular religion, such as the religion of Existential Humanism, or the religion of “God is love,” or the religion of “be reasonable and openmided,” or the religion of particular liberal causes. But each of these are minorities who favor one cooking style over others and ultimately see the UU movement as a flavor enhancer for their own particular dish. There are those who think of UUism as “an approach to religion” but certainly not a religion of its own.
Maybe that is just fine, and we should accept our place as a “liberalizer of religions” or something like “fusion cooking,” an approach with endless variations. However, when I meet Unitarians from the Kasi hills, or people in North America who’s lives have been utterly transformed by finding a UU congregation I think we can be something more. I think our best churches are offering not just MSG but the substance of universal truth, prepared as religion that feeds the hungry soul. I can’t say my church is “one of the best” but we do struggle to make each worship service not just a sampler of all the good spiritual food in the world, or a place to get something to suppliment your own spiritual cooking, but full meals that have real integrity and their own unique flavor.