Can Unitarian Universalists evangelize? Some people may wince at the idea, thinking evangelizing goes against our pluralistic principles. Evangelism is often associated with visions of street preachers, door pamphlets, and television personalities that tell us how we can be saved. Well, we are part “universalist” and our predecessors thought that all would be granted salvation, right? So is there such a thing as “UU evangelism”? Curious about others’ thoughts, I posed this question to the Facebook universe a few months ago, and received a number of responses almost immediately. While there was a diversity of perspectives, the general consensus was nothing short of an “absolutely!” Unitarian Universalists can, should, and DO evangelize. Not sure how that works? To evangelize is to “share the good news.” And Unitarian Universalists have plenty of good news for the world.
So what is our “good news,” our gospel? Why do we evangelize? If we respect and learn from the wisdom of other traditions, why must we be sure to share our own? Simple. You can never share too much good news. Plus, when your good news is based in universal love, it is impossible not to share it. With messages surrounding us that perpetuate hatred, fear, and division, our good news is a hopeful message of change, respect, and unity. We preach understanding not judgment, peace not violence, sustainability not destruction. Our good news is the beauty of community and the value of every being. When we evangelize, we speak of “salvation” not as a final judgment available only to the few, but as an experience that all deserve, and a process that all are capable of bringing about. Our words are saving words because they reveal that we are all miracles, and our good news is a path of affirmation and celebration.
More importantly, we cannot forget that to evangelize is more than just talking – it is doing. When we share the good news that all have inherent worth and dignity, we do more than simply say it; we act in ways to honor it. We engage in programs and campaigns that fight discriminatory policies, and we respect our neighbors even when they push our buttons. When we speak of a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all, we go out and we stand with those whose lives are marred with violence, persecution, and injustice. When we evangelize, we are not simply saying what we heard in church on Sunday, we are being what we felt in church on Sunday. When we evangelize, we share the saving ideas of acceptance, community, respect, justice, joy, change, peace, freedom, and of course, love. We speak our message and we walk our talk, because we know that each step carries with it the power to save others from the terrors of hatred, oppression, fear, and discrimination. Our evangelism takes on many shapes and brings us closer to a universal salvation that is within our grasp here and now. As Bishop Desmond Tutu so aptly puts it, “the good news to a hungry person is bread.” The good news is a message of hope, an act of justice, an affirmation of our humanity. The good news says and shows that we are universally and eternally bonded to one another. Our good news is love in its infinite forms. And you can never share too much love.