What Unitarian Universalism Really Needs
As Unitarian Universalists, we often run into the problem of how to explain our faith. Or, according to some, lack thereof. The problem as I see it is one of identification, which might be linked to our small population relative to other religions. In terms of membership, we’re certainly not a large group; according to the Unitarian Universalist Association, in 2020 we numbered 187,689 (including minors enrolled in religious education programs), However, the UUA’s number only reflects those who belong to congregations that are members of the UUA. On the other hand, Wikipedia, that bastion of often-questionable accuracy, claims there are 800,000 UUs worldwide.
It doesn’t really matter which number is accurate (if, in fact, either is), as very often we’re receivers of the puzzled look when asked what our religion is. I would argue that our principal problem isn’t that we don’t have an established theosophy, or creed, or a recognized “good book.” No, my friends, our principal problem is two-fold and related: first, we don’t have a holiday, and I’ll get to the second, and far more serious, problem momentarily.
I know that some of you are frowning and thinking, “Wait a minute. What about the Flower Communion?” But, that isn’t a holiday, and even the UUA refers to it this way: “Flower Communion is a ritual service common in Unitarian Universalism, though the specific practices vary from one congregation to another.” Jeez, if we can’t even agree on a ritual, how would we ever have a holiday?
Many times since identifying as a UU—I became a member in 1984–I have heard people claim that since Michael Servetus was burned at the stake for arguing against the Trinity in favor of a single worshipful deity, and therefore founded Unitarianism, he should be considered a martyr and his birthday celebrated as a UU holiday. Of course, one problem with that being the date of his birth is unknown. Well, then, let’s make the date of his execution a holiday Right? No. according to a couple of ministers I have spoken with, that would suggest sainthood, and as UUs, we don’t cotton to that notion.
We could celebrate October 1, National Coffee Day, but we’d risk alienating non-coffee drinkers. How about March 4, International Ask a Question Day? Nahhh, too much of a cliché. February 22 is Be Humble Day, but it’s so hard to be humble when you’re perfect. World Kindness Day, November 13, wouldn’t be a bad choice except that it’s been co-opted by pretty much every other group and religion.
I fear we’re stuck with continuing to celebrate other faiths’ holidays, always falling back on a phrase we tend to lean on, “our Judeo-Christian heritage,” as justification. In any case, not having our own holiday isn’t the major problem. You want to know what it is? Here goes: Hallmark doesn’t know we exist.
How the heck are we ever going to be taken seriously and be recognized as a legitimate faith without even one UU-specific greeting card for family and friends to send to us? All year long, the shelves in greeting card stores, as well as display units in supermarkets and retail outlets, are loaded with cards that celebrate one holiday or another. And, while most of these cards are written as to be clearly secular, many have a distinct religious theme and are grouped with separator tabs that have the name of the event or holiday followed by a cross, Star of David, or Crescent and Star. We need our own cards, with their own separator tabs with something that distinguishes these sections as being for UUs. The obvious choice for recognition would be a question mark, but let’s just ignore that particular cliché.
How then should the cards be written? While I would entrust this opportunity to many others, including the professional writers in our congregation, I just happen to have a few suggestions and have copyrighted them, so back off Hallmark!
It’s a very Merry Christmas that I wish for you,
The other greetings sound funny and cause rifts.
I honestly don’t care whatever you call it,
Just make sure you get me some gifts.
Spin the dreidel and eat some latkes,
Decorate your Chanukkah bush.
But if your parents find out you became a UU
They’ll spank you on your tush!
This is the holiest day on the Christian calendar,
The day that Jesus was risen.
No egg hunts, chocolates, and ham for dinner?
You don’t know what you’re missin’.
UUs know the truth about how Indians were treated
By the pilgrims and from historians with their lies.
We’ll express outrage, sorrow, and demand retribution,
But, first, would someone please pass me the pies?
All Hallows Eve, Samhain, Allhallowmas,
Or Halloween, call it the name you hold dear.
The ancient Celtics created the day,
To celebrate their new year.
They lit sacred bonfires to the Celtic deities,
To protect them from troubling spirits and such.
And for strength to last through the cold, dark winter,
Which they often feared very much.
They worshiped well into the night,
In front of the bonfire flames’ constant flickers.
They must be turning over in their graves,
Seeing what we worship are costumes and Snickers.
OK, I admit that these might need a little polishing, but you get the idea. And, with the average greeting card selling for about four bucks each, if I can convince Neil, our congregation’s treasurer, to allocate part of the budget to forming a SUUS greeting card company, I’ll wager SUUS will be operating in the black for decades!
This week’s Street Advertising Smile: