Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So why don't more gay people join a church that is so very proud of how accepting it is?

Bill Barr asked an interesting question in the comments.

The deeper question though, and the one that gets to your buiding UUism, is why a faith that welcomes same-sex marriage has so little appeal --it seems to me-- to Gays?

I lived in Oak Park Illinois with the largest per capita population of Gays in Illinois yet I always felt the conservative and Catholic Churches had far larger Gay memberships. I'd ask Gay friends why and it was because Christian faith that appealed to them.

Our's didn't. Something was missing.

My guess?

Because gay people pick churches based on faith, not on the church’s politics. Why shouldn’t they? Everyone else does.

This is one more reason why we should focus on getting our message out theologically and growing the church rather than telling the government how to run. Because if a person, gay or otherwise, does decide to visit a UU church, and his/her first Sunday the sermon is about the importance of forcing congress to put someone we like on the Supreme Court (something the UUA Washington office encouraged ministers to preach about,) that person is going to assume we are the League of Women voters and tell his/her friends that and anyone who cares about spiritual concerns will stay away.

Honestly, would you rather be not particularly welcome in a church that you felt would otherwise nourish you spiritually? Or going someplace that accepted, and to some degree pandered to, your demographic, but didn’t feed your soul?

For me, at least, that’s not a hard question.

I honestly think that lots of people, gay and otherwise, would join UUism if they knew who we were and what we believed spiritually. So why don't we talk a little less about how we know how the world should be run, and a little more about that?

Make it not suck, and they will come.



blah said...

The other reason, too, is that because UU churches support gays politically, they don't always feel like they need to do any work supporting the flesh and blood ones in their midst.

This is not addressed to my church specifically, but an observation, one that could also extend towards issues of race, poverty, etc.

And yes, most gay folk I know don't go to the UU churches here. They're Christians or Quakers or not interested in church at all. With an MCC church and a liberal Episcopal church right down the street, it's not like we're going to be the last refuge of the "spiritual gay." Especially the ones who are devoutly Christian and would be uncomfortable in a UU church because they want communion, Bible readings, etc.

Bill Baar said...

I agree with you. I should add this was in the mid 80s when AIDs was really devasting.

I thought faced with existential threat, conservative Churches offered something we didn't.

Although I should add I think we did, we had gays, and we lost members to this disease... but I knew so many in conservative Churches

Also, Gays clearly did not face to condemnation in Conservative Churches that you would suppose they face reading some of our blogs.

That was very clearly not so.

fausto said...

Echoing ck, I've noticed an attitude in some corners of UUism that because we consider ourselves so gay-friendly, we're presumptively entitled to their alliegance. This attitude makes it all about our own righteousness, however, and not about meeting the actual spiritual needs of the gay seeker. (Who is surprised at that?)

If you talk to church-shopping gays who visit us but settle down elsewhere, you'll probably hear the same thing you hear from our straight critics, which is usually some variation on "too much self-absorption, too much politics, not enough theological substance". It's not as if the UCC, Episcopalians, Quakers and others don't offer as warm a welcome as we do.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. You also hear this hand-wringing about how white our congregations are. Everybody obsessing about our 'power structures' and how we need to be more welcoming to 'people of color'.. almost implying that our homogeneity is evidence of some underlying racism.

Keen observers know it has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with political aspirations suffocating genuine theological searching.

Bill Baar said...

You also hear this hand-wringing about how white our congregations are.

The thought crossed my mind with the image of Chicago's Third UU. Sometimes you'll hear a comment about it doesn't have much appeal to the surrounding African American committee for one reason or another.

The difference here is that's exactly right. There's a thriving African American Church. Besides welcoming African Americans, it's the one institution they've historically owned!

blah said...

Another question...if UUs are so tolerant of other religions, inclusive of different religions in their midst, what is it the someone *gets* when they join a UU church?

Aside from political activity and a group of people to be friends with, where's the unique spiritual payout?

(Again, devil's advocate--I know the answer for me...)

PeaceBang said...

Yep. All of you. Yep.

Anonymous said...

I think gay people, like everyone else, are looking for a place that's comfortable to them. Not many people feel comfortable in a UU church. I don't think everyone should feel comfortable in any place that has an identity-- if it has an identity, someone will identify with it, others won't.
Our congregation has about three lesbian couples, one gay guy, and several more who are not out yet. But the San Francisco UU has about 25% LGBT people -- so integrated into the congregation that you have no idea there are that many until you get to know them. The problem with that is that new people visiting also have no idea there is a peer group there. Basically, you can't win.
I think the lack of racial and ethnic diversity is more due to style -- our cold New England style just doesn't appeal to that many people any more. As for content, it's all there. The content is just an excuse. As Clotaire Rapaille says, pay no attention to what people say are their reasons. Those are rationales, most people don't know their own reasons.

Early Riser said...

This is a pretty compelling (and troubling) discussion. My UU congregation is trying to answer the question: What do we want our church to be in 10 years?

Some people want this vision/mission to be social-action oriented while others are content with some non-specific, easily-achievable, drivel that won't inspire anyone. As one of the church leaders, I've been trying to think this through. Here's what I have (still needs to be translated to flowery language):

- Our Church will be the CENTRAL operating platform (bad term... but it's all I have) for our members' spritual and intellectual lives.

The key points being 1)that the Church is a device (versus the answer) to solve life's challenges, 2) if we're successful, it will become the primary device / tool / platform for our members and 3) it makes no pronouncements about the ultimate answer.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

UUpdater said...

Considering the relatively low number of UUs I think the vast majority of any demographic is not going to be UU. Unless there is a particular reason that gay people would feel unwelcome I think this kind of question will really invite people to beat the drum of their own personal pet peeve in regards to UUism...too political, not political enough, too spiritual, too humanist, too........

About the only thing I can think of in particular is that I have seen churches where the attempt to be welcoming is well intentioned, but ultimately uninviting. Members of the congregation become the "token" members and whenever any comes to the church of that similar demographic they a rushed over to greet the token - "see we welcome people like you, meet our token ..." It doesn't work out to well.

Anonymous said...

Aren't y'all missing the fact that the majority of people weren't raised in anything like UUism? I'm pretty sure that the majority of adult Catholics are people who were themselves raised Catholics. Certainly there are exceptions like Bobby Jindal, who converted to Catholicism from Hinduism, but he was going to the majority religion for his locality (Louisiana), which is a smart thing for a future politician to do.