There’s much talk at the moment about how covenants, sin, baptism, God, and other aspects of religion typically associated in the West with Christianity (especially, in this context, North American Puritan Protestant Christianity and its descendants) may or may not have an organic connection with Unitarian-Universalism. One argument says that these things are Christian, and UUism is not Christian, so UU use (and especially transformation or redefinition) of such things risks misappropriation. Another argument says that UUism is a direct descendant of Puritan Christianity and thus it legitimately “owns” these things, such that UUs are empowered to use them and to alter them as they see fit.
One thing that doesn’t seem to be discussed yet in the conversation is the ambiguous “ownership” of a convert faith. But this seems to be an important part of the issue. Perhaps 90%+ of Unitarian-Universalists currently active in the congregations did not grow up in the religion–they are adult converts who came into it at some later point. Thus the question should be discussed: while Unitarian-Universalism as a denomination may have inherited these things (or at least the right to these things), do the vast majority of UUs who have no original connection via UUism to Puritanism themselves have the same level of “legitimate ownership” of such aspects? And are they more at risk for instances of misappropriation? Let’s imagine that someone grows up in a non-religious household. As an adult, they decide to join a local UU congregation. Eventually they decide to start bringing in Protestant elements that have been absent at their local congregation, along the way redefining sin and covenant in ways that better suit their spiritual orientation. Is the justifiable nature of what this person is doing affected by the fact that they are only just now encountering Protestantism for the first time, perhaps with a thin understanding of it, even though they joined a non-Christian congregation whose denominational roots were once Puritan (perhaps well before the founding of this particular hypothetical congregation)? What if the person grew up Protestant, quit, came into UUism, and wishes now to use such things, some of which they are familiar with and others of which they didn’t really have exposure to?
These are not meant as rhetorical questions, or to have an implicit judgment one way or another. It seems like an issue worth discussing, because there is a tendency to treat UUism and UUs as monolithic in this regard, when in fact particular UU congregations vary widely as to how much Protestantism they have truly inherited, and UUs themselves are widely divergent in their personal histories, level of knowledge of older traditions, and theological orientations. If we are a nearly entirely convert faith, with the majority of our congregations founded after the end of Puritanism, just how much claim does UUism have to the tradition, and how much do particular UUs with different amounts of past history with UUism have? There isn’t likely to be consensus here, but there probably out to be some hashing out of the aspects of this issue.