Almost every week, I see something that reminds me that religious affiliation in the US is consistently and rapidly dropping. Nearly as many people identify as unaffiliated (22.8%) as Evangelical Protestant (25.4%), the largest group. Most who identify as “nones,” that is, having no religious affiliation, have questioned the particular beliefs taught by religion and/or the social and political positions espoused by religious groups.
Unitarian Universalists have no argument with these “nones.” We, too, have questioned both the beliefs and ideology of religious groups, especially those most prominent in the US. That may be reasons enough that our religious affiliation continues to matter in this time of decline for religion. We actually can provide a place where those who question can belong.
Still, there’s something else I think we as Unitarian Universalists do uniquely well. And it’s something the world desperately needs. Not only do we appreciate each other’s talents and flairs, we value one another’s thoughts, beliefs and opinions–even when they differ from our own.
I remember sitting in a covenant group (like our Chalice Circles) in a former church, listening as people shared their ideas about what is ultimate. Some used the word “God,” but not everyone did. I remember the comment that came from an octogenarian, a devout humanist who didn’t have use for God. He leaned forward from his armchair and spoke slowly, “I am coming to understand that what some of you mean by ‘God’ may be what I call ‘mystery.’”
We don’t share the same vocabulary, but that doesn’t mean we cannot share our hearts and minds. A convinced atheist regularly attended a class I offered on spirituality, though he wasn’t quite sure what the word meant. But he thought the class helped him to become more conscious in the way he lived, and he valued consciousness. In return, the co-teacher of the class and I modified the vocabulary of questions and discussion points, adding words about consciousness to our language of connection with Spirit. We all grew from our willingness to bring his perspective to the table.
As we welcome people moving to our community over the next couple of months, let’s remember how we value both what we share and what we differ on. May we come together in the spirit of unity and find new ways of moving in the world by listening to and learning from one another.