Maturity of Faith

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David Pyle
Maturity of Faith

In recent days, I have been pondering the idea of “evangelizing” Unitarian Universalism, and why we as UU’s are often likely to be “in the closet” about our faith, even when we are public about so many other things. We can often be “out” when it comes to liberal politics, but “in” when it comes to liberal faith.

And some of us have trouble telling the difference between Liberal Faith and Liberal Politics.

We can easily imagine a Unitarian Universalist going door to door to discuss bringing the troops home from Iraq, but never would we see a UU going from door to door to tell them the “good news” of Channing… or Ballou…. or the Buddha…. or even of Jesus. Wouldn’t happen.

Why? Why wouldn’t it happen? I have had many people interested in how we as Unitarian Universalists could use the strategies and tactics of evangelicals to spread our “good news”, and each time someone asks me that, I cringe. I remember those days in my life, and escaping that is part of why I am no longer a Christian.

Most UU’s also cringe at the idea of evangelism, and I believe the key to understanding this difference lies in the gap between our understanding of Liberal Faith and Liberal Politics. Because we can certainly be evangelical on political issues.

One of the major differences in the faith I hold now, and the faith I was raised in is that there is no need for the validity of my faith for others to believe as I do. My faith stands alone, based upon my own experiences and my own thought. In fact, I have yet to meet anyone who believes exactly as I do, and I would probably be disturbed if I ever did… My faith is mine, I own it, I chose it, and it is a reflection of who I am as a person.

My faith does not depend on numbers to be valid. As a child, the exact opposite seemed to me the case. One of the arguments I heard over and over was an argument of numbers in history. The faith must be true if so many people for so many centuries have believed. And I will admit that I found comfort in that reasoning for a time.

For me, religion is different than faith…. My faith is my personal set of beliefs, my religion is how I put my faith into practice in the world. My religion is UU, but my faith is mine. My faith is my strength, a strength that allows me to work in the world. My religion is my community, those who work with me in the world.

This, I believe, is the reason why we often cringe at the idea of UU evangelism. For us, our faith stands alone. We even keep the details of our personal faiths from one another! Look around your UU congregation, and ask yourself this question about the people you see… do I know more about my fellow church members’ personal faiths, or about their politics?

It would be a rare UU church where the answer was not politics… a rare one indeed.

When I discuss “coming out of the closet” as UU’s, I mean two things, and not necessarily discussing how wonderful the UU church you attend is. What I mean is to come out of the closet both for your personal faith, and as a religious liberal. To be public about your Deism, your Taoism, your Buddhism, or your mystical naturalism or whatever your personal faith/strength happens to be. But I also mean to come out of the closet about the belief that revelation is continuous, that human nature is not fallen into sin, that we can and indeed must seek to be born again, and again, and again throughout our lives.

Share your truth… as a member of the Prophethood of all Believers.

I propose that the sign of a mature personal faith lies in its not requiring the belief of anyone but yourself, and even that is up for change. But another sign of that maturity is the willingness to share that faith, even when you don’t expect to convert anyone. You share to inspire thought in others… to inspire others to find their own unique fingerprint of faith.

Yours in Faith,

David

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