I have been pondering Doug Muder's UUWorld article by that title, and his blog follow-up , which sums up the article nicely: "What I want to call faith -- and I think I'm being consistent with many major religions here -- is a third response to uncertainty, one that senses a way to move forward without demanding promises about how it will all come out. That kind of faith is independent of dogma, and many UUs have shown it at some point in their lives." He asks in the article, "Does Unitarian Universalism provide, support, or engender that kind of faith?", and asks those of us who have survived hard times to testify about our experiences.
Like many others, I'm a hyphenated UU- in my case, a UU-Pagan. My Pagan faith does not guarantee that everything will be alright in this world. Nor does it provide certainty about the afterlife, if any; the only thing I'm sure of that in respect is that the Divine is not small or petty- if I make myself worthy of this world, I need have no fears about the next. In a way, my Pagan divinities have something in common with a good general or political leader... a good leader does not promise victory; he gives his followers the tools needed to win, then asks them to do their best.
What tools am I given? My Pagan faith tells me that I am loved. It gives me a place in the universe- "Like the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here." It gives me techniques to still panic, find calm, and banish despair. It shows me how to take that calm, gather energy, and address my problems. It sets boundaries, what situations and solutions are acceptable, and what is beyond the pale. This prepares me well for what Doug calls "the third response", moving forward without demanding promises; indeed, to my faith, that is the first response.
But that is after the hyphen- what about the UU part? There are echoes of much of my credo in the Principles and Purposes- though the PPs are stated as suggestions rather than truths. My spiritual life has been greatly enhanced by my UU experiences- making community with a far more diverse group than I had known before, invaluable discussions, small groups, fascinating forums and blogs, But despite having been an enthusiastic UU for more than a dozen years, I'm afraid that UU itself is still like monosodium glutamate in my life- a flavor enhancer for what I already had, rather than a stand-alone religion in its own right. For me, the answer to Doug's question is that UU does not provide or engender that faith. It does support it- although even there I have to ask whether UU supports the faith, or merely provides a venue to meet the friends who support that faith.
But I also realize that I come to this question with my own preconceptions, so I will repeat Doug's question to all of you with a different slant to it. This is directed at the unhyphenated UUs; those who were raised UU, or came to UU completely unchurched, with no previous faith tradition, and have survived truly hard times: Did Unitarian Universalism give you what you needed to persevere through those dark times, or did it merely enhance and assist what you already had? Was it the entree, or the monosodium glutamate? What did it give you?