Mutual respect at Philocrites and in the UUA

Don’t expect great thoughts here — just a few scraps clubbed together on a snowy Sunday.

There’s a bit of a brouhaha at Philocrites in the comments. This is the second such “extended version” debates recently. The last time was over the future of YRUU; now, the matter is atheism and its fellow-traveller, mutual behavior within Unitarian Universalism.

I’ll admit my preferences — for Philocrites and Peacebang (both friends in the real world) and not for Rieux — up front.

Why not Rieux? (I get a vibe he’s a man: male pronouns follow.) He’s entered an debate that requires a thicker skin than he’s got, and so fights badly. The anger comes though; so do the feelings of someone who wears his (church-)heart on his sleeve — and senses he’s going to get his shirt torn off.

This might be the case, but not from the machinations of snarky Christians and our well-honed gallows humor. We’ve played the self-pity game for a long time and lost every round.

The game is over. I’m 35 now and started with the UU Christians when I was a mere pup in 1990, after four confusing and underperforming teen years as a misplaced Humanist. So few people under 40 came into UU Christianity in those days that there are those who still assume that I have to be much older than I really am. Nationally, these are the best times we’ve had in more than a generation and the root of the change is abandoning the cloud of paranoia and self-pity that followed like Death. Today, the Christians are almost sexy in their (our) new-found confidence and activity. We’re the face of (relative) youth in the ministry, and I’m glad to say the once endemic Christian-baiting in the ministerial college has receeded (publicly) to the cranks.

Now, the Humanists and atheists are the aging, less-fashionable set, and an opportunity for them is being lost: an opportunity I know Philocrites has made in the past.

Jeff Wilson makes some comments that led me to post. He gets to some points that Unitarian Universalists writ large should deal with, but we don’t. I’ll not quote — he makes his points in passim and clips won’t do — so go read his comment and come back.

One reason we are and can be so nasty with one another, and a reason each movement-in-decline (was Christians, now Humanists, Pagans watch out) plays along is that each minority lacks the self-respect to assert its identity and gifts. It looks to the world like none of us actually believes what we claim to believe.

If we did, then why wouldn’t we have some national unified action plan of any kind? Our only concerted action is the anti-racism endeavor, and that’s inward-facing and problematic, put mildly.

I think it’s because we think we’re more fragile than we are. “No daisy rises above the others. Permission to act must be given not sought. Stay together and play like nice children.” We don’t know how to fight fair, so we fight dirty. I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten nastier, but that might be a side-effect of weariness and lack of a goal to love or hate.

A few years ago, the Christians stopped asking for permission to be Christian. I’m not sure when it happened, but why is clear enough. Without validation from “25,” few pastorates, and fewer opportunities to grow, it was (and is) clear that the Christians have to be determined to survive. An example: instead of getting offended, hurt, and pouty that someone said something nasty about us, we turned and challenged the claim. We networked. We made better use of technology to communicate. The decline has stopped.

The Humanists have to do likewise. No magic there.

4 Replies to “Mutual respect at Philocrites and in the UUA”

  1. Scott … if this discussion is a game with “winners” and “losers,” then perhaps we are left the realm of religious discussion for something different.

    And gloating about the progress UU Christianity is making doesn’t sound very “Christian” to me.

  2. Hiya.

    You’ve got me: I’m an XY.

    As for “fighting badly”–there is something to be said for not sinking to the level of one’s opponent, but (as the Peacebang-Rieux, er, dialogue demonstrates) I’m on par with plenty of other commenters on the Net in being prone to fighting vitriol with vitriol. I have a hard time responding to lines like “Who are these people who still think that it’s special and unique to reject traditional images of the Deity?” with love and kindness.

    I’m not sure that “the machinations of snarky Christians and our well-honed gallows humor” really does justice to some of the prominent shots that I’ve seen nonbelievers take from UUs. The very legitimacy and worth of UU nonbelievers as people is called into question by some of this stuff–and not infrequently it’s from high places in the UUA. The trend you see (and I do too) toward UU theism and Christianity being on the “sexy” rise wouldn’t trouble me if I didn’t get the idea that some of the (ever-more-) powers-that-be don’t plan to treat the “less-fashionable set” terribly kindly.

    I’m not asking for your permission to be an atheist and humanist. I just want the ugly treatment to stop. I’m happy to apply the same criteria to folks on my side of the theological aisle, if that matters–I’d love it if the mud fight stopped in both directions.

    Do you see any risk, any potential problem with UU believers treating their nonbelieving neighbors poorly? Is there any way we can object to such matters without being silly victimologists?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.