why the UU suffixes

Why do you suppose we UUs insist on putting suffixes behind our religion’s initials when identifying ourselves?  (e.g. UU Humanist, UU Christian, UU Buddhist, UU Pagan)  It didn’t even occur to me NOT to put deist after UU when setting up my blog. I guess I’m also talking about the IA designations we align ourselves with, as well as individuals like myself who add a suffix.

Why do we perpetuate this culture of labeling ourselves? Why aren’t we just Unitarian Universalists? boom… that’s it. no more descriptor needed.

I don’t know.    : | *sigh*

You think it’s because UU-ism has embraced so much diversity in its recent history that it’s watered itself down to the point of not having enough?…


I don’t know, just not enough.

Maybe this internal culture of labeling ourselves perpetuates because our religion doesn’t have a focal point we can hang everything else on, so we feel the need to say, “hey! look at me! this (Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, etc.) is where I rest my morals and ethics! Validate me! Join me!”

There’s an article from the UU World that I thought was amazing and I thought would be wonderful if our religion could shift to this idea and through it give us something to hang everything else. It speaks of gratitude and how it should be our defining religious discipline.

It would be quite a fine thing if from our pulpit came a constant message of teachings, meditations and prayer on gratitude. Maybe it would help some of us remember on a weekly basis to be thankful. I know it would me.

[deist takes a sip of coffee. thinks to himself, “damn, that’s good coffee. thank you, thank you to whoever made this really good coffee.”]


7 responses to “why the UU suffixes

  1. Maybe it’s because we’re mindful of being a religious minority in a society that loves homogeneity, and we care about communicating who we really are. It’s convenient that when someone says, “I’m a Catholic,” the world pretty much shares an image of what that statement means.

    Except it doesn’t. Those of us who grew up in religious movements that stopped fitting us remember well what it felt like to have everyone around us nodding and saying, “yes, yes, me too,” while inside our heretical hearts we were whispering, “no, no, not for me.” There is no shortage of religious communities using simplistic labels, and no shortage of seekers who know they’re not included in those too-narrow categories.

    We could just expect everyone to call themselves Unitarian Universalists, but do we really want to puree our beautiful diversity into some dull, gray, comforting mush?

    I did a children’s story once where I had created beautiful paper vegetables and told them that we were going to make a salad. One by one, I added the veggies into a blender, and the resulting brown-gray slop looked like something you’d clean off your shoe. The kids still talk about that lesson, two years later.

    When we compare ourselves to how other religious movements do their business, we need to be sure that we really want what they have. For me, I say, “no thank you” — I’m a UU minister because this diversity and beauty saved me from having my journey and gifts blended down into boring sameness. Our ability to walk together in love, despite our sometimes-annoying collection of labels, is the lesson we have to teach our broken world.

  2. I used to feel that the suffixes were important, but now consider them to be “follow-up” descriptors that are not really that essential. I see the real essence of UU’ism, as an ongoing, still-unfolding tradition, as being more attitudinal than theological or doctrinal.

    To me, it is enough now just to be identified as a Unitarian Universalist. Until we can come up with a better name, it adequately reflects the “radically liberal” and “stubbornly protestant” sort of attitude and an alliance with a “heritage of heresy” that I wear proudly as a badge of honor. That does not, however, suggest an automatic allegiance to the UU Association, any more than my political liberalism necessarily includes an endorsement of all that is done or said by members of the Democratic party. To me, UUA is, and will always be–at best–merely a subset of the liberal-religious movement and legacy that, for lack of any better term so far, we’re calling Unitarian Universalist. It’s the legacy that insists that “we need not think alike to love alike,” no matter what the label. To me, that’s more than enough…and far more than just “puree.”

    Summerville, SC

    (Admin. of the “Faith of the Free” message board, at http://FaithoftheFree.informe.com)

  3. Other religions most certainly have labels. To non Muslims, a certain image comes up when someone says “I’m a Muslim,” but among Muslims, more information is often expected – which madhhab you follow, if any, for example. I think the same happens with UUs. UUs might say to non UUs – I’m a Unitarian Universalist. But when UUs are talking with each other, they want to know more about what that means.

  4. Perhaps because we do not have enough confidence in (or knowledge of) our own tradition, and therefore we need to look in external references for guidance. But I feel that there is a growing number of UUs (myself included) who do not need “hyphenation” and are happy and proud to be identified as Unitarian Universalists, period.


  5. I have an even better question. . .

    Why the all-inclusive U*U asterisk? 😉


    U asterisk U Mary Bennett!

    Still ROTFLMU*UO

  6. ((Rev. Scott)) With all due respect, I believe it is this way of thinking and saying “no thank you” to looking at how other faith groups “do church” that has made us invisible on the religious radar. With 1% growth annually UU-ism is insignificant and has no leverage in reaching through the darkness of this broken world.

    And you said we need to be sure if we really want what they have. Yes. Yes I do I want what they have. I want an enormous voice to shape how our government treats people in this country and around the world. I want a presence so huge that when we talk, people actually listen instead of saying “oh shit hear comes that gaggle of crazy UUs.”

    ((Sofia)) Your response makes sense to me. I think it may be an internal/external thing. So what should I do? Is this blog internal (since I update with a UU aggregator) or is it external cuz I use WordPress? Hmmm… maybe I’ll scratch out the Deist part with red crayon soon. 😀

  7. Well, I don’t really think of Unitarian Universalism as a religion in and of itself. I’m a UU pagan myself, and I have certain rites and holy days and traditions that I incorporate in my spiritual walk that not all UUs are into.

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