Between Us

When I became a Unitarian Universalist, by joining the Fellowship in the 1980’s, I was overjoyed to discover an approach to religion which did not require me to assent to creeds and beliefs that didn’t make sense to me. I was thrilled to discover the breadth and depth of global religious traditions and practices. I was excited to become part of a community which was asking questions – sometimes uncomfortable questions – about what it means to be good, and right, and to live a good life. And I remember now that within that congregation of the 1980’s I both heard and experienced racism, homophobia, sexism, ageism, and more. There was lots of “talking the talk” but not as much “walking the walk.” The life of the mind is an important thing – deeply important. And how ideas affect the ways we live in relation to others is no less important. At this point in my life I think the ways we live are more important.

My ideas about religious freedom have changed. For me, it is not enough to talk about religious freedom when acting in ways that thwart the ability of some people to be free to be themselves, free to believe what makes sense to them, free to live and work how and where they want to. These are basic human needs, and our religious commitment to freedom means nothing if it does not include these as priorities. When I was new to UUism, one of the most important phrases I learned and repeated was about the importance of “freedom of conscience.” These many years later, I’m convinced that “freedom of conscience” is shallow if it is not aligned with a commitment to “collective liberation.”

I’m thinking back over this year of “building a new way.” We have made some progress, and there is still much to learn, especially about being with and for each other as the primary commitment, instead of the second thought. Rev. Dee Vandiver wrote it this way in a chalice lighting: “We light this chalice—symbol of our faith alive in this world—naming our vision of collective liberation, and daring to re-member each other into beloved community.” May we stay on the path, on the journey, toward making it so.