We’re up to the “contemporary UUA side of things” in my on-going appraisal of Unitarian Universalism as I edge my way closer to deciding if that’s what I am. I’m not sure any more what I had in mind when I called out for myself this element of the movement. Except to note for myself how truly strange all of this is.
For instance, I just called it a movement. Not a religion. Unitarian Universalism is a religion. Or a religious disposition. Or something. See? Strange how quickly things skitter away from religion. The UUA is a similar case. That A in UUA stands for Association. Which is somewhat different from a club, but closer to a club than it is to a religion. And as long as I’m disassembling an acronym, I’m going to pull apart UU, too. Why Unitarian Universalist?
I mean, aside from the obvious, of course. Consolidation of the UCA and the AUA, and that. But, really, why hold onto the Unitarian and Universalist identities? Why not do the Kentucky Fried Chicken thing, and change the official name to UUA as just a string of letters? Or change the name entirely to something like… well, anything I might suggest here would just be understandably seen as goofed up. Maybe Openism.
But also… the UUA cannot be legitimately considered a unitarian or a universalist thingy. This would be for the same reason that it’s legitimate for the UUA to self-describe as ‘post-Christian.’ It’s not just useful shorthand. It’s merely true. The UUA has Christianity in its past, but no longer in its present: if post-Christian isn’t the term for that, then what is the term? Other Christian denominations recognize one another as Christian, if flawed. But they stopped seeing the precursors of the UUA as Christian a long time ago. This isn’t to say that there aren’t self-identified Christians in the movement, and that there aren’t Jesus movement people in the movement. This isn’t to say the UUA or UUism is unique in being post-Christian. I used to attend a congregation that actually describes itself as post-Christian (I don’t now mostly because we moved hundreds of miles away). Anyway.
I think it’s neat that there are various types of Unitarian Universalists (what else am I going to call them/us?) in the UUA. For instance: self-identified Christians, Buddhists, Humanists, and so on. (I should probably have listed Humanists first.) Given the 7’s & 6’s of it all, I’m not surprised. Also congregational polity (next time).
I’m going to beat this horse a bit longer. Lately there’s been a bit of buzz around Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, and if he’s a universalist, and … and there was kind of a lot in the UU blogybloggertown about how the UUA, or maybe just UU’s, should be carrying the universalist message in the world. But why? I mean, if one actually is a universalist, or one’s congregation is a universalist congregation, sure. Of course, be a universalist in the world. But why should anyone linked to the Unitarian Universalist movement be especially obliged (or something) to present that message?
But it’s not just horse beating. The “who speaks for universalism” dust-up is more of a special case of the two questions I’ve been circling around here: what is Unitarian Universalism? and why is it called that? I don’t know the answers to these questions, actually, except superficially. It’ll probably be next week before I post on the congregational polity part, but I think it’s going to be pretty closely tied to this UUA stuff. It has to be, really. It’s the A.