I Refuse To Pass…or Why I Will Leave Unitarian Universalism

I don’t feel like going over U.S. racial history right now, so if you don’t know what I mean when I talk about passing–email me and I’ll talk to you about it.

Now…I’m not saying that I’m leaving Unitarian Universalism today…I’m here at least until the end of my internship in July…but….

Earlier this year John Katz wrote: Damn right I don’t listen to music that promotes violence, misogyny, and homophobia. Nor do I wallow in a pop culture that actively exploits anti-intellectualism.

And last week he wrote: But to me both authors [Paul Rasor and Rosemary Bray McNatt] seemed almost frantic to expand our numbers, and at the same time almost eager to compromise who we are in order to do so.

Just exactly who are we? And why is it that the implication is that the only “good” UU is the upper-middle and upper class Anglo-Saxon one?

I’m tired of being constantly asked to pass. I’m tired of having to decide how much of myself I will be able to bring into whatever UU church I walk into.

Yes…I listen to Jay-Z, T.I.,Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre and still mourn the loss of Tupac. Yes…I read Omar Tyree and Wahida Clark. Yes…I think one of the best music videos ever done was Ice Cube’s “Today Was A Good Day.” Yes…I watch Divorce Court and Maury and All My Children.

Yes…I am college educated and working on an M.Div. Yes…I watch Charlie Rose and Masterpiece Theatre and have fallen in love with Law and Order:UK. Yes…I read the New York Times and Barbara Kingsolver and Walter Brueggemann and have a list of books by Richard Rorty and Julia Cameron and Anthony Pinn that I plan to read. Yes…I listen to Copeland and Mendelssohn, Coltrain and Miles Davis.

So Mr. Katz, did the UU church compromise itself when I walked in the door? What was I supposed to be other than who I am? Am I not good enough for your UU church?

Why should I give up listening to Jay-Z just because I join a UU church? To satisfy your elitist vision of what UUism is (and just so you know I happen to know the difference between someone being elite and being elitist)? Why do I have to pass in order to make you feel comfortable? Why is your culture the standard?

One of my favorite church songs when I was growing up (and one I still sing sometimes) was “Just As I Am.” If you want to know why most UU churches aren’t growing, I’ll tell you. It’s because we don’t take people just as they are and tell them that they have to give up some part of themselves in order to be accepted by us. That is the reason I will leave Unitarian Universalism. I refuse to pass and I’m tired of being asked to.

Coda: After reading the comments, I’ve come to realize that maybe I titled this post wrong. I probably should have titled it I Refuse To Pass…or Why I MIGHT Leave Unitarian Universalist. However, I think I’m using the English language right the way I used it–by saying that X will be the reason Y happens. Anyway…I’m not leaving just yet; although I think I’m going to be splitting my time between a UU church and another church in whatever city I end up in. While I do have other religious options, I see part of my role as speaking up for those who don’t have religious options besides Unitarian Universalism. I want to make UUism as open as possible–without feeling like I’m being trampled on in the process.

What Is The Purpose Of The UUA?

I had a long conversation today with a friend and that conversation helped me realize what I see as the question that hasn’t been asked in a while but should.

What is the purpose of the UUA?

Part of the reason I’m asking this question is because I’m seeing too many UU bloggers who are (or seem to be) questioning some of the basic tenets of the free church. This concerns me–as someone who grew up in radical congregationalism. But it also makes me think that the UUA, and by extension many UU churches, are not doing the job it/they ought to in educating people in what it means to be a member of the free church. Which makes me think that there is confusion as to purpose. Hence the question–which I’ll repeat.

What is the purpose of the UUA?

Previews Are For Movies, Not Church…or To Publish Sermon Titles or Not Publish Sermon Titles pt. 2

The conversation is continuing on whether or not its a good idea/practice to publish sermon titles/topics/themes. The most recent comments are on the Ten Minutes or Less blog. I’ve been reading the comments with interest, mainly because I’m still trying to not let my judgemental side go completely biserk and write a rant that would cause me to lose all my friends. Plus, some people I really respect think it’s a good idea, so I’m more inclined to stay a part of the debate. But I have to tell ya…it’s becoming harder and harder to do.

So while I was reading the comments a little while ago…it came to me…of course lots of UUs are for publishing sermon titles…upper-middle and upper class educated people always want to know the title of the lecture they are attending…whether it’s at the local church or the art museum or college.

This, my friends, is a class issue.

But this is also about programming, and that’s something I hadn’t really given as much attention to as I should have. Yeah…I’ve talked about the fact that if you look at the churches that are really growing, one common denominator is that they have lots of MINISTRIES. What I haven’t really talked about is the fact that these churches offer something BEYOND Sunday. They are, to steal the title of Lyle Schaller’s book, Seven-Day-A-Week churches.

So…if all you have is Sunday; which, let’s be honest, is what the vast majority of UU churches have…the debate is going to be about whether or not to publish sermon titles/topics/themes. If….I repeat IF…more UU churches were seven-day-a-week places… if…I repeat IF…more UU churches offered programs for EVERYBODY (not just those who are looking for religious education for their children)…if…I repeat IF…more UU churches presented themselves as vibrant and welcoming places who really wanted all different kinds of people to be a part of them…then publishing sermon titles would be unnecessary…your fruit would be visible to the outside world.

Do Single People Matter?…or…What Is The UU Definition Of Family?

I’ve been in some conversations lately about family ministry. The conversations have been interesting and timeful, but I’ve come out of them feeling uneasy.

In all of our UU talk of family ministry, are we implicitly telling those who are uncoupled and/or don’t have children that they are unnecessary to the church? In less complicated words…do single people and/or those who are child-free matter to UU churches?

Don’t get me wrong…I think family ministry is important. But does the church (and by this I mean all churches, not just UU churches), by focusing so much on ‘building strong families’ or ‘enriching families’, tell those who not coupled and/or don’t have children that they are somehow less-than…not worthy of being ministered to?

How many UU churches have a really vibrant Singles ministry? (and don’t tell me about your young adult ministry, that’s not the same thing and not what I’m talking about) Where is the Couples ministry in a/any UU church? Ministries for those who have lost a partner?

What is the UU definition of family? Who are we excluding by that definition?

The Sista Rules For UU Church Growth

I’ve been reading with interest the latest installment on the UU Growth blog about whether or not to post sermon titles. As I said in my last post, I am firmly in the “do not post” camp. But as I’ve read the discussion I’ve noticed something else…the black church has been doing it wrong for all these years 😉 ; they are not helping newcomers overcome the normal barriers to attending church by only publishing the times of Sunday School and Worship. Now them doing it wrong is one of the reasons that I will most likely end up back in the black church, but that’s not important right now.

UUs make growth complicated when it’s not. So I’ve come up with six rules for UU church growth. Do I expect anybody to pay attention? Not really…but I’ll tell them anyway.

Rule #1…Stop thinking that you are the only religious people who think. In street terms, stop acting like ya s*** don’t stink–you ain’t all dat.

Rule #2…Believe (or pretend you believe) you have a gospel that people might just want to hear. see rule #1.

Rule #3…Read the Book of Acts. It is THE story of church growth. see rule #1.

Rule#4…Act as if you believe you have a gospel that people might just want to hear. see rule #1.

Rule #5…Re-read the Book of Acts. see rule #1.

Rule #6…Do what the early church did in the Book of Acts. see rule #1.

There you have it. Six simple rules for growing UU churches. Now…I’m sure that some of you will be uncomfortable with reading the Book of Acts. Tough. Suck it up. I know you don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah. That’s fine. That’s not why I’m telling you to read Acts. You read Acts to see how people act when they really believe they have something worth sharing. Novel concept, isn’t it?