For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
Unitarian Universalists come from a legacy of proud heretics. Heresy, not understood as the wrong belief, but understood as the ability or freedom to choose. We are proud of the courage across the ages of struggling for religious freedom. We stand in a legacy of rabble-rousers, activists, and bold souls who refused to be limited by law, tradition or popular culture in their search for spiritual truths. These are good ancestors to have in your spiritual family tree.
Our modern day UU family also includes plenty of folk who know the value of religious freedom. Some of us have been shut down in places where free-thinking, exploring and questioning was simply not allowed. In contrast, our community affirms a free and responsible search because we actually believe that the human mind and heart are made for responsible discerning and seeking. This is why we continue a community based in a representative democracy. It is also why we have the freedom of the pulpit, so that our religious leaders are free to speak the truth on their heart and not fear persecution for honesty. It is also why we are freely associated body; those who join us choose to do so without a threat of hell or the promise of heaven, but only in the spirit of a community striving together by choice.
The challenge is to learn how to be free in order to live a life of meaning rather than only seeking being free from our histories. Just like it’s not enough to be defined by what we don’t believe, we Unitarian Universalists believe in a freedom to a responsible search. Grappling with the demons of our past and finding the truth now is no easy faith journey. It’s challenging to use our freedom with care and concern for others, while following our own conscience.
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning begins in community. It begins in a community that affirms each are worthy but understands that we live in a connected world where our actions have ripples. It grows in a place that allows soul-stretching, the deep work of asking questions, speaking them aloud and gathering among supportive guides and journeyers.
A free and responsible search requires of each us to be open to multiple truths. We have the great challenge to make room for each other’s beliefs and really engage them. This can happen in the Chalice Circle when we listen deeply. This can happen in our religious education classes when we ask each other questions, and rather than formulate rebuttals allow an idea to move about the room. This can happen when we can stand in who we are. This can happen when are honest with the ones we love and continue the struggle that all may be free.
This can happen in our community.
Indeed, it does happen. Every time, we stop and listen to a newcomer. Every time we are awed in a spirituality group at the connection between our story and another-even decades apart. Every time, we learn from the questions and answers of our children. Every time, we gather in the gift of a free community and our souls stretch just a little.
It’s possible, it’s happening. Come be free, and see.
In faith and freedom,