Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Name is Heather and I am Hopelessly Trinitarian

My name is Heather and I am hopelessly trinitarian. My dissertation is on the doctrine of the Trinity. Three is my "lucky" number. I like things in sets of three--candles, vases, even the scrapers used to clean my dishes. As the Schoolhouse Rock song says, "Three is a magic number."

And while I am a trinitarian--and unapologetically so--there have been many times that I have gotten so fed up with the rigidness of traditional Christian denominations that I have been "tempted" by Unitarian Universalism. What? The very name of the church suggests that it is not trinitarian but, rather, unitarian. Right. However, there is also a radical openness to difference of beliefs and difference of paths within the UU that has appealed to me. So, surely, my trinitarian beliefs would be accepted, too. Thus, the appeal.

Until today.

Before I go on, I want to issue a disclaimer that I am not denouncing Unitarian Universalism; that would be exercising the same rigidity with which I have grown tired. I have at least one dear friend who is UU and he has found a home in that church. For that, I am so happy.

Today, while perusing Craigslist ads, I came across an ad for a Religious Education Director at the local Unitarian Universalist Church. It caught my eye. So, I visited the congregation's website and tried to familiarize myself--as much as possible--with the church. I read some of their newsletters, checked out some of their links, etc. The section regarding their beliefs stated they were not creedal and, paraphrased, that no one belief was to be pushed as correct belief. Instead, mutual respect was expected as people explore the path to Truth together. Okay--sounds good (minus this idea of truth with a capital T, with which I struggle, but that's a whole different post).

As I looked around, though, there was very little (if any) mention of "the Divine." There was no mention of God--however you interpret the word. There was talk about love and light. One adult religious education course was about composting. This didn't seem to me--from the admittedly limited glimpse into the life of their congregation--that there was emphasis on the journey for truth/Truth. Composting is great; caring for the environment is vital. Yet, in what way does this fall under "religious education"? It seemed that the language was so vague as to not offend and as to not seem as if certain beliefs were being pushed onto others that I had to ask myself how, then, were people being helped in the formation of their beliefs? How were they being encouraged to journey toward truth/Truth? How were people learning to articulate their spirituality when spirituality seemed to be such a hands-off topic?

A church can say they are non-creedal, in that they don't ascribe to the traditional, historical creeds of the Christian church. They can say that they don't push beliefs onto others. Yet, when it comes down to it--all churches, religious groups, etc. do maintain a certain framework of beliefs. This church had seven principles to which they adhere. And while I agree with all seven of their principles, I have trouble believing that they would be respectful and affirming of me if I said, "You know what? I really don't think peace, liberty, and justice for all. That's my belief. You have to respect and honor it." Likewise, I think their response should be to stand up against those who are against peace, liberty, and justice for all. It just makes the whole open/accepting thing a little messier.

I would love to find a church where, collectively, we can say we believe certain things without judgment or exclusion of those who don't. I want to be open and accepting of people from all faiths and non-faiths, but I also want to be able to live out my faith without fear that I am offending others, while those others are able to live out their faith without fear of offending me or anyone else.

My name is Heather and I'm hopelessly Trinitarian.


  1. Tough. I agree with your assessment of that church...seems a little too...hmm....non-committal? Seems one thing a church should be is committed to a belief system.

    I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum down here. It's one Conservative Southern Baptist church after another and if you so much as breathe differently than how Brother so-and-so does you're going to Hell. We tried an Easter Service one year at a local church and were given the stink eye because we didn't rush the altar with our hands raised in the air when everyone else did.


    So a happy medium would be nice, yes.

  2. I'm happy to see a new post...I hope I had a small influence in that:) J/K. Anyway, I would agree that I want to coexist with those of other faiths. I don't want to offend them with my faith, though I would hope they would see truth/Truth in the faith I live out...though not by me judging them as heretics or something like that.

    On the other hand, I don't think I could do UU, because I have a certain faith, and I need a church that fosters that faith and helps me to foster the truth/Truth I have already found. I need to be with like-minded (not clones...just like-minded) believers to help me on my path.

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  4. Tiffany and Heather, I'm a longtime and "confirmed" UU, and I think the point you've both missed is that the core of modern-day (and western-style rather than European) Unitarian Universalism is attitudinal rather than doctrinal...or even theological. To us, it's not so much about what you happen to believe at any particular point in your life but "how" you you arrive at your beliefs, how tightly/dogmatically you hold it, and how it informs and inspires the way you live in the world (how it motivates you to treat others, the world around you, and, of course yourself). Not believing that anybody has all the answers -- a monopoly on truth -- but there are still some areas where humble people can walk together and work together peacefully and respectfully, our focus is deliberately more the ethical side of religion that builds bridges between people, instead of the dogma-driven side which seeks to erect barriers to keep us apart.

    In other words, I can assure you that many of us have very strong convictions, and among them is a belief in the central role of personal freedom (free-agency) in matters of faith and conscience, and a conviction that if ultimate truth is ever to be discovered it will more likely come in an atmosphere of openness, abundant freedom and utmost personal honesty than by any other means. Call it silly, or wishy-washy if you like, but to some of us it's every bit as serious as what we had in our former (orthodox) religious lives.

    I would be happy to chat with you more about this if you like. And, you are invited to learn more about who we REALLY are at the "Unitarian Universalism" Facebook group which I administer... .

  5. @Tiffany When living in Oklahoma, I was very familiar with the conservative, baptist church landscape. Most churches here fall somewhere in the middle, but I'd like them to be a bit more open.

    @Brandon Yes, you did encourage me to write. :) And something today sparked this idea, so I went for it. Nothing profound or heady--just some musings about church.

    @UUFreeSpirit Thank you for your feedback and your added perspective. You are correct in that I don't fully understand Unitarian Universalism. Many things you said, I agree with. I don't think anyone has a monopoly on truth. I also agree that openness, honesty, etc. is the ideal environment for asking the questions regarding truth.

    I don't think it's silly or wishy-washy. I was just expecting to see to some hint of spirituality or religiosity on the website. I think you can make certain claims, or make certain general statements that don't have to be rigid or dogmatic nor creedal or doctrinal. I guess I was expecting a more inter-religious community--honoring a diversity of paths--instead of a, what seemed to me, and avoidance or absence of all things religious, minus some vague references to love and light. I am sorry if it came across that I was questioning the seriousness with which UU folks take their journeys. I was in no way suggesting that.

    Thanks again for your feedback. I appreciate the additional perspective you lend. Also, I do recognize this was a limited experience (viewing the website) of a limited group of UU folks (only one congregation).

  6. wow
    I think I love you!
    :) hehehehehe
    it's like you took the words right out of my mouth...Hi I'm Pam and I am sinning Trinitarian to nth degree. Ah, I hope God loves dichotomy as much as I do