Thursday, August 18, 2005

Urban myths?

Chalicechick and Jeff at Transient and Permanent are both talking about how UUs make distinctions between "birthright" UUs and "come-outers" and the assumption that people not born into the church are sometimes thought of as bitter refugees from their original tradition.

To me this is a lot like our language around "crusty" humanists. I belong to a small fellowship movement heritage lay led congregation. (Readers playing the home game can try to guess from the picture I posted before)

In my congregation there is a spread of secular atheists, new age, Vedanta, Buddhist, Christian and pagan members. (think two or three of each really). People do nice lay led sermons about what was good about their family traditions or something they really liked about Catholicism. They also do sermons on Hinduism, Buddhism or other world religions. No one bats an eye if I read from the Revised Common Lectionary one week or someone talks about Yom Kippur and atonement. We also have our share of what I would consider lectures about different topics. But all told, it is pretty well balanced.

I don't think we do a good enough job of including our pagan members. And I think we are a little hesitant to try new liturgical elements or to constrain the time taken by Joys and Concerns on any given Sunday.

I know that our stereotypes exist for a reason, but I think we often let a small number of cranky individuals give us the wrong idea. And again, it is a reason why I think the notion of The Tyranny of Structurelessness is important. If we do not use structures to facilitate participation and access, the loudest and most privileged will always win out.

2 Comments:

At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Jeff Wilson said...

James, I agree, there is a clear relationship to ideas of "crusty humanists" and the various phenomena associated with "birthright vs convert UUs." Since part of what I'm trying to do on my blog with this topic is explore whether there are hurtful concepts embedded in such ideas as the "birthright UU," I'm definitely concerned about stereotyping of humanists or others (not only because I deplore such sniping in UU circles, but also because I consider myself humanist).

One thing I'm trying to find is the balance between expressing legitimate emotions and frustrations, and setting up concepts/language/structures that go further and work to harm or marginalize segments of our congregations. While your congregation may thankfully lack them, there are a certain number of individuals who have helped create the backlash against "crusty humanists." But the problem gets out of hand when people push back by creating stereotypes that then further break down dialogue and tar many people widely with broad brushes.

 
At 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I was born a Unitarian Universalist (actually, I was born a Unitarian, but that's a detail). Does it make a difference? Yep, because the flaming chalice holds little or no emotional resonance for me, because we never had one when I was a kid. Does it make a difference? Nope, because I'm still trying to figure out what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist just like the newest newcomer. Does it make a difference? Yep, because after five or six generations of UUism in the family I'm a lot more relaxed about our faith's capacity to adapt and survive. Does it make a difference? Nope, because I'm just one member of one congregation in an association of congregations, just one individual in relation with an entire community. Does it make a difference? Yep, because I remember Kim Crawford Harvey when she was a couple of years ahead of me in Sunday school, long before she was the renowned minister of Arlington Street Church in Boston. Does it make a difference? Nope, why on earth should it?

So it's the usual Unitarian Universalist answer -- yes -- no -- maybe -- I don't know --

Dan Harper

 

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