Author Topic: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?  (Read 1042 times)

El_Viajero

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So the wife and I aren't religious in the traditional sense, but we both feel the need to be involved with some sort of spiritual community. I suppose there's something evolutionary about that desire, but anyhow...

We tried the local Unitarian Universalist church. It was, to say the least, interesting. I liked the traditional Christian-ish liturgy (it's what I grew up with, so it feels familiar), and I also like the general universalist outlook of drawing from teachings of various religions and just focusing on the Golden Rule and being nice and helping people and so forth.

What I didn't like was that the entire sermon was about healthcare and about how conservative congressmen are being heartless and so forth. It was about politics, not religion.

Now don't get me wrong: I largely agree with that perspective. However, I also thought the focus on a political issue was indicative of a strong amount of exclusivity in that congregation/community. Though I might not concur with their opinions, it's certainly possible for people to have conservative politics and not believe that the government should be involved in facilitating the affordability of health insurance WHILE ALSO being good and moral people. I know this to be true via empiricism. I grew up in a conservative community full of nice folks.

The sermon I heard was basically all about how people who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act are huge dicks. It made me not want to go back to that church EVEN THOUGH I agree that the government has a stronger role to play in the health insurance markets.

The church website also talks about "social justice," which is an explicitly political concept. I'm not trying to be an activist; I just want a universalist spiritual community that's inclusive of all and doesn't let politics get in the way.

Is there such a thing?

Kris

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2017, 09:30:25 AM »
So the wife and I aren't religious in the traditional sense, but we both feel the need to be involved with some sort of spiritual community. I suppose there's something evolutionary about that desire, but anyhow...

We tried the local Unitarian Universalist church. It was, to say the least, interesting. I liked the traditional Christian-ish liturgy (it's what I grew up with, so it feels familiar), and I also like the general universalist outlook of drawing from teachings of various religions and just focusing on the Golden Rule and being nice and helping people and so forth.

What I didn't like was that the entire sermon was about healthcare and about how conservative congressmen are being heartless and so forth. It was about politics, not religion.

Now don't get me wrong: I largely agree with that perspective. However, I also thought the focus on a political issue was indicative of a strong amount of exclusivity in that congregation/community. Though I might not concur with their opinions, it's certainly possible for people to have conservative politics and not believe that the government should be involved in facilitating the affordability of health insurance WHILE ALSO being good and moral people. I know this to be true via empiricism. I grew up in a conservative community full of nice folks.

The sermon I heard was basically all about how people who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act are huge dicks. It made me not want to go back to that church EVEN THOUGH I agree that the government has a stronger role to play in the health insurance markets.

The church website also talks about "social justice," which is an explicitly political concept. I'm not trying to be an activist; I just want a universalist spiritual community that's inclusive of all and doesn't let politics get in the way.

Is there such a thing?

I just want to challenge you on that last bit. "Social justice" is a politicized concept. There's a difference.

Not talking about the specific church you went to... but I believe Christianity is about actively doing good. So I guess that's activist. If you want a church that doesn't expect you to actually do anything to put into practice what they preach, you may have a hard time, because I think that's kind of what churches are about.
Please note: Libertarian4321 did not vote for either Hillary or Trump. He voted for Gary Johnson, who was the Libertarian candidate.

dandarc

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2017, 10:08:09 AM »
First, +1 to Kris - disagree that Social Justice is inherently political.  Our UU church has many things that fall under "Social Justice" work - from supporting the local homeless shelter to supporting Black Lives Matter / Standing on the Side of Love.  It is all about kindness and promoting equality and justice for everyone.  Social Justice and working towards it is part of the core of what Unitarian Universalism is - you're going to get a sermon like the one that seems to have put you off from time to time.

That being said -

I suggest you go to several more services - in our UU church, the topics vary a ton from week to week.  This week we had what I thought was a very good discussion of sin and forgiveness that really emphasized the "Universalist" part of our denomination / history - teachings from many different religions around what to do when you have or have been wronged.  Sounds like the kind of topic that you're looking for.  Next week is going to be along the lines of "how to avoid discrimination in your search for a new settled minister".  That sounds like something you might not like as much - possibly "political", and more of a nuts-and-bolts topic for an immediate issue our congregation faces.  Some services are for/about UU traditions and don't even really have a sermon or lesson - the water communion each fall comes to mind.  At our church, roughly 1/4 of our services are lay-led - the breadth of topics covered is too wide to even try to enumerate.  Something that goes to the specific topic mentioned - we once had a sermon entitled "The Conservative Case for the Affordable Care Act" presented by a member of our church who has since run for and won a local election as a Republican.

So, I guess my point is, one service doesn't tell you much about any church on the whole.

El_Viajero

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2017, 10:38:23 AM »
First, +1 to Kris - disagree that Social Justice is inherently political.  Our UU church has many things that fall under "Social Justice" work - from supporting the local homeless shelter to supporting Black Lives Matter / Standing on the Side of Love.  It is all about kindness and promoting equality and justice for everyone.  Social Justice and working towards it is part of the core of what Unitarian Universalism is - you're going to get a sermon like the one that seems to have put you off from time to time.

That being said -

I suggest you go to several more services - in our UU church, the topics vary a ton from week to week.  This week we had what I thought was a very good discussion of sin and forgiveness that really emphasized the "Universalist" part of our denomination / history - teachings from many different religions around what to do when you have or have been wronged.  Sounds like the kind of topic that you're looking for.  Next week is going to be along the lines of "how to avoid discrimination in your search for a new settled minister".  That sounds like something you might not like as much - possibly "political", and more of a nuts-and-bolts topic for an immediate issue our congregation faces.  Some services are for/about UU traditions and don't even really have a sermon or lesson - the water communion each fall comes to mind.  At our church, roughly 1/4 of our services are lay-led - the breadth of topics covered is too wide to even try to enumerate.  Something that goes to the specific topic mentioned - we once had a sermon entitled "The Conservative Case for the Affordable Care Act" presented by a member of our church who has since run for and won a local election as a Republican.

So, I guess my point is, one service doesn't tell you much about any church on the whole.

It sounds to me like your church might not be welcoming to people with conservative politics. This is exactly the sort of thing I don't care for. It's possible to be a good person and oppose the ACA and not agree with the policy goals of the BLM movement. This is the sort of thing I don't want my church or spiritual community to be involved in. Why can't church members have different opinions about these sorts of things and why can't we be ok with that?

Again, my politics are left of center. It's not about what I think or don't think. I know it's not fashionable to want to befriend people with different political views than my own, but that's how I am: unfashionable. Political litmus tests for church membership or spiritual community participation just strike me as unnecessarily divisive and exclusionary.

El_Viajero

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2017, 10:51:43 AM »
Something that goes to the specific topic mentioned - we once had a sermon entitled "The Conservative Case for the Affordable Care Act" presented by a member of our church who has since run for and won a local election as a Republican.

So, I guess my point is, one service doesn't tell you much about any church on the whole.

Also, re: the Republican who gave a sermon on the ACA. That's interesting, but that viewpoint definitely is not the norm among American conservatives. Would an opposing viewpoint have been welcome at your church? Personally, this isn't the kind of topic I want to talk about at a religious/spiritual gathering, but I'm curious.

Regarding your comment that one service doesn't tell me everything about the church: I'm sure you're right.

dandarc

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2017, 11:26:39 AM »
Maybe what you are looking for is a yoga studio or some kind of meditation center.  That might hit the intersection of "spiritual" with "not hearing many opinions on important matters in society" for you. 

Another option would be to find a religious studies program and sit in on some lectures - would likely be much more of an academic discussion of various religions without any calls to action.  One of the things I like about our church is that it feels an awful lot like a lecture series - much more so than any other church I've been to.  But we do skew left politically and in spite of being explicitly welcoming to everyone.  We also skew old, rich, white, and formally educated, although all of those are trending towards the mean recently.  Big to-do over the "skews white" part and the hiring at the highest levels of the UUA this spring/summer, but I bet that is too "political" for you to want your church to actually talk about, so I'll leave it at that.

Church's have pretty much always been involved in one way or another with politics.  There was a time not that long ago where some churches either were the governing bodies for much of the world, or were so intertwined with as to be at least on equal footing with the government.

If this political neutrality is your #1 thing and you really want in an established denomination, the research says "Jehovah's Witness" might be the ticket for you - over half checked "Other / don't know" and another 1/3 identified as independent.  https://www.prri.org/research/american-religious-landscape-christian-religiously-unaffiliated/

Kris

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2017, 11:33:48 AM »
Maybe what you are looking for is a yoga studio or some kind of meditation center.  That might hit the intersection of "spiritual" with "not hearing many opinions on important matters in society" for you. 

Another option would be to find a religious studies program and sit in on some lectures - would likely be much more of an academic discussion of various religions without any calls to action.  One of the things I like about our church is that it feels an awful lot like a lecture series - much more so than any other church I've been to.  But we do skew left politically and in spite of being explicitly welcoming to everyone.  We also skew old, rich, white, and formally educated, although all of those are trending towards the mean recently.  Big to-do over the "skews white" part and the hiring at the highest levels of the UUA this spring/summer, but I bet that is too "political" for you to want your church to actually talk about, so I'll leave it at that.

Church's have pretty much always been involved in one way or another with politics.  There was a time not that long ago where some churches either were the governing bodies for much of the world, or were so intertwined with as to be at least on equal footing with the government.

If this political neutrality is your #1 thing and you really want in an established denomination, the research says "Jehovah's Witness" might be the ticket for you - over half checked "Other / don't know" and another 1/3 identified as independent.  https://www.prri.org/research/american-religious-landscape-christian-religiously-unaffiliated/

Indeed. JWs are so disengaged from the world they are not allowed to vote. Might be a good fit.
Please note: Libertarian4321 did not vote for either Hillary or Trump. He voted for Gary Johnson, who was the Libertarian candidate.

SoundFuture

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2017, 11:34:23 AM »
Something that goes to the specific topic mentioned - we once had a sermon entitled "The Conservative Case for the Affordable Care Act" presented by a member of our church who has since run for and won a local election as a Republican.

So, I guess my point is, one service doesn't tell you much about any church on the whole.

Also, re: the Republican who gave a sermon on the ACA. That's interesting, but that viewpoint definitely is not the norm among American conservatives. Would an opposing viewpoint have been welcome at your church? Personally, this isn't the kind of topic I want to talk about at a religious/spiritual gathering, but I'm curious.

Regarding your comment that one service doesn't tell me everything about the church: I'm sure you're right.

I can't speak specifically on the UU church, but I belong to a specific religious church that has everything from Progressives and a bunch of ex-Peace Core Jimmy Carter Democrats to Republicans and Libertarians. I know it can be done, and the thing that makes it possible is the loving and supportive atmosphere. I will also say that I've heard a number of sermons I don't personally agree with but fully embrace the people and their motivations.

Our church, and certainly the UU church, would probably take a few sermons before you "got it", about how it's possible to all be together as one spiritual community.  We had a former pastor and oil field worker present a sermon one Sunday basically presenting a case study on his wife's and his decisions about how they were generous with their money and how it's possible to be even more giving on a fixed income in retirement.  Complete with their partial financial records and plotted over time with major life events.  If you were sensitive about money in church, this would definitely have driven you away. But if you knew the couple, and how they were genuinely generous and loving people, it made a lot of sense because the point of it was honest. 

The next week we had a reverend who was a chaplain for the Red Cross who worked tragedies like TWA 800, 9/11, etc., talking about how the first responders needed help as much or more than the victims in a lot of instances, and that became a message about how you need to love and take care of yourself when you're helping others.  Depending upon the week you were there, they were very different messages that would have been received by people very differently. 

If you have a spiritual community who's core tenants you accept and are at peace with, I would give them several weeks before deciding that it's a bad fit based on what you see from the pulpit. There's a lot of changeover and a lot of variance in topics that come with a broad spectrum of views.  The atmosphere and the individuals that makeup the community, are really the "meat" of the spiritual meal so to speak. Good people are hard to find.  If you're happy with the people you come to know, disagreement with the message form the pulpit even on a normal basis becomes just one aspect for discussion, rather than a principle basis for disagreement.

dandarc

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2017, 11:52:06 AM »
Something that goes to the specific topic mentioned - we once had a sermon entitled "The Conservative Case for the Affordable Care Act" presented by a member of our church who has since run for and won a local election as a Republican.

So, I guess my point is, one service doesn't tell you much about any church on the whole.

Also, re: the Republican who gave a sermon on the ACA. That's interesting, but that viewpoint definitely is not the norm among American conservatives. Would an opposing viewpoint have been welcome at your church? Personally, this isn't the kind of topic I want to talk about at a religious/spiritual gathering, but I'm curious.

Regarding your comment that one service doesn't tell me everything about the church: I'm sure you're right.
I like to think it would have been welcomed, but since no one stepped up to lead a service along those lines, that's hypothetical.  When I joined the church, if I was more of a natural speaker, that might have been a speech I would have given myself.  But I was 1) new and 2) very much not a natural speaker, so it did not even occur to me to ask.  Since then, and after more research and thought, I've flipped on that and am very pro-ACA, so to present the anti-ACA case today would be a debate-team or toastmasters type of exercise for me - not something I'd just volunteer to do when we need someone to fill in on the minister's Sunday off.

El_Viajero

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2017, 12:31:56 PM »
Thank you, SoundFuture, for the constructive advice. I guess you're right that one need not agree with everything that comes out of the preacher/leader-person's mouth. Maybe that's what I need to take to heart as my wife and I try to find a place. My concern about my one and only experience with the local UU church is that it felt like a reverse Pat Robertson experience. Different message, similar exclusionist mentality.

I've tried going to Buddhist meditation centers, but the experience just feels too far outside my cultural paradigm.

I guess I'm being too picky about all of this. Or maybe I need to start my own movement. Ha!

Meadow Lark

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2017, 07:01:30 PM »
Christian churches are supposed to be about taking care of the sick.  It's a pretty core tenet of the religion.  The point of a church is to actively shape the minds of the parishioners.  This isn't some weird liberal thing - this is the basis of religion.  I am really surprised.  What experience with church have you had that wasn't about trying to change the world to make it better (by whatever that denomination's view of 'better' was)?  Jesus was all about social justice.

jooniFLORisploo

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2017, 07:11:19 PM »
OP, you might like Centers for Spiritual Living (not to be confused with Christian Science, as it often is), Unity, Quaker, or Bahai. These are what various friends with similar cravings like. Also some branches of Buddhism, Sikh, kirtan, etc... Lots out there! Exploring can be so much fun, and connect you with lovely people along the way.

rdaneel0

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2017, 08:40:50 PM »
If you're not craving an actual religious doctrine or any sort of potential political bent I think it might be hard to find a spiritual community in the church-style sense. Most of those groups are either bonded by a similar social/political outlook or a similar religious belief system/tradition.

Why not try finding a tight knit volunteer community instead? Once a week you could do some good with other people doing good, all working to better some aspect of society. You'd probably have a good chance of meeting like-minded people and I doubt anyone will care to talk politics or argue over little stuff if you're pitching in and filling a need.
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El_Viajero

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2017, 04:46:13 PM »
Christian churches are supposed to be about taking care of the sick.  It's a pretty core tenet of the religion.  The point of a church is to actively shape the minds of the parishioners.  This isn't some weird liberal thing - this is the basis of religion.  I am really surprised.  What experience with church have you had that wasn't about trying to change the world to make it better (by whatever that denomination's view of 'better' was)?  Jesus was all about social justice.

I'm not actually looking for a Christian congregation (see original post). Regardless, it's possible to believe that one can take care of the sick with or without government being involved in the insurance markets. That's my beef: a pastor telling his congregation that they're heartless for having an opinion other than support for a certain policy. That's what I witnessed. Basically, I'd expect a religious/spiritual community to think it's important to help sick people. It would be strange and troubling if they did not. However, I don't like it when said community chastises people for not thinking a particular solution for helping the sick is the best solution. Make sense?

OP, you might like Centers for Spiritual Living (not to be confused with Christian Science, as it often is), Unity, Quaker, or Bahai. These are what various friends with similar cravings like. Also some branches of Buddhism, Sikh, kirtan, etc... Lots out there! Exploring can be so much fun, and connect you with lovely people along the way.

+1 for this. Thanks. Yeah, I've got more exploring to do.

If you're not craving an actual religious doctrine or any sort of potential political bent I think it might be hard to find a spiritual community in the church-style sense. Most of those groups are either bonded by a similar social/political outlook or a similar religious belief system/tradition.

Why not try finding a tight knit volunteer community instead? Once a week you could do some good with other people doing good, all working to better some aspect of society. You'd probably have a good chance of meeting like-minded people and I doubt anyone will care to talk politics or argue over little stuff if you're pitching in and filling a need.

I have also thought about finding some meaningful volunteer work to fill the same personal/spiritual void!
« Last Edit: September 26, 2017, 06:34:08 PM by El_Viajero »

Johnez

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2017, 01:28:39 AM »
I'm also interested in something like this in the future, kind of hard as an atheist here.

Anyway, from the sound of it, you went to one sermon, have you gone back for any more?  Maybe the political talk stuck out most because it touches a nerve for you, so it hit first and got your attention.  I'd say give em a few more shots.  If you go into a church and the minister is giving a sermon on tithe, ya might come away with the impression that they are money grubbing, but later find out how many people they help get food and jobs.

Acastus

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #15 on: October 05, 2017, 11:30:58 AM »
The thing about Unitarians is that each congregation is different. Each group has gone to the buffet of religion and made themselves a plate. Some incorporate native people's traditions, others Wicca, or Buddhist. Some places just rotate between Baptist, Methodist, and Jewish week to week. It is OK to look around and see if you can find one more to your liking.

hoping2retire35

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #16 on: October 05, 2017, 12:13:46 PM »
Universialist spiritual. Well, you want something that stands for nothing/everything...Any community of people is going to have something brings them together. Maybe think more about what you are searching.

Meaning in life.
A devotion to God without other inhibitors(talk of worldly things).
A sense of community.

My wife seems to think I just need to find a group of men to workout with like she did (with women), I did and it is ok, but not what I am looking for. Community wise, church just isn't doing it. If we were retired empty nesters it would be great, lots of activities on those middle of the week mornings. But with a house full of kids, full time work I know it is not happening.

I can, sufficiently, check those first two for now, but the last one seems harder.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2017, 01:20:48 AM »
So... You want a spiritual community but you don't want anything religious? Or, at least, you want something so wet you might as well just sit in a circle and smile at each other?

All churches will tell you what to think and how to live your life. They are physical places run by a varied collection of physical people. Our priest gave a notice a few weeks ago asking the congregation to write to the local council about Sunday parking restrictions that make it difficult for people to drive to church. All churches will tell you what to do, often about things that have nothing to do with God.

I think you need to do one of three things:
1. Go back to the Unitarians three more times before you decide to reject them based on this one preacher.
2. Make a list of every religious meeting in whatever radius you so desire and go to them all in turn until you find your unicorn.
3. Realise that a purely spiritual community ain't gonna happen and redefine your goals. Go to a Catholic Mass and don't communicate. Go to the Unitarians and tune out of the bits you don't like. Find a group of men to work out with. Join a book group.

jooniFLORisploo

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Re: Is there such a thing as a non-political universalist spiritual community?
« Reply #18 on: October 06, 2017, 01:38:08 AM »
^ The choices aren't only those.

Keep exploring, OP. What you seek exists. I hang in them regularly :)