Freedom isn’t Free, Even In Religion

It is often said that ours is a free faith. Every adult sitting in a Unitarian Universalist church has come there of their own choosing. Even those born to UU parents grow up expected to examine their faith and the commitments that come with being part of a UU congregation. And there are commitments which are crucial to being part of a covenanted community. The choice to be an active part of the Unitarian Universalist movement comes with the understanding that you will have a say in governance, you will have the freedom to believe what your heart calls you to believe, and that you will be required to invest your time, your energy, your talents, and what money you can spare to the mission of the congregation and to the greater movement.

James Luther Adams, in his foundational “Guiding Principles For a Free Faith“, in the third of his “Five Smooth Stones of Liberal Religion” says:

“Religious liberalism affirms the moral obligation to direct one’s effort toward the establishment of a just and loving community.”

We don’t need to convince you to think the right things about deity, we don’t need to grow the church to prove our faith or worth, and we don’t need to build the tallest, most ornate, or otherwise impressive buildings to meet in, except where those things can have a direct effect on the levels of equality or compassion in the world. If someone’s belief in a wrathful, angry god is their justification for their own anger, we are right to ask them to question the source of that faith. If the community around us might include people who need a community that will encourage them to their own, personal best, then we should seek them out and invite them in. If our building is uninviting or inaccessible to some, we should evaluate what changes are needed to make it welcoming to anyone who would want to join the congregation. All choices serve the goal of a more just and loving community, to create a more just and loving world.

Participation in a Unitarian Universalist community means devoting part of yourself to making good things happen. It means promising to help plan, participate in, and fund actions that ease pain, promote education and democracy, and encourage compassion in all aspects of human interaction. When you have time, you give some time. When you have money, you give some money. You put some part of yourself into manifesting the vision of the congregation in whatever way you can spare (without jeopardizing your own safety, of course). That is what we sign up for.

“Stewardship is the growing, nurturing, promoting, and building of gifts, call and spiritual vocation of the members of a faith community. Stewardship is not necessarily the things people do, but the spirit that influences the things they do.” Dr. Wayne Clark, Beyond Fundraising

We hope that it is uncommon for UUs to think of pledging only in terms of payment for services rendered. You get to choose your service, and your level of commitment and giving. You should do so, though, with the understanding that the community is counting on you to invest in the congregation, because it is an investment when it is done with love. It enables religious exploration, community outreach, social action, and fellowship. It allows the congregation to better fulfill the mission and live up to the vision. It means that your wider community is improved, and whatever you give is multiplied by being part of a pool of labor and capital. Remember Newton’s second law in physics? “Force equals acceleration multiplied by mass.” Well, the impact your congregation has on the world is equal to the effort of the membership multiplied by the available resources. If you have a lot of one, but not much of the other, you are going to limit your available actions; anything multiplied by zero amounts to nothing. As an example, you can’t feed hungry people unless you have both food and people to distribute it.  It takes personal commitments to change the world.

So we encourage you to commit to Unitarian Universalism. If you have time to give, spend some of it in committees, on personal improvement, teaching religious education, or leading religious exploration. If you have money, give generously to your congregation, give to the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, one of the worthy projects on Faithify, or a charity you’ve researched and feel good about. Even if you don’t have much money to spare, you can make sure that the money you do spend is spent in ways that support your values and have a positive impact on the world. Give what you have, in a way that doesn’t risk your health, safety, or mental stability. Be the force for good that you think the world needs, and whenever possible, do for someone else what you wish someone had done for you.

That is the goal here at I Am UU. My volunteers and I aren’t here to convert anyone. We are not here to tell you how to be coercive or superficially attractive to people looking for a church. Our goal is to empower you to find the people who have a need, and find a way to fill that need in a way that promotes and affirms the Principles of the UUA. We attempt to make the ideas that underlie Unitarian Universalism easier to understand and share with others. This is part of how we choose to promote the Principles that we, as members of associated congregations, have chosen for our movement. We saw a need, and we are working to fill it. We hope you will consider spending some time with us, to help build this community by sharing your thoughts in the comments. We ask you to be on the lookout for news and quotes that we can share, and that you consider sharing your own stories. Lastly, if you have money to spare, we ask you to consider supporting our continued work through the Patreon campaign, or helping me, personally, in my quest to eat and pay rent through the GoFundMe campaign, both linked to on the right side of the page.

Most of all, I hope you will think about what you can do that no one else is doing to affirm and promote liberal religion in the world, and to encourage more people to direct their efforts to help build a more just and loving community, because the world needs the best each of us has to offer.

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If you do have money to put towards affirming and promoting Unitarian Universalist Principles and values, please consider helping to fund the I Am UU project. We are crowd sourced and grass-roots and rely on individual UUs to make our work possible.

Make a pledge of as little as a dollar a month on Patreon,
or use GoFundMe to support us with either a 1-time or ongoing contribution.

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2 Responses to Freedom isn’t Free, Even In Religion

  1. Mary Satterwhite February 4, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

    Good statement. I am new to UU (only 2+ years but already totally active – on Board, Worship Associate, Worship Committee, Hospitality Chair) and am convinced that the covenant is what makes us special. It has helped me in my own personal life. Thank you.

  2. Aimee February 4, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

    “Give what you have, in a way that doesn’t risk your health, safety, or mental stability.”

    This is an important point, especially if you are like me and haven’t quite learned when to say no, which leads to overcommitment and burnout.

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