Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Dare to Dream

There are many hopes that I have for Liberal Faith, and for Unitarian Universalism specifically, but the greatest of these is that we dare to dream. Not necessarily as individuals, for I have met dreamers aplenty in our congregations. No, my hope is that we learn to dream, to vision together what we want this world to be, to become.

Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed said recently that we Unitarian Universalists have forgotten how to dream. I knew what he meant instantly, because I had encountered the same reality myself without having those words for it. Dreaming in a religious sense is a part of a set of skills that many Unitarian Universalists had moved away from, associating it too closely with the religions of their past. It is an aspect of the “come-outer” nature of much of modern liberal faith.

I disagree with Mark, in that I think we still dream… we have just forgotten how to do it well. I have seen congregations dream that they will balance their annual budget by adding some unrealistic number of new people through a new “advertising” effort. I have seen congregations dream that a new minister will immediately solve all of their problems. I have seen congregations dream that they can grow while remaining exactly the same as they are right now.

It is not that we as a faith have forgotten how to dream… it is that we have forgotten how to dream together well.

Perhaps it was my growing up in Pentecostal and Baptist churches that led me to understand what Mark meant. In that faith, we did a lot of dreaming, most of it focused on heaven, the after-life, and the second coming of Christ. When I left that faith, I passed that ability to vision, to dream off to my personal life, but I still kept that sense of religious dreaming.

When I first encountered Unitarian Universalism, I encountered the dream, nebulous though it is, that I believe rests at the center of our faith. It is that dream, that vision that healed me from my experiences in Latin America and in Bosnia. It was that vision that helped me find new purpose in the world. It was that vision, that dream that caused me to go deeper into my world view, and changed that world view sharply. It was that dream that kept me coming back to our churches, even when at times it was questioned whether I “belonged” there.

We have many nebulous names for that vision, that dream at the center of our faith… right relationship, beloved community, “a world made whole”. In Judaism it might be known as Tikkun Olam, in Buddhism it might be known as Nirvana, in Christianity it might be known as “the Kingdom of God”. I’ve heard Unitarian Universalists use them all to try and capture of the essence of our nebulous dream.

I often preach about that dream, that vision at the center of liberal faith as “salvation”. Not the salvation of individual souls for some metaphysical afterlife, but the salvation of this world, in this time, by us all and for us all. It is the vision we seek to represent in our congregations by a practice of covenant. It is the vision that rests behind many of our sermons, behind our efforts at activism, behind our understanding of why church is important.

Yet, when I ask members and even ministers of our faith what “a world made whole” means, I have been treated to either radically different answers, incoherent answers, or no answer at all. Those phrases have become code words for a dream that we know exists, but which we have never gone into any kind of detail in understanding.

Daring to dream what we mean by “a world made whole” is what I wish for Unitarian Universalism and Liberal Faith. When one of my Chaplain colleagues asks me “What is the point of Unitarian Universalism?” I say “Salvation!”… and they just look at me funny. However, the look my Chaplain colleagues give me does not begin to compare to the look when I say the same thing in a Unitarian Universalist church…

My hope is that we dream together, we vision together for what the world will look like when the inherent worth and dignity of every person is an understood reality. My hope is that we dream together what a world that recognizes its interdependent nature would be like. My hope is that we dream together what a world at peace would be like, because it is certainly something that has never existed in all of human history. My hope is that we dream together what the world would be like if the Earth was respected, if we found a balance in our population, if we looked deeply at the internal and external causes of conflict, if we brought about economic equality and justice… if we truly were able to repair the world. What would that world be like to live in? That is what I want us to dream together, to vision together.

That is the dream I want us to allow to rest at the center of Liberal Faith, at the center of our movement of Unitarian Universalism. When we recite our covenant, I want that dream of a world made whole to be in our minds and on our hearts… each Sunday morning in our congregations. I want that dream to give us hope when we have none, strength when we are weak, and faith when our trust is broken.

To do it, we have to dream together. We have to dare to dream.

Let us dare…

Yours in Faith,


One Thought on “Dare to Dream

  1. Patrick McLaughlin on Tuesday February 3, 2009 at 9:36 +0000 said:

    I think you get a funny word, brother, because that word means many things to many people–and because it’s most commonly associated in *this* culture with things that people don’t much associate with us.

    I’m with you though. (Though after the class we had together, you probably didn’t need me to tell you that–preaching salvation in class as a presentation about words…)

    We need to offer people a few more words so that they can start to see the shape of that salvation.

    Maybe… “Salvation–in this world and of this world.” I think that captures what I see us dreaming of, and fumbling towards.

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