UUs and Christianity


Unitarian Universalist blogger Peacebang has written a very good entry in her blog about the anti-Christian bigotry that is rampant in her denomination and how this bigotry directly contradicts the UU self-image of tolerance and ecumenism. Unfortunately, she chose to prohibit comments to that entry, but I wanted to highlight a couple of of the things that she wrote:

I have a goal in this, and a deep wish. My wish is that someday, even the most angry, Christian-suspicious Unitarian Universalists will be able to hear selections from the Bible, traditional Christian hymns, and the name of Jesus in sermons with just as peaceful a heart and steady blood pressure as they do hearing the poetry of Mary Oliver or segments from the Dhammapada. We cannot be the world religion many of us would love to become and the force for good we want to be if we consistently give the message that “everything is okay but Christianity” or “We will warmly support your spiritual path everywhere but down Jesus Street.”
It's a wonderful image, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

She also wrote,
Those who are admirers of UU principles and goals but have directly experienced our religious prejudices are watching and waiting. From what I have heard everywhere I go, we have a brilliant religious concept with a noble heritage but are failing miserably to live up to our own potential as the deep ecumenists we once claimed to be. How many times have I heard this summer, “You’re a Unitarian Universalist? How nice to have you among us. We always hear that you don’t “do” Christianity.”
(Worse, one woman had heard that UUs don’t LIKE Christians!)
This is all said with a twinkle in the eye, but I know that behind the twinkle is a real and hurtful experience. Or, “You’re a UU? I used to go to the _________ Unitarian Universalist congregation but when I got interested in Christianity they had nothing for me, and I got the distinct impression that I should leave.”
It's a shame that she turned off comments for that posting, since she raises such important points. She said that she had gone over this issue already many times and didn't want to debate anyone over it. But I am really curious what there is to debate. Are there actually any UU's who would deny that what she says is true--that there is hostility towards Christianity within the denomination despite its vaunted claims to pluralism and tolerance? That many UU's tend to stereotype Christianity and thus ignore the diversity of thought that exists within the Christian traditions?

Count me among those who quickly discovered that Unitarian Universalism had nothing for me. And this is despite the fact that I reside on the far left end of the Christian spectrum and am a staunch believer in religious pluralism. Many Christians would deny that I am part of their community whatsoever, because I don't believe that Jesus was literally and physically resurrected from the dead, and this is asserted to be an "essential" of the faith. And yet I find myself more drawn to mainline Christian denominations than to Unitarian Univeralism. Go figure.


Mike L. said...

I have had the same experience with a UU church. If I had to pick a denomination that fits with my views it would definatley be UU, but I don't like the anti-Jesus mentality and overt attempts to avoid the use of the G-- word. It seems that UU is quickly becoming an atheist organization.

Robin Edgar said...

Amen. . . ;-)

Heather W. Reichgott said...

A couple of thoughts (from someone who's acquainted with some current and former UU's, but never went to a UU church--take it for what it's worth.)

Weren't the Unitarians founded in protest against the doctrine of the Trinity? Seems like it would make sense that trinitarian beliefs, like worshiping Jesus, are still a sticking point, the same way that Protestants still tend to react strongly against Roman Catholic positions (not that that's a good thing.)

On the other hand, the Unitarians at their founding were all about the One God... not about trying to avoid "the G-- word."

That was a very interesting comparison of Jesus' teaching, Mary Oliver's poetry, and the Dhammapada. You know, I think that I could hear Mary Oliver or the Dhammapada in worship and retain a "peaceful heart and steady blood pressure." Mary Oliver leaves me with a sweet and lovely sort of feeling. However, when someone tells me the story of Jesus whose cloak was grabbed by the hemorrhaging woman, my heart is troubled and my blood pressure goes way up. I want to be like that woman in front of him. I want to be like him, too, loving generously in the moment without blindly continuing to his appointment, without practicing the "self-care" of yanking his cloak back and protecting himself from her need. I am confronted with my sin and failure to love, and at the same time placed face-to-face with the one who loves me more than anyone can, and invited joyfully to follow him.

Mary Oliver is nice, but it's the Jesus stories that shake me up and show me where my life needs to change.

Mystical Seeker said...

Heather, I think you are right that worshiping Jesus would be a sticking point, although it seems like UUs are so averse to any reference to Christianity that even the lower-case "u" unitarian brand of the faith is a taboo for many in the denomination. And that is despite the fact that the UUs claim Christian unitarianism as part of their heritage (not to mention that it serves as the source of one of the "U"s in its name!)

Interesting point about the value of a faith that shakes things up and seeks to transform you. That being said, I also love those moments of quiet peace that I find in contemplative services.

PeaceBang said...

Thanks for weighing in, Mystical. As to Heather's comment, you're right. Of course IDEALLY I'd hope that people could be stirred by the gospel stories but before they can be stirred, they have to be able to sit in the same room with them without being furious that they're being read at all.

I turned comments off because I've done my time with defensive UUs and I didn't feel like going there right now -- it's too busy a time of year and I'm tired of it anyway.

Robin Edgar said...

Thanks for weighing in yourself Peacebang. You clearly threw your weight around in your post about U*U "Christophobia". . . ;-)

Heather W. Reichgott said...

True, Mystical and Peacebang... quiet peaceful times in worship are certainly needed, esp. for those of us who are not used to being quiet for long.

miranda said...

It's interesting that many who profess tolerance and pluralism do so, except for whatever happens to be the majority. True pluralism includes elements of the mainline, and true tolerance means that even the majority is allowed a seat at the table.

Preston's Page said...

When we stand for something we often end up standing against what we see as the opposite. I sometimes thing that may be a property of being human, an unfortunate one, but one that rears it ugly head all the time.

I know UU's who bring bibles to church and ones who are devout atheists, but they come to the same church and seek some connection with the divine and their fellow human being.

God is more than we can comprehend, we can only work toward understanding all of god, we never will. God is the Awe and wonder of the milky way shining across the sky and the millions of cells in your body reflecting that light, the idea and actuality of Jesus, Allah, Buddha, so much more, and everything in between. Does god exist outside of all of this? Does my opinion of god change god, of course not, it changes me? I hope to get closer to knowing and understanding god, knowing fully that I will never completely succeed, nor will anyone else.