Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Working Class

There is a great article by Doug Muder in The World magazine about why Unitarian Universalism doesn't appeal to the working class.

My first reaction to the article was he got it just right. I was pretty excited because it pulled together ideas I had had over the years into a coherent argument.

I have wondered why we don't attract more working class people or people of color to Unitarian Universalist congregations. I had put it down to culture rather than religion, but Muder makes the case that there is a difference between classes in what they need from religion. For example, in a consumer culture,successful people need help making good choices. He writes "The primary spiritual challenge of the professional class is discernment."

For the working class, its more about sucking up and doing what needs to be done, without being consumed by rage and going off the deep end. In short, the spiritual message that resonates with the working class is "Resist temptation."

Muder does a good job of drawing distinctions between the working class and the professional class without judging either. But he draws a picture of very different worlds -- so different that when he calls for unity in the end, its hard to think it could happen.

Muder says we don't have to give up anything, we need 'both subtle discernment and doing the obvious hard thing. Inspiration and self-control'. Without the unity of those ideas we aren't anything but a boutique religion. Its at this point that I need to get stop thinking of models of behavior and hear just how this is new robust religion is done. What would it look like? What would a sermon sound like and would I want to hear it?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Pollyanna Post

It took a while for me to come up with the name of my blog. The quote from E.M. Forester 'Only connect' was just a chance resonance. I ran into it while I was looking for something from the American Unitarian past-- some Emerson perhaps -- a little Over-soul reference. But here was a quote from a British author that I knew nothing about.

Only connect. It had the right Bloggy qualities. I didn't even know the context of the words. After I picked it, I found myself saying it to myself like a little mantra. Only Connect.

Then I found myself saying it when I was facing generic personal encounters like grocery store check-stand money hand-offs. I would say it to myself and look at the check-out clerk directly and listen. The irritation and the blankness dropped away.

I tried it for other encounters where there was more at stake. Especially when there was an element of fear, complexity, competition, irritation, all the nasty things that can interfere with, well, connecting! Just saying it to myself drops my shoulders down from my ears. I relax.

I think it works as a reminder that success in the encounter is not about the transactional aspect of our being together. Its not about if they do what I want, check my groceries quickly and error free, or consider me the smartest person in the room. Its whether I connect.

I've since looked up the quote and Forester used it differently. He was writing about connecting the parts of a single person. Loosely paraphrased, connecting the practical to the emotional. Making a whole person.

But I like my interpretation of the phrase. Try it yourself -- OnlyConnect.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Old critique style VS instant blogging feedback

My writing group met last night.

Rather than come to the group empty handed I brought one of my blog posts. A day or two before the meeting I send out this blog address so they could see the whole thing.

I got a traditional critique from my writing mates on this new medium. It was a mix of the old with the new and very helpful!

E wanted more connections. "if you are writing about Unitarian Universalism, why isn't there a link somewhere." Good point! She was using it as a blog and found herself taking the Enneagram quiz to see what she was. She found all that on her own because I hadn't done a link. She wanted me to do more about MY credo, MY journey My beliefs.

Its been so long since I became a UU that I don't find that story as fresh as hearing others. Then N said, speaking as a devote and entirely liberal Catholic, "I think it would be interesting to see why your sister stayed a Catholic and you became a UU." Does anyone have that kind of time!

They all chastised me for having such a negative "about me". I was trying to be funny! I knew it clunked a bit. My excuse, and its a true one, is I found it difficult to compose in that tiny little box Blogger gives you to write your profile in. Going back and forth between the box and the final reminded me of the old days of computing when you had to save, do three more things, look at it, go back. Enough! I will compose it somewhere else where I have elbow room and then plop it in. It will be much more polished.

They thought the blog was fun, and showed a side of myself they hadn't seen. There wasn't much said about the writing. In all the rush to publish, the fast pace of putting words out there is a blog really about the writing? I say yes, but its definitely a different style from a carefully crafted story.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Credo Service

If you're a UU and reading this, you probably know what a Credo Service is. If not, a credo service is built around several UU's standing up in church and telling the congregation what they believe.

It must be a uniquely UU style of service. I can't imagine any other faith where we all sit and avidly listen not at all sure what we are going to hear. It could be anything really.

We hadn't had a credo service at Eastrose in quite a while. I had forgotten how powerful they can be.

We had four strong speakers this time. What strikes me is how much there is that is common in all our stories. For most UU's there is usually a background of questioning the beliefs they grew up with (except for those unusual people who grew up as UU's). The questioning persists until the person no longer feels authentic and makes a change. The beliefs expressed in a credo service are rarely surprising. We all seem to need the freedom to question, we have a comfort with knowing that we will never really know about the existence of God. Somehow we all come to a belief that this world is important and how we live in it matters. Not because of God, but just because.

Interesting how we still want a religious community and don't just stay home or go for long walks. I bet a lot of people never do find a community. Perhaps they don't need one. I do.