The 4 AM question for Unitarian Universalists

In 1961, at the time of the merger, we thought we were going to be the religion of the future.  Our future was bright and we were going to grow like crazy.  We had no idea that Evangelical Protestantism, which was represented then most visibly by the Billy Graham crusades, was really the next big thing in US religion, and not us.

And we have not grown much, if at all...

So, at 4 AM, at the bleakest hours, the question comes to us..... "What is wrong with us?"

If you read UU's about UUism, that question is lurking in the background of almost everything written or said.   Even in our most positive statements about us, there is a brittle assertiveness and overcompensation that betrays this question.....


  1. There is nothing "wrong" with us. "We" are young and still an infant compared to other denominations. It takes time when instead of providing platitudes as answers to "Life, the Universe, and Everything" as a congregation we encourage questioning experimenting, and critical thinking to find answers. We don't just attempt to make a better place for our children but ALL children and to make ourselves better beings in the process.

  2. I agree with Joe. I've been posting about this over at our UU - Faith of the Free Facebook group*. I think that we are in an important period of transition where vestiges of internal tribalism and rugged individualism are slowly giving way to far more mature, "unitary and universal" expression of liberal perhaps reflecting by Daniel Webster some centuries ago, when he proclaimed "Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable". Both to them to us are essential, and both are sacred. Admittedly, we are still learning how to grow both a religious tradition of radical diversity (breadth) and of ultimate unity (depth), in which both are embraced and widely celebrated, but learning we are.


  3. Please understand my point: I am naming the question that haunts us, not agreeing with its premise.

  4. I disagree with Joe's analysis; younger religions have outstripped UU. Wicca & Asatru in specific, and NeoPaganism in general only began in any realistic terms in America in the 70's, but now outnumber UU by a factor of ten. And they encourage questioning and experimenting even more than does UU, if that's possible.

    But that doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong with us. Our lack of growth may just mean that we've filled our ecological niche. I wrote about that here:

  5. A Gentle challenge.

    The commission on appraisal wrote about the newly merged Unitarians and Universalists (who were still uncomfortable with each other) being a new religion and being the religion of the future.

    Meanwhile back in the congregations we were still Unitarians and Unviersalists doing what we had done in the 40s and 50s. I don't think a vision of our future has ever gripped us, convicted us, motivated us.


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