Give hate a chance

High on my list of the Unitarian Universalist characteristics I find particularly repugnant is the attempt to uncover vain distinctives. Coupled with this is a tendency to believe our own propaganda (which, I believe, is why the “sixth largest denomination fact” persists; Universalists past were keen to talk up their inevitable progress) and draw strange conclusions.

Thus this tidbit from page 48 of Engaging Our Theological Diversity:

Loving was also valued highly. With little variation by congregation, 82 percent of laypersons and 87 percent of ministers assigned high importance to being people who love.

Now I have that mawkish Sting song Russians running through my head: the one that introduced the West to the notion that “the Russians [might] love their children too.”

Is human love that strange? If the report had said “fifty-five percent of laypersons, and thirty-nine percent of ministers prefer to eat human flesh, but the later group finds it too expensive for anything other than holiday meals” — well, that would be news.

Or is it that we’re supposed to make note that Unitarian Universalists own up to being loving? The COA report makes me wonder if “freedom” “eating” or “breathing air” is equally highly valued. Seeing as this revelation is followed in the next paragraph by the heretics canard (“we choose”), is the implication that non-Unitarian Universalist choose to be unloving, or lacking the other featured virtues like using reason, or being “interconnected”? I rather doubt it, but that the impression one gets from our own words, here and in published sermons.

Perhaps people in other religious groups put other answers before “loving” it is too well assumed to be highlighted.

About Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 45, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

2 thoughts on “Give hate a chance

  1. As a student minister at a church in Ohio, one of the best lessons I learned from a retired Universalist minister was that we as UU’s have no special claim to reason. He told me about how startled he was, as a young minister, to learn of the vast scholarly tradition of Catholicism (even if he disagreed with their conclusions). And so I was not as a young minister, to make the same (prejudiced) mistake. If you talk to a Roman Catholic they will tell you that their theology is reasoned as well, and if their level of education is similar to what you find in the average UU church they will talk to you about various scholarly doctors of the church, the logic of church traditions, or about how the lives of the saints make moral/ethical sense.

    Our uniqueness is more subtle and less profound than we UU’s like to admit. Yes all humans value love. And in U and U history we make that claim that God is love, which itself is hardly unique but rooted (among many places) in Pauline theology. What is special, perhaps uncommon (but not unique) is that Universalism affirms that Divine love is universal.

    With reason in religion, we are also but one of a number of rationalist streams in the Judeo-Christian family. What might be special is our UU willingness to venerate reason above and beyond scripture, tradition, and religious experience. We make one of these a king, and the others the ecclesiastic serfs.

    Scott, I wonder if in your analysis, you would say that some UU rhetoric about ourselves is idolatry? False gods to make ourselves seem better, or more important, or more special, than God made us? And I wonder what constructive things we can recover from our ordinary love, reason, small numbers, etc.. I believe, as Jesus taught, that there is profound potential in the ordinary things of God’s creation.

  2. Many of the things the COA describes as qualities of UUs are, in fact, qualities of most well educated, white liberals. Yet the vast majority of well educated, white, liberals in the US want nothing to do with the UU church. Indeed most recipients of UU religious education don’t want to affiliate. The qualities that define the UU church aren’t those that separate us from Southern Baptists or Wahabi Muslims. What is important is what separates us from our fellow liberals and our own children. (And keeps them away.) The COA sort of suggests that the UU church is attractive to “marginalized” people who have had turbulent childhoods. So if we give our kids a happy childhood, they won’t fit in anymore. That’s not an uplifiting theory, but it fits the data.

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