One of the questions that ministers get asked is to discuss their personal theology. Unitarian Universalists do not have a prescribed creed that we must believe in in order to be a Unitarian Universalist. We are encouraged to ask ourselves those hard questions and develop a personal theology of what we believe and how this informs our daily lives.
My personal theology continues to evolve. Today, I am much less concerned with doctrines that people hold and more concerned with the relationships that evolve around them. Therefore my theology has become more focused on the relational. What is our relationship to the holy? What is our relationship to our past? What is our relationship with our present? How do the answers to these questions influence or dictate our future relational experiences?
A person wounded by a spiritual violent religious experience who has not found some way to resolve that woundedness is going to relate to others in a much different manner than someone who has resolved that woundedness. If they can begin to see the connection of their relationship to their past and in particular this past event to how they respond now, then perhaps they can begin to make conscious choices to act differently now.
I am less concerned with whether a person has a doctrine that states god is a father in heaven and more concerned with how this doctrine influences their relationships with each other here. Does it enable them to be more just in their actions with others? Does it make them judgmental? Likewise, I am less concerned with a person’s claim there is no god and more concerned with how this doctrine influences their relationships with others. Does not having a belief in god shift their relationship with one another? If so, in what direction does it shift—towards more compassion –towards more cynicism? These questions do not have static answers.
Theology is only helpful and practical if it enables a person or a group of people to live their lives in a manner that is uplifting of universal values. Our Unitarian Universalist faith is not concerned with whether you are a Buddhist or a Christian, a Pagan or a Muslim, an atheist or a theist. Our faith is more concerned with how those beliefs help build sustaining relationships with each other. If the beliefs we hold aid us in living an ever increasing compassionate and justice filled life, then those beliefs are transformative. If these beliefs or doctrines hinder that ability, then we as individuals need to let them go. If we choose not to let them go, then the result is a breakage in the relationships.
I speak from experience in this breakage. The Christian community I lived in during my youth could not let go of their doctrine that homosexuality was against god’s will for humanity. And therefore it resulted in a breakage in the relationship. As painful as this break was, it needed to be made in order for me to continue to grow in relationship with who I fully am, and in relationship with who I want to be—a more compassionate and justice centered person.
We live in relationship to one another and it is only in the relationships we have with one another that new desire, new opportunities, new avenues are found and developed. We heal others through our relationships with them. We do not know which experience in our life will lead to a transformation of a fuller expression of who we are at the core our being.
As I have already implied, there are theologies that would speak dogmatically another perspective than mine; however, their theology is valid based on the accumulation of their life experiences and how they have chosen to perceive those experiences. This is because I see expression of faith as an evolution and not a static entity. Where each person is in their theology is within the process of how they have made sense of their experiences to date. New experiences attract new thoughts which alter perspectives and ultimately how we perceive and relate to the world we live in. A theology that is relational reflects our Unitarian Universalist principle that each person is responsible for their own search for truth and meaning.
As a Unitarian Universalist, it is not just other theologies that Unitarian Universalist hold but all other theologies that one must relate with in this pluralistic society. I believe the theology that I am embracing allows me to be in relationship with others who may have different theologies than mine. If we are going to strive to create a better world, then we need to find ways of being with the other that enhances the quality of our lives in community.