The Fourth Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
Translation: Go find your thing...IN BED
If you feel like this principle sounds like the last three, I’m with you. I think this principle is vaguely worded because the UU’s that be are afraid that potential newcomers would be freaked out if they knew what what it’s really about: sex. Ok, it’s not actually about sex, but if I didn’t tell you how much UU’s like to talk about sex, I would be misleading you. So I might as well squeeze it in here.
My church tended to believe that nobody, especially the government, has the right to determine what you and your consenting partner(s) can or cannot do in the bedroom. They spent a lot of time encouraging my peers to go figure out what we liked… safely. There seemed to be two basic beliefs behind this: First, that we’re all sexual beings who should enjoy time on earth… safely. Second, that most of the dangers of sexuality (teen pregnancy, disease, sexual assault, etc.) stem from the shame and ignorance that come from refusing to talk about it. My church hoped that if people knew how their sexual organs and psyches work, they could make informed decisions about what they want and how to get it… safely. In order to make sure that UU’s are really, really familiar with their sexuality, the UUA has a sex-ed program called “Our Whole Lives,” or O.W.L., that would be better named T.M.I.
Most UU churches offer O.W.L. for everyone from kindergarteners through the AARP-qualifiable. I probably was not in this program for three hours every week for the duration of puberty, but that’s how it felt. Even so, I really only remember three things:
• Guest-lecturers from every wavelength of the sexual spectrum who gave a full and graphic biography, followed by an “Ask Me Anything” forum during which precocious virgins asked questions that would make Rick Santorum’s skin peel.
• An assignment to list, discuss and use every possible sexual term, which we teens did quite successfully. We failed, though, to catch the adults in the room looking uncomfortable, which says a lot about about both the stoicism and vulgarity of UU adults.
• A “Visualize Sexuality” slideshow of pencil-drawn, chiaroscuro-shaded pornographic images of every conceivable combination of humans in every conceivable act including, most memorably, two obese naked white women groping in a lily pond.
What was weird about discussing sex for so long with my peers is that sex stopped being funny. Sex is funny for the same reason that bathroom humor is funny -- you’re not supposed to talk about it. Once it became clear that we were allowed to talk about it, were supposed to talk about it, and were actually tired of talking about it, the taboo was gone. I think that was the point.
THE FIFTH PRINCIPLE: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
Translation: Do your thing...but sometimes the group will vote differently than you and if you love the group then you’ll just have to handle that.
My church was really into meetings. Committee discussions about who should or shouldn’t be our new minister, who did or did not use church funds irresponsibly, and who should or should not be blamed for letting my youth group watch the “senselessly violent” Fifth Element at a church sleepover (I maintain that it’s the most UU-aligned Bruce Willis movie) were often heated. They were all resolved though.
THE SIXTH PRINCIPLE: The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.
Translation: In case we weren’t clear, everybody gets to do their thing
My church puts a great effort into reaching out to, working with, and supporting communities around the world. This is done selflessly, though there is some hope that by spreading good faith, someone looking for a spiritual home will hear of UU and stop by. At my church we are eager for this. We are ready for this. We have visitor’s mugs.
The visitor’s mug seems simple. The reverend will explain at the beginning of the service that if you are new, you are welcome to join us at the reception for coffee where you can pick up a daffodil-yellow visitor’s mug so everyone in the congregation will know to introduce themselves. There is a lot at stake when considering whether or not to use the visitor’s mug. Once you pick one up, you have signaled to the room that you need a friend and, OH MAN, do we like friends. Extroverts will feel as if they are being showered with compliments and heart-felt questions. Introverts will feel as if they are drowning in compliments and heart-felt questions. There will be no doubt in your mind, however, that we like you and want you to do your thing.
There is a great shame in the UU community. As much as UU’s like to rant about how congress, the 1 percent, newscasters, or the cast of Girls are disproportionately white, we have to admit that the American UU community is also disproportionately white. For this reason, if you are even remotely “of color,” it really doesn’t matter whether or not you pick up the visitor’s mug. You are going to be welcomed with the urgency and jubilation of a U.N. rescue squadron. Ironically, but not surprisingly, several UU’s of color have told me that the adoration and singularization they receive from their congregations is part of why people of color are so hesitant to join.
THE SEVENTH PRINCIPLE: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Translation: Also, animals get to do their thing
I think at this point you get the gist. For further information, watch Fern Gully.
Those are the UU principles as interpreted, at this particular point in time, by a privileged white dude who hasn't managed to attend a UU service in months. UU's tend to disappear from church between high school and their first child. I'm not entirely sure why that is. I think part of it is that UU's often feel like they can find church anywhere, including the relics of other denominations on the outskirts of Vicksburg, Tennessee.