Instant religion vs real faith

This past Sunday, our pulpit was graced with the presence of our high school students. This is an annual event where our youth deliver their thoughts on what our church or Unitarian Universalism means to them. This one focused on the concept of “faith”.

I am also involved in our campus ministry group. While at the service, an email came to our campus ministry account from a Christian website aimed at college students. Their presentation of being non-denominational, open and accepting of GLBT persons, and other liberal Christian ideologies was very well done and the web site in general was very flashy. However, it was their claim that this website “has all the answers” (actual quote) that most intrigued me.

Our youth had done well in their service to illustrate that they were perfectly comfortable in a religion that said “no one has all the answers – if there even are any answers”. So here this stood in stark contrast. In a twist of irony, if you had a question about something, you had to email it to them (no message boards, etc.)

I was also fascinated by a video on the site about why you should choose Christianity. The video (just over two minutes in length) spent the first minute and half focusing on how “difficult” other religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism were and how they required significant lifestyle changes and life-long devotion. The guy in video promised how if I accepted Jesus as my savior right now, I would be a Christian. No more commitment. Nothing to do after that. Instant salvation. Instant blessings. (I checked the screen for fine print just to be certain.)

I think that is the appeal of “pop” Christianity and one of the things that has turned me off to it. The sales pitch is good. “Just say these words now and you are in.” But that means it is very easy to step in and out of “pop” Christianity. Growing up, that was something I saw Christians doing it all the time. And so long as they said the right words moments before they died, went to church, or saw their parents, then they would be just fine and “good” Christians. I don’t think this “faith of words” is the kind that encourages commitment, dedication, or development of moral principles.

I think this is the sort of thing that is turning off so many Americans to Christianity. It just doesn’t mean anything to say you are a Christian. It’s become watered down in meaning. (I’m always more intrigued when someone describes themselves as a Presbyterian or Methodist than as a Christian.)

This got me to thinking – what does it mean to be a Unitarian Universalist? Sure it is a “call to arms” for some folks (as in many other faiths) to take social action based on your faith. But for others, it simply means being able to put a label on yourself. I’m curious what it means to others to be UU. I wish I had time to survey my church and ask. I’d love to see some of the answers. Then I’d love to get one of my Christian friends (and friends of other faiths) to survey their groups and see what they think.

What do the labels you use to describe your faith mean to you?