Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tolerance and Compassion?

Yet again I return to the subject of sin, this time in conversation with Stephen of Reignite, who wrote this excellent post:

http://reigniteuk.blogspot.com/2006/05/called-out.html

Notice in the comments section, when one reader innocently inquires what Unitarians need to be "called out" for (in this context, to have our shortcomings and sins named and confronted). Fascism? Satanism? he asks.

I shake my head in dismay. Are you kidding? You really wonder what UUs need to be called out for?

Oy vey. We constantly mistake our ideals of tolerance, compassion and open-heartedness for a lived reality of tolerance and love. As of yet, they are ideals. They are principles. They are not the reality in most of our churches. One of the greatest, most destructive sins of the current UU movement is that we actually think we are living out our professed ideals, and worse yet, we think we're actually doing a better job of living out our ideals than mainstream Christians are doing at living out theirs. What a tragic misconception. We are not. What we are doing is making sure that we attract and truly include only those people whose attitudes, proclivities and preferences are exactly like ours, and then collectively congratulating ourselves at how well we're doing as a vibrant religious faith.

I do not excuse myself from this sin.

Someday, Unitarians here and in Britain might actually learn how to live in a spirit of true compassion and open-heartedness in our congregations. We might learn that the care of the soul should be the first order of business among us, not achieving intellectual and political conformity by means of hard-core intellectual wrassling. We may learn to live peacefully together with a shared sense of wonder and delight at the ways God moves within each of us, or, if you prefer, how reverence makes its way into our hearts even without a sense of a transcendent Presence.

We may learn to unabashedly worship together, where people will feel uplifted and know that they are responsible for their own experience. They will know how to worship together, and those who come to the minister bearing a list of every word, message, prayer and hymn that did not meet with his or her personal approval will be guided and companioned in a process of pastoral healing, not pandered to.

We may learn to truly welcome the stranger, not to erect barriers of smug superiority between us and thousands upon thousands of seekers who come to us actually thinking they will find authentic tolerance and diversity.

We've got plenty of besetting sins and demons to struggle with without messing with Satan and fascism, friends.

If I sound especially cranky, it's because I just read my GA program and realized that in three weeks I'll be cast out of the lovely environment of my own congregation -- where I can so often forget the besetting sins of UUism as I have experienced them all my life -- and directly experiencing all that dysfunction I have just named.

God give me strength, a loving heart, and unfailing humor.

16 Comments:

Blogger Kim said...

When you say "Catholic-bashing", are you meaning bashing people who are Catholics, or bashing of ideas promoted by the Catholic church? or both?

00:12  
Blogger chutney said...

If you're going to preach like that, you need to preach like that at my congregation. Seriously. Apply.

00:46  
Blogger Matt said...

I thought this was a fantastic post. I'm going to come back and read it a few times to digest it fully!

06:51  
Blogger Paul Wilczynski said...

Please come do that sermon at my church, too. You know which one it is.

07:13  
Blogger Bill Baar said...

...we actually think we are living out our professed ideals, and worse yet, we think we're actually doing a better job of living out our ideals than mainstream Christians are doing at living out theirs. What a tragic misconception. We are not.

Close maybe.... this is indeed the party line some tell. I heard it during our 'Framing Meeting' when reference was made to this sermon by Doug Muder. Few really believe it though and are smart enough to realize were no more or less better living our ideals than anyone else.

We do fall apart on the intellectual horse power side though. Rather than intellectually argue, defend, and most importantly rethink Liberal Relgion we duck confrontation and fall back on well at least were not hypocrites.

That's an extremely distressing thing to say to a hypocrite who is in fact looking for answers, meaning, salvation...

An Evangelical more often than not has a coherent answer on what's right and wrong, a welcoming church, and forgives the sinner: over and over...

That's got to be far more satisfying then confused answers and a well, our divorce stats are better (Muder's line).

We don't really believe were better at living ideals, but we haven't crafted a theology appropriate for today, and just dodge the questions with this look at our life style response.

09:41  
Blogger fausto said...

Go to that GA and speak truth to power, PB!

10:16  
Blogger Jamie Goodwin said...

I just don't know.. i just don't believe the road to success is paved in this kind fo finger pointing and UU bashing.. and come on, that is what it is. Because you know darn well that people are trying, and not just in your congregation, thousands and thousands of people are trying every day to live up to the ideas we have set for ourselves.

12:26  
Blogger chutney said...

Jamie,

But, as Jon Caroll would say, sincerity is not enough.

And what if Peacebang is right? What if, alongside the thousands and thousands of people who are trying every day to live up to the ideas we have set for ourselves, there are thousands and thousands who fit Peacebangs description to a T? (And thousands and thousands who fall somewhere in between?)

13:25  
Blogger Chalicechick said...

Then we'd be about where the Christians are, IMHO.

And the rest of the human race.

I'm with Jamie. I think most people in most churches are good folks just trying to do their best.

Too bad the jerks are always loudest.

CC

13:58  
Blogger fausto said...

The problem is not that we are any more plagued by the failure to live up to our own principles than any other denomination. The problem is that we can be better at noticing the planks in other people's eyes without being as aware of the specks in our own. And calling on ourselves to be more mindful of our own specks is not destructive, it's constructive.

14:42  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Kim, I mean the casual put-downs of Catholic beliefs and those who are credulous enough to stay in the Catholic Church, which of course they would only do because "some people just need to be told what to believe." (Favorite UU Superiority Myth #1)

Chut, thanks for the ups, but I really can't see leaving this congregation. They're too wonderful.

Jamie, it's not finger-pointing. It's naming my experience as a life-long UU with encounters with hundreds of us as individuals and dozens of of as congregations.

And I disagree with your latter point. I see, and hear, unbelievably offensive behaviors, comments and attitudes coming from UUs every time I leave my church.
I see people who already *had* a set of convictions finding UU congregations and becoming part of a community, which is a lot different than coming to a congregation and being challenged and transformed there.

When you've spent as long living with and serving Unitarian Universalism as I have, come talk to me about "UU bashing."

16:25  
Blogger Bill Baar said...

I hear the bashing of other faiths. Look around UU blogs and you'll find it.

I spent ten years in a Catholic Church as a non member. My wife and kids belonged. Never once during those years was I ever made to feel unwelcome or hear an unkind word.

I don't think it would be the same in a UU Church.

And it's not because we're bad. We're not, it's just we have a hard time explaining what we are and therefore fall back on the easy explaination of what we're not... and that sometimes falls into a cheap shot on another faith.

Worse, because often what were about is practical goodness (right out of my Church's covenant) we fall into we lead more just or ethical lives.

I think that's a dangerous trend. A Church needs too articulate a faith independent of how we lead our lives.

We don't survive without that.

17:38  
Blogger Jamie Goodwin said...

That is fair enough PB, your right I was not raised UU, but I beg you to think of what that means.

I grew up in the organizations you are claiming have "got it right" and then saying we "got it worng" it just doesn't fit with my experience.

We are not perfect, I don't expect we ever will be but I have absolutley no doubt about the sincerity of people trying to make a difference within our faith, and within our world.

It is important to speak up as you do about what you see wrong about our faith, because we need smart, trained, and caring people to do so. We can do so much better, and we will.. i have faith that we will.

My fear is that by only concentrating on what we do wrong (and I am not claiming you do this, only that it happens) we becomes as much a part of the problem as the solution.

Finally, I want to apologize for the "UU Bashing" phrase, that was too harsh, and although I did not mean it in that way I apologize for any hurt feelings.

18:04  
Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

Bill,
Can you elaborate more on your statement, "A Church needs too articulate a faith independent of how we lead our lives?"

18:31  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Hot stuff, kids!

No harm done, Jamie, although I admit I was hurt. Thanks for apologizing. I do, too.

My next post is going to have to be "Ten Things I Love About UUs"

19:03  
Blogger Chalicechick said...

(((I spent ten years in a Catholic Church as a non member. My wife and kids belonged. Never once during those years was I ever made to feel unwelcome or hear an unkind word.

I don't think it would be the same in a UU Church.)))

We've had mixed results on this in my house. TheCSO is often cranky in the mornings, especially when woken up early, so his occaisional visits to my previous church on Sunday mornings didn't go well and a few of the old ladies wondered why I was marrying someone so irritable and curt.

But my new church has been more than accepting of him as a non-member who comes to some events. Last winter, TheCSO came to our bazaar to help me in the youth room for a few days. We had enough volunteers there and he went off to see if he could help somewhere else. The next thing I knew my husband was moving officiously through the halls with a walkie-talkie! (If you take him to any large gathering, it's better than even money that by the end of it, he'll be in charge of something and have a walkie-talkie.)

He helped out a lot more at the Fellowship Dinner, too. And people recognize him and seem to like him. The minister jokes about getting him there on Sundays, and while that's not going to happen anytime soon, the sentiment was appreciated. Probably the CSO's willingness to step up and work hard and help out is the root of my congregation's seeming collective fondness for him, but that fondness is still there, and stronger than I would expect.

CC

07:31  

Post a Comment

<< Home