We’re not here for you to validate us…

So, my dear Unitarian Universalist Christians, see if this sounds familiar. You let your Christian faith be known at church or fellowship or what-have-you and someone asks “how does that work?” or “have you considered the United Church of Christ?” — or something actively negative, suggesting that you shouldn’t be there at all, as if Unitarian Universalism was a refuge for a mix of non-Christians. I thought about all of these after reading “More than just a starter church” at The Widow’s Mite-y Blog. Like her, I became a Christian when a Unitarian Universalist.

Anecdotally. there’s less of the overt hostility out there than there once was. Whether that’s true or not, and if so, whether that’s due to fewer hostile non-Christians, fewer Christians to be hostile to, or a real change of attitude is for others to discern. Plus, I’m a member of one of a handful of Christian churches in the Unitarian Universalist Association, so it’s not really a problem anymore.

But what remains isn’t acceptable. And it starts with the questions that together can but put under the heading, “Demonstrate that you really exist.” Unitarian Universalist Christians are a small part of a small denomination, and particularly outside New England you may not meet one in person. And there is decades of preaching and identity formation — again, especially outside of New England — that liberal religion was becoming something greater than Christianity, first incorporating it, and later transcending it. The actual reference to Christianity in the UUA Principles and Purposes was a political process — and a bit before my time — and not a given. Some people really, honestly believe that Christianity is beyond the pale.

Mix this with a “question everything (that’s convenient)” ethos and it’s no wonder that that people, both the kind and unkind, can ask some terribly corrosive questions.

When I was younger, I felt a responsibility to spread the word and be a patient, agreeable, non-threatening, cheerful ambassador.  When this did nothing than embolden the passive-aggressive, I stopped being apologetic, and started to enjoy my faith, stopping only to challenge side-lining, red-lining comments however made. (Unitarian Universalist rhetoric still distinguishes between good and bad Christians in a way that other religions aren’t.)

About ten or fifteen years ago, the zeitgeist turned from defense and apology to joy, communication and personal representation. My friends and I chuckled about rueful complaints — overheard at General Assembly and online — about “the Christians taking over” and “the Christians being everywhere.”

This change of self-conception means that  I won’t be told I’m welcome, but only if I act in a way others aren’t expected to keep. Or if I tone it down. Or if it means answering petty, barb-filled, conspiracy-seeking questions.

I won’t leave. I just won’t comply. And, my dear Unitarian Universalist Christian friends, you need not comply — or leave — either.



By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. This is the mite-y widow. Preach it, brother. I believe we can be authentically so much – without abandoning our Christian roots. We can welcome in the atheists, humanists, pagans, Buddhists, and others, and challenge them to be their authentically best selves. But that means staying ourselves. We don’t have to be the “anything-but-Christian” church.

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