Why I go to church…

collapse-michael-ceraWorking at a peace and justice non-profit is an emotional double-edged sword plowshare. It is emotionally fulfilling to have a small part in making the world a better place. It is emotionally crippling because every day I am confronted with the injustice and inhumanity of human trafficking, war, ecological destruction, greed and corrupt power. Compassion fatigue is real; I can only watch/read/research so much before the pictures/videos/stories become numbers/statistics/calculations instead of real people.

My symptoms include bypassing petitions instead of filling them out; deleting email action-alerts instead of reading them; turning the radio station from KUOW to KEXP when a challenging story comes on; binging on Netflix instead of keeping up with current events. If I let the fatigue persist it would be easy to just give up. Heck, sometimes giving up looks pretty damn attractive. It would be much easier to just give in and become just another consumer who doesn’t give a f*#k about anybody but myself. But I don’t want to be this person. I choose to fight the good fight. Therefore, I go to church.

giphyWhen I announced I was becoming a Unitarian Universalist, some of my atheist friends questioned why I just didn’t give up on religion all together. They all have very good reasons; as an institution religion has been as much a problem of the world as a solution to the world’s problems. Why would an atheist or agnostic attend a church service? Those are places for believers. My answer is simple: To stay a sane, healthy man of peace, I need religion.

Religion provides me with a community, sanctuary and covenant that is focused on peacemaking. It reminds me that I am not alone in working to build a more just world. It cures my compassion fatigue because it restores my faith in people. When peace and justice work becomes too heavy, it is my church that lightens the load. In a space filled with atheists, believers, agnostics, questioners and religious refugees, our attendance shouts to the universe: “We will continue the work! We will not give up! We crave peace!”

rocky-training-oIn order to do the work I do, to continue to read the stories, watch the videos, and look at the pictures; to keep on filling out the petitions, contacting the representatives, and raising awareness; I have to feel like I’m not alone. And every Sunday, along with other justice-seekers, it is in singing our doxology that I am spiritually renewed to keep on fighting the good fight:

“From all that dwell below the skies,
let songs of hope and faith arise!
Let peace, goodwill on earth be sung
through every land, by every tongue.”

May it be so. Amen.

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.’”