My elevator speech.

KmhiOVGYesterday I mentioned that I completed my first class in grad school. It was a great experience. However, I did run into a typical UU situation. In addition to my being the only male in the class, I was also the only Unitarian. This isn’t surprising. I was actually expecting it. What I forgot to do was prepare my elevator speech.

An elevator speech is a 10-15 second answer that you’d give to a person if you were in an elevator. It’s meant to be quick and precise. It’s better when it’s rehearsed. I have an elevator speech for when people ask me what a peace and justice center does: “We are a small non-profit that engages issues of peace and justice through education and systemic change. We use corporate responsibility, lobbying, retreats, leadership training, workshops and publications to engage issues of environmental, social and economic change that furthers humanity’s respect for the Earth and each other.”

giphy (3)Unfortunately, I don’t have an elevator speech for Unitarian Universalism. While a lot of people don’t know the denominational details of a particular church, there is a general understanding. “Oh, you’re a Christian.” Even Mormons and Scientologists usually don’t have to answer questions like “What is that?” It seems as of late I have been travelling in too tight of circles. Everybody in my class came from a major Christian religion, but there was some confusion as to where UU fit in the puzzle.

I also had a hard time explaining what it was. In a deer in the headlights moment, I fumbled my way through using words like “liberal” and “progressive” and “individuality.” I confess I didn’t do the religion justice. The problem is there is just too much to talk about and not many definitive answers. My answers to questions were mostly “sometimes.”  “Do you read the bible?”  Sometimes. “Is UU Christian?”  Sometimes. “Do UU’s believe in God?”  Sometimes.

Wibbley-wobbley-timey-wimeyIt’s all very complicated and from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. Or maybe I’m misquoting? The point is I need an elevator speech. So here it is:

“Unitarian Universalism is rooted in liberal Christianity and developed out of the reformation. It is now a pluralistic, non-creedal religion that believes truth resides in the individual as informed by experience, tradition, family, culture and history. We have seven principles which guide our congregations, all of which boil down to ‘there is one love and nobody is left behind.’”

6 thoughts on “My elevator speech.

  1. Paul Oakley

    Good job! Thanks for sharing your elevator speech. Let us know from time to time how it plays as you use it, the response it gets, and such.
    For years I struggled with something technically accurate but which, in the end, felt rather stiff and lifeless, until I finally was handed the elevator speech I use now by someone else, not a UU, as he came to understand what I was trying to explain in various long conversations. I like that yours was prompted by the deer-in-the-headlights experience of trying to explain to your grad school colleagues.


      1. Paul Oakley

        Sure! My elevator was handed to me by a hardcore Calvinist. I was in a Clinical Pastoral Education residency, and one of my fellow chaplains couldn’t get his head around UUism. After 6 months of in-depth conversations, one day he came up to me, all excited and said, “I think I’ve got it! I think I understand your faith! For you, inclusion is the highest good, and exclusion is the greatest sin.” Ever since my elevator speech has been the simple theological statement: “(For UUs) Inclusion is the highest good; exclusion, the greatest sin.” To me, this covers all we are and do together, both in our aspirations and our failings. It provides the outlines for our entire justice program, as well. It is easy to remember. And, formulated as it was by a Presbyterian fundamentalist, it is in language that is accessible to most.


  2. Pingback: Evangelism, sweetness and love, religious bullying, and more « : The Interdependent Web

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