Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hot, Hot, Hot!

We got all kinds of HOT in the recent post about including "God" (word and concept), with 29 comments posted.
I think you might like to read them, and travel over to some of the links folks recommended to hear more people expound on the subject.
Miss Kitty, for instance, has some nice reflections on her own blog about 40 years as a UU. I know that CK writes amazing stuff over at her blog (click the link on her name), and she also helpfully referred us over to an older posting at Free and Responsible Search.

I've closed the comments on that posting and invite bloggers who are fired up and discussing the God Conversation (not debate! not debate!) at their own sites to link here.

In conclusion, I would like to add that while I have heard probably thousands of testimonials from UUs who were invited to share why they left their former religion, and to speak with great passion about how they feel saved by UUism, I have always known that it would be a very bad idea to speak, in those same gatherings, about the saving power of Christ Jesus in my life as a UU.

I'm grateful for the UU Christian Fellowship today, thinking that if it wasn't for them and their spiritual support and friendship, their humor and patience and kindness, I would probably be totally unchurched today, having given up on the UUs and having had no other home to go to.

Also, as a clarification, I want to add that while I am careful to invoke the holy in myriad ways in my own parish ministry (in preaching and pastoral care), it is not from anxiety or "not being allowed" to use Christian language. My own congregation is comprised of mature UUs who are genuinely theologically pluralistic. Very few of them are nervously rejecting of traditional language and ideas -- they just aren't ministered to by them, and so I employ a wide variety of images, metaphors and messages in an effort to nurture their spirits. This is mostly a joyful challenge and only occasionally a terrible burden. Readers of this blog should not assume that my comments about UUism are a commentary on my own congregation, which is my favorite church in the world, and a people who have made me a better Christian and a better human being.


Blogger Chalicechick said...

While I would not have responded in the way some of your commenters did, I did share their confusion on the point you just clarified.


Blogger powderblue said...

PeaceBang, if replying to this question does not violate (well, at least significantly violate) your decision to end discussion on this topic, what do you think of the word "Lord", and why would it be a good idea for Unitarian Universalists to reclaim it?

Blogger Meredith said...

Powderblue beat me to it, almost. Not quite. PeaceBang, dear, what do you think of the word "Lord," and, regardless of whether you think it would be a good idea for UUs to reclaim it, why would you intentionally reclaim it?

Blogger ms. kitty said...

Sweetpeace, thanks for your kind words about my virgin efforts at blogging. Lord love a duck, girl, (as we say out here in the wild, wild west) you do have a way of expressing yourself. Could it be that in your SDI (Strengths Deployment Indicator), you are a very strong red?

Blogger Kim said...

PeaceBang -- I did not intend my comments to be dismissive. i apologize to you for you taking it that way. You are apparently unaware of how much Christianity has really genuinely hurt people. I respect your right to be a Christian, but I am not obligated to respect Christianity, which is ideas not people.
It's clear to me from your reply that I am not welcome here. So I will go away.

Blogger fausto said...

Kim, I'm wondering whether this tension between you and PeaceBang would have played out differently if, say, you had each said the same things as lay members on a congregation's worship committee rather than on her own personal blog.

Would she have felt the same freedom to express her true spiritual orientation in that instance? Would you have felt as free to respond as bluntly as you did? Would you have been so quick to withdraw when it was pointed out that your words gave offense, however inadvertently, or would you have stood your ground and claimed your own right to that turf?

The reason I ask is, exactly this sort of tension over exactly this sort of issue does happen among lay members of congregations, and it usually doesn't resolve itself so gracefully.

Blogger Mystical Seeker said...

I am sorry that I missed a chance to comment on the discussion before it was closed (although, come to think of it, I probably had nothing of consequence to add to it.)

I am one of those people who feels caught in the middle between UUism on the one hand and the liberal trinitarian othordoxy of churches like the UCC or liberal Episcopalianism. I was thinking I was the only person who felt that way, but then I ran across a posting last night in the progressive christian bulletin board. The discussion is quite interesting to me, but doesn't address the concerns of those who are loyal to the UU church and want to reform it or take it in a certain direction. The discussion, for those who are interested, is at .

Blogger PeaceBang said...

I was thinking today about someone's very good observation that our experiences are all local. I was thinking about the fact that I've been in UU congregations in seven states: CT, NY, MN, IL, MD, PA, that I've been a minister within five congregations in three states, that I've guest preached in at least a dozen across the country, and that I have friends in the parish ministry in 30 out of the 50 United States. I was thinking, "Wow, my 'local' experience has gotten pretty broad."
Which made me glad, as I don't like to generalize about a movement unless I have pretty broad experience with its people.

To Kim's point about Christianity being ideas and not people, well choke me on a Communion wafer. Here I was getting baptized into the living Body of Christ, which is nothing but people. Kim, of course I am not unaware of how much Christianity has hurt people. Any educated 21st century human being is aware of that, and most particularly UU ministers. I understand that you are personally fairly horrified that I became a Christian, but I do believe that if you're going to be a UU you're going to have to stop relying on your perception that folks make choices just 'cause they plumb don't know what you know.
I wish you healing from the harmful Christianity of your experience and have full faith that you will someday get there through the good fellowship of the Unitarian Universalists.

Blogger tinythinker said...

Since the other thread was closed soon after I posted in it, let me clarify something here.

PeaceBang wrote:
look at how Tiny veers immediately into the assumption that Christians -- EVEN CHRISTIAN UUs -- are exclusivist believers who are just itching to preach hellfire in the pulpit.

Not true. I instead used a particularly extreme example, that of "people who want to preach that the redeeming power of Jesus by way of the sinner’s prayer and baptism is the only way to salvation from a certain eternity of hellfire and that all other religions are tools of the debbil", to make a point. I did not suggest that this was the typical Christian condition, let along the typical UU Christian condition. The point being made? That, as I wrote, while such a person should be welcome in a UU church, they cannot expect to have everyone stop talking about other views of Jesus, let alone about pantheism or paganism or what not. And as I wrote, the same goes for everyone else, including those atheists or agnostics who may find hearing anything about Jesus or God as offensive as the evangelical Christian biblical literalist would find hearing about the Buddha.

Also, I was asked a question in the other thread and have no opportunity to reply in it, so I will answer here:

Tiny, are you acquainted with anything about Unitarian or Universalist Christianity? I recommend you to the sermons of Channing or Parker, or to the works of Hosea Ballou or John Murray. When you become acquainted with Unitarian and Universalist theology, you will never again have to feel or express such anxiety about a UU Christian preaching in such a manner.

I read the book A Chosen Faith and I have friends who are into things like panentheism and process theology and who write about it all the time (and how it differs from stereotypical theism). My reactions a couple of years ago had nothing to do with 'UU Christian preaching', as there was none. The particular services I went to didn't even mention Jesus. What I found myself reacting to was the similarity of the layout of the sanctuary, the order of service, standing and rising to sing hymns or responsive readings, passing the collection plate, having a talk or sermon by a minister, etc. It just triggered a strong sensation reaction, as if I were back in one of the little fundie churches I grew up in. Kind of like how people who are used to gunfire jump or duck when they hear a backfire or when a particular smell evokes a really strong memory of a place and time.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Thanks, Tiny. I wasn't sure if I understood that. I should have asked you first. And I do hope you'll find your way to some of our old Christian dudes, as I think you might really dig them.

Blogger tinythinker said...

Hey it was a busy thread, and I also tend to presume quite a lot. I find that it is just way too easy for me to slip from 'well-intentioned' into 'self-righteous', from 'humble opinion' to 'chastising sermon'. I enjoy your blog and the views you present very much--they are highly beneficial. I've even quoted you before when I thought you hit a nail so squarely on the head I couldn't rephrase it without losing what made the statement so effective in the first place. I am sorry that you run into the 'club for progressive elites' mentality from time to time, but it sounds like your own congregation is fairly supportive.

Blogger SC Universalist said...

I have a picture taken last year in an UU Church in the Carolinas of a minister at the pulpit - with a cross behind him and "God is Love" on the altar.

Im sure folks looking at that church or picture would get a differnt view there of UUism than at other places.

Blogger fausto said...

Mine here in suburban Boston has a cross over the pulpit, and words of Jesus in gold on the walls on either side.

We keep arguing over whether to take it down and paint them over, but we haven't done it yet.

What we keep discovering anew is that, as much as they make us itch, there is something transformative and growth-giving in having to endure the itch.

Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

Eek, I don't feel comfortable with the way Kim is being talked to. Somewhere I think a line was crossed and I've read through the posts to see if Kim crossed it, but I don't know. This conversation reminds me a lot of some of the anti racism discussions that have gone on on uu blogs.

Blogger Roger Kuhrt, PhD said...

PB: said: "I'm waiting for the day a UU actually asks me what *I* think of the word "Lord" and why I would intentionally reclaim it. But this probably won't happen in my lifetime; not at the rate we're going here, anyway."

preface: I think PB is the "cat's meow" and I know she is vouchsafed by Eermengarde! I would actually "die" for her right to be Who/What she is and is doing.

I am interested in PB's answering this question--I am a minister who was ordained on Feb. 23, 1963--I have been and always was a Unitarian and a Universalist--that witness in sermons and my presence led me to being asked to leave 3 denominations: Disciples of Christ (Xian Churches); UCC; and Presbyterian USA! In the 70's I returned to UU (which was my childhood religion in Spokane, WA--strongly Humanist). So I do think I know something of the LORD, of Jesus, even of Christ. And am quite curious as to how one might re-frame that in UU settings!

Of late, I too have pretty much disregarded UU congregations--I attend a Congregational Church and assist them--I declare from the pulpit that I am UU and a real "doubter" of standard Xian doctrine. I am accepted for the most part--though one man insists that when I preach it ought to be done in a lecture hall instead of a sanctuary.

UU churches ought to embrace pluralism (like this Congregational Church does (not UCC, but NACCC), but that is not a reality. Mostly we are in UU congregations some form of PAC's Political Actiona Committees--which is why I don't attend much.

Theological vitality--yup some out there. I am currently working with a New Thought Church and several Gnostic (emergent) groups--follow leads for Johannite Christians--they have got the "beef"!

But, PB--tell me of the Lord, in your own words. Also, do you think your very blog represents the comments you have made about the "change" you discerned at GA2006?

Cheerfully, ROK

Blogger boyinthebands said...

SC Univ -- If I intuit correctly, I used to supply that pulpit!

Blogger SC Universalist said...

BITB: you did indeed supply that pulpit!
Nice friendly folks - Ive only been there on special occasions, so I imagine you know the theological orientation better than I.

Blogger Aola said...

You know, I don't think we have any UUs here in the Bible belt. I didn't even know what one was until I started reading this blog and at first I just didn't know what to think and knew that anything I said would have come off sounding like a crazy fundy so I kept my mouth shut and kept reading. I'm glad I did. I've enjoyed reading these last few posts and all the comments. I really appreciate some of the things you have said. I came from a very long line of staunch Baptists but after 20 plus years in traditional church couldn't stomach the dogma, intolerence,manipulation and control issues anymore and left.

Thanks for writing openly and honestly.

Blogger boyinthebands said...

Aola, Tulsa is a big city for Unitarians; indeed, there are far more in the Sooner State than any others in the tornado belt. (Universalism, ah, not so much; I was called "The Universalist" during my internship at All Souls, Tulsa.) There's a tradition of Lyrical Theism out there, which keeps God-talk on the radar. Ask around.

Blogger SC Universalist said...

Ron Robinson has a small church near Tulsa in Turley. BITB will be happy to know that almost half of the members there believe in Universal Reconciliation. (Ron is also one of the leaders of the UU Christian Fellowship).
Universalists entered the Bible Belt before it was the Bible belt (in the pre-Revolutionary days) and Unitarians following shortly afterwards. So a long history in the Bible Belt.
(the SC in my blogname is for a Biblebelt state -Indeed last week I talked to someone in the other C state, NC, who's children are 5th generation uUs.)
and as far as Baptists go, lot of HISTORIC conections with Baptists and Universalists (much to the amazement now of both groups), from the Feasters to Ballou to Clayton and on. Baptists used to be a bit more liberal than they are now. Unitarians historicaly in the Bible Belt tended to have connections with Presbyterians.

Blogger Tricycle Blog said...

Aola, I haven't spent any time in Tulsa, but otherwise much of my life has been spent in the South (which is more or less in the Bible Belt). I've attended five different UU churches in the South, and visited others. But, I don't typically tell other people that I am a UU. Even if asked directly what my denominational affiliation is, I often evade the question. Most often, the questioner is a type of Christian who would be dismayed by an honest reply. I've learned not to say "I'm a Unitarian-Universalist" because that reply noticably makes the interaction more difficult--sometimes makes the ongoing relationship (as customer, coworker, whatever) more difficult, even (and not just because I ALWAYS have to explain what UUism is). So, it may be that you have met a number of UUs, but they did not "out" themselves, either because it didn't come up or because they've learned to be uncomfortable with that designation in the Bible Belt.

I have a different take on this whole Bible, God, Lord debate than anyone else seems to have brought up so far. I grew up UU, and so I've known that every day of my life will be an interfaith encounter. When you practice UUism, especially in the South, you know each day when you get up that you'll be living with other people's religions all day long. And they outnumber you a thousand to one.

Christians have the luxury of assuming everyone is just like them, and to get through the day, sometimes you have to play along. Being a religious minority means learning to speak in the parlance of the majority, and in America that means becoming religiously multi-lingual. It's not just Christianity--at less than a million adherents, we UUs are minorities in virtually every situation. Thus I've learned to speak Mormon to Mormons, Jewish to Jews, Protestant to evangelicals. I learned to be comfortable with God-talk a long time ago as a survival tool. Being able to say "Lord" without balking is a way of passing.

Biblical knowledge is strategic for me. If I wasn't able to refer to the Bible, the ten commandments, the Lord, etc, I could be in actual trouble. Even without getting dramatic about it, life is certainly a lot smoother when you can try to pass. Although I'm not a Christian, I play one in real life because some Christians are dangerous and many more are clueless and suspicious about others. Even the small percentage of overall Christians who are dangerous outnumber the total number of UUs in these areas, I have little doubt. This doesn't change the fact that my own identity as a UU is only possible because of the Christian ancestors who gave us U and Uism, that many Christians have been involved in creating our wonderful state of religious freedom, or the fact that Christianity has had a subtle but strong and inextractable influence on my morality, spirituality, and worldview. I'm grateful to Christianity, and moreso to the specific liberal Christianity that has contributed so much to our culture, and to Jesus for his teachings in the Gospels. But since Christianity is first and foremost and every day for me an outside pressure that pushes me to obscure who and what I am, it's very difficult for me to ever see anything connected with is as totally benign.

For these reasons (not the only reaasons), I encourage UUs to get familiar with the Bible and learn to say "God" without flinching. It's just basic Survival 101.


Blogger Chalicechick said...

I agree with much of what you have to say, Jeff, and would have agreed with just about all of it when I lived in South Carolina.



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