What follows is an excerpt from Robert Fulghum’s foreword to the book A Chosen Faith, by John A. Buehrens and Forrest Church. Mr. Fulghum reconstructs an awkward conversation he says he has had any number of times. The conversation helps to illustrate how Unitarian Universalism embodies certain principles without dictating rigid beliefs.
You mean there’s no party line — no dogma?
Yes and no. We agree that individuals must work out their own religious conclusions. We agree that we will disagree on those conclusions. We agree to respect those differences. We agree to learn from one another through dialogue about our beliefs. We agree on a process and the tools to be used in the process.
Give me some examples of the tools.
The principles of democracy, integrity, continuing education, and individual responsibility, to name a few.
It sounds more like NPR or PBS to me than a church.
Actually, the analogy is not far off. Public radio and public television are good examples of things that Unitarian Universalists support. We want to be exposed to a wide range of information and a broad range of viewpoints. We want each individual to have an influence on programming, and we want each individual to take responsibility for keeping the programs on the air. It’s not the easiest way to go about radio or religious community, but it’s the way we choose.
So if I’m open-minded and listen to NPR and watch PBS, I qualify as a Unitarian Universalist?
Let’s say you have Unitarian Universalist tendencies. There are, however, Unitarian Universalists who listen only to jazz or country-western music or opera, or those who watch only baseball on TV. I say again, we respect diversity in all things.
What about politics?
No exception. Full spectrum. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Socialists, and a few who are either Anarchists or just confused — it’s hard to tell. We share only the conviction that one ought to be active in the affairs of the world. We don’t dictate which particular party one ought to join.
Are Unitarian Universalists Christians?
Again, yes and no. Some are and some aren’t, and some haven’t decided. Same answer if you ask whether Unitarian Universalists are Buddhists. In fact, most of the specific questions you might ask have this kind of answer. Yes and no. Some are and some aren’t. Some do and some don’t. We’re known for respecting diversity of opinion and belief.
I’d like to come take a look at a church like that, but I don’t want to get put on your missionary list.
No problem. We don’t evangelize. We keep a door open to those who are looking for the company of people like us. We find there are a great many people who are Unitarian Universalists and don’t know it. When we ask most Unitarian Universalists how they came to be members, they say it’s because they were looking for a community of people who are liberal in their religious values and active in their commitment to community service. We believe in the right of the individual to choose religious principles and in the individual’s responsibility to put those principles into practice.
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote
More information about Unitarian Univeralists can be found on the UUA Web site.