Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"What do we offer to those who hunger for God?"

I don’t usually wander very far in the blogger world, but I had to check out the popular PeaceBang site when a friend sent me a referral to her treatise on “What Depressed Me About GA”.

I had to read this, my correspondent said, because we (she, Sue & I) were standing with PB when she witnessed, at last year’s General Assembly, this really stupid spectacle of a UU man mocking an evangelical Christian who was distributing pamphlets on the street corner nearby.

It was not the first time I had had the pleasure, if you will, of witnessing this sort of arrogant behavior by one of our merry band of tolerant souls. Perhaps I should have been more shocked, but church-people-behaving-badly is pretty old news. It was old news in my childhood Methodist church. It was old in either congregation of the United Church of Christ in whose choirs I sang. That’s why we observers of the world reject the idea that the USA would be a more moral nation were it also a Christian nation. [That and the George W. experience, of course.]

I was shocked the first time I heard a UU belittle Christianity. When I first stepped into the UU world, I hoped to find a far better place than I had known before, but I learned
quickly that we are pretty much like everybody else.

What remains truly shocking for me is the perception that, without a quick descent into warmed over liberal Christianity, a large percentage of UU clergy would be unable to answer PB’s question, “What do we offer to those who hunger for God?”.

PB, herself, seems drawn by this escape back to Christianity. But, if mainline Protestantism is answering her question so well, why are its churches losing membership? Why do so many people, who join evangelical churches, leave them? I can’t imagine why any capable UU minister would long to run off to the long-struggling Episcopal church down the street here in my adopted hometown, no matter how classically reassuring its wordy ritual.

Liberal Christianity seems to be struggling, just as Unitarian Universalism is, to enter the 21st century with a meaning filled understanding of G_d that relates successfully to the way-things-really-are. Thanks to the stubborn rationalism of modernists (as, I think, we may well suppose our UU mocker of Christians to be) and the blind attachment to the distant past of evangelical traditionalists on the corner significant portions of our populous are left hungering — certainly PB is right here. But, if either liberal or evangelical Christianity were working, why this hungering?

I am not arguing that contemporary Christianity is wrong. I’m just saying that it is irrelevant to the post-modern world because it doesn’t see the life that we are actually experiencing. It is stuck in scientific beliefs of the past that have led it down deadend paths. And it is further hampered by an inappropriate relationship to its traditions. But, are we, Unitarian Universalists, any more relevant as a Third Way? That’s the real question, isn’t it.

PB seems frustrated by Unitarian Universalism’s continuing failure to provide that Way. Good. But how about broadening the search for truth and meaning beyond our Christian heritage? How about bringing forward those UU clergy whose reactions are leading them to a better understanding of the life unfolding around us? Surely, so powerful a person as PeaceBang could find them were she
determined in her search.

Blaming denominational leaders is a peculiar way to go, I think. If the average elected politician could lead, our world would be full of Barack Obamas. Believe in ground up leadership. Be true to our democratic experience. Be the change we are seeking.


Elizabeth J. Barrett said...

I think we do have God and can offer God to folks who come to us. Just yesterday, I read an amazing sermon:
"People Ask About God," written in 1957 by A. Powell Davies. To me, this is the God we offer.

Welcome said...

Welcome ‘Chalice Group Goddess’ and thank you for the reminder of Dr. Davies.

Here is my favorite quote from the Davies sermon you refer to: “Truth lives in minds that are formed by it--or broken by betrayal of it. Beauty lives in hearts that respond to it. Justice is alive in generation after generation. The spiritual is a living reality.”