Some of you may have children who have started to ask you the “big” questions
“What is God?”
“Where do I come from?”
“What happens to people after they die?”
For children and adults, these kinds of questions are religious questions of the highest order, and Unitarian Universalists believe that a lifetime may not be quite long enough to answer them to our satisfaction. But we keep asking the questions and we encourage our children to do so as well.
One of the great Unitarian ministers of the 19th century was William Ellery Channing, who wrote “The great end in religious instruction is not to stamp our minds upon the young, but to stir up their own; not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own.”
Our religious education program stresses open-ended questions for the children to ponder and discuss.
We treat adults in much the same way: Unitarian Universalism doesn’t tell its members that there is one truth, one creed, one narrative that needs to be accepted. We try to follow some basic principles, one of which is the respect for the interdependent web of all existence—In other words, we are all connected—to one another, to animals, to the earth.
Another UU principle affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person. These principles lead us to try to live a life of right action for ourselves, for our brothers and sisters and for our earth.
The New Testament book of James, includes a favorite text of UUs: “I will show you my faith by my works” (2:18). Unitarian Universalists like to say that we believe in deeds not creeds, a slight re-working of the famous James passage.
Our history is in the Christian tradition, but we pride ourselves in being theologically diverse and inclusive. In many UU congregations, people worshipping together may be Buddhist, humanist, pagan, theist, Jewish, mystic, or unsure. We believe that all wisdom traditions can help us to answer the “big” questions.
Later in the same passage of Rev. Channing’s, he writes that the “great end in religious instruction is not to impose religion upon (children) in the form of arbitrary rules, but to awaken the conscience, the moral discernment. In a word, the great end is to awaken the soul, to excite and cherish spiritual life.”
Aren’t we all spiritual seekers? Don’t we all want to awaken our souls? Not only do we want to do this seeking, but we must do it, if we want to live lives worthy of our ancestors, who fought for all the freedoms we now hold so dear.
Please respect your children’s questions as well as your own — and by all means possible, enjoy the search!
The Rev. Susan Moran is minister of the Universalist Society of Rockport.