The danger, humor of Christian culture

There’s a long-standing tension among the Christians within Unitarian Universalism over what is Christian: is culture enough? can one be reared Christian, and this upbringing be sufficient to hold and maintain the faith?

I think this belief in Christian culture — as a high call of character formation — is fading in part because it normalizes certain virtues (civic, middle-class and Western ones especially) and hallows them without a necessary distance for self-reflection.

But perhaps the more potent reason why Christian culture has lost its cachet is by what most people mean by “Christian culture.” On the one hand, there’s the pretty but remote Christian culture of soaring music, stonework, cloisters and long-dead patrons. On the other, there’s the democratic but — let’s face it — tacky order of Evangelical and Catholic kitsch, domesticity and respectability. And with a remarkable capacity for both grinning and condemning. The kind of things highlighted in the Stuff Christian Culture Likes blog.

I won’t have either, and won’t appeal to either to try to share and expand Christian fellowship. Unitarian Universalist Christians — and many others — would do well to make a clear alternative.

Harvard's new hymnal facts

Chris Walton (Philocrites) brings to our attention the new hymnal Harvard University’s Memorial Church will dedicate tomorrow. This is that hymnal’s fourth edition; the third edition coming from 1964. Learning its lineage,  I made a quick Google search and uncovered the first and second editions dating to 1895 and 1907 respectively. These may be downloaded from Google Books if you so wish: first and second editions.

Of greater interest is the fact that at least two churches had authorized versions printed for their own use: First Congregational, New Bedford and First Parish in Weston. (The Weston hymnal, from Google Books.)

This latter church should be well known to my Unitarian Universalist Christian readers: it is the largest Christian church remaining within the Unitarian Universalist Association.


New blog; ah, universal salvation

I got a pingback from I Herd the Werd, “christian faith. universal salvation. a UU blog in process” — and I’ll certainly be watching it.

19 October. A new subtitle: “Christian faith, Universal Salvation, and misc. commentary on the global Christian Church”

2009-08014. It’s gone.

Philadelphia: Schwenkfelder memorial

Schwenkfelder memorialHubby and I were Not Impressed by redeveloped faux-attraction in Philadelphia called Penn’s Landing. The silver lining — as we made our escape — was coming across a small memorial to the Schwenkfelders.

Radical and persecuted in their own day, the Schwenkfelders walked a middle ground among the warring Reformation sects in a way that anticipated later ecumenism. Unlike other immigrant churches, the Schwenkfelders never spread past the environs of Philadelphia — in case you’ve never heard of them — and never grew past a handful. About three thousand in six churches today.

Schwenkfelder Library (N.B. They hold some of the only surviving manuscripts of Universalist George de Benneville. )

Christian churches to meet in Boston

The Council of Christian Churches within the Unitarian Universalist Association will meet at King’s Chapel, Boston. The flyer’s below. There’s a particular interest in students attending.

If you’re not a member of a Christian church within the UUA — even if you’re a Unitarian Universalist Christian — you’re unlikely to have heard much (or anything) of this group. It accomplishes as much as it can without paid staff and with a membership concentrated within driving distance of Boston.

You may have seen the same meeting noted at Adam Tierney-Eliot and Chris Walton‘s blogs; I’ve written about it before too. That said, I think it might be the first time a Unitarian Universalist meeting has been promoted by a non-blogging entity using bloggers. Times are changing.

The Council of Christian Churches within the UUA Convocation XXVI

King’s Chapel (Parish House) 64 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108

October 21, 2007

Faith & Justice: Walking the Walk.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James: 1:22

1:00 – 2:00 PM

Registration – Coffee, Tea & Sandwiches

2:00 – 2:10 PM

Welcome – The Reverend Earl Holt (King’s Chapel)

Invocation – The Reverend Adam Tierney-Eliot (Eliot Church, Natick, MA)

2:10 -3:30 PM

Panel Discussion:
Joint presentation: The Reverend Joseph A. Bassett (Retired Minister, First Church Chestnut Hill, MA) The Reverend Victor Carpenter (Minister Emeritus, First Church Belmont; Interim Minister First Religious Society Carlisle, MA). Addressing justice issues in both William Schultze’s Berry Street Lecture: What I Learned from Torture,” and “The Ethics and the Search for Christian Unity: the Roman Catholic/Presbyterian-Reformed Consultation: A Statement on Human Rights” [Text will be provided].

The Reverend Tricia Brennan (King’s Chapel Sabbatical Interim): Ministry and Motherhood.

Professor William W. (Rusty) Park, Boston University School of Law (Moderator and Panelist): Will discuss some of the dilemmas he faced when arbitrating the so-called ‘Holocaust Cases’ in Zürich and London, related to claims made by victims of Nazi persecution with respect to dormant Swiss bank accounts and insurance policies issued during the period prior to the Second World War.

3:45 -4:15 PM

Communion Service: The Reverend Dianne Arakawa (Minister, East Milton United
Church of Christ and KC member) will give the homily sermon. Mr. Eric Hausman, King’s Chapel Seminarian and Harvard Divinity School will assist.

4:30 – 5:00 PM

Business Meeting

The Council of Christian Churches in the UUA was established in 1984 by Unitarian Universalist congregations committed to Christian worship, One of its key missions is the support of Unitarian Universalist intellectual debate and historical scholarship.

Directions: By Mass Transit: MBTA Red or Green Line to Park Street Station (walk across Boston Common to Charles and Beacon Street), Green Line to Arlington Street (walk across Public Garden to Charles and Beacon Street) or Red Line to Charles Street/MGH Station (walk down Charles Street to Beacon Street). Parking: On-street meter parking is free on Sundays in the Beacon Hill/Boston Common area until 6 pm. Boston Common Parking Garage (across from the Public Garden on Charles Street) offers parking for a ten dollar charge.

Suggested Donation: Ten dollars. Students free. Handicap Accessible: (elevator and ramp- note access to ramp on Branch Street). Please call the King’s Chapel House to register and/or for any questions regarding this event: 617-227-2155

How do you practice Christianity?

This is for the Unitarian Universalist Christians out there, especially those in groups. Mama G (Mom to the Left) asked the question and I would like us to answer it.

Alas, I’m not terribly much help since I try to find Christians of some closely related habits to fellowship with. But surely there’s a critical mass of UUCFers in this area?

Happy Easter!

Apart from having a lively discussion with Hubby after church (and over a lamb curry) about the propriety of clapping in worship, I’m not feeling gung-ho about discussing Easter theologically. I’ve done that before and shall again. I suppose I was expecting too much of worship and the iffy sermon left me underfed, even as I strained to hear every word. Should have complained I about the sound system? Like the Borscht Belt vacationer of yore who complained: “The food was terrible! And such small portions!”

So at the Peace, I decided to sublimate my jackass-ish impulses into responding to “Good morning! Happy Easter!” with a mumbled “!المسيح قام” (“He is risen!” and about a quarter of my Arabic vocabulary.) The high points were running into both a certain blogger and an alumnus of my college debating society and being able to worship with Hubby at all.

This year, too, I appreciate more secular or popular traditions. I’d post a picture of the butter lamb I made but the camera is wonky. So in its place, may I present “Peep Show” — the winners of a Washington Post contents of diorama featuring Marshmallow Peeps. Some a quite good, some very gay, a couple are both.

المسيح قام!

Good Friday fasting and pluralism

As I mentioned yesterday, I was going to scale back my eating on xerophagic lines: bread, water, fruit and simply prepared vegetables.

So far so good. My staple has been raisin bagels — which remind me in composition of the hot cross bun, too — with a little almond butter. (Fat and protein to keep from spiking out on carbohydrate.) So I went to the bakery, a chain Hubby and I call “Awbuhpuh” and got some. I was thus thinking, in line:

  • This baked good is associated with Jews, but since this is Passover and they’re leaven, observant Jews won’t be having them. (Some people would have a problem with a raisin bagel, Passover or not.)
  • Their circular shape suggests eternity, a suitably religious concept.
  • Oh, and the guy who sold them. His name was Muhammad.

“Where cross the crowded ways of life” indeed!

Will the ex-gay crowd help one day?

I listened to an interesting 2005 half-hour documentary about gay history from Radio Netherlands entitled “Pride and Prejudice.” (I got this as a MP3 podcast feed but I’m not sure how I got it.) It reviewed the state of gay (male, mostly) self-worth and self-identity from the Victorian era to the pre-Liberation (post-1969) period in as good terms as one can in thirty minutes. I was glad to hear the real live voices of older gay men who had tales to tell.

Recall that homosexuality was classed a disease, that this was seen as progress from its status as sin, and that some medical professionals tried to treat or cure it. As the documentary reported, there were gay men, even ones who lived relatively open lives, who sought a cure. (This comes out in the 1970 film, The Boys in the Band, which inspired how this blog is ironically named.) An interesting tidbit is how psychological texts with records of well-adjusted gay men became best sellers, even if the research was predicated on an insult that many of the readers understood but excused. So rare were the voices that described their lives. And as we know, with a few irregular holdouts, the medical and psychological professions have come around. In short, it’s society that has the problem.

Consider the ex-gay movement. From what I’ve read recently, it seems to know it will not make bona fide heterosexuals from its victims. At best, it tries to eliminate the practical and mental sin that separates gays from God — as they see it — and some of the participants, missing that closeness with God, will “take the cure” on its own terms. But I’ve known a lot of gay people who live faithful lives with a real, vibrant and healthy nearness to God.

In time, I can imagine the ex-gay cause splintering into a continuation of its current, ill-fated mission; a movement of deliberately celebate gay Evangelical men (perhaps living in a supportive community); and an ex-ex-gay movement that tries to cultivate gay relationships on a tight reading of scripture (I don’t see modern gays described in the commonly-recapitulated biblical injunctions) a mutually-accountable mode of sexual ethics and a lively spiritual practice.

It may be wishful thinking to hope the ex-gay-ers might morph into something wholesome, but God has a habit of leaving no follower unshaken.