I submitted a response to Stephen Merino's "anything goes
" blog post on his Reason and Reverence blog but, like a certain number of other U*U bloggers, he refuses to post my critical comments that point out problems with the U*U religious community. Unfortunately I failed to archive my response so I cannot repost it here. I will none-the-less repeat the valid points I made here so that others may read them and give them some thought. I will quote and respond to Stephen Merino's blog post point-by-point. This TEA blog post was originally a submitted as a comment on the excellent the Chalicefire
blog of the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion, NY whose administrators have been very good about not censoring and suppressing my critical comments on some of their blog posts and even seem to genuinely appreciate my criticism and dissent. If only more U*Us could be as open to criticism and dissent as the good Unitarian*Universalist folk who host the Chalicefire blog.
:The more I think about the "anything goes" myth the more disturbed I get. I think it should bother UUs that this idea exists.
That may be so but this idea exists precisely because U*Us very often give the impression that "anything goes" in U*Uism through their words and actions. This includes U*U tracts and marketing materials to some degree.
:I think the "anything goes" idea becomes ridiculous if you understand the seven principles of UUism and the ideal of living ethically, responsibly, lovingly, and actively engaged in bettering the world.
Unfortunately there is a significant gap between what U*U principles and ideals claim and how many U*Us, including U*U clergy, actually behave.
:I did mention to my friend that I wouldn't be surprised to hear a minister or conservative Christian repeat that idea, since it would be in their interest to disparage other belief systems that don't agree with theirs.
It might interest U*Us to know that oh so liberal U*U ministers quite regularly, and at times very publicly, disparage other belief systems that don't agree with theirs. . .
:But it's not just religious conservatives that would repeat the "anything goes" myth. In their popular and widely-read book Acts of Faith, two leading sociologists of religion place Unitarian Universalism in the "ultra-liberal" niche.
The Oregonian newspaper placed Unitarian*Universalism in the "Church of the Far Left" niche in an article about last year's UUA GA in Portland Oregon. U*Us might want to give some thought as to why U*Uism is being placed in such niches by non-U*Us. Are U*Us aware that Rev. Peter Morales who, along with Rev. Laurel Hallman, is a candidate for the next President of the UUA, placed Unitarian*Universalism in the "tiny fringe religion" niche on his elect Peter Morales for UUA President web site?
:Faiths in this niche exist in very little tension with the surrounding society and ask little to nothing of their adherents.
Unfortunately U*Us often give the impression that they ask little to nothing of their adherents other than increasingly large donations of course. It seems that a certain number of U*U ministers are now asking U*Us to double their contributions to the church and start tithing. . . Whether this is an official UUA initiative has not yet been determined. OTOH I am not so sure about U*Us existing in very little tension with the surrounding society. I see a fair bit of evidence which suggests that, at least in some parts of the U*U World, U*Us are in more tension with the surrounding contemporary society than they might care to acknowledge.
:Tension or strictness has been shown to be strongly related to denominational growth and vitality, so this has obvious consequences for liberal and mainline churches, which generally have not done well over the last century (and even longer).
Well, as UUA Presidential hopeful Rev. Peter Morales says, U*Uism is a "tiny fringe religion". The membership statistics of Unitarian*Universalist Association of Congregations have remained pretty much stagnant since the UUA was formed in 1961. U*Us need to ask why so few people care to be U*Us.
:I think that on the liberal end of the religious spectrum, tension with society increases again.
Indeed it does, especially when society gets the impression that "anything goes". . .
:What about its openness and acceptance of atheists and agnostics?
What about its acceptance of intolerant and abusive anti-religious atheists amongst its ranks, and even amongst its clergy? I have often said that this makes many U*U Welcoming Congregations anything but welcoming to God believing people who comprise the vast majority of Americans. . . If the U*U faith chooses to accept anti-religious fundamentalist atheist bigots as church members, and even as ordained U*U ministers, it is not surprising that U*UIsm will not be the chosen faith of many God believing people who might otherwise have chosen to become U*Us.
:There is one sense in which the "anything goes" idea is right. There is no one checking up on you at church. You can do all sorts of awful things and still comfortably sit in a pew on Sunday morning.
U*U ministers can do all sorts of awful things and still comfortably preach from the pulpit on Sunday morning. . .
:But in my experience, this does not make UUs less insistent upon living moral, decent lives. And it's just flat out wrong that anything goes in a UU church.
Wrong. There are any number of examples that illustrate that all sorts of awful things are tolerated and accepted by U*Us and U*U churches.
:It's not OK to hate, to belittle, to exclude those with whom you disagree, or to discriminate based on race, gender, age, or sexual orientation.
Actually, through their well-documented words and actions, U*Us have repeatedly demonstrated that it is OK for U*Us to hate, to belittle, and to exclude those with whom U*Us disagree. Quite ironically Stephen Merino, and various other U*U bloggers, seem to think that it is perfectly OK to exclude those with whom they disagree.
:We can't control what other people think.
Actually U*Us have a high degree of control over what other people think about U*Us and U*Uism. It all comes down to how U*Us strive to honourably practice what they preach, or abjectly fail and even obstinately refuse to do so. . .
:But let's not give them any reason believe the "anything goes" myth.
Unfortunately U*Us quite regularly give people reason to believe that "anything goes" in the U*U religious community. Here is just one small but well documented example
of that quite regrettable fact. Sadly there are numerous other examples of such anything goes bad faith displayed by U*U clergy and UUA officials to say nothing of the ordinary lay people of the U*U religious community.