Are UUs becoming comfortable with Christianity?

Peacebang posted a short video taken at the UU Christian Fellowhip’s GA 2008 table.  The speaker alleges that UUs at GA used to come up and challenge her, questioning why she would be there instead of off with the Methodists or some other more solidly Christian group.  But apparently now people are more likely to approach her seeking information on how to learn about Christianity.  In other words, there’s been an apparent shift from hostility or at least skepticism toward Christianity within UUism, toward a more open-minded, even curious attitude.  Peacebang affirms that this has been her experience as well.

Even within the current year, there’s been another round of UU blogging about how Christians are excluded from UUism or at least made to feel unwelcome on some level (the most recent dust-up was over the use of the term “post-Christian” to describe UUism).  So clearly there’s still plenty of anomosity out there, both toward Christians/Christianity and on the part of disgruntled UU Christians.  But perhaps this is a case of the blogs not being terribly representative of the situation on the ground in the churches.  It’s hardly a secret that some viewpoints are disproportionately represented online, as well as that people will exaggerate things in the virtual world of quasi-anonymity and few real world consequences.

What do you think?  Have you seen evidence that Christianity is getting a fairer shake these days in UUism?  Or do you think the opposite, that the profile of UU Christians has further deteriorated?  Have you yourself changed your opinions about the place of Christianity in UUism (or your own life)?

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11 Comments

Filed under Unitarian-Universalism

11 responses to “Are UUs becoming comfortable with Christianity?

  1. Well, I can speak for me, that I support the “post-Christian” label for purely scholarly reasons, but I have absolutely no animosity against Christianity or against UU Christianity. Among other things because Christianity is the very root of our faith and the basis for our ethics, liturgy, ministry, organizational policy, etc. etc. So I think that considering UU as theologically “post-Christian” is by no means a way to be hostile or non-welcoming to Christians, or at least it is not intended to be.

  2. ogre

    I think you’re conflating two different things.

    UUs in general seem to have become more comfortable with the Christianity within the movement. In part, that’s education. In part, that’s a widespread practice (particularly among youth) of calling people on it when they were hostile to Christianity (abstractly). In part, it’s some of our Christian UUs starting to stand up for themselves, come out of the closet…. In part… who knows?

    Now, the fooferaw over “post-Christian” is related, but not the same. Or at least I don’t interpret it as you seem to be. Many of those blogging about it and discussing it (what’s the blog term for chewing at least one hundred times before swallowing?) weren’t Christian, but were perturbed by the term, or sensitive to the potential connotations. Hell, I was hearing from former/non-practicing UUs who I KNOW are anything but Christians that the term “post-Christian” in the interview was appalling, foolish, inappropriate and injurious to the movement. Considering that one of them hasn’t been practicing for 30 years… it’s not JUST what’s going on inside the movement. The larger movement is insisting that Christianity is legitimately a significant part of UUism.

    So…

    Here in a fellowship that was (and still in some ways is, culturally…) an Atheist/Humanist oasis, those asserting that they’re some sort of Christian (often ‘among other things’–we don’t do purist very well…) is up around 25%. The minister isn’t, but isn’t hostile either, and is in fact supportive. As for me, I wasn’t, am not and see no likelihood that I’ll define myself as a Christian, but I’m well aware of the influence of ethical christianity on my views and perspectives, and I’ve become more interested and appreciative of liberal Christianity. Solid upswing there.

    Looking down the road to a congregation that was probably best described as semi-actively hostile to Christians and theists of any ilk, I see an equivalent shift. They’ve moved a long way in tolerance and acceptance and appreciation.

    Maybe this is regional–but if so, it is Regional, and not just localized… which means that there’s a significant something going on in at least this part of the movement. And that echoes a lot of what I saw in the whole “post-Christian” discussion.

  3. Transient and Permanent

    Ogre, let me clarify. The reference to post-Christian was not intended to conflate the two issues–it was a simple pointer to the fact that the most recent blog discussion of whether Christians felt comfortable in UUism occurred in the context of the post-Christian debate. If you read the various threads of that debate, you’ll see examples of UU Christians expressing discomfort (as well as non-Christians) at being Christian in UUism, and that’s all that, in a passing way, was being referred to.

    Jaume: post-Christian as a term was a throwaway reference in this post, not intended to be part of the discussion. But since you’ve raised it, I’ll just say that as a scholar I use this term to describe UUism and feel it is perfectly justified. However, issues may well arise when it is used outside a scholarly context, and we should be sensitive to how it is received.

    For example, I sometimes refer in my academic writings to “the cult of the Virgin Mary” or “the cult of Jesus” or “the cult of Avalokiteshvara.” The term “cult” has a clearly defined, non-pejorative technical meaning in such discussions. But I wouldn’t use it when talking to Christians or Buddhists about their own faith. Likewise, I refer to UUism as post-Christian because, as a scholar of liberal religious history, I believe it is an accurate term that conveys relevant information; it is not mean prescriptively, but merely descriptively. When using it to speak to a UU audience, however, I might consider whether I felt it was appropriate or was likely to cause my listeners displeasure or confusion.

  4. Well there was the UU minister who this summer stated that UUs (and old style Unitarians and Universalists) were not Christians by definition of Christianity and so shouldn’t try to call themselves that. But it has been at least two years since I got an email trying to discourage Christians from joining any UU congregations. so that’s improved –
    Are there any group in the UUA that feels they are treated right? 😉

  5. Dudley Jones

    Hi

    This is been going on for a long time. In the May/June 1990 issue of “The World” William Schulz, then our president, had an editorial about UU hostility to Christianity. He certainly did not thing it was something to be proud of, or that it helped our movement. If you have access to a library, look it up.

    Best wishes

  6. serenityhome

    I believe I may be the UU Minister that StephenR is referring to from this summer when I discussed whether UUism was a denomination or a religion.
    See: http://serenityhome.wordpress.com/2008/07/13/unitarian-universalism-denomination-or-religion/

    That post was not presented in a hostile way nor intended to be against those of us, including myself, who draw on Christianity as one of or as the source of spirituality. Whether we as a faith group are considered a denomination of the Christian faith or a religion entirely of its own entity AND whether UU’s are more comfortable with Christianity are not related discussions.

    I am a bit surprised to read that StephenR and possibly others saw my post as a hostile attack on Christians within our movement. And then used that post to state that pockets of UUism are not comfortable with or tolerant of Christianity.

    From my perspective to get back on topic of the question. I think UU’s are becoming more tolerant of those in our congregations that profess a Christian spirituality. I think people are drawing clear distinctions between Christian spirituality as practiced within our movement and as practiced in the conservative Christian denominations. That said, there is still hostility in the form of arrogance towards those more conservative Christian denominations and it is heaped upon those who are visiting us from those congregations. Blessings,

  7. It depends on the congregation. Last week I worshipped in King’s Chapel, where I am a member and where Jesus is alive and well. Took communion and rejoiced in reciting the 23rd Psalm as a statement on comfort, not just culture.

    On the other hand, up here in Burlington, VT, people know I am a Christian and are very polite about it. Prayer is not, however, part of their gathering practice. I, of course, am also polite, and did not threaten to pray over them or for them when I was on staff.

    This leads to the wonderful story from my internship back in 1991 with an extremely huumanist congregation, Wayland, MA, ministered to by the wonderful Rev. Ken Sawyer. He took me aside one day and said, “There have been some complaints about your Christianity.”

    “But I never mention it!” I protested, racking my brain to recall the incident in which something “superstitious” would have slipped out.

    “That’s the problem, ” he said. “Many folks want to learn more about UU Christianity from your internship, and you are withholding it.”

    So I brought this up, and several folks came up to make appointments and discuss their silent faith and the quandary of belonging/not belonging in such a congregation.

    So who is to say that might not be happening elsewhere as well, even to this day? I wouldn’t want to generalize, but listen to individual UUs in specific congregations.

  8. I consider myself a Christian Universalist, but Christians consider me a Universalist. I guess, though, I really don’t care what I think of myself, or what others think of me. I just want to live and love.

  9. I happened to stumble on the same video at uuchristians.org. I didn’t interpret it as indicating that UUism in general is being more friendly to UU Christians, but rather that there are a growing number of individual UUs identifying with or being interested in Christianity. My thought was that was that it represented a trend amongst UUs, one to which UUism as a whole should perhaps be paying attention.

    Does it mean that there are more liberal Christians being drawn to UUism or is it indicative of UUs looking for more spirituality? I’m curious to know.

    I’ve heard of UU Christians being afraid to “come out” at their congregations. I can certainly relate as I don’t see my congregation as Christian-friendly.

  10. Cindy

    I was never comfortable with religion, particularly Christianity, until I started attending a UU church. After attending for more than a year, for the first time, I understood how people could feel so strongly and so proud of their religion/church. When my (Christian) mom didn’t respect my religious choices, it was hurtful to be attacked for something I loved and believed in. So now when I talk to others about their Christian beliefs, I don’t judge them. I don’t agree with everything they believe in, but I at least have a shared understanding of where they are coming from. Being a UU opened me up to religion and spirituality in general, which I think is a good thing. I know among many liberal people I know, it is taboo to even talk about religion. Being a UU has allowed me to bridge that divide and make it “ok” to be religious. But it doesn’t mean I’m going to convert to Christianity.

  11. Pingback: Seeing race in the presidential campaigns, and more « uuworld.org : The Interdependent Web

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