Sometimes when I am talking about Unitarian Universalism with people who come from more traditional Protestant or Catholic contexts, what they understand from what I say about my faith and ethics is different from what I actually mean. I think that sometimes people are so challenged by the idea that I would disbelieve something they take for granted, that it is as though I don't believe in anything sensible.
Last week I was talking with a group of teens from a Christian church. The conversation started in a meandering, exploratory way, but soon took on the flavor of asking me to defend my beliefs. That's OK with me, but I was sometimes shocked by the underlying assumptions of their questions. I found it hard that all the things that I find beautiful about my faith, they found nothing to smile about. That's cool, too, just weighty. The experience made me think of how I want to speak directly about the things that Unitarian Universalism doesn't mean to me.
Maybe you know these; maybe you don't.
Being Unitarian Universalist does not mean that I can believe in just anything. And, no, I don't believe in reincarnation. But someone with whom I practice in community might.
I am surprised when someone assumes that if I'm not a biblical literalist, then I have sucked up, hook, line, and sinker, some random gospel according to Spongebob. But, no. There is something to believe between Every Single Word and None of the Words. While there are not specific dogmas to which one must ascribe in order to identify as Unitarian Universalist, it is a faith and ethical practice that arises in covenant. Another way to describe covenant is the promises we keep between one another, or the actions of being in community. Practices like kindness, honesty, and integrity aren't really optional. I don't believe unkindness and dishonesty would be OK as ways of life in community.
If you're asking, me, Theresa, what happens to people when they die, well, I believe my body returns to the earth to become a pony or a river or a flower or a beetle. I don't believe I will have a new consciousness as any of those forms. I believe the person I was will live on in the people I have loved. I believe my soul will be with God. That not the same as saying this is the thing that Unitarian Universalism prescribes for after death. I practice faith and ethics in community with people who may believe a wide variety of things, not the least of which is that we should treat each other well in community and make more justice in the world.
I believe in love, between people. I believe I am held in a greater Love.