Archive for June 30, 2015

Thanks to Atheists, UUism is no longer a Religion

Does anyone make the connection between the lack of ethnic & socio-economic diversity in Unitarian Universalism and what amounts to a suppression and denial of religious ecstasy, mysticism, and ritual? This seems to get occasionally mentioned, but since we only seem to pat ourselves on the back for our theological/spiritual praxis diversity, but not actually discuss and engage with it. We might have to talk about touchy-feely spiritual “woo” stuff, that would be too gosh darned awkward!

OK, I get that we’re typically “low-church” based on our congregationalist & Puritan roots. And we’re big on Enlightenment-style free-thinking and rationality. But I’ve heard stories about U.U. fellowships/societies that made me scratch my head. A group that insisted that lighting candles at Christmas time was “too religious”. OK, even if it’s a purely humanist observation of the Earth’s axial tilt, you can still light candles to celebrate the winter solstice. Light in darkness. It’s not just a religious thing! And another UU fellowship that wouldn’t sing hymns- yes the even the “Yay, We are Privileged New Englanders and Reason & Religious Freedom Are Fabulous!” type ones. They were too worried that music would lead people to be emotional and be easily manipulated and they’d turn into a cult. Or something. So yeah, my favorites in the hymnal tend to be African-American gospel/spirituals, even though I’ve never been enslaved or anything nearly so bad, I feel a lot more connected to that musical tradition when I’m feeling depressed and sheepishly un(der)employed while trying to filter out perky “Get your pledges in!” speeches. Even when we sing a whole service-full of gospel songs, the minister usually has to cajole the stiff-upper lipped white folks into clapping and *really* belting out the Hallelujahs. And I’m pretty sure we’re in no danger of becoming a cult…

People have told me that Unity is the “conservative/traditional/Christian” Unitarian church in the Twin Cities, which my raised-fundamentalist Lutheran fiance finds especially amusing. Probably because of things like…we have a supplemental hymnal for Christmas for the songs that were kicked out of the official UU hymnal for being too Christian..and even those have some theological adjustments from the traditional versions! Atheists whine to me about being offended by references to the super-vague “Ground of Being”, Spirit of Love and Life and what have you…I have serious doubts that this essence is the same deity as YHWH, if it’s a deity at all…I’m sorry, but if you are an atheist (especially an educated white atheist) in the Twin Cities metro, your license to whine about oppression has been officially revoked. There’s the Minnesota Humanists, the Minnesota Atheists, and MN Atheists for Human Rights, the First Unitarian Society which is pretty staunchly humanist, and if that’s still not ungodly enough, the Sunday Assembly meets there once a month. I believe there ought to be space in UUism for a variety of religious viewpoints, including atheism. Problem is, UUs are too wishy-washy. When a UU criticizes New Atheists (i.e. anti-theists) people get mad and claim we’re “oppressing” all atheists. When I came in here as a Pagan & polytheist, I didn’t complain about the default monotheistic/Biblical language. I studied the history of UUism and understood its origins in deeply religious people. I didn’t expect it to meet all of my specific spiritual needs, I was mostly looking for a broader and more stable community. Now there are other Pagans with religious hangovers that act just as bratty as some of the atheists, and conversely there are plenty of atheists who play nicely with the liberal religious heritage of UUism, while carving a slice for themselves- contributing sermons, rites of passage, readings, etc. that fit with their values and beliefs.

I’d suggest everyone take a good look at the history of creating secular religions- whatever term you want to use- you’ll see that they’ve all appealed generally to a relatively small elite, and withered usually after a generation or two.

The Cult of Reason of the French Revolution is long gone. The Ethical Society/Culture isn’t radical enough for the atheist hipsters.  Humanist Judaism remains a small movement, known almost only in the United States, (Alex de Bouton, a French secular Jew who proposed “Religion 2.0” seemed oblivious to its existence) Reform synagogues, which are also often pretty humanist friendly also face a decline as steep as mainline Protestants. Are secular replacements for religion mostly of interest to people with a religious upbringing? Will Sunday Assembly go the way of the Cult of Reason in another generation? On the other hand, there’s always sports- and fandoms of other types!

June 30, 2015 at 11:26 pm 2 comments

Pride Reflections

Like a lot of American celebrations with more radical roots, as GLBT Pride festivals & parades across the country have grown over time, they have become more mainstream and commercialized. (Great critique of Pride here) Some folks of a more radical bent wring their hands over this, longing for more overt expressions of sexuality, anti-capitalism, and pointing out trends with obscure academic sounding terms like “homonormativity” and pinkwashing. While I think there are many valid criticisms that can be made especially of larger Prides and the movement as a whole, these are internal community debates. Prides, while remaining GLBT-centered, are also a reflection of continued acceptance and integration into broader communities- much as ethnic celebrations like Cinco De Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day and so forth have become not just for Mexican and Irish-Americans. At the same time, there’s a balance to be struck. Straight & cis allies can enjoy Pride, while understanding that they are in a queer-centered space, so they can’t be complaining about being hit on by someone of the same sex, or guys parading around in leather chaps and such. There’s space for both the conventional lesbian soccer moms as well as the wacky drag queens.

This year of course we have even more to celebrate, as the Supreme Court just ruled in favor of marriage equality. Of course, I’m quite excited, though I realize there are many more issues we need to work on, both domestically and around the world. I do think we need to give folks a chance to celebrate before lecturing about gloomy statistics about queer youth suicides/murders and the continuing AIDs epidemic.  Anyone who thinks the entire GLBT rights movement was just about marriage and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell obviously has a pretty superficial understanding of it (and probably is only really thinking about the G and L parts) But I think this is part of why it’s a good thing that a more diverse range of people attend Prides- we can get the chance to educate non-activist GLBT folks & allies about these issues and convince them to do more than wear rainbow beads and dance to ABBA.

One of my fellow Unitarians- reflecting on the General Assembly- our national conference held that same weekend- points out two other important Supreme Court rulings that we should be celebrating– the one upholding the Affordable Care Act* (yes, I’d like a single payer system, but I’m still glad we have this one!) which I did hear about, and another the makes it easier to prove implicit discrimination in housing– proof of explicit intent to discriminate based on a protected status is no longer required. (I may have described that wrong- it’s hard to summarize legal stuff- so read the article) This is huge, because for decades the Supreme Court has been getting pickier about how obvious discrimination has to be before they will accept that it’s happening.

(By the way- if any “No pre-existing conditions/I’ll magically never lose my cushy job with benefits, so screw you”  people want to bitch to me about how it’s soo unfair they are being forced to pay for insurance they don’t need, don’t bother commenting, you can cry me a frickin’ river.)

June 30, 2015 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment


Calendar

June 2015
M T W T F S S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  

Posts by Month

Posts by Category