To Grow Deeper and to Have a Wider Influence
Unitarian Universalists must strengthen the covenant between them: to feel more responsible for each other, to expect more from each other, to offer each other more of our hearts and hands, and to be vulnerable to each other.
I wrote those words a few weeks ago, and people want more clarity about them: What am I saying, and what am I not saying?
You can see this half-heartedness from many angles. The leaders and staff of our association see it in the half-hearted support that the UUA gets from congregations. Our congregational leaders and activists see it in the half-hearted engagement of so many of the members of their congregation. Our ministers see it in the low participation in congregational activities, especially those that are aimed at deepening spiritual lives.
It can be sensed in what can seem like a shallow motivation of our social justice work.
We see it whenever people find that the values of the religious community contradict their political loyalties and they think their religious community should change to resolve this conflict. Whole hearted politics; half-hearted religion!
But the damage done by our half-heartedness is mostly done to ourselves.
Can we imagine living a whole-hearted Unitarian Universalist life?
A life in which we mutually support and challenge each other to live lives of reverence, honesty, gratitude, openness, humility, solidarity, and self-possession.
Would not our lives be more? Our friendships deeper, our courage braver, our grieving more profound, our happiness more joyous, the earth more solid beneath our feet, water wetter and the stars closer at hand.
We cannot imagine it.
We cannot imagine it because what we have experienced as a people is that our aspirations to such a life are foolish, and ineffective, and probably irresponsible and unrealistic. We cannot imagine it because people like us have been told for decades that nobody likes people like us. And as a result, we don't particularly like ourselves and each other.
The story that we tell about ourselves as a people blends together the mockery of those who don't agree with us with the criticisms of those who warn us that we fall short of our intentions into a toxic stream of self-talk that is self-negating. We are seething stew of self-doubt for which we over-compensate with UU boosterism, UU uniqueness, and UU paraphernalia.
And so, we are half-hearted.
And the cure to that half-heartedness is get grounded in our reality as a people on a path and a journey together. We need to get grounded in the dialectical relationship between ourselves as a people and the historical situations we have been in.
We need to learn our 20th and 21st century history, and we need storytellers who can make that history accessible to all of us, in a way that is realistic, self-critical, inspiring, and empowering.