This very morning, a week after terrible tragedy took two of their number and terrorized the rest, the congregation of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church has once again gathered for worship. They have rededicated their sanctuary, seeking to reclaim its peace and serenity and joy. They are holding their heads high, and their beacons of hope, and thousands upon thousands of us across the land are with them in spirit as well.
The message going around and around my head from all of this is that this world has never needed our liberal religion more than it does right now.
We are living in a time when the language of the Bible and that peace-loving carpenter’s son are being used as weapons, as bludgeons, calling for fear and shame and separation, and in a time when we need nothing more than to come together, to love one another more deeply, and to heal our world.
There are things we know as Unitarian Universalists, but we are all too quiet about them:
That there is so much more to bind us together than the petty things that might separate us.
That there is no need to live in fear of what might happen in the afterlife when there is so much to do in our living. We KNOW that Hell can have no power over us if we refuse to be part of its making.
That God, the One, the Source and Spirit of Life, is larger than we could ever imagine, and truly speaks in every language, to all people, whether it is the language of metaphor, of reason, of poetry and discourse, of art and science, of music and technology, of the wind and the rain and the stars and the embrace of one we love.
That we have the power, together, to build the Beloved Community, the world as it should be, right here and now.
We know these things.
We know that there should be no place for religion that shames those who refuse to be constrained by dogma, that threatens eternal torment for the slightest of deviations, ruling minds and hearts with fear and not love.
We know that kind of religion is not holy, but profane.
We know that kind of religion is part of the brokenness we see in our world.
We know that kind of religion damages people, deeply. Many of us who call ourselves Unitarian Universalists have been there, and are still healing from it. We have seen the fallout, taken in the wounded, and tried to help them feel whole again.
But there are so many more of them out there. There are those who turn away from religion entirely, fearful of its power and not knowing its grace. There are those who just stop talking about it, quashing that still, small voice within, fearful that they cannot live up to an impossible ideal. And there are those who go through life, each day, feeling more and more alone and disconnected, the weight of the world growing heavier in their isolation.
And so we are called to STAND UP and SHOUT from the rooftops that it doesn’t have to be that way.
No one is alone. All are welcome. All are saved. All are worthy.
We have a healing message, a saving message, and what right do we have to keep it to ourselves?
What right do we have to surrender the Bible, our own heritage, and everything that goes with it, as weapons for those who seek to separate us?
What right do we have to keep our communities hidden, our windows dark and our doors closed?
Here’s something else we know:
We need not proselytize to save souls. We need only speak honestly, from our own experiences, to show them what we ourselves have found. We need only open the doors, illuminate the path, and offer support to those who might choose to take their own first steps away from isolation, from fear and shame.
We need only let them know that we’re here, to offer an invitation and a welcome.
We might shy away from this conversation, feeling self-conscious or awkward. And yet, what right do we have to be self-indulgent, when a simple act can save a life?
We are the ones we have been waiting for, and we have great responsibility, to live out what we profess in our hearts and souls. Nothing less will do.