Brian McKnight??? In Church?!?!?!…or…How UU Culture Inhibits UU Growth

Shoulda been a better man/the kinda man that you needed/Woulda been better off/if I done right by you/I coulda done this…I coulda done that/but I know I can’t go back/’cause now it’s just too late/I’m sayin shoulda…woulda…coulda…yeah

Pop quiz…if you can name the ALBUM that this song comes off of…I will give you something whenever I see you.

So…First Church asked me to bring the message on July 18 (yesterday for all you home players). Never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t. And I’ve known what the subject of the sermon was going to be for a long while. But the spark for the sermon was a song…the chorus of which is at the beginning of this post. The song is by Brian McKnight, one of my favorite R&B singers. Now I didn’t have a problem with the fact that the song was the original spark for this sermon. Didn’t cross my mind to have a problem with it. Didn’t phase me in the least that I was using the song as a way to do exegesis on three different Bible passages and a section of another book that I really like.

Then it struck me…I didn’t know how many people in the audience were going to know who I was talking about when I said the name Brian McKnight.

I thought about changing the song that I was going to use. But the song that came to mind was this:

Funny, funny how time goes by/And blessings are missed in the blink of an eye/Why oh why oh why should one have to go on suffering/When everyday I pray please come back to me…If I could turn, turn back the hands of time/Then my darlin’ you’d still be mine/If I could turn, turn back the hands of time/Then darlin’ you, you’d still be mine

which is a song by R.Kelly, another of my favorite R&B singers. So I was in the same predicament.

There’s been some talk of late about UU culture (what it is, does it need to change), and I wasn’t going to get into that subject again. Until I ran into my little predicament.

There is an assumption made about you (no matter what your race) the first time you walk into a UU church. Let’s not lie about that. The assumption about you is that you are a NPR listening, classical music loving, wine drinking, Birkenstock wearing multiple-degreed person. You’ve also been to the most recent showing at the art museum/gallery in your town, go to the theatre on a regular basis, have season tickets to the local symphony and give money to the local no-kill shelter. Don’t put comments on here telling me that you don’t fit that description. I know there are those of us who don’t. But let’s not lie to ourselves friends…too many of us put on airs and think we’re hot sh*t (as my family would say) and look down on those who don’t copy our ways.

Now…why am I bringing this up in a post about my little predicament? Simple…I wouldn’t have had this predicament if the singer of the song that inspired my sermon was James Taylor and not Brian McKnight. I wouldn’t have questioned whether anybody in the audience would know who I was talking about if it were James Taylor. Why is that?

Could it be that too often UU culture asks people to not bring everything they are into the church? C’mon…let’s be honest…how comfortable does the typical UU church culture make those who don’t fit it in some way feel? Say you’re a fan of Reba McIntyre or Brooks and Dunn. How welcomed do you feel in a church that never makes reference to anything country music related but will beat something written by Mozart to death. Or what about those who love the TV show Family Guy. How many UU churches really welcome those who like that show if they are over age 16? Really love reading Nora Roberts novels. Have you heard anything from her books spoken from the nearest UU pulpit? The most serious movies you watch are The Naked Gun trilogy. All you hear about at church is the latest movie that Meryl Streep is in?      My guess is that you see where I’m going.

Too often UU culture thinks that there is only one type of culture. And that, dear friends, has inhibited our growth. The churches that are growing the most, across denominations, are the ones where the culture develops organically. Where people are allowed to bring their whole selves in.

How many people do we repel because there is no mention of Brian McKnight or R.Kelly or Reba or Brooks and Dunn? Talk with disdain about Family Guy? Think there is nothing of note in Nora Roberts novels?

At some point we need to look ourselves in the mirror and see ourselves for what we really are and what we present to the world and how we are received.


3 thoughts on “Brian McKnight??? In Church?!?!?!…or…How UU Culture Inhibits UU Growth

  1. Kim … have you seen the web site list and associated book titled “Stuff White People Like”?

    The author isn’t commenting on all white folks but on the demographic slice that shows up very often in UU circles. For example, a white person that enjoys the stand-up comic Dane Cook would be the “wrong” sort of white person.

    This book and list is satire but it unfortunately describes a lot of UU church culture.

  2. Some of the “problems” with Brian McKnight might be more old fashion generation gap than culture gap … but yes, we UUs arent too hip in our pop IQ .. when I'[m asked where I’m from, I usually give in in mileage from a Nascar track (like 15 miles), and then mention that I’ve driven on the track” , In UU culture I lose cool points for that description (except for the points I get for having the moxie to use it). Our dilemma remains that we want to be multi-cultural, but at the same time we don’t want to lose our upper middle class culture. It looks like we want others to accommodate us, not us accommodate others.

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