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Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Unitarian Universalism's mimetic rivalry.

Tom Schade asks:

Have you heard sentiments like these?

"We could really moving into the mainstream of the culture, except that we are always pulled toward marginal, fringe movements, like polyamory."

"We could be a terrific social reform movement, if we were not burdened by the huge number of middle class, affluent folks who don't want to move."

"We could be gathering up all the despairing, disheartened mainline Christians, if some people would let us talk once in a while about God and Jesus."

"We could be breaking new ground into a third Axial age of human spiritual interconnection, if people would just let us leave this liberal Protestantism behind."

It just seems that for many, the presence of our internal rivals prevents us from fulfilling the mission.

He finds in Rene Girard's work a useful term for this blame-your-neighbor impulse among Unitarian Universalists: "mimetic rivalry." I saw it rather baldly on display recently when Roger Brewin, editor of Religious Humanism, suggested to readers of the HUUmanists e-mail list (no, that's not a typo) that "humanists who stay UU should make common cause with Pagans — our best hope of fending off the rechristianization of UU." Oh, boy! Triangulation! As a way for humanists to fend off their own institutional decline, this strikes me as a fruitless path. I have tried more than once to suggest that religious humanists might want to learn from the ways the UU Christians have revived themselves against long odds rather than simply spite them for their success. Then again, I'm not over 50, so what do I know?

But Tom asks a much more interesting question: What, really, are we all fighting over?

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 7 April 2004 at 5:32 PM

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