Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Simple Signs

When CC worked in South Carolina, she was frequently bummed out. She'd achieved her dream job and it wasn't making her happy, she was terribly lonely without the CSO, she barely made enough to live on and she'd made a best friend only to watch that person move away.

That was when she would drive 60 miles to go to her "local" UU church, every Sunday, absolutely without fail.

In the South, the custom is to have message boards outside each church with a mildly wiseass Christian message, the sort of thing that the ChaliceMom thinks is terribly clever. (E.g "Forbidden fruit creates many jams," "Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church" and the ever-popular "Sign broken. Message inside this Sunday.")

CC got used to these and even delighted in the funnier ones. Next roadtrip she takes down South, she will post the coolest examples here.

But there was one sign that always got me.

It was a Baptist church on a hill just before the city limits. The sign, every week, without fail, read:

Jesus loves you.
We love you.
Keep Smiling.

Yes, they were Baptists, and probably Conservative ones at that, and your friend the cranky humanist did her best to convince herself that if they knew her, really knew her, they wouldn't love her. Jesus probably wouldn't be too fond of her either.

Yet somehow, I kept smiling anyway.

I cannot tell you what that sign did for me and how many bad days it got me through. In some ways, it was a preparation for coming to my church and preparing to be taken in to the community of loveable oddballs that UU churches in very conservative places attract. (And I was certainly as oddball as any of them.)

The talk about UU elevator speeches is all well and good, but I find sometimes what what I need more in a short phrase about UUism is something that keeps me going, a message that really captures the feeling of being surrounded by people who are at once challenging and accepting. Something simple and beautiful and subtle in its power.

I'm liking Ministrare's version:

You are loved.
You are good.
You can make a difference.

I like to display my own cleverness as much, or even more, than the average UU. But tonight I'm thinking about the signs I show the world, and hoping that I can keep my message simple and beautiful, at least some of the time.



KP said...

Morning Sermon: Jesus Walks On the Water
Evening Sermon: Searching For Jesus

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the Baptist version is "we love you" while the UU version is abstract "you are loved", with no first person.
What do you suppose it means?

Anonymous said...

I still remember a pentecostal church in a ghetto neighborhoodin Columbus, that had as its sign:


fausto said...

Our next-door sister Congregational church always has corny messages like that on its sign. (Which is odd, considering that its pastor is actually a pretty erudite, liberal D. D. I think maybe he enjoys the kitsch for its own sake. Sort of the pastoral equivalent of reading the Weekly World News or watching pro wrestling.)

Right now their sign says, "A lot of kneeling will put you in good standing".

Chalicechick said...


It took me a long time to get that. Like, I read it this afternoon and just got it a minute ago. I am SO midtown.

I'd say it means that UUs are sophisticated enough to believe that they can handle the passive voice, but I'm biased.


Anonymous said...

I can think of several reasons for using the passive voice:

1. No UU dares say that "God" or "Jesus" loves you; that would not be sufficiently inclusive. BTW, I also think that's the reason for UU pneumatology- they say "spirit" because they're terrified of Godtalk.

2. UUs, being so service oriented, can't say "I" love you for fear of being called on it and having to start yet another outreach program.

3. The person who first wrote it had an older version of Microsoft Word- the later versions whine about the use of the passive voice, and won't stop until you either change to active voice or disable all higher functions in the program. Of course, the next time you boot up it will revert to the default grammar setting... and, like as not, change to the French dictionary as well.

Joel Monka

Anonymous said...

CC-- Is the passive voice more sophisticated than the active voice? Is that why they insisted on it for the Master's Thesis?(snide comment)

Chalicechick said...

I think the passive voice is more sophisticated because we learn in school not to use it at all. (And people in business classes hear that over and over.)

So the people who do use it are usually people who've read a lot and picked up when one can use it properly.


Anonymous said...

Many times it's not a question of "can" use the passive voice properly, but "may"- editors simply will not permit it. And I'm not talking just newspapers and magazines here; my best friend is a fantasy author- big enough in her genre that her name goes above the title- and one of her two biggest pet peeves is that her manuscripts STILL get returned to her with editor's instructions not to use the passive voice! Her other pet peeve is being told "It's magnificent- a real page turner! Now cut 30,000 words!"

Joel Monka