Thursday, July 16, 2009

Can't have it both ways.

On the one hand, it is widely agreed that the Unitarian Universalist Association has not, in its 40 years of existence, lived up to the potential of liberal religion in this country. We believe that there are at least a million people out there whose religious views are in sympathy with ours, but as a collective body, we cannot manage to put a welcoming, inspiring, inviting, culturally appropriate center of liberal religion into their path. We are an underperforming organization.

On the other hand, efforts to actually change one or more feature of the organization runs into a solid wall of "if it's not broke, don't fix it!". Our governance is fine the way it is. (But our inability to perform well stems from our governance !) The main definitional statement of who we are is fine the way it is (it has not communicated effectively for sustained growth for 15 years now !).

This dichotomy (we are great; everything we do is the very best that we can do vs. we are small, failing, repelling people as fast as we are attracting them, demographically isolated.) is a sign of defensiveness and anxiety.

We need to change what we are doing if we want a different result. And we need a different result because we are not fulfilling what we know that we are capable of. And that means being open to different ideas about how to do things. Really, suggesting a different way of electing our President on a blog is not quite taking an axe to the foundations of our faith.


4 comments:

Bill Baar said...

Really need to look at your numbers more deeply here, but I'm guessing the one thing those people sympathetic to liberal religion don't believe in much is going to Church, or joining (and pledging money) to a Church.

Otherwise they're totally in sympathy our shared values and varied beliefs (I know many of these people although I admit that's not scientific polling).

I have a feeling we might be better off looking at the disaffected among Religous Conservatives (and Political Conservatives), and among the unChurched, and appeal to them not on the basis of belief, but on the basis of the value of belonging and supporting a Church more welcoming to those who for one reason or another are estranged from their own communities and heritages.

That estrangement, and how to overcome it, are really more powerful bonds than a shared belief in Religous (or Political) Liberalism.

Robin Edgar said...

I agree 100% with your first paragraph. So does Rev. Peter Morales, now President of *The* Tiny Declining Fringe Religion, for that matter. ;-)

:We believe that there are at least a million people out there whose religious views are in sympathy with ours, but as a collective body, we cannot manage to put a welcoming, inspiring, inviting, culturally appropriate center of liberal religion into their path.

When it comes to the U.S.A. at least "culturally appropriate" absolutely must include being welcoming, inspiring, and inviting to liberal Jews, liberal Christians, liberal Muslims, and other God believing people. How many U*U "Welcoming Congregations" are genuinely welcoming to such people LT? How many U*U "churches" actively or passively *repel* God believing people? I believe that the anti-Christian and more broadly anti-religious "bad attitude" that rears its ugly head in tom many U*U "churches" is a major contributing factor to, if not *the* primary reason for, why Unitarian*Universalism is a "tiny, declining, fringe religion" today. Anti-Republican "bad attitude" doesn't help either. . .

:But our inability to perform well stems from our governance

Correction - *Some* of your inability to perform well stems from your governance. Other failures of the UUA to perform well stem from various other factors, not the least of them being deplorable incompetence on the part of UUA leaders. . .

:The main definitional statement of who we are is fine the way it is (it has not communicated effectively for sustained growth for 15 years now !).

I disagree here LT. I do not believe that the UUA's Principles and Purposes, or other claimed ideals, are what have not communicated effectively for sustained growth for 15 years now. I'll tell you what has though. . . The abject failure and obstinate refusal of too many U*Us to genuinely honor and uphold those purported U*U principles and ideals in their day to day interactions with people. I am not saying that the Seven Principles cannot be improved upon, I believe they can be and should be, if only by replacing "affirm and promote" with "honor and uphold". . .

:This dichotomy (we are great; everything we do is the very best that we can do vs. we are small, failing, repelling people as fast as we are attracting them, demographically isolated.) is a sign of defensiveness and anxiety.


The former proposition "we are great; everything we do is the very best that we can do" is positively delusional assuming any U*U actually believes that. . . We are small, failing, repelling people as fast as we are attracting them, demographically isolated is sadly, an all too realistic assessment of *The* Tiny Declining Fringe Religion. . . BTW Unitarian*Universalism will remain a tiny, declining, fringe religion, if not *The* Tiny Declining Fringe Religion, for as long as it continues to fail or refuse to get serious about God. There is no hope whatsoever for U*Uism to become "the religion of our time" in America, to say nothing of elsewhere in the world, if it fails or refuses to minister to the spiritual and religious needs of God believing people.

Robin Edgar said...

:We need to change what we are doing if we want a different result.

See above. . .

:And we need a different result because we are not fulfilling what we know that we are capable of.

No need to tell *me* that LT.

:And that means being open to different ideas about how to do things.

If U*Us responsibly clean up the God-awful mess they are responsible for creating in their rather inhuman human relations with me I will offer them some more new ideas that they can try to be a bit more open too. Labeling my revelatory religious experience as "your psychotic experience" and Creation Day as "your cult" is the complete antithesis of being open to new ideas. . . Needless to say I am still waiting for U*Us to do things differently when it comes to responding to my as yet unredressed grievances arising from those and other U*U injustices and abuses.

:Really, suggesting a different way of electing our President on a blog is not quite taking an axe to the foundations of our faith.

In principle I agree LT. It's just that your particular proposal was just a tad problematic. It really did seem to disregard the Fifth Principle of U*Uism which affirms and promotes -

The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

UUA "democracy" is already questionable enough AFA*I*AC without emulating how the people of totalitarian regimes "elect" their leaders. . .

Robin Edgar said...

I was obviously referring to LT's first paragraph when I said I agreed 100% but I juts want to add that I very much agree with what Bill Baar said in his comment that preceded mine.