Monthly Archives: November 2012

Why Are You Hanging On? (Part 2)

After yesterday’s post, I thought I might take this question “Why Are You Hanging On?” just a little bit further beyond the question of denominational brand loyalty. Before doing that, however, I want to make it clear that yesterday’s post was not anti-denomination/association/fellowship, etc. I support the core values of MCC and I am fully on board with the principles and sources of UU faith. The good news–at least to me–is they are not mutually exclusive.

I see denominations/associations/fellowships, etc. as the structures which, when effectively administered, provide the resourcing, training, support, community, etc. needed for member groups to live out their highest values. My point is, I believe our ultimate loyalty is not to these structures, but to help creation live into its highest potential, which some people might call bringing God’s realm into clearer focus in this world. And if these structures help us to do that–great!

There are, however, other ways of looking at the question “Why Are You Hanging On?” For purposes of inclusion, and realizing this example will not apply to every reader, I’ll modify the “You ” to “We.” So with that in mind…

Why are we hanging on to the idea of an all-knowing God who has an individual plan for each of our lives? If that is the case, then we cannot claim free will. Every decision we make is part of God’s plan–even the heinous decisions made by world dictators, child abusers, murderers, and so on. Even if you believe in a personification of evil called “Satan,” and that Satan influences human decisions and actions, it is still part of God’s plan. If that is not the case–if we do have free will-then we have to start questioning other aspects of God’s character which we’ve affirmed in the past, like being all-powerful.

And perhaps that is why we hang on to this image of God; that is, letting go of that image requires us to look at ourselves and accept responsibility for our less-than-wise decisions and actions not only as individuals, but also as communities and as a nation. Or perhaps we look at some of the craziness in the world around us, feel helpless and our hope lies in an external savior coming to clean up our mess one day. Then if we’re “good” (which is defined and debated by our various religious traditions), we will experience eternal peace; and questioning characteristics of God just might put us on that “other” list of people who will experience eternal torment. I understand both lines of thought, too, because I’ve held them at one time or another in my life.

Here’s a thought (and it’s even biblical). If, as scripture records, we all come from the same Source (whether you see that as an external God, evolutionary processes, etc.), and if we all return to that Source (Ecclesiastes 3:20), maybe the “plan” is for us to live our lives as fully, peacefully and as cooperatively as possible while we are on this planet–and no one but us can make the decision whether or not to do so.

And what is the role of the world’s religions in this “plan?” Well, I like the words of Andrea Lerner: “Our faith is not interested in saving your soul–we’re here to help you unfold the awesome soul you already have.”

Just something to consider…

Blessings on your journeys!

Why Are You Hanging On?

Last week I traveled to Boston for my candidacy interview with one of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Regional Sub-Committees on Candidacy. The interview was thorough, and the committee made me feel quite at ease. For me, the interview was a good mixture of serious inquiry and laughter. I passed the interview and have begun addressing the long list of requirements necessary to interview with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee for full fellowship with the UUA.

For last week’s interview I was allowed to provide the first question for the committee to ask. The question was: “If you identify as a Unitarian Universalist, why not simply transfer your credentials from MCC rather than seek plural standing?” I thought it was a good question; plus I was certain it would come up anyway, so why not address this issue first?

My basic answer was, based on my spiritual journey to date, UU’ism is the next logical step on my journey. I appreciate the fact I am allowed–even encouraged–to responsibly experiment with my spirituality and theology, which isn’t always the case in many traditional Christian denominations. Plus, I believe the future success of liberal religious traditions (of which both the UUA and MCC are a part) will be found in cooperation and not “turf” competition. Beyond my answer, I also believe by having a foot in each world, not only do I benefit, but the congregations I serve also potentially benefit from the rich diversity of wisdom and practice found in both groups.

A variation of this question I’ve been asked lately by other folks is: “If you’re a UU, why are you hanging on to MCC?” Ah, the brand loyalty question! It’s a fair question, too.

After much reflection, what I’ve determined is I’m not really “hanging on” to anything. Through my writings, sermons, meetings, classes and one-on-one discussions, I’ve outed myself as a UU to a large segment of the MCC leadership as well as to the congregation I serve. And just like after the elections last week, the world continues to spin on its axis. Unlike after the elections last week, however, no one is threatening to secede. I’m blessed to still be able to speak, write and teach with integrity in my current context. What I am saying is I am not serving in my current church simply because it is an MCC. I serve at Holy Covenant because I love the community itself and what we’re becoming over time.

Of course I’m not so naive as to believe life will never change. Everything changes–as evolution teaches must happen in order for any living thing to thrive. So the day may indeed come when, for the good of both the congregation and me, it will be time for me to move on to the next phase of my life. And that move could be MCC-related, UUA-related, both or neither.

That day, however, is not today.

Still, I think the question of “Why are you hanging on?” is a good one for all of us to ponder; and this question can be applied to any area of our lives.

So, ponder away and may you be at peace with your answers. And you’re not, may you find the strength you need to make the changes necessary to find that peace.

Blessings on your journeys!