Beyond ‘Building Your Own Theology’, or Trying to Answer the Question

ChaliceChick asks me to further comment on what I said in my last post, “it’s the adults that are not fully engaged in the ongoing spiritual development that is required to be a mature person.”  I’ll see if I can give that line justice.

Part of the reason I said that is that I think there is so much focus on children’s RE  in UUism that there seems to be this thinking that all religious identity is formed by the time somebody is 14.  So much of life happens after 14 that I think UUism misses out on helping adults of all ages deal with the rest of life well.

If you take a look, you will see that the adult programs person in the office of Lifespan Faith Development is vacant. Take a look at the curricula for adult faith development available through the UUA bookstore; not spirituality books for adults to read, but actual curricula.  Not that many. (Yes…I know that there is a new one out there called Tapestry, but it’s not on the UUA bookstore site)  Where are the curricula that deal with the big issues in life……death (not talking about grief support groups, but actual theories and theologies of death and dying)……partnership (theologies of coupling)……aging….and so forth?

Where are the curricula that give people an in-depth[not cursory] knowledge of the 500+ year history of U/U/UU?…..because far too many UUs seem to think this movement came up whole-cloth in 1961.  If you want to build UU identity, then it helps to know where one comes from.

UUs do an ok job with getting people started on the journey of theological processing, but fall flat in the follow-through.

If you want to keep your kids interested in the church, it would help if you kept their parents interested in the church.  Especially since so many spiritual/theological questions are answered by parents. Religiously ignorant/stagnant parents will influence their children more than 50 other adults who those children see once-a-week.

I don’t know if I’ve answered the question, but I hope it’s a start.


8 thoughts on “Beyond ‘Building Your Own Theology’, or Trying to Answer the Question

  1. Oh it’s a start all right. . .

    Gotta love that –

    “Religiously ignorant/stagnant parents will influence their children more than 50 other adults who those children see once-a-week.”

    No? 😉

  2. Kim,

    The new “Tapestry of Faith” programs are a new initiative where curricula are published online for “beta” testing and future refinement. Although they are not on the UUA bookstore web site, they are worth checking out for possible use.

    Currently, there are three “Tapestry” curricula for adults online:

    Principled Commitment (couples curricula)

    Spirit of Life Beta Test (“seeks to bring meaning, beauty, inclusivity, and growth to Unitarian Universalist adults as they deepen their spiritual awareness and connections” according to the UUA web site)

    Spirit in Practice Beta Test (“help Unitarian Universalists develop regular disciplines, or practices, of the spirit—practices that help them connect with the sacred ground of their being, however they understand it” according to the UUA web site)

    The Adult RE program director’s job has only been vacant a few months — the minister who recently held this job has departed for a parish ministry posting. I would be surprised to see this job stay unfilled.

    Sexuality is big topic for religion to explore — and we have two adult curricula in the “Our Whole Lives” series for adults — one for adults and one for young adults (ages 18-35). If I were presenting OWL for adults in a congregational setting, I would use the Adult OWL as a framework and supplement it with resources and activities from the Young Adult OWL.

    I would like more adult RE resources but it’s not totally bleak today. And I would hope to see more online publishing with “spiral development” like the ongoing “Tapestry” program in the future. This makes adult RE resources available to congregations at a very low cost.

  3. But isn’t it a sign of religious maturity not to necessarily NEED a structured class, but to learn this stuff because you’re interested?

    My church has a pretty extensive adult RE program with everything from meditation to bible study. That said, I work during the day and take night classes, so I pretty much don’t even have the option of attending adult RE.

    I’m no Fausto, but I know quite a bit of UU history, I learned it from books that I read on my own and if what sells out of my congregation’s bookstore is any indication, I’m not alone in my interest. Certainly BostonUnitarian’s UU history blog doesn’t lack for fans.

    What time I do spend actually at church, I like to spend practicing my faith rather than just learning about it, so I worship, do YRUU advising and work on charitable projects.

    A bit ago you asked what was wrong with being overly protestant. To me the attitude of “Well, if you’re not learning the history of your faith in a class run by your church, using a denominationally-approved and produced curriculum, then you must not be doing it at all, and indeed, are spiritually immature” and the sort of rigid “this is how things are done. Any other way may be quaint, but is ultimately wrong,” thinking behind it is one answer to that question.

    It’s certainly a mindset I don’t miss from the Presbyterians.

    who doesn’t recall that her parents attended adult RE when she was a kid, though her Dad really knew his stuff about Christianity. A lot of the stuff she retains, she learned from him, not, GASP, the PCUSA-authored materials in Sunday school.

  4. This question is from someone who has zero credit hours in religion: Explain how “building your own theology” is different from “building your own physics”.
    Best wishes

  5. That’s a question that is remarkably easy to answer Dudley.

    U*Us use the word “theology” very loosely. It often has little or nothing to do with the study of God, or even articulating personal beliefs about God. Basically “building your own theology” in the U*U World means determining one’s values and beliefs about “ultimate reality”, human nature, ethics, and the meaning and purpose of life regardless of whether or not God comes into them.

  6. That’s funny, the last bit from the “Building your own theology” curriculem that I used with my YRUUs was ENTIRELY about “How I saw God when I was younger” vs “how I saw God now” and articulating personal beliefs about God. The default assumption was that God exists, though of course we didn’t stone the two youth out of thirty or so who said they didn’t believe in God at all. (I always admire the kids who can articulately state a minority view on something in front of their peers. I can remember being that kid and while I did it, it always scared the bejabbers out of me when I did.)

    And I don’t know why the study of ontology deserves scare quotes. It’s a topic that has interested a lot of theologians, though Tillich is the only one of those I’ve read admittedly.


    Non-theoretical physics is a hard science with testable results. Most theological ideas cannot be proven or disproven with experiment. What experimentation is done with physics is done by, well, physicists. Theological experimentation is done by everyone from the Pope to a guy praying that God will help him find his keys.* Much like everyone can watch the stock market and develop theories about economics and apply those theories to deciding whom to vote for, the world is theology’s lab as well.

    Theoretical physics, which deals with ideas that cannot be tested in a hard-science kinds of way, is very similar in that nothing precisely is stopping you from “Building your own physics” and people who are into it have various ideas. It even has its own heretics as any physicist who doesn’t believe in string theory will attest.

    who is very glad you asked that about physics rather than Chemistry or biology since she knows something about physics as her cousin won a Nobel prize in it, which makes her feel honor-bound to keep up with the subject.

    *This non-theist says “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” I doubt that God is personally leading me to my keys, but the mere act of prayer tends to calm me down some and help me think more clearly about where I might have left them.

  7. CC: “*This non-theist says “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” I doubt that God is personally leading me to my keys, but the mere act of prayer tends to calm me down some and help me think more clearly about where I might have left them.”

    Thank you. so simple

    And Kim: Thank you for saying all that you’ve said. It’s raised an issue worth exploring in great depth.

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