Friday, July 11, 2008

A pet peeve I have about our denomination


is demonstrated by this video from the excellent DiscoverUU :



The Unitarian Universalist Association was created in 1961- only four people in that list lived beyond that date. The others may have been Unitarians, (although technically, some of them must have been Congregationalists, as the AUA wasn't formed until 1825), or they may have been Universalists, but they weren't Unitarian Universalists. Actually, I suspect that many of them, were they alive today, would be UCC rather than UUA.


What is this tendency we have to claim any celebrity in all of history who doesn't have a formal declaration of belief in the Nicean Creed on record as one of ours? Are we insecure about the comparative youth of our denomination, like a fuzzy bunny Wiccan who claims unbroken descent from Lilith? Whatever it is, I wish we'd stop; there's plenty to be proud of in the UUA's short history, and we should be touting that- we don't need to borrow glory from predecessors who may or may not even agree with what we are today.

11 comments:

DiscoverUU.com said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Joel.
My reasoning is that this lore brings validity, inspiration and identity to a nebulous and dying religion.

Referencing the free-thinkers of the day who attended the churches of our ancestry is no different than those from other religions who's ancestors also shared very different views on the interpretation of their religion.

It comes down to how you define UUism:
1. 100% active church membership? 2. Self-identification?
3. Theological pairing?

To me, it seems you conditionally need two of the three.

#1 and #2 being extended to our Unitarian and Universalist brethren.
#1 also being extended to those unable to attend the church of their choice due to location, etc.

For #3, we should remember and rejoice in the fact that ours is a democratic and evolving religion. We need to have understanding for our ancestor's short-comings, and remember that most UUs have many healthy theological transitions throughout their lives.

Thanks for the post

DiscoverUU.com said...

I'd also like to comment about whether or not UUism is a 'denomination' as you suggest, or a religion all its own.

I'll do so in a blog post of my own on DiscoverUU.com

Robin Edgar said...

It looks like Aaron Sawyer removed a comment that I had submitted to that rather lame U*U promotional video some months ago that said pretty much the same thing that Joel Monka is saying here. . . Unless perhaps there is another copy of that U*UTube video out there on YouTube.

Joel Monka said...

I posted my response on discoveruu.com!

Robin Edgar said...

How about posting your response as a comment on the U*UTube video itself Joel? It looks like Aaron Sawyer deleted my comment that said much the same thing that you said here so it would be interesting to see if it sticks as long as someone else says it. . .

Joel Monka said...

I hadn't considered posting it on Youtube because it's insider stuff, balancing on fine historical and theological lines that the general public would neither understand nor care about.

Robin Edgar said...

I think you are misunderestimating the intelligence and the interest of the public Joel, if you don't mind me using a Bushism to make that point. I am confident that many members of the public would both understand and care about the fact that this U*U propaganda video is quite misleading. I am similarly confident that many of the famous U*Us (aka corpse-cold Unitarians) named in that U*UTube video are spinning in their graves in light of what has become of Unitarianism and Universalism today. . . I can,T imagine that Thomas Jefferson is terribly pleased that the remnant of Unitarianism is but a "tiny, declining, fringe religion" a few centuries after he "prophesied" that every American would be a Unitarian.

Chalicechick said...

I honestly think I hear more about the "list of historical UUs" in the context of people complaining about people bragging about the list than in the context of people actually bragging about the list.

And Robin:

"I am confident that many members of the public would both understand and care about the fact that this U*U propaganda video is quite misleading"

Do you think other religions have misleading propaganda videos?

If so, do you care?

If you don't care, why would other people care about UUism's video?

Excepting possibly the Scientology video with Tom Cruise, I honestly can't imagine that people really care that much about propaganda videos from religions they don't belong to.

CC
who learned that Marilyn Monroe died naked from that Elton John song that mentions how insensitive it was that there was media attention on the fact that she died naked. Same principle as my first point.

Joel Monka said...

"I honestly think I hear more about the "list of historical UUs" in the context of people complaining about people bragging about the list than in the context of people actually bragging about the list."

That principle might be more appropriate if the discussion had been in the abstract; this was about a specific list of people stated to be “Unitarian Universalists”. And while you may not hear people bragging about that list, that may be because we don’t often discus it amongst ourselves- but when an outsider asks about UU, that list is invariably brought up. If you do a Google search for “famous Unitarian Universalists”, the first entry has those people and many more from ages past. In fact, every site on the first page save for a links site and a bibliography site has the same list. None of them list the modern UUs I was speaking about.

Your last example doesn’t demonstrate the principle you’re trying to apply, either. You weren’t alive when Marilyn Monroe died; you don’t know what the media reaction was like. I was reading the both the daily paper and the “Weekly Reader” for current events in school at the time, and I assure you it was prominently mentioned- and in England, where Elton John would have read it, I shudder to think how the more lurid British papers handled it.

Robin Edgar said...

How about this then CC -

I am confident that many members of the public - who actually bother to visit or join a U*U "church" on the basis of such misleading U*U religious propaganda, only to discover that it is a load of U*U BS - would both understand and care about the fact that this U*U propaganda video is quite misleading.

Is that better?

Chalicechick said...

Robin - Yes, but kind of obviates putting the comments on youtube, as Joel pointed out.

Joel- I do get what you're saying, but I still don't see it as such a big deal. As a Presbyterian kid, I was told all the time that Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain, Andrew Jackson, were Presbyterians.

Did they believe exactly what my folks believed? Dunno. Probably not.

CC