Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A bad Unitarian?

The receptionist at my office is Mormon. She needed a place to stay for labor day weekend. Labor Day weekend the CSO will be in Atlanta at DragonCon, so some company would have been nice. I was telling another Mormon friend that I was considering asking her if she'd like to crash in my guest room.

The friend said that this wasn't such a great idea, that Mormons have a very different lifestyle. So I was like "OK, I'll cancel the orgy for that weekend, come on, a house is a house."

Then she asked if I had any rated R movies on the Tivo. I honestly hadn't any clue. I don't pay attention to movie rating. Why would I?

OK, so she was probably right that I'm not suited to have Mormon houseguests unless I give the house a real looking-over. But what got me the most was what she said next,

"I watch rated R movies anyway sometimes, I'm a bad mormon."

I said something lame about how given the way Jesus talked about those sorts of behavior restrictions, he likely would have been on her side. Right then she got a cell phone call and when we started talking again, we talked about something else.

The concept of being a "bad mormon" and that she thinks she is one still bothers me. She delivered the line in the tone of one who is trying to sound blase about something serious. I'd probably say it the same way if I thought I were a "bad Unitarian."

Which leads me to another question. We don't have "bad Unitarians," do we?

What do we get out of not having them? What do we lose?

To some degree, I think that not having rules for living is a good thing. Most of the Mormons I know whom I've discussed these things with have a general "I want to be a good Mormon, but life keeps getting in the way" cast to their thinking. Sometimes, the kids just won't go to church. Sometimes, divorce is the only option. Etc. It's probably good that we don't make people chose between faith and lifestyle.

Yet, at the same time, I've never thought of myself as a "good Unitarian," either. I am, as Unitarians go, pretty zealous, but the same can be said for anyone else who has a blog on the subject. Being a Unitarian is a comparitively big part of who I am, I think, compared to most UUs I know. I really do give issues of faith a great deal of thought, and not just because that raises my page hits when I do. (Though it does.)

But I'm still bugged by the whole interaction. Part of me wants to say to my friend "Hey, you live a really good life. And seriously, I think God has bigger things to worry about." another impulse almost wishes that, as a UU, I could have some sort of objective standard to tell me how I'm doing in my faith.

But then maybe with scales and bank balances, life gives us enough objective standards and it's good that UUism gives us an arena where it is OK to hang loose a bit and see what develops in the long run.

Still pondering this stuff. Obviously.


fausto said...
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fausto said...

Back in the 19th century, when we didn't have the "Seven Principles" but "salvation by character" was widely affirmed as one of our "Five Points", the constant nurture of strong moral character were central to being a "good Unitarian". It was this attitude that produced genuine UU heroes like Robert Gould Shaw and philanthropists like many of the uppercrust Boston Brahmins.

These days, regrettably, we seem to have abandoned that ethic for one of "I affirm myself just as I am, and yourself just as you are, and ourselves just as we are. Aren't we just the berries?"

We're the berries all right, but we ought to pay more attention than we do to how we can be good fruit and not dingleberries.

Paul Wilczynski said...

fausto said it much better, but I think that the concept of a "bad" UU is a difficult one, we can always be better.

Chalicechick said...

Fausto is basically right.

Kinda gross in his choice of metaphor, but basically right.


fausto said...

The fifth of the old Five Points, incidentally, was "the Continuity of Human Development in all worlds, or the Progress of Mankind onward and upward forever".

The continuing validity of this fifth point is momentously reconfirmed here today, I think, in the facility with which a self-described humanist correctly identified a spiritual metaphor, only seventy-two years after the proclamation of the Humanist Manifesto and forty-four years after the death of Curtis Reese.

Apply the metaphor to me if you must, but the incontrovertible evidence of human progress remains.

Steven Rowe said...

"Bad Unitarian" sure (and "Bad Unitarain Universaist" as well :-) )
I can see both joking and real "Bad Unitarians"...
I cant affirm the human dignity of George Bush - therefore I am a bad Unitarian! (nudge nudge wink wink)

obviously from this thread, we would say that we (like so many others) suffer from too much smuggness and hyprocracy --- which is definately a more serious bad UU.....