Showing posts from November, 2015

UU's, Microaggressions and "PC Culture"

Lest any UU get caught up in the hysteria about "PC Culture" and other people's sensitivities about microaggressions, let's review our own experience with these concepts.

Say the city leaders put up a Nativity scene in front of the town hall. You protested. Why? Their action told you, the Jews, the atheists, the Muslims and all the other non-Christians, that you were not really part of the town. In today's parlance, you were "erased" from the town's population. They acted as though you did not exist. Or that you did not matter. In today's terms, it was a microaggression. A pretty big one, in fact, since it was in their official civic function.

If you asked the city fathers why; they would have responded that they meant no offense. They were just celebrating Christmas, which almost everybody celebrated. They would ask why you had to be so sensitive. You should get over it and move on.

You go to an interfaith event, and all the Christian preachers…

Mismatches, History, and Hope

In the little world touched by this blog, people have been very likey and sharey and retweety with Mismatches between Unitarian Universalism and the Work It needs to do. I am touched.

Maybe it is just the shorter time period, but people have not responded as fulsomely to the second installment Why the UU Mismatches.

Which should not surprise me; my argument has been that we are out of step with  our times because the forty year period of conservative cultural hegemony turned us inward, limited our growth, and froze our development.  Many resist this line of analysis. As neo-Calvinists, we think that explanations of our disappointments and failures that put the blame on anyone other than our own terrible selves are somehow cheating.

We would rather see ourselves as uniquely awful, but powerful, than ordinary and not in control.

We don't make history as much as history makes us; that is a hard message for us to hear.

But the reign of conservative ideology is coming to an end. That…

Why the UU Mismatches?

The common feature of many of the mismatches seems to be our insularity.  We build our buildings the way we like them and where we live; we talk to ourselves in the ways that we are comfortable with; we treat our religious professionals as though their congregants were their only constituency that mattered. We finance ourselves just enough to sustain ourselvesOn the local level, we spend very little on outreach. 
It is as though we think that our congregation is the Beloved Community, rather thinking of the Beloved Community as all humanity made fair and the people one. 
But why are UU's so insular? 
It is not surprising when you think about the social climate since 1970. Forty years of 40 years of conservative culture  creates and reinforces a dichotomy between the personal and the social. (Conservative culture is about the personal: individual advancement and fulfillment) Put another way, conservative culture perpetuates a conflict between the spiritual as individual growth vs. the …

Mismatches between Unitarian Universalism and the Work It Needs to Do.

The mismatches: 

We have buildings, many beautiful buildings; but modern communications make place irrelevant. We are skilled in written words; but the world now communicates in image and music.We have spirituality embedded in a long and glorious religious tradition; and much of the world wants spirituality but actively and consciously rejects religious tradition.We have an expensive membership-based business model; the people have declining standards of living. The membership of the local congregation shares the expenses of the congregation where costs are rising. The membership, for the most part, is not seeing equivalent income growth.Our finances are first dedicated to existing local institutions which are unsustainable at our membership level; but where we need to invest is in new institutions and ministries. Our primary form of support is pledges to local congregations, which are caught in a financial squeeze. Less to give denominational bodies, too little for innovative new mini…

Humanism in Context -- Questions Arise

So many interesting questions are arising from the essay Humanism in Context -- it's on the "pages list" on the right hand side. Read the comments, please.

One question is about whether there is a difference between the overbearing Christian nationalism of the Cold War era and the overbearing evangelical culture in much of non-urban America. Especially since, it is noted, that this is where Unitarian Universalism is growing. While I think that it is a different sort of push for conformity, it probably feels the same to the people who find themselves on the outside of it. So, I suspect that it makes joining a UU congregation an easy fit. Like attracting like.A couple of comments about what a different world the new fellowships were -- how even the ministers they called came from a different educational and cultural background as the prevailing New England norms. It makes me wonder how much the Unitarian denominational leaders knew they were going to grow by diversifying wh…

"Humanism In Context" further contexualized.

For those of you who are too impatient to read 2000 word essays on UU history, let me summarize
"Humanism in Context" for you.

That sense of the cultural radicalism that one feels in Unitarian Universalist congregations does not flow from the few radicals of the 19th century Unitarian movement, nor does it flow from our participation in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's. No, our sense of cultural radicalism is the result of many of our churches being formed in resistance to the overbearing and aggressive Christian nationalism of the Cold War Era. 

I came to this insight by mashing up Kevin Kruse's "One Nation Under God" with Holley Ulbrich's The Fellowship Movement". Kruse describes the setting: the national elite (business, political and religious leaders) aggressively promoting a conformist form of Christianity as an essential element of Americanism and patriotism. Ulbrich describes what was happening in Unitarianism at the same time: the for…

Blessing the Stranger (Who happens to be a Baby)

I was born in 1949; my father was a Unitarian minister, serving Follen Church in Lexington, MA. I was "christened" -- which, as far as I can tell, was theistic quasi-Christian step down from a Baptism, mostly involving a naming ceremony, but without the washing away from original sin. 
The 1937 Hymns of the Spirit does not have a liturgy for any form of baby blessing service, although in its index of hymns it lists four as appropriate for "Christening services or dedication of Children." 
When did the practice of baby blessing become absorbed into a congregational rite in UUism? Somewhere in my lifetime, I think. The baby blessing service became a "Dedication of Children", performed during the worship service. Its purpose was to ritually commit the congregation to the care and nurture of the child. It welcomed the child into the "extended family" of the congregation. 
This congregational understanding of baby blessings became so ingrained that …