Unwelcome news at General Assembly

I was thinking the schedule of General Assembly was very late this year — who’s giving the Ware Lecture? — but then at lunch saw that a partial and preliminary schedule was posted at UUA.org/GA. It didn’t take long before I saw the Allies for Racial Equity offering from this eye-watering title:

Because there’s nothing like celebrating Holy Week then discovering other people in your denomination denounce Christianity with such a broad brush. What a punch to the gut. Shame on you.

And before someone pipes up by saying “Oh, surely that’s those bad Christians and not you good Christians”, I’m not buying such an easy distinction. Because in this of all years, and after 30 years of minimizing, sidelining comments by other Unitarian Universalists, a plausable denial of Christian bating — or any coded insult to any group — won’t fly.

Christians are the only religious group that Unitarian Universalists regularly and freely denounce. Christians are the only religious group who have their acceptance based on the condition of being similar to other Unitarian Universalists. The option to be a bland and domesticated version of Christianity in no option, but a double standard, and sickening besides.

And if forced to choose, I will always choose the body of Christ, which understands sin, repentance, forgiveness and grace. And, unlike the Unitarian Universalist Association, isn’t likely to worry and convulse itself to death.

15 Replies to “Unwelcome news at General Assembly”

  1. First three reactions, in rapid succession:
    1. “AARRRGH!”
    2.
    3. “Wait; I have an idea….”

    The idea is, what if some of us UU Christians were to bear witness in response? Not a protest, just a line of Christians standing outside the room, silently holding signs with positive, short statements of affirmation of our faith and what it supports. Answer questions gently, and engage in respectful dialogue with any individual who would discuss respectfully with us. NOT engaging with those who come at us with belligerent, bullying behavior.

    This said, I am unable to participate, as I’ll not be there – I’m just coming for Ministry Days this year. But it’s a thought.

  2. Can I agree and disagree?

    I think the subject is one that needs to be talked about, but ARE is definitely not the group that should be doing it. And I’m not thrilled that this is happening at GA; it is far to big a subject for one 1 hour slot.

  3. Perhaps not even disagree. Christians do this work, as you know, and not just Left v. Right. But this old, constant Christian-bating behavior within Unitarian Universalism must end.

  4. Or Christians filling the room and engaging firmly, and with nuance. I think signs would only makes the root anxious. Either way, I’ll not be there.

  5. I know the allergy/hostility to Christianity of which you speak in Unitarian Universalism and at one time, prior to being UU, suffered from it myself (and must admit, occasionally still have phantom pains of it). I don’t identify as Christian. I hear the pain of this announcement during Holy Week, and how its impact for you and other UU Christians is yet another insult in a long line. AND a few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to experience first-hand Christianity in a minority context (Myanmar, where 6% of the population is Christian and 89% Buddhist), clarifying for me the difference between Christianity and Christendom (as well as how Buddists in power can be just as hegemonic and totalitarian as any other religious identity). It was powerful. It’s what one of my long time (non-UU) mentors calls the difference between walking with Jesus rather than being a Christian. (That mentor identifies as walking with Jesus…). I think much of what is described in mainstream media in this country is Christendom, (and not just in the media – it’s real). But that there are pockets of a Christianity true to it’s roots. I appreciate Kim’s comment that the conversation needs to be had AND that these may not be the right people to have it – I hear in that the need for those for Christianity is a/the source to delve into the topic, or those harmed by Christianity’s use as a tool of hegemony to do so (some of whom are of the same community).

  6. So very discouraging. The of Doctrine of Discovery, and Manifest Destiny were not live teachings even in my ultra-conservative Lutheran days. In fact I would venture that most of my childhood pastors would have said that those above doctrines are not valid doctrines held by the Synod, and perhaps even constituted non-Biblical heresy. I’m not even convinced that the Christianity that the UUA talks about is the dominant form of Christianity (although there is a certain racist and supremicist version of Christianity that is highly visible in America – like a hot-pink sock in a drawer full of brown dress socks). But the assertive UUA stereotype about Christians has been made with a very broad brush, and feeds into the Fundamentalist idea that the Fundies alone constitute real Christianity. Plus to disagree with the UUA workshop invites being labelled as part of the problem. To disagree with the premise, is to be a racist yourself. So I guess I feel relieved this Holy Week, that I’ve distanced myself from the UUA; and now spend more of my time with Universalist leaning Christians of a different communion. At least outside the UUA I don’t have to constantly plead for the validity of my existence (both Christian and gay), or need to constantly explain why my faith is not the root of all evil. And I won’t be at GA. Glad I wasn’t planning to go this year.

  7. I no longer identify as a Christian. I grew up in the holiness movement in a sundown-town in southern Indiana, and was a teenage evangelist. Fortunately, in 1968 I met a back female Jesus in an alley in Nashville, Tennessee. I was a young white preacher boy who knew everything and nothing at all. She was a mother looking for food for her children. Just by being who she was, she exposed my racism, privilege, and ignorance. She didn’t know she was Jesus. She didn’t have to. She changed my life.

    I now consider myself a human being, period. However, I have been arrested with many Christians fighting for justice and equality, Phil Berrigan was a mentor to me, and I respected his faith. I am comfortable with the basic teachings of Jesus. I think he was damn good human being. We can never achieve equality while pointing fingers, the very act of doing so belittles the other. I am reminded of Frog, Keeper of the Water’s admonition to Jumping Mouse, in Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm–“Don’t let your anger blind you? What did you see?”

    It is imperative that we look at the past with care to notice not only those for whom Christianity was merely a blanket covering their prejudice, greed and bigotry, but also those for whom Christianity was an inspiration to be peacemakers and fully human beings.

    Christianity is certainly not the only religion that has been used to further bigotry, misogyny, superiority, etc.

    I retired from UU pastoral ministry in 2014. I won’t be at GA. My social security income doesn’t allow for such expensive ventures. I do hope that those who do attend will attempt to be kind to one another first, and always. I like the Dali Lama’s teaching, “Be kind whenever possible. Kindness is always possible.”–peace

  8. So sorry to see this. In our UU context and its Christian-bashing, this is just flat-out offensive.

  9. I remember reading an article in UU World that shared that Martin Luther King considered UU’ism, but knew that our weak acceptance (my words & paraphrasing) of Christianity would not offer the foundation that the African American community needed for them to join the UU faith and movement. (“Why Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t a UU-November 1, 2002 by Rosemary Bray McNatt) I have been a UU for 42 years and a minister serving UU churches for 28 years. UU Christians, in my experience,for the most part, have to practice their beliefs and express their faith in watered down terms and in secret. It is really sad that we took our historical connection to Christianity and didn’t continue to allow UU Liberal Christianity to be practiced in celebration and openly. It has hurt our numbers for decades and I don’t see a change in sight.

  10. As a member of the GA Planning Committee: we recognize that there is a deeper concern than just the program description you highlighted, and we want to thank you for bringing this piece to our attention. The General Assembly Planning Committee and the Program Development Group are in conversation as a result.

  11. For what it’s worth, the UUA GA Right Relationship web page contains this language:

    “The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) affirms its commitment to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment based on race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. The Association expects all attendees to conduct themselves in a professional manner with concern and respect for all.”
    Source — https://www.uua.org/ga/justice/191453.shtml

    Maybe it’s time to contact the Right Relationship team before GA starts?

  12. Maybe Steve. Sounds like this has important concerns on both sides. It is a big question how we can talk honestly about colonialism without slandering the old and enormous world religion in who’s name so much of the conquest and abuse was done, right along side a lot of the resistance and healing.

  13. I had really really thought we were all beyond this type of Christian bashing in 2018 in the UUA. It is wrong on so many levels…and it is against UU principles since we publically acknowledge our Christian heritage too. I hope Rev. Gray follows through and Right Relations as well?

  14. How discouraging. Don’t you wonder what Reverend Martin Luther King would have to say in this workshop? Or would he even be allowed to speak?

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