My religion is Unitarian-Universalist, because it is with this faith that I re-link my mind, body, and spirit, and it is with this faith that I feel whole.
My theology is panentheist, because I believe that everything exists within the divine whole, which is comprised of, and yet greater than everything that is. For example, if you put a bunch of limbs, nerves, organs, bones, etc. into a pile next to a living being, you have the same components, and yet a human being is something more than just a collection of all its parts.
My practice is pagan, in that I feel my most powerful spiritual connections to nature, natural cycles, and my natural human response to "the arts", particularly music and movement.
My beliefs are mystical, having been influenced by the more liberal aspects of the Christianity of my youth, but even moreso by the study of various faith traditions, which I began in my late teens. My thoughts on God and humanity, being intimately and inextricably related one to the other, are expressed very well in the poetry of Sufi mystics, such as Shamsuddin Muhammad ('Hafiz').
So, as you can see, I draw from many sources in my own personal experience. This is why my religion is Unitarian-Universalist. I believe in the unity and universality of experience, albeit with different modes of expression, and my chosen faith allows me to express that in my living.
___________________________________________________What religion did you leave to pursue UUism?
I spent my early childhood in a supposedly “non-denominational” (Christian Union) church, but my family left while I was still young and so I spent several years churchless. Most of my religious experience was with the United Methodist Church, from the time I was about 12 until I left for college at 18. I didn’t officially excommunicate myself until I was 19 or 20.
What do you miss, what don't you miss?
Being Black, the thing that I miss most is the enthusiasm of African-American worship services. The music, the clapping, the singing and shouting (and jumping and running…) of the service is something that I feel could spice up a UU service nicely! I need more kinetic energy; UUs seem (mostly) afraid to move in church. What I don’t miss is the dogma, the doctrines of the UMC, Christian theology being forced on me (I don’t mind it so much now, as long as I can disagree if necessary!), and most of all I don’t miss being closeted. I like being a happy healthy valued individual.
Why did you leave?
When I was in college I finally started my lifelong coming out process (to other people that is, I always knew I was gay so I didn’t have to come out to myself) and this greatly depressed me. Being depressed incapacitates you, so you don’t do much of anything, but that fact gives you lots of time to think. So I thought and thought and thought, and after returning home to attend services where I was told how gay people were sinners destined to the fiery lake, that did it for me. I never went back.
What brought you here (to Beliefnet)?
After a couple of years being a supposed atheist who was vehemently anti-(organized)religion, I began to do a lot of research on different faith traditions and eventually discovered Unitarian Universalism. I “converted” in 1999, and came to Beliefnet in 2001 days after the fall of the World Trade Center in Manhattan (I’m from North Jersey, about 25 miles west of Ground Zero). I needed a community that was accessible 24/7 to keep my mind going, and was pleased with what I found here. I was quite active for several years, but like many began drifting away a few years ago (hey, life comes fast sometimes!). I actually miss the community we had here back then, and now that I have a new computer I hope to post more frequently. I’d love to meet all the new(er) people, and perhaps catch up with some old friends.
Do you think of returning?
To the United Methodist Church? No, I don’t. I’m very happy as a UU, and I think I’d rather spice up the UU worship service than try to rationalize the UMC’s!