Many a UU minister these days is preaching against the mythology of individualism. To which I say: quit beating that horse and bury it.
Once UUism started talking about the "beloved community" as the goal of the religious life, it should have recognized that the opposite of the "beloved community" is not the selfish individual, but the "demonic or oppressive community."
The oppressive community is a structure of domination and subordination, oppressors and oppressed, exploiters and exploited. It is maintained by false consciousness.
False consciousness and "internalized oppression" are similar concepts, but I think that "internalized oppression" seems to be more about how people think about themselves, while false consciousness is more about how people define the communities in which they are embedded.
False consciousness is an urgent problem right now. The belief of the Tea Party is that they are
|attributed to Reuters|
Imagining yourself as being embedded in, and nurtured by, a community that does not really exist is false consciousness. Defining your security and well-being as flowing from that community is false consciousness.
False consciousness is a spiritual problem, especially if we define our ultimacy in terms of a particular kind of community. It is equivalent to idolatry (the worship of a false God) to imagine oneself as being a member of a community that either does not exist, or that you misinterpret. And if the theological definition of "sin" is separation from God, then the equivalent concept is separating yourself from the real community to live in one of fantasy.
False consciousness is a spiritual problem for contemporary religious liberals. It shows up as our mythology of being the modern embodiment of the Boston brahmin intellectual elite. It shows up as our belief that the Unitarian Universalist congregation is a permanent alternative community. It shows up in our presumptions of stability into the future. We share the persistent false consciousness of most of the middle class -- that belief that the real economic decision makers are committed to our well-being and security. It shows up in the belief that there are "others" whom we should help by "reaching out" to them.
Rather than preaching against individualism, ministers of liberal religion might want to question how and why we belong to the communities we think we do.