Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Great Divide?

ChaliceChick has brought to our general attention a thread on Beliefnet concerning the rift between the old-guard Humanists and the Theists in the UUA: The ChaliceBlog: And now it is the Humanists who aren't feeling the love. I think this issue is more serious than CC appears to believe. I don't think this is just a “who’s the biggest victim” contest; I think this is part of the ever-growing identity crisis the UUA will be forced at some point to deal with.

This is not a question of tolerating different belief systems- the lead poster in the discussion in question doesn't believe that his beliefs ARE "beliefs". He says it is a question of reality and mental illness- he divides the world into the mentally stable, and the irrational who cannot cope with reality. He is not alone- we heard this in large numbers during the “language of reverence” debate, and at other discussion in the past. I don't really see how there can be amicable coexistence with hard-atheist (anti-theist) Humanists of his stripe... where he is in the majority, "irrational supernaturalists" like me and Rev. Sinkford have to live in an atmosphere of sneering, lip curling contempt, listening to sermons about how we are the problem, holding back mankind. If he is in the minority, he will feel himself surrounded by the mentally ill. (I've heard it expressed in those exact words) This may be a gulf that no covenant and no principals can bridge. To paraphrase Lincoln, this church cannot long survive half sane and half irrational.

If this were the only such rift, I’d say the solution is obvious; the lead poster himself suggested it- the anti-theists could switch allegiances and affiliations to the Ethical Culture (AEU). We’re scarcely in any position to loose any members, but better that than bitter infighting. The problem is that the Humanist/Theist problem is not the only such problem! There are political divides just as great, congregations where certain political positions have taken on the power of creed, including the most basic political question of all: should a church be taking political positions in the first place?

I have heard Pagans speak enviously of the advantage mainstream religions have, of a church in every town. When one is on the road, it is a comfort to be able to step inside a church and be amongst your own, to have a home away from home. Pagans have only their home coven or circle or grove... and more and more, this is becoming true of UUs. I cannot count on having my spirits lifted or even feeling welcome at a strange UU congregation. I have stopped my early practice of looking up the local UU church wherever I go... it’s no fun being sneered at and attacked when you’re a thousand miles from home.

We have debated ad nauseum whether UU is a religion- more and more I see that we should have been debating whether we are a denomination. Baptists have congregational polity just as we do, and come in all political stripes- both Jerry Fallwell and Bill Clinton are Baptist... but underlying all of that, they have John 3:16. Catholics range from the Bush supporters to Revolutionary Theology... but a Catholic can walk into any Catholic church on Earth and receive communion. I envy them- I have no such assurances from my denomination.

Addendum- the thought occurs that one solution might be to disolve the UUA, and have the individual member congregations buy Starbuck's franchises! We'd still be creedless, still have the coffee and the non-stop discussions- plus high speed internet access! They probably have a more effective Washington lobbying office, too.


LaReinaCobre said...

It sounds like we have a problem with loving each other, embracing each other with our whole hearts. There is so much sarcasm and self righteousness among UUs. But some (most) of my dearest friends are UUs.

Joel Monka said...

You're absolutely right. I've often thought that instead of a set of PPs, we should have a covenant to listen to each other, and if the differences are in fact unreconcilable to agree that we each have a right to be here anyway. It doesn't hurt me to hear a humanist say that morality makes good common sense absent a God, and it shouldn't hurt a humanist to hear me say I draw comfort from my personal connection to my divinity. Why do we UUs have to use words like "irrational" or "Nazi"- what's wrong with simply stating one's case? What's wrong with loving the speaker, not the words?

Mama G said...

Yes, and how can one belong to a religion whose number one principal is to "respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person" and then talk so freely and hatefully about other people? That strikes me as so hypocritical. Seeing someone with so much hate in their heart sure doesn't move me to seriously consider their values and beliefs as something that might work for me. Whew.