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Saturday, July 19, 2003

Suitable for elevator rides.

Mark A. Thomas's letter to the editor of the Boston Globe disputing the Unitarian Universalist Association's legitimacy as a "church" prompted two replies. Peter Vandebogert of Beverly, Mass., wrote to the Globe on July 10:

Mark A. Thomas's letter questioning the Unitarian Universalists' right to call themselves a church (July 5) tells the reader much more about Thomas than it does about Unitarian Universalism. My religion — and it dates back to Eastern Europe in the 16th century — does indeed stand for a great deal.

First, it sincerely and consistently believes in the dignity and worth of every individual. There would be about 450 fewer sexually abused persons in Massachusetts right now if the Roman Catholic Church practiced this belief to the extent that Unitarian Universalists do.

The denomination also believes in the power of love and community, in the harmony of spirituality and scientific reason, in the never-ending search for truth, and in the value of all religious traditions.

We don't believe that any religion, including our own, has all the answers, which is why we don't have a creed. We also don't believe in judging other religions as Thomas has done. One can look at centuries of history, or simply at the current world situation, to see what happens when one religion makes judgments and jumps to conclusions about other religions that appear different.

It is true that some Unitarian Universalists do not believe in God the way that followers of certain other Western religions are expected to. In what manner and to what extent, if at all, UU's believe in a supreme being is a matter of individual conscience.

The fact is two of the world's major religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, do not believe in God in the way that Thomas would expect them to. In addition they have as many variations in their beliefs and practices as do the individuals who make up Unitarian Universalism.

Is Thomas prepared to tell the billions of Buddhists and Hindus in the world that what they practice is not a religion?

And Diane Engel of Framingham wrote:

In reply to the letter ''Don't call it a church'' by Mark Thomas (July 5), in which he claims that the Unitarian Universalist Church ''defiantly asserts no belief in anything,'' I quote the opening words spoken by our UU congregation, First Parish in Framingham, at the beginning of every service of worship:

Love is the doctrine of this church
The quest for truth is its sacrament
And service is its prayer.
To dwell together in peace
To seek knowledge in freedom
To serve humankind in fellowship
To the end that all souls shall grow
Into harmony with the Divine
This is our great covenant,
One with another, and with our God.

UUA President Bill Sinkford is urging Unitarian Universalists to come up with "elevator speeches" — personal introductions to one's liberal religion that can be shared in a minute or two. I thought this was such a good idea that we're soliciting brief "elevator speeches" for publication in UU World. Vandebogert and Engel are off to a good start.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 19 July 2003 at 11:29 AM

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