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  • Friday, April 15, 2005

    The Unitarian Universalists and the Unitarian Jihad meet in the marketplace of ideas

    Irony of ironies. People who are worried about the Unitarian Jihad being taken too seriously are taking the Unitarian Jihad too seriously. See John Cullinan for exhibits A and B.

    To be fair to Cullinan, he does have a good point in exhibit A when he talks about the ascendance of the UJ as potentially causing more people to call themselves “Unitarian” without actually adding to the membership of the Unitarian Universalist church. But, to be frank, I don’t think he takes the point quite far enough, so here’s my two cents.

    I was raised a Biblical literalist, and when I was 22 I finally worked up the courage to leave the only church I had ever known. Leaving the church did not immediately free me from the years of psychological conditioning and indoctrination. I spent quite some time continuing to believe, even against my better judgment, that I was rebelling against God and would surely go to hell. I couldn’t bring myself to set foot in another church, because, first of all, I was still influenced by my conditioning to believe that there was only one right way to worship God, and second, even if I had been immediately able to overcome that conditioning, I didn’t know of any denominations in which some form of Biblical literalism was not the norm.

    In the marketplace of religious ideas, the fundamentalists are the most visible suppliers, and I simply didn’t have the taste for what they were selling. I couldn’t work up a rabid, irrational hatred for homosexuals. I couldn’t categorically deny large bodies of scientific knowledge. I couldn’t agree with the notion that material wealth is the outward sign of spiritual purity. I couldn’t believe that good people who didn’t believe in God or didn’t go to church were going to spend eternity in hellfire. And Christianity’s most vocal salespeople seem to sell all of these things.

    Over the course of several years, I did manage to discover that there was such a thing as religious liberalism, and last year, at the age of 33, I discovered UUism. My only complaint against the UU’s is simply that it shouldn’t have been entirely up to me to make the discovery. The UU’s need to be more visible in the marketplace. They need to be out there, spreading the good news.

    The word “gospel,” we would do well to remember, is derived from the Old English words for “good news.” When was the last time you heard legitimately good news from a proselytizing fundamentalist? Increasingly, it seems, their message can be reduced to the words, “You’re going to hell, and we’re not.” I don’t consider that good news, and yet they don’t have any problems getting people to come to their churches, if for no other reason than that their ideas are in the marketplace, being heard.

    I could have used some good news when I was 22. It would have been great to go out into the marketplace of religious ideas and hear that having sex with someone you love, whatever his or her gender, is not an abomination in the eyes of God; that the Bible does not trump scientists’ observations of the world we live in; that making money is not necessarily the same thing as doing good; and that there is nothing morally reprehensible about enjoying the world that you happen to be stuck living in.

    The manifesto of the Unitarian Jihad (for that is what it has become, whatever Jon Carroll intended) happens to have a lot of good news in it: God doesn’t care what we read, what we eat, or whom we sleep with. It isn’t necessary to have a moral code in order to be a good person. Political belief and personal faith are not the same thing. The world is not out to get you. And these ideas are now in the marketplace – thanks not to the Unitarian Universalist Church, but to the people who are keeping Carroll’s satire in circulation.

    To any UU’s who are offended by the Unitarian Jihad or dismayed by the UJ’s “success,” I recommend that you get the hell out of your comfortable little church and become missionaries. Your ideas don’t do anyone any good if you keep them within your private little enclave. There are people out there who need to be saved. God knows I needed you when I was 22.

    P.S. I’m glad Phillip Lund understands.

    2 Comments:

    Anonymous John Cullinan said...

    Thanks for the benefit of the doubt. Exhibit A is actually a paraphrasing of a much longer piece I wrote for a "Contemporary Context of the Church" class. You can see it here if you're interested.

    Exhibit B I'll be kicking myself for posting. One of those moments when my temper gets the better of me. But, I don't want to engage in revisionist history, so I'll leave it up.

    I echo many of your sentiments. My own "conversion" to the UU church is similar -- much seeking and finding on my own. After hearing so many similar stories -- "I was looking, and then I found UU" -- I began to wonder why didn't the church find us first. One of many reasons why I'm entering the ministry.

    Thanks for reading!

    Tue Apr 19, 03:07:00 PM PDT  
    Blogger Kirk said...

    Thank you for the comment, and for the link to your very good article.

    Thu Apr 21, 10:12:00 PM PDT  

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