Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion, meaning that we do not claim absolute truth or authority and admit that we are still learning things that we need to know about the universe.
The word “liberal” means “not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms” according the Merriam-Webster, and shares its root with Liberty, a Latin root that meant “free, independent”. I believe liberal is a fair adjective for Unitarian Universalism that I know and practice.
But today, I want to ask if that is really good enough. Do we want Unitarian Universalism to be more than just unorthodox?
In politics people talk about a spectrum of belief. There are moderates, conservatives, and liberals, but beyond conservative there is reactionary and beyond liberal there is radical.
Radical is a word that means both “favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions” and “of or relating to the origin”. It is a word that means both a desire for drastic change and an appeal to the origin of things. I wish ours were a more radical religion.
What might radical Unitarian Universalism look like? Many of us are already part way there. It might mean giving up comfort, like choosing to carry a fork or even a reusable straw rather than using disposable plastics. Additionally, it might mean giving up favorite snack foods because of the way ingredients are farmed or workers are treated. It certainly means being in places that are unfamiliar; to stand (or sit, or even play dead) in uncomfortable places alongside oppressed people. I certainly means giving up things which have become normal in order to effect the kind of change we know the world needs.
We might need to be teachers, even just as volunteers, or mentors. We might need to be gardeners or cooks. It means choosing to live a life apart from the norm because the world is in trouble. Unitarian Universalism is poised to lead if we are willing to embrace it.
The world needs a movement of ethical, radical people. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr proposed the establishment of an “Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment”. We already have an association, and there is a lot of creativity already within our team. It would require focus and commitment.
We would need a mission and the will and cooperation to live into that mission. The mission would have to be our guiding force in decision making. We would have to embody that mission as fully as each of us was able. And that is what I wish Unitarian Universalism was doing already.
We could be the Radical movement that the world needs, or at least help bind together movements that already exist. We could be the Association Dr King dreamed up and our maladjustment could help us be more fully the religion for the current century.