Back on April 2nd, Ms. Kitty (Ms. Kitty's Saloon and Road Show) announced that she was writing a sermon about the wisdom of earth-centered traditions as a source of UUism, and asked for personal insights to share. Being both a fan of hers and a Neopagan, I immediately sat down to jot off a few things for her... and found I couldn't even begin. Much to my surprise, more than a week of introspection resulted instead. If the following thoughts seem a bit disjointed, well, that's just the way they occured to me.
I am a Pagan who fellowships at a UU congregation, not a UU who happened to find new insights in some Pagan writings. ("Looky what I found- a new metaphor!") While most Pagans are flattered that UUs are so interested in their beliefs, and were genuinely dismayed when CUUPS was disaffiliated, we nonetheless share the misgivings of the Native Americans Ms. Kitty mentioned in her resultant sermon ... the feeling that your faith and way of life has been reduced to "a source" in someone else's religious menu. In the Pagan comic strip "Oh My Gods!", the Unitarian character is named UU of 8 - a reference to Star Trek's "Borg", the alien race that has no native culture, assimilating the new cultures they run across instead.
I was surprised at the strength of these sudden emotions, as I've considered myself a good UU for a dozen years. I found myself thinking of the people I know- including a number of bloggers that those reading these words will probably also know- who have either left the UUA or added a second church into their lives to satisfy a spiritual need Uu just couldn't fill. In fact, one of the Pagans who answered Ms. Kitty's call for personal insights, Jamie Goodwin, is one of those. I fully understood Jamie's dilemma when he had announced his decision some months back- I, too, get very little spiritual satisfaction from UU services.
So why do I still attend, I asked myself. Truth is, nostalgia and inertia account for a lot of it. During coffee hour, I can close my eyes and feel Phil, my late and much missed father in law at my side, ready to discuss the sermon. The aisle I walk down to our favorite pew is the same one I walked to get married. We have friends there. Rev. Clear's sermons are still as intriguing as the day I joined a dozen years ago. But the truth is that if we moved to a new town, it's even money I wouldn't find enough at the local UU congregation to bring me back for a second visit, much less join it. UUism simply isn't a stand-alone religion for people like me or Jamie; we need more.
Back in January, I took exception to the following words by Patrick Murfin: "Inclusion of some pagan rites, whether historically accurate or cooked up in some Victorian eccentric’s garden, does not alarm me if the practitioners do not believe that they are literally invoking specific gods, goddesses or spirits who will perform specific tasks or expect the congregation to do so. While there are Wiccans out there—and other organized and semi-organized pagans and neo-pagans—who really, really do believe that every incantation uttered is both real and true, those are not the folks who are comfortable being part of a UU community any more than a Christian who literally believes he/she is consuming the body and blood of Christ in communion will be comfortable." He may have been right for the wrong reasons. The issue is not, as he would have it, that anyone who actually believes in anything is a dangerous fundamentalist.
The real issue is that despite everything else they may have in common that would make them seem natural fellows, one who has felt the presence of the immanent Divine has very little in common with someone who can find genuine spiritual satisfaction and renewal in a mere discussion of nature- especially if the former's path to God is regarded as a mere metaphor for the latter's discussion. These two do not speak the same language; indeed, they just barely share the same reality. Of course they will never be totally comfortable with each other's form of spirituality. They're bound to grate on one another occassionally, even when (especially when?) they're trying to be "tolerant".
And yet both are good UUs- there being no "Pope" of UU to say otherwise. This begs for Ms. Kitty's question to be reversed- what is UU, that studying Earth Centered religions would enhance it? Is there an "it" to be enhanced? Is UU greater than the sum of its sources, or is merely the collective that "UUof8" will assimilate Neopaganism into?