Linguistfriend wrote this, I'm just posting it -CC
In the fall 2008 issue of the UU World, there is an interesting and generally useful note from Bill Sinkford about "Learning from the interfaith world" (p.7). The winter issue of the UU World prints comments on Sinkford's note; the present response to Sinkford's discussion was held back until it appeared that some important aspects of it would not be addressed in the UU World. Recent discussion makes it relevant again.
Towards the end of his note, Sinkford combines in one paragraph several points that are not all as clear as the preceding remarks on interfaith events and interactions. He writes "Finally, we need to get over our Christian-phobia. Unitarian Universalists will joyfully chant the Buddhist sutras, delight in midrash of traditional Jewish texts, recite Native American prayers, and sing Gospel hymns. But ask many Unitarian Universalists to join in reciting the Lord's Prayer and you are in big trouble." This theme is expanded in his next paragraph, with particular reference to the Lord's Prayer. "We must be able to respect [i.e. recite, apparently - LF] the Lord's Prayer", he writes.
Sinkford's first general point here is an important one. Christian-phobia is a chronic and serious issue, common in the UU world, which can paralyze and isolate not only individuals but whole congregations. I have sometimes felt it a great advantage that, not having been brought up as a Christian, I gain a great deal from exploration in Christian sources. I do not have to fight those fights. But for those who do have to fight them, they are very real. Sinkford seems to ignore the fact that to recommend participation in a ritual of a religion from which one has turned away may be an exquisitely painful suggestion for those UUs (the majority, probably) who have left Christianity with great personal loss and distress in dealing with friends, family, and a former religious community
Going on to Sinkford's next point, a number of UUs are comfortable in adopting the prayers or other forms of liturgy of other religious groups. To the contrary, it strikes me as illegitimate to adopt the forms of a worship in which one does not believe, outside of cases of compulsion or some extreme pastoral situations. Where a worship form takes place with which one cannot honestly agree, an alternative is simply to be silent and wait for something in which one can more comfortably share. To adopt such forms insincerely is no compliment to those who do believe in that worship, and it is easily imaginable that such quasi-worship could backfire in interaction with other religious groups.
A side issue, generally and strangely ignored, is that there is nothing inherently Christian about the Lord's Prayer, although it has been adopted as a central text of Christianity. I have pointed out on this blog, and it is widely recognized, that its text is a conglomerate of elements of Jewish prayer. Synoptic studies suggest that the shorter version in Luke (11:2-4) probably is closer to the source than the liturgically adapted usual version in Matthew (6:9-13) and the closely related version in the second-century Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, VIII 2). To treat such a text as Matthew's version of the Lord's Prayer as a fetish of Christian belief is even stranger for Unitarian-Universalists than it is for Christians.
Finally, Sinkford's recommendation flies in the face of the freedom of belief which is central to Unitarian-Universalism. For him to state that UUs should be ready to participate in the worship of a religion to which many of them have no adherence is disturbingly consistent with occasions on which he has spoken for the UUA on political issues without any mandate to do so. Such conduct suggests a Roman concept of religion, according to which potential Christian martyrs were released if only they would express their worship of the emperor publicly. Apparently Sinkford has no understanding of why so many of them did not do so.