Stephen Colbert, Billy Graham and “the Cult of Unitarianism

Unitarian Universalism made the Colbert Report yesterday, November 1st.  In hiTip/Wag – Constant Documentation & Billy Graham segment, Stephen Colbert discusses Mitt Romney’s outreach to Reverend Billy Graham and Graham’s subsequent disencultification of Mormonism.

In response to Unitarians being listed on Graham’s website, Colbert replies..

“Oh yes, the dangerous cult of Unitarianism. Their rules are so loose, their three sacred texts are the Old Testament, New Testament, and Free to Be You and Me.”

If you haven’t seen it yet, you may watch the segment here. The part about Unitarian Universalism starts 3 min 30 sec into the video.

What Do Unitarian Universalists Believe?

What happens when a previously Christian church gets so liberal you don’t have to be Christian to belong? What happens when over time the country gets increasingly pluralistic with massive numbers of people loving the Dalai Lama, Oprah and doing yoga?  Eventually you get a breed of congregations that bring diverse people together around shared values, not set beliefs. That’s what’s happening in Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations, great values but many different spiritual and theological perspectives.

That’s my quick explanation.  You can get a more official description here or watch the following video about our congregations.

The Challenge of Unitarian Universalism

Okay, not all Unitarian Universalists love Oprah and the Dalai Lama…  But I do.  And that’s the beauty (and challenge) of Unitarian Universalism.

Because our congregations don’t have a set creed, we end up with people who don’t agree on big religious questions.  And I love that!

What About Love?

Speaking of love…  In recent years love has moved to the forefront as an organizing force in our congregations.  Not a cheesy bad greeting card love, but a we need to take care of each other fight for justice and build a better world together kind of love.  We might not agree on whether there is an afterlife, but we know how we should treat each other.   In fact, we have a campaign dedicated to that, the Standing on the Side of Love campaign.

And this election season, we’re encouraging people to VOTE on the side of love.

Why I Love the Challenge

Me? I want to be part of a community where people have great values, but differing opinions.   It keeps me learning and growing.

For me, Unitarian Universalism serves as a home community and center from which I can continually explore, have friends to share and discuss life with, and an institution through which we can multiply our efforts to address the moral challenges of our time — marriage equality, climate change, immigration justice and beyond.

If that sounds appealing,  find a congregation near you and see what they’re up to.

I should note that I have a big fat UU bias.  I was raised a Unitarian Universalist and came upon pretty much everything great in my life through my UU connections — my wife, my work, my friends, my meditation practice, fellow change agents, hope…

9 thoughts on “Stephen Colbert, Billy Graham and “the Cult of Unitarianism

  1. I loved Colbert’s comment, because I not only own a copy of the sacred text in the original language (vinyl), but I referenced it in my most recent blog article.

  2. Does it sound appealing to any significant number of people though? I’m really not convinced it does. If I have enough friends, and already belong to effective campaigning groups on social justice issues, I don’t really need UUism by that definition.

    Don’t people come to a religion to receive religious wisdom and spiritual practices that liberate and refresh the soul? Isn’t that the kind of thing we need to be talking about?

  3. UU in my locale is a closed clique that throws people away like tissue paper if they step on the toes of the hegemonic clique. They are every bit as ruthless as the Inquisition they just like certain liberties.

  4. I grew up in a UU church in the 90’s, was in youth group, but my parents disallowed me to attend once the church started promoting cross dressing in youth group. Hey, do they still have the ‘brown bag policy’ at YRUU conferences (which are designed for rich people by the way)?

    Congregations in the Northeast are fully dominated by ‘ex’ Catholics and ‘ex’ Jews at this point. You’ll have to go far West to reach the ‘egalitarian’ UU congregations that still have pagans.

    The idea that UU’s promote all forms of spirituality is purely false on the East Coast. Also, those of us who chose not to ‘come of age’ (UU equivalent to Bar Mitzvah or Confirmation) and leave the church, were ostracized and ignored by the community thereafter.

    Overall, my experience with the UU church was profoundly negative, however, learning about all religions made me realize how profoundly toxic ‘faith’ is. How many atrocities and genocides were committed by the religious? Most of them.

    1. I’m sorry to hear you had an negative experience. The fact that each UU congregation is independent and democratically led means there is huge variation among them. If you (or other readers) have a review of a church to share, positive or negative, I hope you’ll look them up on YELP and share it. As for our Youth ministry, it has been evolving for some time. I never experienced the brown bag issue you describe during my youth or the decade I was a youth advisor. Though I have had some stories. The most wild thing I experienced was our youth group outing to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

  5. I may have been a good Unitarian back in William Ellery Channing’s day, when it was actually more of a religious faith. As matters developed, I ended up leaving the UUA due to all of their left-of-center political advocacy. Nobody ever explained to me what the necessary connection was between liberal religion and leftist politics – and, to this day, nobody ever has. This (IMHO) called into question the UUA’;s claim to be a “creedless religion,” when in actual practice it was little more than a political creed.

    1. Thanks for your comment. No doubt UU clergy and other leaders need to continually articulate the connection between values and justice efforts. Huge variation in how well this is done. There is a huge left leaning contingent, but Ive also been affiliated with multiple UU congregations with a good number of republicans. I think our values transcebd politics. Have a great holiday.

Comments are closed.