The year of 2014 has already started, but I’m still thinking about the beautiful Christmas Eve service in our Unitarian Universalist church. Filled with love for the humankind (which is probably NOT going to last forever), I decided to dedicate my first January column about the church and why I think it rocks.
First of all, you should know that I’m the kind of person who believes very strongly that organized religion sucks. Back in October, I was having a conversation with one of the new students in our program and it came up that I was going to church on Sunday. She looked at me in astonishment.
“I thought that you hated Christians!” she said.
Well. This is what happens when you are used to express your opinions perhaps TOO freely! I didn’t want to be a bad role model, because of course as future counselors we are not supposed to hate anybody or anything, and so I spent a couple of minutes explaining that I didn’t hate Christians; I only hated people who were trying to convert me, make their beliefs political to force them on the whole society, threaten everyone with eternal damnation, and oppress people’s sexuality (mine included, if they had their way). It certainly wasn’t MY fault, I finished my little speech innocently, that in America it was predominantly the Christians who were guilty of all those things!
Yes, I won’t lie to you; I have felt somewhat threatened by Christians ever since I came to America. I’m used to that in Czech Republic (which, together with Estonia, is considered the least religious country in Europe) they have very little, if any, political power. In the United States, however, they have WAY too much of it, especially in the South.
Anyway, while I DO have beef with American Christians, truth be told, I’m at odds with all forms of organized religion, period. In the moment when people start to organize spirituality, they usually fuck it up. All religions seem to have started with good intentions and genuine search for the connection with the Divine, but given time, they ended up with focusing way too much on rules and restrictions on (often natural) human behavior; leave alone the fact that once they became part of political agenda, forget about God – it was suddenly all about power.
As a result, I spent many years claiming that I considered myself spiritual, but not religious. I found every single religion oppressive (yes, even the ones that have reputation of being peaceful and inclusive – while I do appreciate that Buddhists don’t threaten people with Hell, I never understood their obsession to deny everything that makes us human in order to achieve “Enlightenment”), maybe with the exception of modern Wicca, but that one seemed to be attracting way too many weirdoes for my taste. So I floated through the world without any religious or spiritual community – until I discovered Unitarian Universalism.
My inner rebel has no reason to raise and create havoc in the Unitarian Universalist community, because there is no one to argue with :) For those of you who don’t know: Unitarian Universalism, while loosely based on the Judeo-Christian tradition, has absolutely no creed. It teaches that everyone should be given the opportunity to pursue freely his/her own spiritual path, which can have many different forms and THEY ARE ALL OKAY! Unitarians Universalists not only consider all religious and/or spiritual practices equally valid, but they are the only religious community I know of that welcomes folks who identify as agnostics or even atheists – and NOT in order to convert them.
As a general guidance, Unitarian Universalists adhere to “seven principles,” which you are welcome to read here, and which focus on protecting freedom, equity, and justice for all people.
Cool, huh? I couldn’t believe for a long time that I found a community where no one was trying to convince me that there was only ONE acceptable spiritual path and if I didn’t choose it, I was going to meet a terrible end. I enjoy going to Sunday services, but if I sometimes decide to skip and go worship and meditate to a Hindu temple instead, no one has a problem with that.
Most importantly, the values of the Unitarian Universalist community regarding social justice and diversity reflect those of my counseling program (most of which I have adopted as my own a long time ago). Unitarian Universalists have always been heavily involved in the fight for social justice - in America, they were one of the first churches to denounce slavery, support women’s rights, and, more recently, provide a spiritual sanctuary for the LGBTQ community. They even care about the environment – in fact, to “honor the Earth” is a part of my church’s mission statement. And if they can do all that without trying to tell me what to think and how to live – seriously, folks, what’s here not to love!?