Cart before the horse

I can’t remember the last time I posted anything UU (unitarian universalist) related. Maybe a year or so ago when I wrote something titled my UU church must change?  I don’t know but I feel compelled as our national conference, known to UUs as General Assembly or GA, is underway in Phoenix.

So GA started yesterday and with Twitter, Facebook and blogging platforms being used in official and unofficial capacities, it’s almost as if I’m there. Almost.

One of the biggest problems I’ve had with UUism since I attended my first service 10 years ago has been the fact there is always some cause du jour and for the most part, those causes usually feeds the caricature that the Everyday Joe has of left-leaning, liberal-minded people.

  • Please help the eight toed children of Burma have free-trade coffee!
  • We must be the voice of the disenfranchised in equatorial Guinea who don’t have access to clean sinks and toilets!
  • Save the three-legged, blue-spotted ninny muggins of Gila Island!
  • What would a world with dignity and a fair wage for food chain workers look like?!??!!!

Believe it or not… that last one is a real cause the UUA is pushing at General Assembly this year. Some of the other causes I’ve seen are something about ethical eating and voicing the unfairness of server wages. I wish I knew who to talk to about trying to raise awareness about pushing for laws that raise the wage of waiters and waitresses because the UUA is going to embarrass itself if it goes full tilt on this. By law, food servers make at least minimum wage. It is federal law. Just because a food server is making $2.13 an hour… you know what, I’m not gonna get into it. But I work for a payroll company. I do it every single day. They are NOT being short changed. No pun intended. : )

Back to the social justice thing though… I mean, history is replete with examples of religious people taking up the banner of justice and heading to the front lines to make a wrong a right. Often times that is how change happens. But the UUA and my church I believe have it wrong.

It seems as though they are moving further and further in the direction of social activism as the means toward spiritual fulfillment when it should be the other way around. It’s the cart before the horse.

I delivered a sermon at  my congregation on Easter that touched on the point. I acknowledged it being a holy day for Christians and that although it is their holiday, we can learn from this narrative. I ended by emphasizing the idea that it is from spiritual transformation and the UU Good News of universal salvation that we are moved beyond the walls of our church and into the larger community to do good works. NOT the other way around.

It is apparent that the trendy missional theology bandwagon has its horse trailing the back end and many UUs are hopping on board, including my own congregation.  I am afraid there is only a nail or two left before the coffin is sealed for me and I am no longer willing to call any UU church my sangha.

3 responses to “Cart before the horse

  1. I’m intrigued by your sequence. Hadn’t thought about it before, except that I’d assumed the sequence is posible in either direction. I mean, someone could get involved in social change and in doing so experience an epiphany, while another could find religious fulfillment first then strive for change. Could be a kind of feedback loop either way, no?

  2. I love the feedback loop analogy… perfect way to compare this issue.

    Oh I’m sure it can go either way. But my problem with UUs putting the social-justice-cart before the religious/spiritual horse is that we are not Rotarians. [from the Rotary Int website: “What would it take to change the world? Rotary’s 1.2 million members believe it starts with a commitment to Service Above Self.”]
    We are not Amnesty Intl. [“Our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.”]

    We are (supposedly) a people of faith… a religion. I think the social activism speeches should stay out of the pulpit.
    I think ministers should preach narratives that fuel spirituality and thus inspire people to act on their faith.
    This must sound like tomayto vs tomahto. 😦

  3. I have become more and more disenchanted with my religion. Four years ago I was living in Los Angeles when Prop 8 came up for a vote. I don’t wish to discuss the merits of that legislation but I was told by my church leaders that if I did not help them, I would no longer be in good standing. I was told “Keep your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself.” I was horrified. Being from DC, I have significant political experience but refused to help either side. I have verbally abused by my church leaders for my decision.

    I moved back to DC, hoping things would be left behind, but in this general election I am once again being bombarded by my church leaders on how to cast my vote.

    I am pulling further and further away and while I feel like a “bad” person, I cannot and will not be forced to do something with which I don’t agree. I’m not quite sure what happened to the whole idea of just being a good person (serves others, honest, sees good in others).

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