Wednesday, June 25, 2008

CC the rural churchgoer.

Robin says I'm out of touch because I live in an area with thousands of UUs in a couple of dozen churches (Thank you, A. Powell Davies), so I can't understand what more rural UUs go through.

And as much as I feel like the "I go to a 50-member UU church in the middle of nowhere and I find the people I go to church with intolerant of my views" people are overrepresented on the internet, for the record, I did used to be one to some degree.

I've lived in a place where there were only one or two UU churches within a reasonable distance (by which I mean "within 60 miles") and where I didn't particularly agree with a lot of the opinions that were voiced, from the pulpit and at coffee hour.

What did I do about it?

1. I picked the church that was older, smaller and needed me more. I did this mostly because they hugged less and made less of a fuss about greeting me. Pretty much one guy greeted at the smaller church. I loved that. Extroversion scares me off on Sunday morning. When I want to talk to you, I will. But let me test the water first. Anyway, they did, but when I joined, they were pleased to have me, even if I did believe weird things.
2. I participated with great enthusiasm in a discussion group where lots of people disagreed with me on lots of things, but where I learned about their beliefs as well as broadcasting my own.
3. I joined the worship committee where I worked with other people to design services better suited to people who believed what I did.*
4. When something was going on that I didn't believe in, I sat at the toasting table and watched the crowning of the queen of the may as the kids skipped around the maypole, and I tried to learn something from the experience.
5. I redoubled my efforts to explore my own spiritual beliefs through reading authors who saw the world similarly and through writing about what I believed.
6. I met some people online that I agreed with.
7. And yes, I found some people who agreed with me and went out to lunch with them and bitched about the service on occasion. Or tried to. But frankly, we liked some folks who disagreed with us so much that we always ended up inviting them along and our bitch session ended up more like a conversation. Also, my favorite pagan had an amazing voice and the blues trio at the restaurant we liked always wanted her to sing and when I was listening to her theological differences didn't seem terribly important.
8. I reached out to the people I went to church with. I got involved in charitable projects, I worked on lots of stuff for the church and I made lots of friends.
9. I tried to see if things I disagreed with could be interpreted as useful metaphor. This had been my parents' suggestion when I was a kid non-believer** and they were informing me that I was a Presbyterian until I turned 18***.

I learned more about who I was spiritually and what I believed at that church than I have at any of the churches where I've been more comfortable. And I developed a more sophisticated spiritual relationship with faiths different from my own and learned about things other faiths had to teach me, as well as more thoughtful reasons about why some things don't work for me spiritually.

who again, stuck it out as a Presby for 18 years, let's remember. Once your Great Aunt has calmly told you over a game of chess that this particular game of chess was in God's plan and the outcome of the game would be whatever God's hand and God's purpose predestined to occur, ain't nothing a UU can say that's going to bother you all that much.

*Again, I worked WITH people. I didn't make dire threats about what would happen to membership if I didn't get my way, and I didn't try to impose my way 100 percent and take over. I was in the minority and I respected that and picked my battles and got a lot of what I wanted.

**As I've mentioned before, it was Abraham and Isaac that did it for me. The idea that God was a colossal jerk who didn't actually give a shit about us made a lot of things in my life make sense, especially once I got to Junior High. The God I believe in now is indeed different from the one I didn't believe in then, as we theistic UUs like to put it.

***Before I turned 18 and a half, the Presbyterian church had fired their minister because she was a lesbian and I had quit. The minister and I are still friends. My parents, brothers and theChaliceRelative still go to the church. Much of life is battle-picking, kids.


fausto said...

Sounds pretty obvious you were predestined to leave the Presbies at 18. Maybe we ought to take a second look at predestination.

LinguistFriend said...

Predestination is what determinism is about, Fausto. It is just the anthropocentric version of it. Anyone who does science takes determinism (and therefore predestination) pretty much for granted. But that is a different issue from the primitive reformed
Protestant interpretation of how the determination of events occurs. If God is the system whereby everything is predetermined, the Presbyterians are really pantheists, they just haven't figured it out yet. CC's chess game with her great-aunt and its outcome were predetermined, even though we cannot follow out how it happened. Of course, our inevitable ignorance about how it happened makes our belief that it was predetermined a matter of faith. The level at which scientists have faith that the world makes sense, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, makes any versions of religious belief that I know quite trivial by comparison.
By the way, CC's description of the rural church that she went to (in a city of 300,000), is accurate as well as beautiful (stated as the aforementioned former greeeter there).

fausto said...

Like CC, I come from a long line of (only slightly less) lately-disavowed Presby stock myself, LF. I was just being facetious.

I like your characterization of Presbies as unwitting pantheists, btw. I'll have to try that out on some relatives sometime. It applies accurately to much of Jonathan Edwards' thought, seems to me.

LinguistFriend said...

Fausto, it is good to hear from you again. Now I would be grateful if you would take that admirable, well informed and logical mind of yours and tell what us to do about the independent affiliates mess.
That is an important issue if one thinks that UUism should have intellectual content, and not just large and well-supported congregations.

L said...

I don't know much about UU, but I think what you're saying could apply to any sect. I go to a Methodist church, but I hesitate to say I'm definitively Methodist. I tried to find a church that fit what I believed and made me feel comfortable, and if the church changes or I move, I have no qualms about switching denominations.

Anyway, no matter what, you are never going to agree with everyone on everything in your church. What makes it a good community is being able to discuss differences in a positive and productive manner.

fausto said...

Not to be glib, but I think the larger problem is that the GA is not really functioning as a gathered congress of congregations. Intead, it's an annual reunion of self-appointed plenary delegates who get together and decide whatever occurs to them. If the GA delegates have that mentality, why shouldn't the 25 Beacon staff as well?

If there were nothing on the GA agenda but questions that had been proposed by the initiative of some minimum number of congregations, and if GA decisions were not deemed valid until ratified by a majority or supermajority of congregations, I think the tone of GA and the scope of authority of 25 Beacon would be very different. In that scenario, moreover, I imagine that resolving the status of the IA's would be very near the top of the agenda, because I imagine that many of the members of the congregatios found more value in the IA's than the certification board did.

Robin Edgar said...

CC said: "And as much as I feel like the "I go to a 50-member UU church in the middle of nowhere and I find the people I go to church with intolerant of my views" people are overrepresented on the internet,"

Didn't I already point out to you that that kind of church is actually rather more representative of U*Uism than the large metropolitan U*U church that you attend CC. Do you have any idea how many 50-member (or less. . .) UU churches "in the middle of nowhere" there are in the U*U World? In any case it is not just in small U*U churches that God believing people are confronted by the anti-religious intolerance and bigotry of atheist supremacist "Humanist" U*Us. The Unitarian church of Montreal had about 250 members when Rev. Ray Drennan attacked me but has since lost enough members to fill a 50 member church in the middle of nowhere. . . If there are a lot of people on the internet complaining about the anti-religious intolerance and bigotry of "Humanist" U*Us maybe its because there are too many U*U churches where it is still occurring. And U*Us wonder why they are a "tiny, declining, fringe religion". . . I didn't make any dire threats about what would happen to membership if I didn't get my way CC. What I did do was responsibly warn U*Us what could happen to membership if U*Us failed or refused to responsibly address the anti-religious intolerance and bigotry that I and other people have encountered in too many U*U "churches". My warnings went unheeded and it appears that little or nothing has changed.

Robin Edgar said...

I would beg to differ CC, and I expect that Rev. Peter Morales would beg to differ as well.

Robin Edgar said...

(Just because 5 per state sounds about right to me.)


I dare say that there are some U.S. states, and indeed some Canadian provinces. . . that don't even have 5 U*U churches. Which says quite a lot about the U*U "movement".

Chalicechick said...

Right... but some states have dozens of churches. It's an average.

And I'm not sure why I should care that Peter Morales disagrees with me. My impression is that I disagree with him on quite a bit