In a comment to a recent posting of mine, Chris suggested that I should consider giving the Unitarian Universalists a try.
My response to that is that I have dabbled in UUism at various times in my life. In many ways I think my outlook and values are a pretty close match for Unitarian Universalism. By that I mean that my iconoclasm, my belief in religious pluralism, and my appreciation of the value of the religious journey in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty, all seem to fit in rather well with those values. Yet, I decided some time ago that it just wasn't the church for me. I respect those who are involved with the UU denomination and I am sure that it is a good fit for a fair number of people. But not for me.
I think there are two reasons for this. For one thing, its proclaimed inclusiveness is a double-edged sword, and I have been primarily interested not so much in eclectic religion as I am in progressive Christianity. This means that UU eclecticism is a bit removed from what I am looking for; I do have some interest in other faiths, to be sure (including, for example, Jodo Shinsu Buddhism), but my main desire has been to orient my worship, week in and week out, around the traditions and spirituality associated with Christianity--albeit in a radically progressive way. That alone is problematic for me, but there is another issue that has kept me away from Unitarian Universalism. Despite its official aspirations of inclusiveness and respect for all religions, I think that in many cases, the reality is something a little different. What I have found is that, for many UUs, all religions are respected as long as those religions aren't Christianity. The UU minister Peacebang, herself a Christian, identifies this as UU Christophobia.
One of her commenters has said a couple of interesting things about this subject:
I marvel at how a denomination that is so proud of its inclusiveness should be so bitter and exclusive to the Christians (or even the theists) in its midst. Yet everybody wants that special Christmas Eve service, and to sing the old carols with the original words. I suppose Jesus, who advocated a radical form of inclusivity based on loving others, is not so radical or his teachings so alarming when he is kept eternally in the manger.Another comment by the same person:
A long time ago I realized that I felt caught between a rock and a hard place. I feel like I am too Christian for most of Unitarian Universalism and yet too iconoclastic for the progressive Christianity of most mainline churches. Ultimately, when given two choices that are both unsatisfying, I tended to come down on the side of a more focused spirituality grounded in problematic theology rather than an intellectually challenging but spiritually unfocused deconstruction of faith. Thus I started exploring mainline Christianity where I hoped that progressive faith might have taken root. I looked to people like Spong, Borg, and Crossan as inspirations for how progressive Christianity might work for me within these mainline churches. So far, this has not proved to be very satisfying either. Which is why, at this point, I remain one of those whom Spong calls "believers in exile." Up to this point, it seems that I would rather blog about religion than practice it on Sunday morning.
One of the reasons I was so excited to work in a UU church was the chance to explore and experience truly inclusive worship. To my dismay, that’s not what’s happening. Nobody stays home from church when a sermon on the Buddha is advertised. But they do stay home on the rare occasions that Jesus’s life or teaching is the topic. If they came, they might find healing, because I have never heard Jesus talked about in quite the same enlightening way as I do from our ministers here, when they speak about him at all.
Sometimes I think that “the Church” (whatever that means) is like the stone on Easter morning. Roll it out of the way! Get it off of Jesus and let him out from under it! Give him air, let him breathe.
I was hoping a UU church might be a place where the edifice of Christianity might be rolled away, because Jesus has something loving to say, and we can’t hear him when he’s all covered up.
There is a piece of me that still holds out hope for finding some kind of community that I can identify with. But unlike progressive Christians who have some kind of denominational identity that they can hold onto while fighting the good fight, I was brought up in a hopelessly fundamentalist church that I long ago rejected. For me, there is no denominational loyalty to ground my faith in. Thus I am perpetually on the outside looking in. I've done the church shopping thing, but it has all been window shopping. Then again, maybe that is my calling. Maybe religions need people like me, who stand on the outside and who just don't quite fit in.