Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Our collective complex

I wonder sometimes if the things I write about here are irrelevent, if the blogosphere is a sort of rarified air where we talk about things that ordinary UUs don't care about.

Then I go to porch chat every year.

Porch chat happens on my church's all-church retreat. The ministers hang out (on a porch, fittingly enough,) and answer informal questions from the congregation.

Just about every UUism debate I see on the blogosphere is rehashed, particularly the politics in church one. I usually just listen.

This year, a lady said "I went to a book signing Richard Dawkins did a few weeks ago, and there were SO MANY young athiests there. We need more young people, and I think the probalem is that our services are too theist. How can we make our church more athiest as to attract more people? If we don't, our church is going to die..."*

It's been my observation that cold war era kids all had justifications why their hometown, wherever they grew up, was the first place the Russians were going to attack.

I can't help but think "There are billions of people out there who believe what I do, and the church is dying because it has not properly conformed itself to what I believe. If only UUism were more theist/athiest/spiritual/pagan/multicultural/activist, then it might have a chance, but it's not and indeed my people are terribly discriminated against, so it is surely doomed" comes from the same impulse.

Why do so many of us get off on feeling so persecuted,while at the same time believing that our message will be salvific for UUism?

Why is "Free religion means you're free to build a barn for your own beliefs, it does not mean that a barn is provided or that everybody is going to like your barn and treat it with the reverence you believe it deserves" such a difficult concept?


*CC's church is pretty solidly middle of the road, and indeed is growing.


Will said...


Why do UUs feel so persecuted? My theory is that it's bc. it's the Denomination of Last Resort, the refuge for wounded birds. The Island of Lost Toys, if you remember Rudolph. This, of course, is both a strength (it's a wonderful sausage-like mix) and a weakness (it's in danger of being so tolerant that it stands for nothing).

So many UUs are fleeing the persecution from something else in searching for solace.


Anonymous said...


There are probably many cases where it is not the particular theological orientation of a UU congregation that keeps it from growing. Instead, it's structural things like...the lack of summer worship services (as Elizabeth mentioned recently), a low-quality web presence, not enough attention to welcoming and integrating newcomers, etc.

Lilylou said...

I'll bet the ministers in the porch chat just quietly and internally sighed at the shortsightedness of this questioner. I'll bet they've heard that type of thing so often that it makes them slightly nauseated. I know I have.

We are doing religion in a whole new way, not around a set of beliefs about a deity but around how we treat other people, other living things, and the planet. We don't need to change our core (and I think we do have this core of precepts about treating others and the planet well); we do need to make it more accessible and help people understand that THIS is UUism, not humanism, not Christianity, not paganism. UUism is a religion dedicated to treating LIFE with LOVE.

Stephanie said...

I think most of what's discussed in the UU blogosphere has been around for a while in terms of topics in some form or another. I remember similar discussions in seminary and before that in YRUU/LRY.... Not that it makes it less interesting.

And I'd like to add sympathy for the minister involved in fielding the questions.

Steve Caldwell said...

CC and Ms. Kitty,

This was turning into a very long reply to your comments -- instead of posting it here, I've put in on my blog:

How Do Our Churches Survive in a Non-Religious World?

Take care,

Bill Baar said...

Why do so many of us get off on feeling so persecuted...

Because we don't do a very good job explaining how to dissent or accepting dissenters.

Most UUs prefer to avoid confrontation.

Evangelicals seek it out and prepared to take whatever flack retuned their way.

They're up for the fight. We're shy.

Bill Baar said...

I mean flak...

Robin Edgar said...

:Because we don't do a very good job explaining how to dissent or accepting dissenters.

No kidding. . .

:Most UUs prefer to avoid confrontation.

As evidenced by the fact that a whole "church" full of U*Us has totally ignored my legitimate dissent, including a long term public protest, for well over a decade now. . .

:Evangelicals seek it out and prepared to take whatever flack retuned their way.

Well I am pretty good at retuning U*U flak. Does that make me an Evangelical? ;-)

:They're up for the fight. We're shy.

Or just plain cowardly. . .

Don't take that personally Bill it is not directed at you.

You're right Kitty U*Us don't need to change their core purported principles, purposes and ideals. . . They just have to dio a better job of putting them into practice and that includes you Ms. Kitty.

Comrade Kevin said...

As you've pointed out, there's a sense of entitlement which stifles compromise. I don't know where it's written that says that every being gets everything he or she wants at all times.

If UUs insist upon this fallacy of thought, then they will only encapsulate themselves in smaller and smaller boxes and numbers.

Lisa M. Orange said...

I don't have an answer to the barn question. But thank you for introducing me to the word "salvific."

Anonymous said...

Ms kitty -- Great description!

CC- People have a hard time with it because we are each the center of our own universe, and we see things from our own point of view. Not many people train themselves to see the viewpoints of others.

Bill Baar said...

...because we are each the center of our own universe, and we see things from our own point of view.

So were a self-centered faith to the point we're myopic?

I've certainly met these personalities in UU Churches, although I think they're exceptions rather than a majority.

My wife and I chuckle when we meet fellow the occasional UU who assume if you agree on A, you agree on B, and C...right on through Z, and will ramble on through a whole range of discontents assuming you're in perfect agreement. (Ok, maybe these folks are more typical than I thought).

If you politely disagree, the surprize throws them so off balance with surprize. They've lost the ability to politely and rationally counter. And in large part because they fear offending.

We've lost the art of discourse and civil argumentation.

Our Social Justice committee agreed (save me) that that the majority of the congregation did not think about issues of War and Peace.

It was strange they'd think that of an obviously educated and involved congregation.

What they saw as indifference (and an indifference that left them feeling a bit on-the-outs) among the congregation was in fact evidence of the congregation fufilling our covenant to gather, ...not as agreeing in opinion, - not as having attained universal truth in belief or perfection in character, but as seekers after Truth & Goodness.

PeaceBang said...

:::thumbs up at Miss Kitty:::