Friday, January 20, 2006

Fix UUism:Disassociate Unitarianism and Universalism

By Jeff

The merger was a bold experiment, equal parts vision and economic necessity. After 45 years of work, fun, and toil, it has run its course. Neither Unitarianism nor Universalism anymore, Unitarian-Universalism has become a rudderless, parochial, and shrinking movement saddled with a name like a mouth full of marbles. It lurches on mainly through the force of institutional inertia, hemmoraging members born into the church and primarily providing converts a battleground for pitched fights between Humanists and Christians, Christians and Pagans, Pagans and Humanists, anti-racists and non-racists, Sunday service adults and circle worship youth, etc. Unlike 1961, there are now many mainstream choices for liberal theists, and there are strong and growing communities of Pagans, Buddhists, and other traditions who once needed the shelter of our accepting eaves. Other denominations ordain women, sanctify gay marriages, oppose racism, provide services to the poor, and recognize the beauty of human diversity. The need for Unitarian-Universalism simply isn't apparent anymore.

Instead, let the two faiths part ways with a kiss and a handshake, and let the Church of the Free Mind and the Church of All Souls be reborn. Apart, each can concentrate on honing their unique messages and find once again the particular spiritual and intellectual resources that made each tradition a force of reason, love, and justice in American religious history. Rather than reaching for "all things for all people" and grasping little to nothing instead, return the Unitarian and Universalist denominations to their natural tracks and let them find renewed strength through healthy competition and streamlined bureacracy and theology.

7 comments:

Chalicechick said...

Can't accuse you of thinking small, Jeff.


CC

Ole said...

It would, of course, mean that those of us who are happier with UUism than with either Uism would be homeless...

Robin Edgar said...

You and indeed other U*Us can't accuse me of thinking small either CC. . . ;-)

I very much agree with what Jeff is stating and proposing above however I have already come up with a modified version thereof which could actually generate very significant growth for the "religious community" that is presently called UUism. I am keeping my proposal to myself for now, but if U*Us ever get around to actually practicing genuine justice, genuine equity, and genuine compassion in their presently rather inhuman human relations with me I will happily share my proposal for reform and growth of so-called UUism with my fellow U*Us.

Here's a give away clue. . .

Think in terms of biological growth, and I don't mean warts or cancer. . .

Man I love Google!

I do believe that the *ghost* IS in the machine. . .

The Emerson Avenger said...

The UU religious community as a whole should definitely disassociate itself from hostile and abusive anti-religious fundamentalist atheists. I believe that Unitarianism and Universalism should fully reclaim their original monotheistic religious heritage while remaining genuinely welcoming to those atheists and agnostics, aka humanists, who are sincerely interested in getting along with and cooperating with God believing people.

In my opinion, and my well known bitter personal experience. . . the fundie atheist "Humanist" U*Us who are suspicious of, and hostile towards, any religion (other than their "beloved community" of U*Uism of course. . .) make a complete mockery of the purported principles and purposes of U*Uism via their words and actions. I am personally convinced that the fact that many so-called "Welcoming Congregations" harbor and protect such intolerant and abusive fundamentalist atheists, and sometimes even hire them as their minister. . . that U*U "churches" are considered to be anything but welcoming to many God believing religious liberals.

If U*Uism wants to grow it has to responsibly deal with this issue but I see little evidence that it is doing so. Au contraire the very obvious anti-religious intolerance and bigotry of Rev. ray Drennan was backed to the hilt by the members of the Unitarian Church of Montreal and I was unjustly expelled for complaining about it. Rev. Ray Drennnan's well documented anti-religious intolerance towards me and many other God believing people was effectively condoned by the UUA and its incompetent and complicit aptly named Ministerial Fellowship Committee. CUC Executive Director Mary Bennett actually told me that she fully approved of Rev. Ray Drennan's ironically titled 'Wrong Message' opinion editorial in the Montreal Gazette that intolerantly and offensively attacked former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau's Roman Catholic state funeral in October of 2000. This in spite of the fact that I informed her that the Gazette had received a "ball park figure" of about 50 letters to the editor all of which condemned Rev. Ray Drennan's intolerance and offensiveness.

The Unitarian Church of Montreal is still paying the price for hiring an outspoken fundamentalist atheist bigot as its not so *settled* minister, and not just because I continue to protest against his and other "fundie" atheist U*Us' intolerance and bigotry and various other U*U injustices, abuses, and hypocrisy in front of the Unitarian Church of Montreal on any given Sunday. . . If 50 people wrote letters to the editor condemning Rev. Ray Drennan's offensive anti-Catholic bigotry and his broader anti-religious intolerance, U*Us can be quite assured that thousands of other Canadians (including genuinely tolerant atheists) were not amused either and that word got around a bit. . . I well remember people driving up to the Unitarian Church of Montreal to see just what kind of "church" would allow its minister to publish such an anti-Catholic and anti-religious diatribe in the Gazette. I well remember many passers by expressing their approval of my brand spanking new picket sign slogans that said -

A "CHURCH THAT DESERVES" A TRUDEAU SALUTE

and

UNE EGLISE QUI N'EST PAS TRES CATHOLIQUE

I would like to believe that Rev. Ray Drennan was a serious abberation, and something of a worst case scenario within U*Uism, but I am not convinced that there are not a fair number of Rev. Ray Drennan mini-me's preaching to the converted in "Humanist" dominated U*U congregations that are far from genuinely welcoming to God believing people of any kind. . .

That's all for now but much more can be said about this issue. Perhaps it deserves a brand spanking new thread to allow for further and more in-depth discussion.

Allah prochaine,

The Dagger of Sweet Reason

PB2U*Us

Ole said...

Nice - Robin Edgar is speaking in tongues...

Patrick Murfin said...

It may be “big” but this is the worst idea so far posted. As an old lefty I am reminded of the continual splintering of various Marxist parties into smaller and smaller squabbling sects each proclaiming the purity of its ideology while simultaneously each becoming more irrelevant to the working class. Come to think of it, it’s also like a lot of American Protestant history.

The thing is that since the consolidation (have been lashed into never referring to it as a “merger”) Unitarian Universalism (and yeah, the name is a mouthful) has evolved its own unique religious identity. It did that in a surprising way. Every one expected that the juggernaut of Unitarian humanism would sweep aside feeble, quaint Universalism and into a brave new world. And for a while that seemed to be the case. But a nasty, gnawing cultural shift in the congregations yearned for a greater “spiritual” content. The old theist/non-theist schisms certainly did not disappear (they are alive and well in the blog-o-sphere) but they have shifted and probably have never been less important where the butt cheeks hit the folding chairs or pews. Interest in Universalism as a root source has blossomed, as have resurrections of Transcendentalism, as well as Eastern spiritual practice, and yes, even Channing style liberal Christianity. Other than a fading old guard of “No God Talk Here!” folks, even most humanists I know, are surprisingly comfortable with and tolerant of a lot of this as long as it does not erase a sense of human responsibility to act for justice in the world (i.e. no waiting for “God” to fix everything.) It is a whole new stew and cannot be cleanly severed, only blown apart into complete irrelevancy. But, hey, if ideological purity is your game, go for it.

Patrick McLaughlin said...

Worst? At the very least... staggeringly bad.

Let's pitch all those who don't fit the old U or U definitions. Um. My just barely into mid-size congregation would deflate like a balloon. Probably as gracefully.

No, that's not right. We'd tell the only Us splinter groups to go take a hike, and probably in very blunt language. I think that'd be true of the birthright Unitarians and Universalists among us, too.

Sure, let's take our small movement with its problems, shatter it into bits and declare victory.