Unitarian Universalism Is A Bad Spiritual Emergency Room

Before I start, I want to remind everybody that I am an Universalist. I firmly believe that there is nothing anybody can do to separate themselves from the bosom of God. (yes, it’s more nuanced than that. buy me a drink when you see me and I’ll explain it fully)


Most Unitarian Universalists are converts; whether it’s from some other religious practice or from no practice. Because so many in our congregations are converts, a number of them come into our congregations in the midst/middle of some spiritual trauma. Hence, too many of our congregations are acting as  informal spiritual emergency rooms, and doing it badly.

For those of you familiar with emergency rooms, you know that there are three things that can happen: 1)the patient can die; 2)the patient can be stabilized and moved to another department for specialized care; or, 3) the patient can be prepped for emergency surgery.

Why am I saying that many UU congregations are doing spiritual emergency room work badly? Mainly because, too often, we let people stay in trauma mode without doing the necessary work of either prepping them for surgery or stabilizing them and moving them on to specialized care (to be clear, moving them on to specialized care does not mean that these people have to leave the congregation).

How many UU congregations help congregants come to peace/find peace/own their religious past in a systematic way? Because this cannot be done willy-nilly. This is hard work.

So many of the problems that are manifesting themselves in Unitarian Universalism right now are occurring because we are not acknowledging the trauma (in all its forms), helping those who are traumatized come to terms with the trauma, and move forward in a trauma-informed way. Nothing will change until this changes.

p.s.- this also applies to the traumas in Unitarian Universalism’s past. when I talk about our history mattering, this is why.



3 thoughts on “Unitarian Universalism Is A Bad Spiritual Emergency Room

  1. Nice analogy. And it reminds me of Peter Drucker’s story of a hospital emergency room trying to come up with a workable, achievable mission statement. As they thought about it, they realized that their mission statement couldn’t say anything like “We heal people,” because sometimes they didn’t. What they finally came up with was “We see every patient within a few minutes.” That turned out to be what their patients wanted — they knew that docs can’t fix everything, but they wanted to be seen by a responsible health care professional as soon as possible. So you’ve made me think — if UU congregations are spiritual emergency rooms, maybe what we need to focus on is seeing and recognizing the humanity in newcomers as soon as they walk in the door. And that’s something we’re not so good at. And — our Universalist theology could be a great resource for doing this.

  2. I see this within atheist circles as well. So much trauma from ‘organized religion’ that clouds them to even the possibility of community like what is offered by UU congregations. People in this situation often think all religion is both theistic and oppressive, and on the rare occasion they visit a UU congregation, Protestant language is triggering. I’d like to see ways developed to welcome such atheists in without diminishing the experience of the community for others. Tricky business.Thanks for your good thoughts on the topic of religious trauma.

  3. Our faith tradition, as I see it, is in it’s adolescents. We all know that UUs are known for our intellectual, logical, humanist ways. But I also feel as though we are maturing in that we are yearning for the deeply spiritual, for the work, for practice and ritual. I think that the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction. And I don’t think that we have to fear loosing our intellectual, logical, humanist selves in the process- that is our DNA. You are right, that in many spaces we have yet to move into this. But even your recognition of this speaks to the transition. I do not know how many congregations hep congregants come to peace with their past in a systematic way. And I am with you, it cannot be done willy-nilly. But this is the work, in part, that I sense a yearning for. Do you see us moving towards this?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s