"Perhaps in reflecting a bit more deeply, the UU blogging community can come up with a Carnival that will not just be about cheerleading, but about expressing individual opinions that as a whole draw us closer together and open our doors wider for more people to come in. There is room for my opinion, yours, and the neighbor down the street or across the globe. It is our freedom to express these opinions and learn from one another, to my mind, that makes Unitarian Universalist community so rich and rewarding."
I agree that the blogging community is all about expressing individual opinions and feeding one another into conversation. That's great, and obviously that's what I do here at PeaceBang.
However, my objection to the eternal Sharing Of Opinions comes when we suggest doing so as programming that is actually supposed to achieve something (like growth, as Jess suggests).
I have been watching for some years now, and I really don't think that the Sharing Of Opinions About Who We Are attracts anybody to us. In fact, I think that many people who find us are mighty turned off by our continual fascination with convening conferences and gatherings that focus on Who We Are.
I compare our flounderings with the recent UCC gathering I attended where the workshops were all focused on the arts of ministry in worship.
Picture this: the whole conference gathers together for an opening worship that reminds everyone what they are (Christians), whose they are (Christ's), and what they're about (building up the kingdom of God here on earth). Boom. No discussion really needed. They're United Church of Christ folks, so they know that they're liberal religious and therefore they read Scripture critically, they are skeptical of authority, they believe revelation is ongoing, they generally agree that Jesus's life mattered more than the way he died, there are plenty among them who would scoff at the notion of literal resurrection and all of them reject the notion of the virgin birth, they are mostly feminists or know they should be, they are welcoming of sexual minorities, they are striving for diversity in all aspects of their religious movement. Many of them are eclectic in their spirituality, openly sharing their interest in Buddhist meditation, feminist spirituality and goddess reverence, indigenous spiritual practices like shamanism, Judaic studies, interest in Islamic notions of God and community, and many other spiritual systems and practices.
Meanwhile, Unitarian Universalists share every one of those basic commitments and yet continue to insist that they are an entirely new thing under the sun, religiously speaking. Meanwhile, for all their supposed diversity, they are also almost all white, almost all attend worship on Sunday mornings in what closely resembles a traditional Protestant worship service, they are almost all in relationship with a congregation led by ordained ministers, and they generally read the same books, listen to the same radio stations and hold the same political opinions as the UCC gang.
They claim to be different because they're really diverse religiously or theologically, yet a minute number of them practice anything other than Vague Religious Seeking in the form of reading books, attending discussions, and Having Opinions. They have been encouraged to think of this as "being UU" by their ministers and leaders. It is not their fault. Very few of them have been given the tools or the teachings to enter deeply into any specific spiritual practices -- something for which many of them hunger and remain frustrated -- and very few of them have anything but a passing acquaintance with any world religion other than Christianity, which they often vehemently reject.
No one has had the vision or the nerve to offer them a living tradition that can be clearly defined in affirmatives, and have filled them on a steady diet of revolving opinions, and so only the most chronically curious, robust and self-directed stay on. The rest go away with their ribs poking through their spiritual skins, just about starved.
I am coming to deeply believe that Unitarian Universalism is only a viable religious path for the most chronically curious, robust and self-directed spiritual seekers. I am coming to deeply believe that even those feisty souls are being starved, but that they heroically continue to subsist on the incredibly thin gruel we have all agreed to ingest simply because it can be tolerated by every stomach. I am coming to deeply believe that this spiritual starvation is an offense against the God of my understanding, who isn't nearly as offended by being denied by Unitarian Universalists as S/He is by a covenanted people mistaking Opinions for vocation.