Each month, a member of the board will share a reflection on the Soul Matters monthly theme and the state of the church. The theme for March is Renewing Faith. This month’s post is offered by Brian Zais.
I have a not-entirely-undeserved reputation for being long winded. My work colleagues have both complained (“Just get to the point, Brian!”) and praised (“I know when I read it, I’ll get all of the information I need”) the length of my e-mails. I tend to follow the Aaron Sorkin school of expression: why use 10 words when 25 will do? Using too few words just leaves the opportunity to be misunderstood.
I think this is common for UUs. We’re a thinking church, after all, a group that doesn’t just follow some mindless rote dogma thrust upon us by someone over in southern Europe. We get to think for ourselves! And, boy, are we into nuance. We live in complicated times. While polarizing sound bites may be the norm of our political world, we thinkers know that issues aren’t black and white. We need to understand and describe the context of the situation, the ramifications, and the benefits and drawbacks of our thoughts and actions.
Renewing your faith has to start with understanding your faith. UUs often have a difficult time coming up with the “elevator speech” that describes their faith, the description you can give in the time it takes to ride an elevator with a captive audience. (If you do a good enough job, maybe it’s a captivated audience!) After all, we want to describe the history of UUism and how it encompasses many different beliefs that touch upon and incorporate elements of many of the world’s religions. I hope that building is really tall for a long elevator ride!
So when I read (in this month’s Soul Matters materials) about the six-word faith statement challenge, I was intrigued. How could I possibly distill my faith statement down to six words? There’s so much to say! But then I remembered a pastor from my previous church saying that the entire New Testament could pretty much be summarized in a single word: shalom. Heck, if a quarter of the Bible can be covered in one word, certainly I could describe my faith in six.
This exercise makes you think very carefully about what your faith really is. You can’t waste words on nuance. What do you REALLY believe? What’s important to you in your faith? I encourage you to try it: create your own six-word faith statement!
[Spoiler alert: if you want to try this yourself without being led down any direction, stop reading here!]
I started with the thought that UUism is pretty open, without dogma:
Others may believe what they will or I believe: others can believe differently
But while that might describe UUism, it wasn’t really my faith. So I tried to boil down some of the seven principles into a statement:
People are important. Please be kind.
But even that is more about the faith than it is about my faith. Finally, after several further failed attempts, I came up with what I think encapsulates my own faith statement emphasizing my more humanistic than theistic approach:
Despite it all, humanity equals hope.
— Brian Zais
Member, UUCM Board of Trustees