Tony Lorenzen over at the Sunflower Chalice blog posits that the continuing animosity towards the idea of Christianity in many UU circles is due, at least partly, to aversion addiction. It is an insightful analysis and I encourage you to read it.
I think Tony may be on to something, at least as far as those 50+ may be concerned. But I would posit that, for the children of those 50+, the case is much less aversion than the ingrained willful ignorance to scripture and tradition that they have received.
Many years ago Roger Wilkins, the historian and author, gave a speech in which he said, “What you have amnesia towards does not have amnesia towards you.” Now…he was talking about American history as it relates to those of African descent, but I think it fits the modern UU situation well.
For an example, let’s look at Rob Bell, who is just the latest in a long line of Christian thinkers to explore the questions about the nature of God and God’s love and come out less than orthodox (even if not fully universalist or unitarian). Many in the UU-blogosphere tried to render an opinion as to whether Rob Bell was an universalist or not–without having any clue as to what classical universalist theology is, much less having any idea of who someone like Quillen Shinn is. (if you know what classical universalist theology is and/or know who Quillen Shinn is, I’m not talking about you.) Many of those same bloggers were eager to claim Rob Bell as one of us, not knowing where he fits in the line (assuming that one believes that he is an universalist).
If modern Unitarian Universalism is indeed a “living tradition,” would it not behoove us to actually talk about the tradition from which we come from more than just at Christmas and Easter? Instead we have this willful amnesia.
In a way, it is a real shame that we don’t do catechism the way our Transylvanian brothers and sisters do. If we did, then we would be able to pass on the tradition on in a systematic way to all comers. From there you could give people the breath and wealth of all the world’s religions. Thus it would be truly a living tradition–a tradition that encounters the rest of the world in all its fullness and glory. Not only that, if we built a catechism we could tell our story–from Arius and Origen to Sharon Welch and Rebecca Parker.
The Methodist have the Wesleys. The Presbyterians have John Knox. The Baptists have Roger Williams. The Quakers have George Fox. The Brethern have Alexander Mack. We have Michael Servetus. And John Murray. And William Ellery Channing. Yet how much of our story is transmitted on any sort of regular basis?
Notice I said story and not theology. The reason I said story and not theology is simple…if I know your story, I can figure out your theology. Your story helps give your theology its framework–its body. Just as, once more fully developed, your theology helps you look at your story in new ways.
Our story is part of the Christian story. And it is a story that only we can tell. It is a story that we MUST tell. Others can, and do, talk about our classical theologies. But only we have the story. And we do ourselves and those to whom we are theologically and ecclesiastically related to a disservice by not telling our story.
If we are to be a “living tradition,” don’t we have to know our take on the tradition first?