Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Question about the non-Christian religions in Unitarian Universalism

At the Newcomers’ Orientation to Membership the other night, we read and discussed the “Sources of Our Living Tradition,” which are in front of the hymnal and which follow the list of UUA Principles.

Question:  How are Islam and other religions included in Unitarian Universalism?  How is Judaism included?  Given that it seems to have origninated as a Protestant Christian movement, where do other world religions fit in?

Well, Judaism is the religious foundation and background of Christianity– geographically, personally (Jesus was a Jew), and scripturally (the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is much longer than the New Testament, and together they make the Holy Bible of Christianity).  We have been influenced by non-Christian religious, philosophical and ethical traditions through dialogue, cooperative projects and interfaith programs, as well as through the mixing that happens when Muslims, Buddhists, and so on join or attend our congregations, or when we join or participate in groups of non-UU traditions.

I used this analogy:  Think of Unitarian Universalism as a house.  The house’s foundation is the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the architecture of the house looks familiar to those from a Christian upbringing.  No matter what goes on in the house, or how we might add on a room or remodel, the foundation hasn’t changed. Transcendentalism, religious humanism, neo-paganism, Buddhist practice–they all might fill a number of rooms, but the foundation is the same.

The windows of the house are open, allowing breezes of thought, perspectives, new ideas to blow through the house, refreshing us, waking us up, reminding us of the world outside.  This includes arts, natural and social sciences, literature, culture, and even political trends.  We can look out and see it all.  Better yet, we can walk out the door.  We have neighbors.  We can invite them in for meals and conversation, for games and knitting parties and holiday cookouts.  And we can go over to their houses too, enjoying their hospitality, and learning some of the many varieties of being in religions community, and the diversity of spiritual practices and perspectives.  We may end up spending a lot of time in their homes, or welcome neighbors for frequent visits.

We may marry some of our neighbors and live in more than one house.  But where Unitarian Universalism grew up, where it has its foundation, is part of our heritage.

One person said she appreciated this analogy or metaphor.  If you do as well, you can read a book about it.  What I wrote above is a riff on a talk I heard six years ago from the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, president of Starr King School for the Ministry.  She and the Rev. Dr. John Buehrens (minister in Needham, MA, and former president of the Unitarian Universalist Association) have published A House for Hope:  Our Theological Foundation.

It was the top selling book at the exhibit hall this past June at the UUA General Assembly.  Check it out at the UUA Bookstore.


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