In the Chaliceblog’s excellent series “Fixing UUism”, Indrax recommends emulating the Wiccans because of the fast growth of that faith- and fast it has been: in the 50 years since Wicca was founded, and the 30 years since most other Pagan groups made themselves known, the Pagan community (of which classical Wicca is now merely the largest minority) now outnumbers the UUA. It has greater influence than we do as well; Wiccan and Pagan rites are now taught to Army Chaplains and Bush has mentioned them in speeches. I don’t believe that even Indrax grasps just how fully UU missed the boat on this; most of those members should have been- should be- ours.
I am a member of that community, being by the most common dictionary definition a Pagan: one who believes in a God other than the God of Abraham, i.e. not a Jew, Christian, or Muslim. If you check out the larger online Pagan communities, say Witchvox or WiccaForums, you’ll find something interesting... yes, there are teens who joined because of the TV show “Charmed”, but the majority of older members are- by actual poll- either generic Pagan or something called “Solitary Eclectic Wiccan’. The “Solitary” means exactly what it sounds like- they do not belong to a coven- and the “Eclectic” means that they do not follow Gardner or any other leader; they read everything published by the founders, and take what resonates with them. These are people who did not join to dance naked in the moonlight or cast spells on their neighbors- most of them had been unchurched, agnostic or atheistic, until the spiritual vacuum finally got to them. They felt a deep spiritual need, but they could not return to the faith of their childhood.
So why did they turn to Wicca? They needed a faith that was not patriarchal, that had room for the celebration of the feminine. They needed a faith more concerned with responsibility and consequences than beliefs and intents. They needed a faith that embraced homosexuals so completely that there isn’t even a need for any kind of a gay/lesbian alliance action committee. They needed a faith more tied to the Earth- even those who are not environmental activist feel a special affinity for the interconnected web. They needed these things so badly they were willing to spend money on books, and study, sometimes for years with little help, to put together their own coherent theology. Those are supposed to be our strengths- how did we loose these people?
Notice how most of the sentences in that paragraph began: they needed a faith... they were feeling “The God shaped hole”. Even if they had ever heard of UU, what would they have heard? Would they have heard of a denomination that helps you explore your spirituality, develop your beliefs? If by chance or a friend’s invitation they attended a service would they have heard a sermon on the nature of God and man- or a lecture about a Supreme Court nominee? Would they have heard people denouncing Rev Sinkford’s call for the language of reverence? Would they have heard anything to even incite their curiosity, let alone fill that God shaped hole? Since a couple million people whose values are 99% congruent with our own went elsewhere, the objective evidence says no.