The Culture is the Crucible

Connie Goodbread, Acting District Executive for the Mid-South District of the Unitarian Universalism Association of Congregations (UUA) when speaking about faith development will often say:  “Faith Development is all we do; Unitarian Universalism is all we teach;  and the Congregation is the Curriculum.”   Recently at a Regional staff meeting we were discussing the vision of Unitarian Universalism for the Southern Region and I mentioned that when we live our faith out in the community the Culture is the Crucible.

We only truly embody our faith and values when we live those values in the culture.  It is in the culture that our faith is put to the test to strengthen our mettle.  Currently our culture is resisting attempts to be compassionate towards others.  There are loud voices that claim  the individual is above all others; disregarding the worth and dignity of others.   Moves in our government to reduce taxes on the über wealthy and corporations  to the detriment of life giving services to the poorest in our country is received with high praise by politicians and citizens alike.  The recent GOP debate had an audience member shout ‘let him die’  to the hypothetical question  of a young man who chose not to get insurance and then had an accident which left him in a coma, should he be treated?  A bad decision on the young man’s part and lack of compassion by the Ayn Rand neophytes who place individual rights and a disdain for minor impositions above collective societal rights.   It is in this world where we either live up to what we claim to profess on Sunday morning or we fail to meet the challenge.

This is the test of our values as Unitarian Universalists. How well do we represent these values in the day to day? Do we speak up when we see someone being abused for being gay or discriminated against for being an immigrant? Do we talk with our friends about the deep matters in life or do we hide away to keep the peace when a disparaging word is said about another group ?

If being Unitarian Universalist is only good one day a week then our faith is weak and ineffective.  We should not continually wonder why our congregations are not growing and or why claims of irrelevance surface. If we are not seeking to live the principles that we covenant to uphold then our voice will continue to grow weak against the din and noise of the popular cultural shift towards Ayn Rand’s extreme individualism.

As a faith, as congregations, as individuals we need to examine how we embody the values our faith teaches out in the world where we breathe, and eat, and have our being.  This is not an easy challenge. It is hard work  this path we have chosen. Dag Hammarskjold wrote these words “This is your path, And it is now, Now, that you must not fail.”

I repeat Connie Goodbread’s words with mine added at the end:

Faith development is all we do;
Unitarian Universalism is all we teach;
the congregation is the curriculum;
and the culture is the crucible.

This is our task and our path. We must not fail.

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2 Comments

  1. […] Hammond writes that, in a culture that resists showing compassion to others, we are more than ever called to live out our values. If being Unitarian Universalist is only good one day a week then our faith is weak and […]

  2. : This is the test of our values as Unitarian Universalists. How well do we represent these values in the day to day?

    Do you *really* want to know Fred?

    From *my* perspective U*Us, including U*U clergy and top level UUA administrators, not only abjectly fail to represent UU values but obstinately refuse to honor and uphold the Seven Principles and other claimed UU ideals on a day to day basis. Indeed U*Us have obstinately refused to practice what UUism preaches for over a decade and a half now, indeed right up to this very day, and no change in this unacceptable behavior of hypocritical U*Us is in sight. . .

    : Do we speak up when we see someone being abused for being gay or discriminated against for being an immigrant?

    Do UUs in general, and UU clergy in particular. . . speak up when they see someone being abused by “less than perfect” UU clergy or discriminated against for being a Theist in a “Humanist” dominated UU “church”?

    Yes that *is* a rhetorical question Fred. . .

    And you know as well as I do that there is a code of silence written into the UUMA Guidelines that forbids UU clergy from publicly speaking out about abusive or otherwise “less than perfect” UU ministers.

    N’est-ce pas?

    : Do we talk with our friends about the deep matters in life or do we hide away to keep the peace when a disparaging word is said about another group?

    Good question Fred. UUA president Peter Morales has totally ignored the unbecoming conduct complaint that I filed against a “less than perfect” UU preacher on National Standing On The Side Of Love Day 2011 for engaging in remarkably catty anti-Republican intolerance and bigotry. . . Previously the UUA has ignored complaints about anti-religious intolerance and bigotry. Come to think of it who, other than your’s truly. . . publicly spoke up about how Rev. Morales uttered more than a few disparaging words about Judaism, Christianity, Islam and any number of other “old religions” in his sermon cum “stump speech” announcing his candidacy for UUA President?

    :  If being Unitarian Universalist is only good one day a week then our faith is weak and ineffective.

    Presumably you don’t want me to further embarrass Unitarian Universalists by speaking out about just how badly some U*Us behave on Sunday, even during U*U “church” services. . .

    : We should not continually wonder why our congregations are not growing and or why claims of irrelevance surface.

    I couldn’t agree more and have been saying pretty much the same thing for well over a decade now Fred. Unfortunately far to many U*Us have failed to pay heed to the words in Rev. David O. Rankin’s little red tract regarding “the art of listening”. . .

    : If we are not seeking to live the principles that we covenant to uphold then our voice will continue to grow weak against the din and noise of the popular cultural shift towards Ayn Rand’s extreme individualism.

    Actually Fred U*Us do not covenant to “uphold” the Seven Principles and other claimed UU ideals, they only covenant to “affirm and promote” these principles and ideals. There was a motion put forward at the 2009 UUA GA to change the wording “affirm and promote” to “honor and uphold” but it was not passed.

    Can’t imagine why. . .

    I have said it before Fred, but it bears repeating here in direct response to your above words –

    U*Us are very good at emptily affirming and promoting the “covenants” of the Seven Principles, but they are not so good at genuinely honoring and upholding them. . .

    You are absolutely right Fred. As long as Unitarian Universalists continue to abjectly fail, and even obstinately refuse, to genuinely “live the principles” that U*Us ostensibly covenant to “affirm and promote” then the moral voice of The U*U Movement will lack credibility and will be largely ignored by the American public.

    And so it goes. . .

    Robin, like with any system, it is difficult to make changes when homeostasis is strong. Unitarian Universalists are no exception to the rule. But I believe we are beginning to see a tipping point in the UU movement to make some of the changes that you speak about. The Southern Region did not write the Orlando Platform lightly. There are strong words about accountability to our covenant in that document for a reason and the writers of that document (I know because I was one of them) and the participants during the meeting and the district boards who then affirmed the documents as representing their desires for substantial change meant those words in the fullness of the spirit they were written. Many are beginning to recognize that we can no longer continue doing the same things and keep expecting different results. If we want different results, we will need by necessity do something entirely different. Holding one another accountable to our covenants is one of these different actions that need to be done or we will disappear into total irrelevance in the next several decades. We have before us a small window of opportunity to make the changes needed and I believe there are an increasing number of clergy and laity who agree. Are there enough of us to make it happen? I believe there are. I am hedging my bets on it.


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