Skip to main content

My Love Song to Unitarian Universalism ... and Unitarian Universalists. Part 1 of 5

"Where you invest your love, you invest your life."

First thing, let's begin with love. And never let go.

Our Universalist forebears believed in a god of love. A god of such overflowing, unconditional love that the love would pursue you even after death, unrelenting. They believed that to know, really know, that love would mean that it would flow out of you and into everyone whom you then loved.

What if we decided to truly believe in the power of love? Believed that there is a "sustaining, commanding, transforming reality...the reign of love, a love that fulfills and goes beyond justice, a love that 'cares' for the fullest personal good of all." Believed in it down to the bones of our bones and acted out of that?

I believe that we can be the big tent many have dreamed we could be, a big tent that this world aches for. It will take recommitting to an ethic of personal responsibility. And that ethic of personal responsibility is made more possible for us to live into, if we ground ourselves in love.

Real love. Not emotional bosh. The kind of love that is a struggle to embody. Persistent, overflowing love where every day, we wake up with the personal goal to love better that day. To put love into fierce action. To find the ways to love someone the way they want to be loved. To learn how to lift up and empower the people around us. And to accept love, to feel centered in love so deeply that we can relax and let go of our tight grip to ego, to feeling "right," to defensiveness and acting out our of anxiety.

How often do we act out of fear? Fear that someone is challenging us, that someone wants to take away our voice, that they are saying something we don't agree with, that they are saying something that will hurt someone and then that person will leave our church never to return?

An atheist friend reminded me recently of 1 John 4. There is some weird theology there, she said. She added, but that part about fear, and love ... some of it is really beautiful.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

The Universalists (and Unitarians) of old rejected the fear of hell as an effective motivator. I believe it is time for us to consider what that rejection would look like, translated into a modern, broader understanding. Hell can be exclusion, shaming, punitive, treating with contempt. Today's Unitarian Universalism could affirm that coercing people into moral behavior is unethical and inefficient, that shame is not a path to transformation.

But love is.

I am a preacher, and in my worship script, I draw a heart next to the word "sermon." Every week, I draw that heart. Every week, I finish the reading and step away from the pulpit to begin the sermon, but first, my eyes drop to that section. I see the heart and it is a reminder: Remember your love for these people!

It is not difficult to love these people, they are completely lovable. But my head is full of this name or that date, "be sure and remember your third point," and I need a reminder to always begin my sermon by seeing them and loving them. I begin with love, and when I do, something is different. I love them, and that somehow opens something between us. The sermon may be good, it may be poor, but the love is there and somehow that love connects us. The energy in the room is different. Because I feel their acceptance of that love, I am made braver.

What might it look like, if we imagined a heart scrawled above our doors for when we looked up, on our hands for when we looked down, a heart that reminded us to begin with love? If every conversation began by us spying that reminder out of the corner of our eye? We might agree, we might disagree, but we began in love and didn't let go. Love brings in humility. Love brings in a willingness to listen more deeply, listening for understanding rather than points to score.

What might happen to a person who got to know, truly know, love in a covenanted community? A community that agreed in the power of love itself, and worked to make it something everyone could experience? Why, that person might feel the freedom to lay down their defenses and to open their heart. They might join in a mission to love better. To love extravagantly. To grow and to be transformed, because that would further the mission.

I reject fear of hell as a motivation.

I do not believe we can shame the hell out of this world.

I still believe we can love the hell out of this world.



--
Part 2 Personal Responsibility Is Non-Transferable
Part 3 That Whole Guiding Principles Thing
Part 4 Pain Is Inevitable
Part 5 It is Well with My Soul





Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Don't Trust Your Instincts, or, "Well-Meaning People Can Exacerbate Big Problems"

My evangelical friends talk about being "convicted." That moment when you hear or read a message and like an arrow, it dives into your heart, and you know that you have been guilty, and you have some growing to do. At the very beginning of my learning about Bowen systems theory, the professor was laying out the basic idea: that we all feel anxiety, and when we do, we act (often in unhealthy ways) in order to lessen our anxiety. And in an unhealthy system with emotionally immature people -- a family, a business, a church -- one person's anxiety can trigger the anxiety of others. Here's a great primer on that. Really great. Like, watch it 20 times in a row. Or every morning as you drink your coffee. (I'm not kidding. I think your life would be better. Consider it a spiritual practice.) So back to my conviction moment. The professor went on to talk about how when we see someone who is "vibrating" with anxiety, our instinct is often to rush over,

The Most Controversial Thing I'll Write All Year

Back when you were a kid, you learned a lesson. It was wrong. And it's time for you to unlearn it. You learned that you were responsible for other people's feelings. Not that you should care about other people's feelings. (You should.) Not just that you should be sensitive to other people's feelings. (You should.) But you were taught that you were actually responsible for other people's feelings. It happens in almost all homes, even the loving ones. In abusive homes, it's more blatant. If Dad is unhappy, you get hit. So you learn that it is actually your responsibility to keep him happy, or there would be consequences. But even in non-abusive homes, it happened. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  You are not responsible for other people's feelings. That's their job. And in fact, you are crossing their boundary if you try to control their feelings. They get to decide how they feel about something, not you. They may decide that you

Me and My Collar

You may run into me on a Friday, in my neighborhood, so it's time I let you know what you might see. When I was doing my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor suggested that any of us who came from traditions where a clerical collar was an option, take one "collar week," to see how we were treated, as opposed to wearing regular professional clothes. After a couple of days, I joked to the Catholic priest, "How do you manage the power?" In regular clothes, I would walk into a patient's room, and it would take about 5 or so minutes of introductions and pleasantries before we could really get down to talking about their feelings, their fears, the deep stuff. With most people, as soon as that clerical collar walked in the room, with me attached, they began pouring out all the heavy stuff they were carrying. I was riding the bus back and forth every day, and though not quite so dramatic, the collar effect was alive there, to