Is Unitarian Universalism the last stop before the country club, some kind of a social club? Some would say we just talk about religious values and individual and social transformation—and don’t do anything but talk.
This caricature of Unitarian Universalism has an element of truth in it. But I think it’s a superficial perspective of a mission that is much more worthy. Past president of the UUA, William F. Shulz writes:
This is the mission of our faith:
To teach the fragile art
To revere both the critical mind
& the generous heart;
To prove that diversity
need not mean divisiveness;
And to witness to all that we
must hold the whole world
in our hands.
Ours is not just the art of hospitality, but “radical hospitality” in both teaching and practice. Our doors and windows are open, inviting greater diversity of persons and perspectives to broaden and change us. Unlike a country club, we strive to exclude no one from our circle of compassion and celebration. “Radical hospitality” means that the earth and all that is on it are embraced in our covenant of “mutual trust and support.”
There are those who say that our pluralism, our covenant to “affirm and promote the right of conscience,” affirming whatever beliefs each person’s integrity demands of them, “washes out” any religious identity within our community. They say we have no mission. They say Unitarian Universalists are the ones who knock on yourdoor for no particular reason!
I would reply that absence of creed does not reduce us to some indistinct blandness of “anything goes.” Rather, pluralism weaves a vibrant, rich and colorful fabric of community, each in our own sparkling integrity, each in mutual support and trust toward the other.
More specifically, our pluralism involves a sincere humility that no ancient book, no religious bureaucracy, no genius prophet has the final word how to magically attain a better world. It will take all of our hearts, all our hands and reasoning heads, working together as well as individually to save us.
Sociologists may say that strong fences make good neighbors, that exclusive organizations are stronger than ones that accept diversity. This may be true. It is also true that a small-minded mission is not worthy of our life commitment. It seems to me that our mission is universal hospitality, to bless the whole world, in all its diversity, in all its brokenness. We build our fences to include and embrace all. Edwin Markham wrote:
“He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win;
We drew a circle that took him in.”