Some of you may know that I meet regularly with a group of liberal clergy here in Beaufort. I’m not sure when the group began, it existed when I arrived, and I know Rev. Kevin Tarsa also participated in the group. We’re called “the heretics.”
I remember leading a “new to UU” class at another congregation where I mentioned that Unitarian Universalism is considered a heretical faith. You see, the word “heresy” is derived from the Greek “hairesis,” meaning to choose for oneself. Wikipedia says that heresy is used in reference to views strongly opposed to any generally accepted ideas – so in the case of Unitarian Universalists, views different from the generally accepted Christian doctrine.
At that class, several years in the past now, there was one person who was taken aback by my describing Unitarian Universalism as a heretical faith. It was an idea that she struggled with, that by joining a UU congregation where her own deeply held beliefs were affirmed, she would be joining with heretics. I don’t recall now whether she joined the congregation or not, though I think not. That was a bridge too far for her.
Of course, it depends on who is doing the labeling, right? We Unitarian Universalists, who embrace a wide variety of beliefs and practices, we are considered “heretics” in a negative way by those who strictly adhere to Christian doctrine, especially the fundamentalist variety of Christian doctrine.
On the other hand, those of us who are UU embrace beliefs drawn from the many sources of our faith: direct experience of mystery and wonder, wisdom from the world’s religions, the guidance of reason, as well as Jewish and Christian teachings. We discover what we must believe, we choose – and realize that in choosing we are also shaped by our beliefs.
There’s a short song in our grey hymnal that is dear to me. It’s #374, written by William deWitt Hyde, set to the Old Hundredth tune: “Since what we choose is what we are, and what we love we yet shall be, the goal may ever shine afar – the will to win it makes us free.”
This freedom to choose, freedom of belief, is precious. As our UUFB logo says: “Many Beliefs, One Light.” In this season of gratitude, I’m grateful for our UU freedom, and for this Fellowship!
Rev. Lori Hlaban