Store-Front UUism….New Testament People in an Old Testament World part 3

When Doug Muder wrote his article that was in the Summer 2007 issue of the World, I thought he didn’t go far enough in his critique of UU problems in reaching out to those who are not “our kind of people.”

This is where my continued critique comes in and why I’m asking the questions about whether there can be a Liberation theology with a UU bent. But in order for me to do at least some justice to this, I think it might be a good thing if I say what I believe about Liberation theology.

One does not have to believe in God in order for Liberation theology to work. But one does need to believe in the numinous…..the holy…..the that which is greater than ourselves. And one has to believe that the numinous is in the situations of suffering that people are going through.

To tie my ideas of Liberation theology into this, here’s my question…..where are the store-front UU churches? Where are the UU churches that are down in the trenches? (I know about the Faithful Fools, but they are not a congregation) Why do we plant our churches out in the backwoods where nobody can find them? Or put them away from public transportation lines (in larger cities)? And then wonder why we aren’t growing? For all our social justice work, why don’t we put it into practice in our own churches?

There are so many people who have been knocked down by life and think that there are no second chances who are craving the knowledge that maybe, just maybe, there are second chances. That mistakes made 5 minutes ago or yesterday or 10 years ago don’t have to be the end of who they are. And where is the liberal alternative to the evangelicals with the store-front church? We’re out in the backwoods navel gazing.

That’s what I’m talking about when I titled these posts “New Testament People in an Old Testament World.” I don’t think you have to be a Christian, or believe in God, to buy into Liberation theology with a really liberal bent. At some point reason should tell us that we need to stop navel gazing and get into the game.

Enough for now. More later (maybe).

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10 thoughts on “Store-Front UUism….New Testament People in an Old Testament World part 3

  1. I wish you would expand on the idea that liberation theology does not need God if it retains the numinous or holy. It seems to me that there’s a world of difference between saying that God is morally aligned with the oppressed and saying that the numinous is in situations of suffering. An abstracted sense of the holy wouldn’t seem to have much moral focus to it: It doesn’t *suffer with* because it’s impersonal. What can the numinous do for the oppressed?

    • This turned up today as I was posting on something else, so let me drop a single sentence, which I’m probably badly using and which I’m certainly taking out of context, but which informs me. In James H. Cone’s The Spirituals and the Blues, somewhere around page 100, he says, “God is the community.”

      He probably means something different from what I mean when I quote him. Just call me Carmen Miranda.

  2. Ron Robinson has his Church (Living Room) in a storefront. But the real reason that we have our new churches where they are is because the UUA doesnt plant churches anymore (or it tries to plant one every few years) – the new emerging UU Churches are self-sponsored – thus developing where they live.

  3. I think your question is well asked. From what I’ve seen on blogs and amongst UU’s, ours is now a white-collar religion. I would even go so far as to say we have a Libertarian Theology as opposed to Liberal or Liberation.

    Too often too many, including too many ministers, would rather praise Walden than Viola Liuzzo. Ours has become too often a faith of independant belly button gazers who jump at the chance to abstract any argument out to the point of irrelevance, or worse to give ear to voices of racial or social intolerance for fear of being called “too liberal” or “close minded”.

    Part of the problem I lay right at the feet of how our Ministers are trained to execute their duty. Yes, they will blog about injustice and give sermons to about issues, but our faith does not train them to be organizing leaders like the other faiths do. Therefore, they do not feel the zeal to establish those store front churches.

    Take this example: My church’s minister is a white gay male from Montana. Everytime he tries to address anti-racism he does it his was and bungles it. He wanted to dedicate a service to UU’s support in the creation of Kwanza and invite black churches, but he picked a day he would not be in church. He did not invite anyone and those people who understood black churches had enough class to know such a specticle would not have gone over well. The first question would be: “Why did your spiritual leader pic the day he had off for us to come into his church?”

    He decided to have a sermon about Selma, but instead of leading it and focusing on Viola Liuzzo a lay person who went to Selma on her own and sacrificed her life; he had one of the 2 participating black males in the church deliver a lay sermon on Rev. James Reeb. It went over like a lead ballon. Of the two UU’s who died in that conflict, a leader would understand that the layperson would resonate more to an audiance than a minister.

    Another example is that in a church of 350 he is proud he can call up 35 people at anytime to man homeless shelters. I am an ex union organizer, being able to call up 10% of your group is pitiful.

    His failure is not because he is a bad person, on the contrary her is a nice guy, it is because he doesn’t understand leading.

    This inability to know that you must understand how to connect with people to lead them and that you must lead them, I have seen in many of the naive posts done by UU Ministers. Often, much to my weary regret I’ve read and heard sermons where UU ministers will request great things and then say that it is not their job to lead.

    If the ministers themselves are too involved in the lives of their cats, the nuances of philosophy, or just mouthing words of love with no real aggressive attempt at being a transformative event in the lives of their congregations while also providing organizing leadership, then what do we expect?

    I believe we have a transformative liberation theology to share, but the very speakers of the theology either do not know how to speak it, or would rather their congregation speak it than them.

    When we produce ministers who are more worried of the plight of others than if their statements and actions will violate the church’s C3 status we will get those store fronts. Until then, no one will hear us. Nor, I regret to say, should they.

  4. Nice parting shot there Chuck. 🙂

    Couldn’t agree more, albeit about various other U*U failings as well. Until U*Us clean up their own act on a variety of issues their words are meaningless.

  5. I believe that Micah’s Proch (in Chicago) is another example of the kind of church you’re looking for.

    But Philocrites has an excellent point–efforts from on high (UCA, AUA, UUA) to plant churches have a dismal success rate. High cost, low success rate, and only where success is defined way down, I believe. The single most effective (by far) planting effort was not-planting, but simply aiding and fostering the fellowships that mostly self-organized. Our churches form where the people are, not where we try to put them.

    You’ll have to explain the notion of a god-less liberation theology to me. I’m not sneering, I’m simply unfamiliar with anything of the sort. My definition may need adjusting. If you’re simply stating that you think that one is possible and would be a good idea… that’s an interesting challenge you’re setting yourself. (Go for it!)

    It’s clearly possible for us to go “there,” as we can see that Parker and Holmes did.

    Chuck, you say you think we have a transformative liberation theology to share–where is it articulated? The seminaries have people who are engaged in some of this work, and are trying to engage in it–but I can tell you that I don’t hear any agreement that we have some clear, articulated, shared theology. Not even “a” theology of that sort that’s UU but not shared (yet). Discussion of what our shared theology is? Yeah. That’s being wrestled with.

    In the meantime, our efforts in this come out of individuals feeling so motivated.

    (In addition, a union’s not a congregation–the analogy is defective. Getting 10% of a congregation “out there” is getting 10% of a very very different population out there.)

  6. Thanks for your input Patrick, however we must disagree with the analogy. Both issues require the person to motivate the listener to be part of a larger movement. While I celebrate your belief that Union personnel are ready to step out at a moment’s notice, such is not the case.

    In terms of leadership a Union Organizer, at least in the Union I worked at, was required to be an inspirational leader. A minister, particularly a UU one is trying to connect the members to part of something larger. Not every union action is money related, just like not every UU action is related to one thing. The leader must make the followers want to follow. Their level of turnout is the measure of success.

  7. Sorry Patrick, I did not address your other point. I will make a layman’s warm fuzzy attempt to address your correct question.

    You are correct in that I know of no agreed upon idea that has been written down. That said, the very openess of our religion is the Liberation Theology that we seek. Our ability to see the paths to a positive life via a person’s own distinct spiritual journey may be our Liberation Theology. Our very diversity is our strength.

    Again, forgive my layman’s words, I hope I got my point across.

  8. Pingback: Courter on independent affiliates; dating rules for ministers « uuworld.org : The Interdependent Web

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