Monday, May 09, 2005

songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work

On Sunday morning I posted a favorite Woody Guthrie quote. "I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard travelling. I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work."

I've shared before that I am from an unchurched background. A child of agnostic parents with fundamentalist parents. So I didn't have much church as a child, but I did have folk music.

Most of my objections to Christianity when I was younger pretty much would be addressed by replacing the word song in Woody's quote with the word church or religion. I hate a church that makes you think that you are not any good. I think that is why I was so infatuated, like all good new UUs, with talk of "the inherent worth and dignity" of all individuals. (I'm vaguely reminded of The Life of Brian: "We're all individuals!... I'm not!")

I was in my Unitarian and Universalist History class a couple weeks ago and was struck with the fact that the Humanist Manifesto really did approximate my beliefs at a particular point in my life. It still is not that far removed from how I see the world. I started this blog with a post about how I feel about that kind of supersessionary rhetoric now. I have a degree in literature from a "good" enough school to lay out a rap about normative gaze and erasure, intersubjectivity and pluralism if I really thought it was necessary.

I've heard it said that the new more spiritual UUs are just waiting for the cranky humanists to die off, and I've weathered the deluge of UUs and other hipsters who think they are too smart to believe in anything. I've heard that most of the faculty at my school are Christian and they are taking over, and I've heard that it is very hard to "come out" as a Christian there.

Personally, I'm not sure I really know what UU Christians believe. I think I can't quite figure out Christianity without the belief in "Jesus as your personal savior" like my neighbors. I'd love to hear my articulate UU Christian blogger colleagues describe this more.

There are times when I am so proud of how Unitarian Universalists really do include people and help "you take pride in yourself and in your work." But there are times when I feel like it is just a smug club, of people who feel too good to be like other people. Yuppies who look down on working folks with big families and big cars. A kind of nontheist or posttheist prosperity theology. Some notion that if people only ate better or had more schooling they wouldn't have health problems or money problems. Churches that, "run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard travelling."

How do we live up to the Universalist charge to give people hope and not hell? How do we "sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work."

I know a good discussion about heaven is better than the real thing. But what end does it serve to rehash the same arguments endlessly?

3 Comments:

At 6:27 PM, Blogger iBeth said...

A thought provoking post. It reminds me of a student who gave a speech in my husband's class in which he (student) mentioned his UU church. He introduced it as, "Not your normal bigotry church; my church is better than that." My husband, the agnostic who refuses to go to ANY church, was rather put off by that attitude. of course, I would attribute the attitude more to the age (don't we all know everything at 18?) than to the church, but sometimes I catch a tinge of that attitude from other church members. OTOH, from members of other churches, I have caught that tinge too.

I don't really have a point here--just thinking about the issues you've raised.

 
At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These words say it all "I Have A Dream"- sung once a day I still stay focused.

 
At 8:17 AM, Anonymous cjfrye said...

As one of those old crusty humanists, I admit I grit my teeth sometimes with the more spiritual folks in the UU church. But it all goes back to the principles -- that's the agreement we've all made to play together. I suspect the superior attitude is perhaps the most dangerous obstacle to UUs accomplishing real good in the world. If we can guard against that, we can go so much farther, both within UU society and without.

 

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