Are Unitarian Universalists leaven for America?

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33 

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has reported its findings yesterday regarding religious tolerance in the New York Times.   The story stated, ” … 70 percent of Americans affiliated with a religion or denomination said they agreed that ‘many religions can lead to eternal life,’ including majorities among Protestants and Catholics.  Among Evangelical Christians, 57 percent agreed with the statement, and among Catholics, 79 percent did.  Among minority faiths, more than 80 percent of Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists, agreed with the statement, and more than half of Muslims did.”

God and Diplomacy

The findings as reported does not indicate if this tolerance in other’s religious beliefs is a shift from intolerance or if Americans were always more tolerant of religious beliefs?   The question for me, is what role, if any,  did Unitarian Universalist’s play in this attitude?  As a faith, Unitarian Universalists acceptance in right of conscience, in the personal quest for truth and meaning, has meant that we recognize that all faith journeys are valid for salvation, regardless of how we might define the word salvation. 

While it may be presumptuous to think that our minority faith has had any impact on the larger whole towards tolerance, does presumption mean it is therefore beyond consideration?  Long before I became an official Unitarian Universalist, I was always impressed with the Unitarian Universalists that I knew with their openness and acceptance of other point of views.  Unitarian Universalists seemed to role model this concept for me in ways that my conservative charismatic Christian faith did not. 

And not that my charismatic Christian friends were not tolerant of others, they were but it was done in the arrogant tolerance sort of way.  I mean there was always this ‘I will tolerate your position because you simply don’t know better yet’ attitude.  Once you knew better and you decided to reject their message, all tolerance bets were off.    While Unitarian Universalists are not immune to this sort of arrogance, we tend to be aware of its tendency and confront it because deep down we also know that humanly we only have a piece of the universal truth.  And not a very big piece at that. 

We tend to embrace the wisdom of Buddha, where he tells the story of four blind men trying to describe what an elephant [metaphor for Truth] looks like.  An elephant is like a trunk of a tree…  no no an elephant is like a huge wall… no no an elephant is like a whip…  NO! You are all wrong, an elephant is like a serpentining serpent…  All were correct in their experiences of the elephant; legs, body, tail, and trunk.  We each may have a piece of the Truth but our limited experiences and senses fail to see the whole picture.  This is one important reason why we need to be in community with each other so we can hear others experiences of Truth in the hopes of enlarging our conception of our elephant. 

Even if, American’s have generally had a broad tolerance for other faiths, in what ways can Unitarian Universalists be the leaven that leavens the whole of America?  Jesus stated this is what the Kingdom of Heaven was like; placing leaven (yeast) in flour and soon it was all leavened with yeast.  We can live our lives like that.  Our values, our principles that we seek to uphold, can be leaven for the society in which we live.  Blessings,  




  1. From where I stand I think that I have reasonable grounds to suggest that Unitarian*Universalism aka U*Uism, and what UUA Presidential candidate Rev. Peter Morales calls the “tiny, declining, fringe religion”, is more likely to be the matzah bread aka matzo bread of religion in American. . . Let’s not forget those fundamentalist atheist “Humanist” U*Us who deny the very existence of the “elephant” and assert that belief in that “elephant” is “primitive”.

  2. I hope you are right about the leaving effect. I see some signs of it as well. Last week I filmed an event, a big gathering of various churches, synagogues and Islamic groups under the umbrella of the newly founded group. One of the board members and key instigators: Jefferson Unitarian’s Rev. Nathan Woodliff-Stanley (and I think before him Peter Morales was a key player in the Interfaith Alliance out of which this grew.) WeBelieveColorado was modeled after a similar group in Ohio and tries to refocus the attention of both politicians and the media on those religious folks whose doctrines call to work for the common good.
    However, I also think that the figures clearly show that we are in fact tiny, declining, and fringe. I bake with yeast – if the water you add is too hot it’ll kill the yeast. I don’t think it’ll necessarily happen to us, but insignificance except in a few lucky places for a religion that has so much to offer is just plain pitiful.

  3. Folks from Mississippi will be interested in reading about the newly formed group WeBelieveColorado as Rev. Nathan Woodliff-Stanley is a former member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson, MS. He recently was in Mississippi for a visit and the congregation enjoyed hearing his journey in the ministry. Blessings,

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