Who Cares?

Compassion4I have recently begun to explore Unitarian-Univeralism (UU), a very inclusive “church” structure that requires no dogmatic belief system and yet recognizes the human need for community and the search for meaning, the need for caring and the questing of “Who Cares?” In particular, I invite the reader to view a recent sermon at the local UU church A Big Tent with Even Bigger Dreams[1] (20180506), one that I thought was profound (as well as very humorous).

For my part, UU (in its profound inclusivity) represents the possibility of mature community, an essential component of cultural transformation (of which I have written many posts in this blog — see this series). I find a number of aspects of the local church, the North Shore Unitarians, to have deep appeal for me; I also have the intuition (and hope) that these aspects are to be found throughout the UU system.

  • They are deeply inclusive. In particular, I have found them very welcoming, and very open to diversity, especially the LGBTQQIP2SAA community and any other source of divisiveness in community.
    • A significant quote from the above sermon is “we honor this truth by encouraging our members to reflect on the Light through whatever set of windows they find most illuminating. We only require that this same freedom be honored for others.”
  • They recognize the incredible destructiveness that “religion” has played in the world.
    • I have a friend who is atheist and strongly against religion, yet from my perspective he does not seem to recognize “religion” as simply a cultural lens, and that its implications range from the very immature (including much of Christian history as well as modern fundamentalism, both Christian and Muslim) to the very mature. I totally agree with him in his disparagement of Christianity when expressed via fundamentalism, and I also deeply value the mature expression of religion when I find it. Mature religion for me is not a set of beliefs, rather it is a way of approaching life with compassion to all its complexity.
  • They are very open to questioning the meaning of life.
    • For the past year, the Church has been running a series of discussion groups called Wounded Words (words such as sin, salvation, god, prayer) in an attempt to recognize how divisive these words have been (and continue to be).

The main emphasis that I have seen is that UU encourages the recognition that we all search for meaning and that we are all in the same boat! We must learn to value “making sure there’s room for another to come sit next to me, even if, especially if, they make me uncomfortable . . . . with such a big tent [that] we don’t even agree on the words to use to describe it.”

There is for me something deep within the heart of all human beings that searches for meaning; maturity for me means that of being willing to sit in the mystery that this represents. Those who claim certainty are at high risk of fundamentalism, and the abuses of religion — this I distrust.

To give my answer to the basic question of this post, those who care are those who continue to search, allowing others also to search. I honor all who do, including the UU church.

[1] Hartlief, M. (20180506). A Big Tent With Even Bigger Dreams, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNB–Aa5KWo, published 20180507.

6 thoughts on “Who Cares?”

  1. Thank you sooo much for that post. I’ve been searching for something like this for years.

    Julie

    Dr Julie Deroo Ferris Lane Animal Hospital Barrie, Ontario

    >

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  2. Dear Dave,

    Did you know I was reared Unitarian? My father was an organist at a Universalist Church. He and my mother left Methodism and Presbyterianism for Unitarianism because they didn’t want to be forced to accept doctrine in order to be included in the community.

    I have always been grateful that my Unitarian upbringing taught me to think, without judgment or criticism. When I hear the horror stories of my recovering Catholic friends, I feel so fortunate that I didn’t have to go through that same trauma.

    And yet, when, around age 30, I had a sudden, unexpected, mystical/transformational experience, Unitarianism offered me no vocabulary with which to understand that experience or communicate it. When I began talking, I was met with glazed eyes and blank stares. I was speaking, but I was not communicating. How do you use analytical, divisive words to communicate a unifying, holistic experience? It was like trying to use a broom to wash dishes.

    I searched deeply in other religions for words with which to speak. I found them in every other religion, but the words were only maps of the territory. They were not the territory. They were fingers pointing at the moon. They were not the moon.

    The evangelists of all the different religions were fighting over whose words were right and whose words were wrong, rather than giving themselves permission to surrender into the deep, silent, unifying experience.

    Much later, I discovered Alfred Korzybski and his famous saying, “The map is not the territory.” I like to elaborate on that: “The words are not the experience.”

    My oldest son has recently converted to Catholicism. I wish him well on his chosen path. I hope he will use the doctrines for personal support and guidance – as fingers pointing at the moon, not as the moon – not as self-righteous proclamations of what words are true.

    Did you know that the meaning of “Catholic” is universal and the meaning of “church” is community. Defined that way, I am a catholic (with a small “c.”)

    And consider a shift in the meaning of the word “sin” to “make a mistake.” Much less onerous and something for which amends and conduct corrections can be made.

    I no longer attend the UU Church or any other church, only because I don’t want to sit for a half hour listening to someone talk at me. I did go to a local service a few years ago, but found it difficult to connect with the people in attendance. There was no eye contact. No welcoming handshake or hug. It was not the kind of meaningful community I needed.

    Much love,

    Janet

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    1. Lots of meat in your comments, Janet; I am familiar with most of the nuisances. And also saddened that your attempt to describe your unitive experience was not fruitful. The particular UU church here is very welcoming, and my indication of my own unitive experiences was well received by the minister — perhaps unique to him, although I hope otherwise. It has actually been years since I explored attending church (small c), and it seems that my current search is that of finding strong inter-subjectivity, thus far fruitfully in a number of sources. Thanks.

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  3. Ah, but the power of words! When I changed one word in the question – when I changed the word “communicate” to “facilitate” – the answer emerged. The question then became, “How can I use analytic divisive words to facilitate a unifying, holistic experience?” The answer: by being Aware and Present in each and every moment and giving what I have to give in service to others.

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