Monday, August 23, 2010

Go Be a Christian?

My thanks to UUnderstand, whose recent comment led to a lot of thought and this post. The question UU Christians often face is: "Why not go down the street to the ________ (fill in any Christian denomination) church? Wouldn't you be happier there?"

It's a question that we get from UUs, and it's a question we often pose to ourselves.

The first answer is--sometimes we do go down the street. In my own Christian fellowship, over time members have discovered, or rediscovered, Christianity and either have left the UU congregation for a Christian one or are exploring the Christian experience in other churches as part of their search. For years, I attended two churches--Episcopalian and UU. This is actually a fairly common practice and a good fit for progressive Christians.

When my Christian Fellowship began to take "field trips" to local Christian churches, someone asked, "What do you expect to do? Leave the UU Church?" And we decided our answer was ,"No." Because we have the second set of answers to why we don't go down the street.

  • Theology. Even in more liberal Christian denominations, some tenets remain stable. Jesus is divine; Jesus died for our sins; salvation may not be universal; our reward is in Heaven. These tenets may not be overt, but discussions in the church will revolve around the religion about Jesus vs. the religion that Jesus taught. For many of us, who follow the religion Jesus taught, this conversation is not where we are in our journey.

  • Orientation. This is probably more compelling, not just for Christians, but also for Buddhists, Jews, and others coming into UUism from another denomination or religion. The UCC would probably argue with some vigor at the comment that the UCC has "Christianity added". The point of Christian churches is to put Christ in the center. The point of the UU churches is to put a covenant of Principles in the center. We are UUs; we are drawn to the covenantal approach of living together.

  • Religious Pluralism. Again, we UU Christians are UUs. We affirm and promote spiritual seeking and we cherish the faith diversity in UU congregations.

For illustration. A Methodist seminarian intern working at the UUA and joining the UUCF Revival last year commented that he couldn't imagine a service in which the Bible was not read. For us UU Christians, we could imagine it, we experience it, and we revel in it.

As UU Christians, we get a kick out of the spiritual conversations we have with our fellow UUs who see the One Light through a different window. We like being challenged by the UU principles and diverse spiritual paths as well as by other progressive Christians. I think we're a bit greedy--we want to have our cake, eat it, and then lick the frosting from the plate.

Some of us may choose to "go down the street", but many of us will stay right in our UU congregations, while continuing to broaden our experiences and feed our inner spirits, using every tool available to us.

May all our spiritual journeys be diverse, rich and fulfilling. Blessings!


  1. Thanks for your terrific post! I kept saying Yes, Yes! Amen! For me, every now and then I gotta hear some gospel music, so I can bask in the light of God (so to speak).

  2. There is an interesting discussion of this topic in the comments to this blogpost, beginning with the comment question, "Here is my question... and please don't take offense... why are you in the UU church if you believe in god? I will write more about this later, but it seems to me there are other places for you... why sit here with me?"

  3. I confess I often respond with:"And Why don't you go to an Ethical Cultural Center?" Most just take offense, and don't see the connection between the two questions. And of course, they don't understand Christianity either.

  4. Yes, thank you so much for this post! I was recently challenged with this kind of statement, surprisingly from another Christian-leaning UU who was taken aback by one of my spiritual practices (form of dress). Many things were said, but the thing that hurt me was that I was told that perhaps I wasn't in the right tradition. It felt a little like a sister telling me I didn't belong in my family. I've come to anticipate those kinds of comments from others, but the source in this case took me by complete surprise. I'm a lifelong UU, and as I said to this individual, I am a UU "down to my bones." I have gone down the street too, and those places aren't my spiritual home. I really appreciate the way you articulated some of the reasons for that: theology, orientation, and religious pluralism. This post was healing.

  5. Dear Laverne:

    Thank you for clarifying this issue. As I hope was clear in my original post, I didn't mean to be critical. I was only perplexed! You clearly miss so many things that are not available in many UU congregations.

    I apologize for using the phrase "Christianity added." Like many UUs, I attended a mainstream Christian church as a child, but it never felt like Jesus was at the center. . .if I had to describe the church in one word, I would choose Deist.

    As a "God-leaning agnostic," I personally would not be offended if someone referred me to an Ethical Culture society. However, there isn't one where I live!

  6. Joel, thanks for sharing the discussion at the CUUMBAYA blog. It gave me more words to help express how I feel and my motivation. Seems like there are a lot of people who are doing some inner work on this one. Blessings!

  7. So glad I could help in the healing, Masasa. There are always two sides to every human interchange, and I constantly remind myself that I do not know another's inner landscape, even if I've known them a long time. All my closest friends and family surprise me from time to time...keeps me mindful.

  8. You're welcome, Elizabeth! Don't mind a bit of gospel myself to get the spirit fire kindled! Amen.

  9. I have tried the "Cultural Center" response, too, Anonymous, but not really liking it. This blogpost was one way to try to summarize my thoughts into the elevator speech. Thanks for reading my practice material!

  10. I get the perplexity, UUnderstand, and glad that you weren't being critical (posting can be fuzzy emotionally). I'm perplexed myself that I'm still a little "service unsettled" after all this time. I do hear you about nothing close to where you live. I think if there was a Universalist-leaning congregation near me, that's where I'd be.

  11. Thank you for your visit and your shout-out on your blog to my post on identifying as a Christian. I write here to respond to your thoughts on why stay at the UU church instead of leaving for the Christian church down the street.

    I, too, have been spending time between two churches -- my own UU one, and the progressive Presbyterian church to which DairyStateMom belongs. Indeed, I credit my exposure to the liberal Christian scholarship I write about in part to conversations and classes I attended at that church.

    No one yet is asking me why I worship at least part-time at a UU church (one that I've been and continue to be a lay leader in for most of my 22 years of membership). But as I've written elsewhere, just as DairyStateMom would miss Jesus by attending my UU church, I would miss the interfaith dimension of the UU church were I not continuing to attend it. What's different now is that I do find my participating also in DairyStateMom's church is feeding an important and distinctive spiritual need on my part, too. Fortunately it is a place of welcome and openness where I can be comfortable and accepted with all my UU eclecticism.