"Plaidshoes" really struck a chord with me with her Tuesday post, Tired of Defense. If you haven't read it, you must- and read the comments also. I was caught from the beginning, "I had a bit of a disturbing parking lot conversation today. I mentioned to a friend that I had seen her friend at my UU church. I thought of it as a positive. Another way that the world is so small that we all seem to run into each other. Well, my friend stated that she was not happy about this. It caught me completely by surprise. She flat out said it like that. I asked her why, and she stated that it would mean her friend was no longer a Christian." It reminded me of my wedding- and my mother.
That may sound strange to you- if it does, the explanation will be stranger still, but it's true. You see, in the months before my wedding there had been disagreement among we four brothers about our mother. She had been deteriorating of recent months, and several doctors had said she had Alzheimer's. We were split, 2-2, on whether she really had Alzheimer's, or whether this was one of her manipulative schemes. (Fred Sanford was a rank amateur in the manipulation business) The question was settled when she came to my wedding- at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church. Everyone agreed that she had to be genuinely out of it to set foot inside the temple of the Antichrist.
So I understand plaidshoes' irritation at her friend's comment, and why she feels tired of being on the defense. In fact, I have an extra layer she does not- a political one. When I joined All Souls, a friend of mine had said, "I thought you were a Republican." I said yes, I was. His puzzled reply: "But you know they're a communist front organization, don't you?" Mind you, he wasn't trying to be derogatory or insulting; he was simply stating common knowledge- just as plaidshoes' friend had.
Both of these misunderstandings raise a question that plaidshoes does not address in her post: Why did her friend think that UU was not a religion? It would be easy enough to blame Mad Magazine, The Simpsons, Garrison Keillor, but none of their jibes would have stuck had there not been a kernel of truth in them. That's why stereotypes stick- Scandinavians really are often blonde; they really do eat lutefisk. If you tried to create a new stereotype that didn't reflect what people see in their daily lives- oh, like all Scandinavians eat grits and collard greens- it wouldn't stick, and people wouldn't repeat it. So clearly, the general public doesn't see us doing the things that a religion does; the question is, are we just poorly communicating what we do, or is their perception better than ours?