Unitarian Universalists claim to value religious diversity and equality of all people, regardless of their beliefs. “Our faith draws on many religious sources, welcoming people with different beliefs. We are united by shared values, not by creed or dogma,” says the Unitarian Universalist Association.
That’s an easy thing for Unitarian Universalists to say, but saying something and actually accomplishing it are two different things. Does Unitarian Universalism really draw on many religious sources, welcoming people of different beliefs?
Certainly, Unitarian Universalist congregations allow people of all beliefs to come sit in their churches. Merely allowing a presence for diverse people doesn’t mean true respect is being given, however.
Take a look at what goes on in Unitarian Universalist congregations, and the practice is not at all diverse. The music, the education, the sermons, and other material, when it mentions a specific religion, draws on Christianity and Judaism almost exclusively. Other religious traditions are given merely token mention. Atheists, though they’re told that they’re welcome, are excluded from recognition and appreciation. Atheist hymns aren’t sung. Atheist sermons have fallen by the wayside. Atheists in Unitarian Universalist congregations are routinely lectured to, told to develop their “spirituality”, consider praying and worship, and accept the word “God” as a metaphor for what’s meaningful in life.
The unequal, disrespectful, non-welcoming attitude of Unitarian Universalist congregations toward people other than Christians and Jews is reflected in the very document that the Unitarian Universalist Association uses to try to prove its respect for diversity: The list of “Sources” for Unitarian Universalism:
” Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.”
Notice something? Judaism and Christianity are the only religions mentioned by name. Everything else is lumped into the murky category of “the world’s religions”, “humanism”, and “earth-centered traditions”.
Why are Christianity and Judaism, not simply put into “the world’s religions”? They have the first and second place at the Unitarian Universalist table, that’s why. Everybody else is consigned to the status of “etc.”
If Unitarian Universalists believe that’s a welcoming attitude, why don’t they consider how a similar approach would work with another realm of human existence.
What about sexuality? What if the Unitarian Universalist Association produced a document claiming to welcome: 1) Heterosexual people, 2) Celibates, 3) Married and unmarried couples, and 4) Other sexualities?
What about ethnicity? What if the Unitarian Universalist church said that it welcomed: 1) People of European ancestry, 2) People from island nations, 3) People who reject the notion of race, and 4) Other ethnic groups? Would that seem respectful? Would that be a welcoming message?
Unitarian Universalist congregations are shrinking in size and number. A big part of the reason is that Unitarian Universalism, while it claims to have no creed, has in fact settled into a bland version Christianity, with a little Judaism thrown in now and then, with little but assertions of acceptance for the rest of the human experience. Unitarian Universalist congregations are not only lacking in diversity, they’re lacking in energy.
Most people who are on an earnest quest for deeper meaning in life will look elsewhere. For people who know the diversity of the world and truly respect it, Unitarian Universalist congregations have little to offer.