Are We Afraid of Religion? or, What Is At Our Core?

Those of you who are on the GA-listserv will know that there has started to be a real conversation about the staff re-organization that’s going on at 25 (and the closing of the Washington office), and those of you who are UU blog readers will know that there have been a few blog posts by others (Scott Wells, Chalicechick and Bill Baar particularly) that are talking about it as well.

I’ve been too busy to read the GA list until today, so I’m just catching up. And I might write about the staff re-org later, but what really struck me was this one line that appeared in the first digest that I read.

Advocacy has always been..and will always be…at the core of UU…

Really? ADVOCACY has been, and always will be, at the core of UUism? Really?

‘Cuz if it is…friends…we are dead.

Why do I say that we’re dead if advocacy is at the core? Simple…we don’t do it well. The Quakers do it much better on the national level as a religious movement [think FCNL...the Friends Committee on National Legislation] and don’t seem to try to go out of their way to alienate interested parties. The Catholic Church has you beat when it comes to direct service and advocacy mixed together. And the National Council of Churches reaches across lines that we are loathe to acknowledge.

And on the non-religious social justice side…you in no way compete with the ACLU, NAACP, PFAW, the Human Rights Coalition and those in that league.

So if advocacy is at the core of UUism…we’re a dead religious movement walking.

I hear you asking…Kim…if advocacy isn’t at the core of UUism…what should be? Well friends…let’s try something new for UUism…how about RELIGION being at the core of UUism? How about the exploration of the sacred/mystery being at the core?

Are we so scared of religion that religion can’t be our core?

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15 thoughts on “Are We Afraid of Religion? or, What Is At Our Core?

  1. Yep, I agree. Someone at the national level needs to grow the stones to say, “you know what… this whole creedless thing we adopted was a disaster.”

    The seven principles are practically sacrosanct to most UUs anyway. Someone should just go ahead and make it official or propose a concept that rallies around our Unitarian or Universalist history/beginnings.

  2. I agree with you. To me it is so evident that if you want to lobby or to plan protest rallies, there are a lot of places better and stronger than UU to do that. It’s so self-evident that I wonder what I don’t see from those people who see it that way.
    Do these folks on the GA list, explain what they mean; or is this a case of their view’s just so self-evident to them, as well?
    – - I wonder (with limited evidence) if this is a way to be religious without having to use “religious” words; or rather to be “religious” in a way that doesn’t remind them of all the religious things that they rightly rejected.

  3. Thank you, sister! Well reasoned and well said.

    And Julian, just to reiterate, we were “creedless” back when the word “creed” referred to some specific teachings, used in specific ways, by particular religious communities. We need to update our language by revisiting those rejected creeds and saying, “this this and this” we eschew, and “this this and this, at the time, seemed as common as the air, but we now know to be elements in which we believe.”

    For some religious info from our history, check the sermon I have posted on http://www.uusociety.org, discussing common ground shared by Unitarians and Universalists doing atonement theology during the 19th century up here in Vermont.

  4. Respectfully speaking Miss Elz, it can be argued (and many a UU I have heard do so) that our religion dates back centuries… so far back as to be descendants of the followers of Jesus.

    Here is a fascinating history of Universal salvation thought and history. It cites the earliest creeds from the 3rd,4th and 5th centuries of the early church. It gives ideas of how they don’t conflict with Universal salvation teachings and thought.

    Although wikipedia isn’t considered the best resource to use, it’s easy. Here is an article on Unitarianism and shows (what I would call) a creed of belief from it’s earliest days.

    Sorry… i just can’t believe there wasn’t any time when there wasn’t some sort of creed in our history. And I think even at present, our seven principles are just two clicks away from being a creed and really nothing more than semantics and sad denial to say that it isn’t.

    I think to rally around a creed, a statement of belief that says this is how we find meaning to the mystery of life and how we celebrate it wouldn’t be a bad thing because what we’ve been doin’ hadn’t been working very well at all.

  5. I soooo agree with you Kim. Because the 2 UU congregations I tried in Atlanta over the last 4 years or so were so much about advocacy, and not religion, I finally had to take my daughter and leave. I am still a UU in the spiritual and philosophical sense, but I need a religious community for myself and my child, so I joined a UCC church. Though a Christian denomination, I find the people in my new congregation to be more open minded about spirituality and religion than my old UU congregation, while retaining the open and affirming environment I was used to as a UU. Actually, they are more inclusive of people, in general.

  6. I’m fairly new to UU, and I attended a discussion group centered around Universalist minister Hosea Ballou and his belief that all humans have a “God-given right to be happy.”

    Four of the participants said that their primary objection was to the phrase “God-given.” Now, I conceive of God as the Tillich-Robinson-Spong kind of God, the “Ground of Being” rather than a Supreme Being, but I DO believe in God. (I have my own issues with Ballou’s belief there, but the God part isn’t one of them.)

    So yeah, I came to UU because I want a RELIGIOUS community, not a social or political activism community. If our religious convictions compel us to be socially or politically active — and they should — then I’m all for that. But if UUs see that as their primary purpose, and not liberal religion, then it is not going to be a fit for me.

  7. We are a non-creedal religion and I hope we stay that way. The principals are not a creed, they are principals. If your congregation isn’t acting like a religious community, consider trying to change it!!

  8. Hey, Julian, I haven’t been back here for awhile, so I’m just now seeing your response. You are right about the history. I should have written mine better. The things you are citing are the ones I refer to as “seeming as common as air.”

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