Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The third principle applies to our family relationships not just to our congregations

The third principle of Unitarian Univeralism asks that we covenant together to affirm and promote the acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations. This is a very challenging principle in our congregations especially when it is often so difficult in our own families and relationships.

Why am I so unhappy in my love life? My wife and I have been married 14 years and we have two kids. I don't think I love her any more but if I leave her she will be devastated and I'm worried about how all this would affect the kids. I have grown increasingly depressed. I find myself drinking more and looking at other women in a lustful way which I know is wrong. What should I do?

This is a very common situation and we live in a society which tends to psychologize these situations instead of seeing them as opportunities for spiritual growth.

Most people don't know what love is. They describe it as a feeling of euphoria which often is transient because the infatuation, the honeymoon, can't last forever. The failure to understand love at a deeper level leaves them confused and depressed.

As has been described earlier, at a broad level, there is two kinds of love:conditional and unconditional. On the ego plane, we believe in conditional love, "I'll love you if...." People think they need to earn love, or merit it. This kind of conditional love is not really love because what we deeply crave is unconditional love which is , "The worst about me is known and I am loved any way."

Our society believes in a God who loves His creatures conditionally. The bible is full of such stories of a judgmental God who exercises His wrath at sinful humans and yet Jesus, in the New Testament, presents us with a different God like the story of the prodigal son and the adulterous woman who loves us unconditionally.

Two definitions of love that are best are : to know the worst about someone and love them anyway. It's rare but sometimes we run across it most often between a parent and a child. The second definition is to care as much about a partner's growth and development as you do about your own, and to expend the effort to nurture, encourage, facilitate that growth and development.

Most problems in our human relationships are based on fear. We are terrified of being hurt, disappointed, betrayed, rejected, abandoned, attacked and so we think and behave in ways to defend ourselves and attack what we believe are the signs of that of which we are afraid. If we are aware enough, we recognize that the very things we think we see in the other that engender our fears is present in ourselves. This self recrimination and self loathing then gets projected onto the other with a vengeance.

It is not only important, but essential, for a person to be loving for the person to know that he/she is loved unconditionally by his/her maker, the universe, life. As Jesus tells us repeatedly, God not only loves us but loves us abundantly. When we know this, we can share that love generously with others. If we don't know that, then, yes, we can feel out of love because we have put ourselves there.

If we feel "out of love" it is important to find ways to take better care of ourselves so that we can feel more satisfied and fulfilled in our lives. With that satisfaction and fulfillment comes a generosity that engenders the ability to create unconditional love in our relationships.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Is Unitarian Universalism losing members because it demands too little of them?

Some UUs have asked why their denomination is shrinking and losing members. In the U.S., religious affiliation has been declining with the percentage of "nones" increasing so it might be concluded that UU is not unique in seeing a diminishment in membership. However, another reason for the dwindling UU membership might be that it expects so little of its members that the general perception might be that membership is not valuable and worth any investment.

Christoper Kavanagh has an interesting essay on Aeon entitled, "People are intensely loyal to groups which abuse newcomers. Why?" His essay deals with the idea of hazing and why, with increasing laws against it, it still continues in many organizations especially among the young.

Kavanagh writes, 

"From an evolutionary perspective, researchers have noted that enduring the physical or psychological effects of hazing could serve as a costly signal demonstrating an individual’s personal strengths, as well as the quality of the group that can motivate such acts. The anthropologists Richard Sosis and Eric Bressler (2003) of the University of Connecticut, for instance, analysed records of 19th-century religious settlements in the US, and found that religious communes with the costliest ritual requirements proved to be longer-lived than either secular communes or religious communes that had less costly requirements."

As the bumper sticker says, "If people don't believe in something, they will fall for anything." This bumper sticker is especially relevant to Unitarian Universalism. Unitarian Universalism, it could be argued, has done a poor job of articulating its theology and principles. It makes little, if no, demands on aspirants who would like to become members. I was told by a minister of a UU church when asked how one goes about becoming a member, "Just sign the book."

I said, "Just sign the book?"

He said, "Yes, all you have to do is sign the book."

I said,"What makes one eligible to sign the book?"

He said, "Nothing. If you want to become a member all you have to do is sign the book."

I did sign the book, but it seemed to me to be a fatuous exercise with little meaning or weight. My membership in that church lasted about two years until it was torn apart by internal strife and conflict. Since I left that church 12 years ago it has gone through three more schisms. The ability to resolve conflict is difficult or impossible if there are no clear standards or norms upheld by leadership. In this vacuum, any opinion and preference is  as good as any other and there is no glue or cohesiveness contributing to group identity and maintenance.

Kavanagh writes further:

Drawing on such research, Cimino’s automatic accrual theory suggests that hazing provides an important solution to a recurring adaptive problem faced by our species during our evolutionary history: how to accurately assess the intentions and quality of new group members. Over time, coalitions are often able to amass substantial group resources, including properties and status. So the question becomes how can groups prevent exploitation of these resources from non-contributing free-riders?

The answer proposed by Aldo is that by dramatically increasing the costs of associating with the group, weak would-be members are kept out. Meanwhile, for those who are admitted to the group, the dominant position of veteran members is solidified.........Invariably, for the groups with higher status and more resources, more severe initiations are constructed.

Does Unitarian Unversalism have anything of value to offer its members? If so, what are the costs of membership? Who is willing to pay the price? People argue that "you get what you pay for" and "no pain, no gain" and "easy come, easy go." Perhaps Unitarian Universalism is failing because it expects and requires too little for membership.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

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Two types of love: conditional and unconditional. Which do you aspire to?

In Unitarian Universalism the first principle is to covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person not just some persons. We are caught up in a hell on earth where we are taught to  love people conditionally and not unconditionally. This idea that people should be loved conditionally is antithetical to our UU faith.

I thought my wife would make me happy, but after five years, I find myself seeking other women. I have been taught in my religious upbringing that this is wrong, but I can't help myself. My psychotherapist tells me this normal, all men do this, it is not unusual to become bored or disenchanted with a relationship when the honeymoon, inevitably, comes to an end. So what can I do? My wife is a good person and I don't want to hurt her, but I don't think I love her anymore.

It is written in A Course In Miracles, "To believe that special relationships, with special love, can offer you salvation is the belief that separation is salvation." T-15.V.3:3 It is not the job or purpose of a relationship with another person that that person make you happy. That person is having a hard enough time making herself happy, let alone taking on the burden of making you happy. Each person must ultimately take the responsibility for his/her own happiness not put the responsibility for that on somebody else. This idea that someone else will make you happy, is suppose to make you happy, is the path to hell.

The spiritual answer to the dilemma is that we are suppose to love everybody unconditionally.  The definition of the At-one-ment is when everybody loves everybody all the time. That is heaven. Anything less is hell. Unfortunately, most of us operate on the level of conditional love. I'll love you if.......

It is a challenging thing to love someone unconditionally and yet it happens, it can happen, when we ask the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Live, our Higher Power for help. In that holy instant when unconditional love occurs we have created heaven on earth and experience bliss.

Focus on your own growth and happiness and forget this idea that someone else will make everything okay for you. This is looking for love in all the wrong places and true love is not to be found in special relationships. Special relationships are part of the curriculum of life to help us learn about love, what it really is, and your disenchantment with the relationship with your wife is a golden opportunity for you to look inward and rise above your own desires for ego gratifications. The spiritual rewards of this path will far outweigh the temporary high of a new infatuation.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Why is the first principle of Unitarian Universalism even necessary?

What is the basis of my fears that I am defective and inadequate in some way and it is only a matter of time before  people figure this out about me? At our roots we, unconsciously, experience shame, not of who are are, but of who we think we have become. The first principle of Unitarian Universalism is to covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. UUs affirm and promote this principle because it is counter cultural as we live in a culture that believes that people are inherently sinners who without divine intervention will be consigned to hell. This incorrect belief in the inherent defectiveness in human beings gets projected onto "the other" and this projection leads to attack and hell on earth.

We have separated ourselves from the source of our being as we have developed our egos. We have separated ourselves to insure our physical survival and as we have developed we have realized that we not a body containing a soul, but a soul with a body which sometimes is not worth protecting and saving. The identification with the body is a road to hell. Not that our bodies are not important because they are the vehicles through which our soul awareness is realized, but undue attachment causes anxiety. As Bruce Cockburn sings in his great song, Last Night Of The World, "I learned not to trust in my body"

When bodies herd together to protect themselves from groups of other bodies we create hell on earth because at at spiritual level we are all one and to appeal to the herd for salvation is insanity.

Barry told me he believed in white supremacy and the problem in America is the "niggers". President Trump has told Americans that their problems are due to Mexicans and Muslims and if elected he will build a wall to keep Mexicans out and he will create bans and extreme vetting to keep Muslims out which will make America great again and keep Americans safe. Americans, out of their fears of "the other" elected him their leader.

Trump's  proposals promise to protect people's bodies while they destroy people's souls. It is written in A Course In Miracles, "For separation is the source of guilt, and to appeal to it for salvation is to believe you are alone. To be alone is to be guilty. For to experience yourself as alone is to deny the Oneness of the Father and His Son, and thus to attack reality." T-15.V.2:5-7

The At-one-ment is the cosmic consciousness that we are all in this thing called Life together. To project our shame on each other is the basis of sin and the cause of hell on earth.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Nonbeing is the origin of heaven and earth. Being is the mother of ten thousand things

While "us" and "not us" is biologically programmed into our brains to insure our physical survival on the ego plane, our spiritual survival requires us to transcend this instinct and to recognize that we all one for all and all for one.

This first reflection (on the first principle) entails the tribal history of homo sapiens where one group often perceived other groups as competitors for the scarce resources needed for survival. Some brain scientists theorize that human beings are neurologically programmed to defend and attack the “not us”. 

Religions have thrived on their exclusionary tactics and appeal to humans that they are special while the” not them” are a threat of some sort to be excluded from the circle of the group if not extinguished. 

Jesus taught something very different when He said we should love our enemies. 

Unitarian Universalists affirm and promote something very different when they acknowledge the worth and dignity of every person.

Markham, David. 16 Reflections On The First Principle of Unitarian Universalism (The seven principles of Unitarian Universalism) (Kindle Locations 11-13).  . Kindle Edition. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Transcending the dichotomous mind though forgiveness.

The second principle of Unitarian Unversalism is to covenant to affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. This is a worthy secular value but it implies that there is the opposites: injustice, inequality, and sadism also in the world and as we learn from the Tao Te Ching the spiritual life is based on a transcendence of the ying and yang, the paradoxical quality of our dichotomous minds.

What Unitarian Universalism should be promoting and affirming is forgiveness. Forgiveness is the rising above and the letting go of judgement. It is getting to a place where justice, equality,and compassion are no longer necessary because Love is all there is.

It is written in A Course In Miracles that we hold on to the past to be able to judge for "judgement becomes impossible without the past, for without it you do not understand anything." T-15.V.1:1

A little further it is written: "You are afraid of this because you believe that without the ego, all would be chaos. Yet I assure you that without the ego, all would be love." T-15.V.1:6-7

Does this mean I should forget the past?

Not exactly for as human beings that would be impossible and we would not learn anything and grow. What is suggested is that we forgive the past, we rise above it, and we do not let the past imprison us in the present.

As a psychotherapist sometimes I am asked, "Do you really believe people can change?"

I answer, "I would be a hypocrite and a fraud if I didn't believe people could change. Of course they can. I have been honored and privileged to witness miraculous change."

Anna and Mike came to see me after Mike had an affair. Anna, then our of revenge, went and had an affair too. They both decided to get back together. Mike told me, "We are so much better now."

Anna chimed in and said, "We went out for coffee and forgave each other and decided to start over again. It was wonderful."

They both are in their late 40s and had met in high school at age 15. They have been together 27 years.

"Start over?" I asked.

"Yes," Anna said. "We agreed to pretend that we just met."

Without history there is no judgment and with no judgement, there is a space for love to exist.

I love the bumper sticker "Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement." The best judgement is forgiveness which makes a place for love.