New Testament People In An Old Testament World

I had lunch today with a therapist friend(Ph.D. in Psychology) who is an occasional student at ESR. We got to talking about the class that she took during the Jan. intensive “Women in the OT”. She told me that for the first few days she was just sick reading about all the different acts of violence that happen to the women of the OT. “I get enough of that in my practice, I really don’t need to think about that here,” she said her first thoughts were. Then she told me about her epiphany.

“I’m a New Testament person who deals with people who are living in an Old Testament world. A baby dies and it must be your fault.  Men can, and do, treat women any way they want because they are men and women aren’t worth as much. An eye for an eye. And here I am saying to these people ‘Don’t you think it’s time to forgive yourself, because I’m really sure that God has forgiven you.’ or ‘Isn’t it time you try loving yourself because God does love you.’ And for some of my clients, those are revolutionary words. They might know more of the Bible than I do, but the Bible they know is really harsh. And I feel like I’m preaching the Gospel to them for the first time.”

That has gotten me to thinking. 

I really love being classical U/U in my theology. It has been life giving to me. But this UU thing, I don’t think I want any part of it. What gospel is modern UUism giving to the broader world? What are we telling people who are living in an Old Testament world? Or do we just look over them and think that they are unenlightened and not worthy of our attention?

More later.

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4 thoughts on “New Testament People In An Old Testament World

  1. a couple of slight defenses of modern UU-ism, I think we’re in a transformative period (yet again?) thus our current focus more on ourselves than the world (I’m sure some folks will strongly disagree with that).
    I’ve also been interested to see that every UU congregation that I’ve visited, (that have introduced me around), there have been therapists and social workers in the congregation – even in those less than 20 member tiny congregations. There is appeal in UU to those who deal with suffering, to helpers.
    the plus side of congregationalism is that a congregation could still offer their own message….

  2. It isn’t entirely clear what you mean by “this UU thing.” Do you mean the broader UU religious movement, or Unitarian-Universalism as a an identity, or institutionalized UUism, or the sort of eclectic spiritual mish-mash that sometimes is representative of Unitarian-Universalist religion?

    I’m a New Testament sort of person myself, so I can relate to this post in a way. But it’s not clear what you’re talking about when you move off of the anecdote (I know, “more later” is promised).

    I have personally talked to many people who feel that UUism transformed their lives for the better–in particular, though hardly confined to them, plenty of homosexual UUs have told me that UUism actually saved their lives, and meant it with no hyperbole. And the numbers of UUs involved in transformative social programs are quite large, and well represented in every UU congregation I’ve ever encountered. But I don’t mean this as a defense. I’m sure you’re aware of all of this too. So there must be something else that you feel is missing, and I’m hoping you’ll articulate further what exactly that is. Is the lack of active proslytization? Or something else?

  3. I’ll echo Transient and Permanent’s suggestion that we are literally salvational for some folks in general and specifically for many bi, gay, lesbian, and transgender folks in our congregations.

    I’ve also heard youth at UU camps and conferences doing the circle worship version of testifying their faith – over the years as a youth advisor, I’ve heard many youth talk about how Unitarian Universalism and YRUU (Young Religious Unitarian Universalists) has literally saved their lives.

    I heard Rev. Rebecca Parker give a talk on UU theology and her summary of what she thought our theology of salvation was has stuck with me over the years.

    Rebecca suggested that our salvational theology was one of offering salvation from those things that denied life or made life less whole.

    Being a church that affirms BGLT folks may be one example of salvation that we offer.

    For many youth, YRUU is yet another example of the salvation we offer.

    As an Our Whole Lives sexuality education curriculum trainer, I would also suggest that our sexuality education programs are yet another way that provide salvation from those things that deny life or make it less whole – yet another example of salvation.

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