In a recent Facebook post, my life-long UU grandson wrote that he believes Unitarian Universalism will die because its members need to adopt another defining form of spirituality (as in Unitarian Universalist-Buddhist–the hyphenated UU).
He’s right, of course. Years ago, the theologian Henry Nelson Wieman said that unless Unitarians could come up with a unifying faith they will never have what he called “The Power of Assembly). Unitarian Universalism will die eventually because UUs cannot now and I doubt they ever will be able to answer the question “What do UUs believe?” “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound who shall prepare for battle?” (I Corinthians). Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc. do not have to spend their time and energy debating about what they believe or why they exist. “Freedom of belief,” is not a faith. When we UUs speak of our “faith” what exactly are we referring to?
We would do best do accept the fact that we are a loosely bound association of congregations which actually have very little in common apart from a history (from which we have far departed) and a similarity of polity with which we are constantly meddling, often for the want of anything else that compels us. I think we would do far better in many ways if we would refer to our congregations as “Centers For Spiritual Growth (or something like that).” UUs “hyphenate themselves” obviously, again, –as in UU-Buddhist, “UU-Jew”–(what my grandson calls “The UU need to claim another defining form of spirituality as divine without following all aspects of that faith”–because for most of them UUism does not appear to have the spiritual strength to stand alone. It is my observation that newcomers to UUism are far most interested in the communal aspects of a congregation than they are in its roots, tradition or “faith.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that–that is, there would not be anything wrong with that if we were to accept the fact, develop it and publicize that we are, as I say, a Center For The Development of Spiritual Growth.”
Albert Einstein said, “I am a very religious unbeliever. That must be some new kind of religion.” Now that’s the kind of religion–the kind of religious community–that I believe would live long and prosper, one that is dedicated to helping persons become very religious non-believers or believers if they so choose.

A colleague asks on Facebook¬† if I think that all “hyphenated” faith designations. such as “Jewish Unitarian” are a “bad thing.”

I don’t say that it is a “bad thing.” I simply believe that it is, for me, an indication that for the “hyphenators” something is apparently missing in the spiritual life of their congregation. Roman Catholic converts to Lutheranism do not refer to themselves as RC-Lutherans. And why do non-Jews attend Seder Services and High Holy Days? What are they missing? I don’t say that hyphenators don’t have good stuf in their bags. I happen to think that in many cases they do.¬† I just wonder whey they have to bring the bags into the UU church–excuse me, Fellowship. Society, Parish?
I’m reminded of a passage from Emerson’s Diviity School Address (frequently) And now let us do what we can to rekindle the smouldering fire on the altar..” He went on to say that we should develop a “cultus” of our our, our own celebrations, or own rituals.” In short, he was saying we need to go home from church with a sense of having worshipped–without having had to interject a ritual from a former faith in which we *did* have a sense of worship. I think many people feel that Unitarian Universalism is, in several ways, like a good stew–but it needs salt. “And if the salt has lost it’s savor….”
And let me say this while I’m at it: I believe that rather boggling their minds with some new radical understanding of theology, seminary students should have the Divinity School address on their iPods and play it every night in their sleep until they understand what their mission is all about. A newly-installed professor at Meadville-Lombard School of Theology says in an essage that theology is not about us but about what we *do.” Saints preserve us. I think Bonfhoeffer would have had a difficult time untangling that conundrum.¬† Students will know what to do with a theology when they have one
(or not).
And has any revisioner of school of theology curricula ever sat down with twenty or thirty congregations and asked *them* what *they* need to learn, hear and experience from their ministers?