Here's where I lay out my problems with the UUA

Table of Content

Here's where lay out my problems, but not structure my complaints too much and certainly not offer helpful and constructive solutions. I've experienced "why can't you be positive?" as controlling behavior for too long to get sucked into it now. That'll keep.

There's something about The Big Pink Logo -- something hypnotic -- that brings people out of themselves, and leads them to speak more candidly then they might otherwise. I suspect because it's safe to criticize, and acts as a proxy for other grievances. Dawn Cooley has written an excellent blog post ("Surprised People Act Poorly") on her take on the logo back story.

I don't want to miss this moment, because the classic solution is to walk away or resume a resentful silence. I've seen a lot of people walk away from Unitarian Universalism. Good people who have hit a dead end, some having grievances that were never properly aired, much less resolved.

I decided to put myself through a one-man brainstorming and clarification process. I took a pack of sticky notes and wrote down the problems that came immediately to mind; this is not complete, and you may have other things to add. (It took about 15 minutes.) Again, I did not add the things I like about Unitarian Universalism because I didn't want to be deflected. Some relate to the UUA as an institution, some from other institutions and others are customs and culture.

Then I took the notes, put them on my closet door and tried to discern commonalities.bitb_notes-clarification_20140216_400px-sq These I wrote on mustache-shaped Post-It notes, a gift from my Christmas stocking.

Afterwards I sorted the notes I copied them into mind-mapping software and cleaned them up. I added some items and removed other that I have heard but don't have any experience with. This is what I'm sharing with you now. This is my view of affairs. Some of these may not make very much sense as-is, and I hope to draw out my meaning shortly. The links are obvious, but sometimes I put items in close proximity because they relate.

Mind map
Click to see full-size

I also welcome you to expand on this chart by sharing your thoughts in the comments.

17 Replies to “Here's where I lay out my problems with the UUA”

  1. Victoria, unpacking it a bit:

    • That “non-Unitarian Universalists need our solidarity, material and political help.”
    • That it’s not-quite-done to advocate for our own needs within UU-dom.
    • That mutual aid isn’t a real option.

    “Help is other people” to coin a phrase.

  2. Super! I will be contemplating this excellent spur to one’s own thoughts about our current dilemma. (Dilemma=good vs. good, not good vs. bad)

  3. Bravo, Scott!!! Bravo!

    As one who has tried the nice, polite, constructive criticism route and been kicked in the tooth more than once; I’m at the point where I don’t give a flying fig as to how I criticize now.

    Bless you for naming my biggest issues…the suburban/exurban captivity of it all and the serious avoidance of grappling with theology. In many ways, I think everything else flows from that.

    I’ll be studying this for a long time. Thank you for it.

  4. I am not sure what the flow of cause and effect is in the chart, but I look at the church planting box and what’s connected to it: there is the “work done” box, which I think is place holder and then 4 things connected to that (1) institutions contracting (2) serious theology is dead (3) shabby production values (4) sparse worship materials. I don’t think that is a complete list.
    I’d like to hear you more rigorously analyze the lack of church starts — what are the factors that result in that and where can the pattern be broken?
    I know that you have thought about this a lot already, so I am pretty sure you could be insightful on this.

  5. The chart isn’t grouped by cause and effect, but rather listed by theme (in CAPS): problems I care about and so it won’t be complete. I’ve said nothing about humanism, religious education or regionalism though these are of deep concern to others, for instance. “Work Done” is about work products and capacity, rather than populations, culture or motive.

    But you’re right that I care deeply about organizing new churches, and in fact I pre-empted my scheduled posts on membership data because of Logogate. (Next week.)

    In short, I think the problem is that there is no entity empowered to plant churches, and it’s too easy for an existing church to assert a prior territorial claim. That’s the silver lining to Beyond Congregations: it challenges the territorial parish. But the best response is to disrupt the all-UUA or district/region fostering model and raise up independent mission boards (plural) to work with the UUA, district/regions and local clusters, and which have their own missological vision, scope of concern, management and fundraising. Congregational branching is a reasonable parallel action.

  6. Fascinating method for organizing thoughts, and seeing how they relate to one another. I wonder how it would look if did the same process? What I care about has overlap with you; but there are differences in what we care about.

  7. Scott i don’t think that you need to worry about humanists. I realize that there are some of us who pine for the good old days when there was nowhere else to go and the UUA was 67% humanist. This effect explains why there are the rare churches in the Midwest that have 2000 members; nobody has another Liberal place to go so they join the UU church. The same used to be true for humanists but is no longer the case.

    I think that those of us who are here now want to be here and have chosen to be here. I doubt that you need to investigate the influence of humanism as we will still be here, but no longer the core of the church. i suspect that we will be about 50% humanist from now on since that is the percentage that keeps coming up now that religious humanists are cut off from the secular variety who have someplace else to go. Humanism is not something that has to be explored, though I can understand that you would think so with all of the whining that we have to get out numbers up.

  8. And yet Donald, I think there is a conversation the UU community needs to have about Humanism. In recent years I’ve heard Humanism being spoken of in words very similar to the way in which Christianity was spoken of when I entered UU circles in the 1990’s. And I’ve even heard these words used by people in leadership… “Well, you are serving a congregation that is still very Humanist.” As if we were behind in a race. Humanism is spoken of as a problem needing to be fixed, and as a past which needs to be overcome. And although my theology is Christian, I can see no way that UUism can move forward without coming to a better appreciation of the integrity that Humanism lends to our religious practice.

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