As I’m a strong Unitarian Universalist (UU) identifying person who grew up and is still active in the UU religion, it might come as quit a shock to those of you who know anything about UUism that, over the past at least seven years or so I’ve come more and more to believe in God. As you might know it’s ok for all those involved in UU community, be it official member UUs or just mere friends of UU to openly give praise and show support for the gays and lesbians within the UU fold and their right to live as who they are within UU community. But do the majority of UUs show the same courtesy for anther of the minorities within UU, the God loving UUs (of which I’m now one myself)? I would say not. To borrow a phrase often expressed by the gay and lesbians in our society at large, I would say sometimes I feel I have to hide in the closet, well my belief in God and my need to honour and praise him from my fellow UUs that is. I say this ought not to be so seeing as my fellow UUs like to loudly proclaim that they respect and even welcome those who have different beliefs from them into the UU fold (so long as they don’t impinge on their right to express what they individually believe, or intentionally heart anyone, which I think is only fair).
So how did I come to this belief in God? One only has to look at the forth principle of the UU list of seven principles which is as fallows “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning”. Yes it was through a search for truth and meaning, well more accurately, a need to find truth and meaning, that has led me to this belief. But I have always kept in mind the other parts of this principle as well. For one my responsibility to have a responsible search. By responsible I interpret it in great UU fashion as my responsibility to not assume that what I find to be truths that work for me (that include my belief in God) to be truths that will work for others or even things to which I should impose on them. But then there’s the last part, the free part. This part of the principle is the part that I fell some UUs don’t fully grasp. To me it doesn’t just mean allowing someone the space to search and seek for their truths, but also the space needed to tryout what is being discovered or may have been discovered as a result of this search and seeking.
So why would they have a problem with us, the God loving UUs trying out we have discovered and are discovering? Well one reason for this is likely the fact that many UUs came to UUism fleeing Christian denominations, like Roman Catholic and Anglican, and as a result have negative associations linked to the concept of God, to which many who come from a different back ground, take me for example, who was raised UU may not have. Well one of the things they may have observed is people in authority using the concept of God to justify harsh or restrictive rules or actions, those leaving their faith in God shaken. I for one never have observed this. In fact it wasn’t until I was having a sever crises of faith that I really started giving the concept of God any real consideration.
My belief in God came from a crises of faith. Well actually to be more accurate I have always been on the brink of taking the God belief plunge and it was only this crises that pushed my to certainty in Him (God). So why did it take me 20 years and a crises to start to believe in God. The reason for this I would say was the fact that as a child I had mostly secular humanist and atheist for Sunday school teachers, who in my children’s religious exploration classes told me more about human sexuality and things about science then what they believed about religion (all worthy thinks to teach to children). Sure they did encourage me to search for my religious beliefs, but it was only through brief and as I now know insufficient glimpses of what others believed in, and rarely what UUs believe and never what they believed abut religion. I guess even if the concept of God was something that I needed, it was always going to take a crises for me to believe in Him. Well ‘cause I knew no UUs that believed or at least expressed openly a belief in God as a child. But I could never fully go join them in their rejection of God. And with this crises of faith I began to come to my belief in God over the past seven years or so.
The crises of faith of mine was precipitated by the fact that I had bad thing don to me as well as hearing of bad thing having been don to others. Things like bullying and the divorce of parents. All things that I could not and still can not accept as having happened for no reason. I felt and still feel they most have happened for some divine reason, either to teach use some lesion or to move our lives in a better direction. Also the fact that I could not accept the fact that evolution to which I did and still do believe in, just some how spontaneously started to happen and evolve over time. I still believe this about evolution.
So why do I believe in God? Because I believe that creation was not something that just spontaneously started to happen one day and the fact that bad things to which we experience must be brought to be for some useful reason. And ‘cause I believe in God I feel the need to honour Him and yes even praise Him. Yes all things to which leave many of the former Christians within the UU fold uneasy.
I thick before I go any further I should disclose that I was raised in UU community. So here goes. This is what I have to say. And I mean no offence by it.
I feel to often UUs (individuals and their communities (churches, fellowships and societies)) go out of their way to make newcomers feel welcome. This is done throw providing things like special green mugs during the Sunday fellowship hour and courses such as “Introduction to UUism”; intended to give them some further knowledge on their new spiritual community and the history of the religion it’s a member of (UU). This is all fine and well but sometimes it feels to me that this is all done at the expense of the needs of the ones who grew up in UU communities. Well maybe this is only do to the fact that most of those that are active in UU communities came as adults having either grown up in another religious tradition or a lack of one, that this mite be going on. I mean maybe the adults are thinking on an unconscious level that you can’t expect to find the spiritual fulfilment that is right for you in the places you grew up in, you see we didn’t.
So I am not suggesting we as UUs stop trying to welcome new people and our attempts to help them feel welcome in our midst. But I do think this will never help UU communities to grow which, I always hear is a big goal for UU communities and the wider UU movement. Well I mean that they will never grow unless we try and respond to the needs and honour the religious/spiritual discovers made by those of us UUs who went throw UU religious exploration classes and YRUU. Just tack a look at the current results of this poll being don on FUUSE the online community for UU and Unitarian youth and young adults. It should be noted that most of the members of FUUSE either have gone throw the YRUU experience and or a young adult one modelled after the YRUU one. So what is this poll saying? Well, it asks the question “Do you feel yourself connected to Unitarian Universalism?” and these are the options and the results (as of 10:45 pm EST).
“Yes, better than ever 34 (28.10%)
Sometimes 25 (20.66%)
I used to, but not so much anymore 37 (30.58%)
Nope 16 (13.22%)
No, I never identified as a UU 0 (0.00%)
No, I’m in the process of finding a new faith community 9
So as you can see out of the 121 respondents 62 (51.24%) a little over half of them are struggling with their connections to UUism or have decided it’s better to go look for a new religious/spiritual community and another 25 (20.66%) only feel connected to UUism sometimes. And 34 (28.10%) said “Yes, better than ever”. So what does this all tell us abut the way UU treats its young long time members? Well if the results of this poll are representative of UU identifying young folk (and I think it is) then I feel UUism and its communities thy have a major problem which needs urgent addressing if UUism is to stay vibrant and flourish for a long time to come.
What fallow is a response to the Rev. Scott Wells post entitled The youth resolution and the Obama generation as well as all those who commented on it.
I just wont to say I have never met any of the whiny UU youth you all seem to be speaking about. And my best and most healthy experiences, I had them at my district’s youth cons. Whether that was at ones put on by the varying youth groups of the UU congregations throughout southern and northern New York State or at ones I was helping to put on with my youth group at my home church in Ottawa, Ontario Canada, it was marvels. Yes it dos come dawn to the adults how are working with the youth. ‘Cause if the adults go around acting like they always know what is best for the youth only handing out the vary rare opportunity for the youth to manage their own destines then yes, I suppose you would have whiny youth. And I would say they would have good reason to be upset. But, if on the other hand, the adults involved with the teens share their many years of wisdom. Not to mention help the youth to billed up safe spaces like cons and Sunday morning youth groups all filled with opportunities to learn and practise how to be leaders able to billed, run and maintain community with the help of their fellow youth of cores. Then and only then do you have healthy youth programming. But if after the youth graduate from their wonderful UU youth programs, and I hope they are wonderful, you just tell all the youth to now wash their hands of all the good stuff they learned and discovered as youth. I mean to be come proper upstanding adults “gag” able to now do things in the adult way of doing things. And in the UU world that would be the way of the UU immigrants. Then yes you will have whiny young adult. And yes they would have good reason to be upset. And yes I am a young adult, and I have felt the push to become more like the other more, older UU adults who unlike me were not razed UU. And this push it’s always subtle, some of the people who do it are I’m sure not even aware they are doing it and would change if they knew what they should be doing instead. So this whole push for youth and young adult empowerment can be summed up in this definition from the vary resolution you all seem to choose to knock so heartily. And it’s as fallow: “WHEREAS Youth and Young Adult empowerment is an attitudinal, structural and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability, authority and agency to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people to create intergenerational equity”. And yes this is all about equity and equality and just like the women of the women’s movement we, the UU young adults and youth feel it’s hi time we got ours.
This is some more thoughts of mine one the same subject as my last post. And I also posted it to one of the thread in the same Faceboox group.
Coming of Age (COA) is not a Youth Empowerment program. As a COA teacher in my congregation in Ottawa, ON, Canada I should know it’s a Youth Preparatory course. And it is for junior youth (i.e.12 or 13-year-olds) not youth (i.e. 14 to 19-year-olds). It helps the junior youth to begin to look at all the different beliefs to which we as humans have with regards to religious/spiritual things like hell, heaven, the belief or not in God and so on. And it helps the junior youth to start to articulate which of these feels right for them. Also it is a course which helps the young people to be ready to move on to youthhood. It’s kind of like the UU version of the Christian confirmation or the UU version of the Jewish Bar and Bat mitsfa. So I would say this it’s good to have these kinds of things for UU’s, but in my opinion it is better don wen they are still kids and not yet youth. And that is because I feel youthhood should be a time for trying out and testing all the things learnt as a kid in a healthy and safe environment of course, with the express propose of preparing the youth to become leaders and active members in their society. In this case the UU world. But what I have noticed is we as UU’s let are young people go throw this as youth or at least we did. Then wen they become adults we tell them with our body language, ton of voice and so one to forget about trying to incorporate the conclusions or weighs of doing thing which mite work for you in to the wider adult UU world. In essence, we say, we encourage you to continuo to explore what you believe and think but now you most only do it in the more proper and refined adult way. And I would strongly oppose something like COA being the mane focus of UU youth programming mostly because it is adult lead not youth led with mentor like help from sportive adults.
This was part of a post I added to one of the threads in the Facebook group called Unitarian Universalist Youth and Young Adult Empowerment to which I am a member of.
While growing up I attended Religious Exploration (i.e. Sunday school) classes and did the precursor to the Grad 8 OWL (Our Whole Lives) sexuality coerce called AYS (About Your Sexuality). Not to mention as well went through YRUU (Young Religious Unitarian Universalists), which was for me, a place ware I could finally test and try out what it was to really live in Unitarian Universalist (UU) community with all the rights and responsibilities that go with it. But when I finally aged out of YRUU at the age of 20 I came to the realization that the way I was taught to express and explore my faith was not the way the adults do things. Ok I did know that UU adults did thinks a bit different then the way UU kids and youth are taught, but I did not think it was that dramatically different. You see I had up until then musty done worship in more of a circle style, vary audience participatory rather then a speaker listener style. That is only one of the differences between the way we as UU kids and youth did things differently. And unlike the adults, wen we as youth and kids wear exploring our religious/spiritual beliefs we did not compare everything against ware we came from (i.e. Catholic, Anglican or what ever) but rather only through UU eyes because that is all we new. And I think this shook I had is probably felt be many raised UUs and I think that it might be one of the reasons a lot of them never integrate into the wider adult UU world.
Being different is hared on any kid, especially if you are a member of an invisible minority and going throw adolescence. I can attest to this fact having been the only Unitarian Universalist (UU) at the small Ontario High School to which I attended. I bet none know I was UU except one of my then friends, who I am sure never really understood what being one really meant. You see I fawned it hared to explain then and I still do now, so I did and still do not tell people I meat that I am one. It is quit a shame. But what can I do, I do not want to go in to along explanation of what a UU is and what it means to be one. So I guess I need to come up with an elevator speech on the subject. You see an elevator speech is a sort description of something that you can use in a conversation to describe something, and one should take no longer then a typical elevator ride to deliver.
Well if I had come up with an elevator speech as a kid it would have not made it any easier on me, but at least people would not have bullied me for what I was not, but rather for what I was. Who I was, was a shy guy at school and a cool-crazy guy in my churches youth group. You see only now have I started to realize that I never really let my true self sine throw at school or at church and I am only just now starting to do so at church. At school, especially at High School I was with drown do to a sense of not knowing how to relate to my fellow classmates, whom I felt were quite different from me. And in youth group I tried to hared, a little to hared to fit in, in retrospect. You see I was always being really silly around my UU friends which was great fun but sometimes I felt as a result it was hared for them to take me seriously. Well, wen I thought it was time for them to do so, times like wen we wore planing a youth conference or a Sunday morning worship service.
So what advice do I have for someone going throw something similar to what I did? Well all I can say is lean on those you can wen appropriate to do so and try your best to be your true self at all times. Because you are going to have to do a lot of muddling throw situations you would rather not have to go throw and it is nicer to be able to go throw it with someone ells who know you as best as can be.