Friday, December 11, 2009

The UUism vs. Your Old Faith Problem

I've mentioned before that I think former liberal Prostestants make the best UUs. They generally don't have that creepy distate/hatred/snottiness about their old faith that new UUs who come from conservative religions have and they don't have the somewhat paradoxical yet equally annoying desire to make UUism like their old faith*.

Liberal Christians get that you don't necessarily expect the UUA to make all sorts of decrees about the way UUism is done because most liberal protestants are used to a fairly congregational structure. They are more likely to get that what spiritual attachment they had to their old faith took time to develop and so they don't get pissy when they've been a member for a brief time and have not begun birthing spiritual inspiration like a sexed-up rabbit.

A couple of ministers who have posted here before have mentioned they have a "transitions from other faiths" support group to help people deal with their anger and other residual emotional stuff and move on. I've also heard really good things about an adult RE Curriculum called "Owning Your Religious Past: The Haunting Church" on the same topic. I don't love the title, but I know people who have taken it have found it helpful.

I'm thinking more churches could use this stuff.


* "I love the freedom of UUism. But I think UUism needs more charismatic ministers who will tell us about our freedom and then tell us what we should do with it." is a rough paraphrase of something I have actually heard somebody say in a UU church in a heavily-Evangelical area.

"I love how UUism doesn't make a bunch of political stands I disagree with like Catholicism did, but what we really need is for them to make some moral stands about political issues that I DO agree with." is also a very common sentiment.


LinguistFriend said...

It is startling how deep the issues of recovery from one's previous religion can go. When I moved from an area in which most UU members were converts from conservative Protestantism, to one where most UU members were converts from Catholicism, the attitudes of members were at first quite confusing and disorienting.

Bill Baar said...

It's not just converts. It's the prevailing Church and Faith UU's are reacting against.

UU's --new members or lifers-- often define themselves by what they're not, and that not's usually the local prevailing Church.

When you listen to UUs you really need to know if they're reacting against urban Catholicism, Southern Evangelism, exurban Mega Churches, or whatever.

And then there are a handful of UUs not in reaction but long to be Episcopelians for the pagentry of it all. I think they're all in New England.

My perception CC, only mine, no science to it what so ever...from talking and blogging with other UUs.

Althought I think getting ourselves to declaring what we are postively without recourse to what we're not...important work to be done.

Strange Attractor said...

Maybe I'm taking this personally, but I'm glad the members of my home fellowship are more welcoming than to refer to me as creepy and unlikely to be a good UU.

It is hard to leave of the vestiges of one's initial religious imprinting, it's true. The class you mention could be helpful to a lot of people. But who gets to decide who is a good UU?

Chalicechick said...

In all fairness to me, I didn't say the members were creepy, I said the tendency to randomly spout hateful stuff about their ex-faiths was creepy. I've never known you to do that.

My working definition of a good new UU was someone who works to fit in and improve what needs to be improved without making a bunch of demands that the church conform to expectations instilled by some other faith.

DairyStateDad said...

Where I am I have been more likely to encounter some UUs I know and like who speak very snidely about Christians and Christianity. I try to be understanding about such reactions; I see it as resulting from having been deeply wounded by Christianity in their past, while I was not wounded by my (liberal Christian) religious upbringing. So I hope there's a part in the class that helps people understand the range of people who still consider themselves Christian and to be more respectful of that.

DairyStateDad said...

Hmmm, upon further reflection, I guess you were saying more sort of the same thing than I first understood...

Bill Baar said...

@DSD I see it as resulting from having been deeply wounded by Christianity in their past...

It's awfully easy to say what's wrong with someone elses Church, than what's right with your own.

It might be theological laziness we hear from these folks; rather than wounds.

Easier to say I'm not that, than this is where my Church stands, especially given the divirsity of UU opinions.

It's our practice that unites us, and our practice not all that different from many of those criticized.

We share much and that maybe explains some of the heated criticism...not wounds.

Strange Attractor said...

Thanks for clarifying, CC. I'm glad to be non-creepy.

There are activities and practices at my fellowship that just can't do, but it has never been a problem if I politely decline. I don't insist that they not offer these services to others. There are plenty of other offerings I do enjoy. I hope that qualifies as good. I guess I'm so happy to have discovered UU'ism that even though it can be difficult I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Bill Baar said...


There are activities and practices at my fellowship that just can't do,...

Curious what those practices would be....if you don't mind sharing.

Strange Attractor said...

Bill, not to get too confessional, but I tend to avoid elements centered on prayer. At first I would participate in anything other than a Sunday morning service, but now I attend the service that is the most laid back and interactive. There are three Sunday morning services. I still tend to gravitate to other times or small subject-focused groups. I prefer to practice spiritality and community in a way that doesn't remind me of my past, but I never ask that others don't enjoy the things that I don't. There is plenty there to enjoy.

hafidha sofia said...

It sounds like you're saying that liberal Protestants make the best UUs because they have similar religious (or perhaps cultural) sensibilities.

I think they would probably have the smoothest transitions, but I'm not sure that's a better experience than someone who has to completely overhaul their spiritual or religious thinking.

Comrade Kevin said...

What really helps me as a Quaker are the Testimonies, which are an excellent source of spiritual guidance. What also helps me is that Quakerism is more inclined than UUism to acknowledge Christ-centered belief and its place within the larger group of Friends as a whole. I'm glad for the more conservative and Evangelical Friends, because even though we rarely agree with each other, they do have a way of keeping us grounded.

Quakerism is supremely decentralized and has nothing like the UUA holding it, however loosely, together. This can be a good thing and it can be a bad things, since every meeting and every Yearly Meeting of affiliated individual meetings has its own manner of conducting itself.

But as for personal revelation, I think at times some people confuse advertising and a consumer society with faith development. It's not an instantaneous, miraculous thing and like many things in life, takes time to foment and develop.

Chalicechick said...

(((I think they would probably have the smoothest transitions, but I'm not sure that's a better experience than someone who has to completely overhaul their spiritual or religious thinking.)))

You're right. I meant to write best new-UUs, but somehow that didn't make it into what I wrote.