Friday, February 15, 2013

40 Years in the Wilderness

When I say that the 40 years in the wilderness (being the most liberal religious movement in an aggressively conservative and anti-liberal culture) has shaped Unitarian Universalism, this is what I mean:

Unitarian Universalism became internally focused on what we do wrong.  It got anxious.  Name a single thing we all, or just some of us, do well, and immediately a critique comes to mind.  We are fixated on how we do not live up to our own standards, or to the task that is required of us.

I think that stems not from the loftiness of our ambitions, but from our sense of failure, as evidenced by our lack of growth, our demographic isolation, our membership churn, our inability to retain our youth, our cheapness, our clubbiness etc. etc. etc.

We are one-note reformationists.  How many sermons have you heard on the subject of how Unitarian Universalists institutions and individuals should change?  How many sermons have you heard (and preached) on what our mission should be?  How many workshops on what we must do to change, from how we treat visitors, to how we worship, how we sing, how we handle our money?

The great mission of Unitarian Universalism seems to have become to fix Unitarian Universalism.

Round and round, we race through a maze, and never find a way out.   I am doing it now.

Reformation churches are contrasted to Revelation Churches.

A Revelation church has a piece of wisdom that it has learned and it teaches that wisdom to whomever will listen.  They teach what they know, or what they think they know.

Unitarian Universalists know some important wisdom.  At the simplest level, we know that if one leads a life shaped by values and virtues of liberal religion, chances are good that you will be happier, more connected to others, and be healthier.  You will probably have a good effect on the community in which you live.

Forty years in the wilderness has made us nervous and jumpy, such that we are always second-guessing ourselves.  And when we do assert ourselves, it comes out self-focused and brittle.  Yay UUism!

It's OK.  It's too be expected.  Forty years in the wilderness is a long time.  We need to name what happened, touch it emotionally, and then let it go.  Why?  So we can live in the moment that is now, and coming, and needs us. '

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