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Saturday, March 5, 2005

Faith blogs in the New York Times.

Debra Nussbaum Cohen suggests that the "best religion-driven blogs . . . [offer] a peek into lives that many are curious about but that relatively few lead" — like feminist Mormon housewives or conservative Catholic Gen-Xers. She also suggests that they "seem to be created by people on the extremes of the religious spectrum."

Hmm. How does this line of thinking apply to Unitarian Universalist blogs? Since religious liberalism is seen by many as outside the mainstream, does that mean the whole lot of us already stand on the edge of the religious spectrum? (Granted, my one and a half seconds of TV fame yesterday were as a political "arch-liberal," not to mention that business about "obscure and literary." If there's one thing I'm all about, surely it's building a movement of obscure literary people. Viva Phi Beta Kappa! Them's fightin' words.) Or, to take the idea a step further, do those of us who feel drawn to publish UU blogs stand on various extremes even of Unitarian Universalism?

I don't think so. With a handful of peculiar exceptions, most UU blogs seem to represent fairly non-"extreme" expressions of Unitarian Universalist faith and practice. Apart from the disproportionate number of UU Christians among the bloggers (all of whom are pretty obviously dedicated to serving UU communities and institutions), for example, we seem a fairly moderate bunch. Not too many flamethrowers or rabble-rousers, in other words.

Despite the more or less mainstream UUness of the "Interdependent Web," however, I haven't seen a UU blog decide to take on the role of direct evangelist, which is another kind of faith blog the Times mentions. Shawn Anthony's Progressive Ink! has explicitly pedagogical ambitions, but not as a missionary of Unitarian Universalism.

It would be interesting to see someone decide to launch a missionary-minded UU blog, a UU 101 blog or Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Unitarian Universalism But Were Afraid to Ask blog, that kind of thing. It could easily grow out of work parish ministers are already doing with visitors and new members in their own congregations, but wouldn't it be interesting to set it up in such a way that other interested people could find and use it?

The Times article also mentions an upcoming Christian blog conference in October, GodBlogCon, which at least a few members of the Progressive Christian Blogger Network will be attending. UUs, however, are not invited.

Although a handful of us UU bloggers have met informally — three of us having lunch, or two of us introducing ourselves at the General Assembly — I haven't even begun to imagine what it would be like to meet specifically about Unitarian Universalist blogging. Some of the rest of you probably have. I'll bring this up again later, but I wonder if enough of us will be attending the UUA General Assembly in June to justify scheduling some time to meet simply in order to talk about UU blogging. Thoughts?

("Faithful Track Questions, Answers and Minutiae on Blogs," Debra Nussbaum Cohen, New York Times 3.5.05, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 5 March 2005 at 9:31 AM

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March 5, 2005 10:48 AM | Permalink for this comment

Are UU bloggers marginal even by UU standards?

Well, ...ahem... I have to admit that you don't run into many UUs who know what "Socinian" means today.


March 5, 2005 11:58 AM | Permalink for this comment

I'm pretty old-school theologically as UUs go, but VA UU in King George's War would seem kind of fringe compared to most UUs.

thinking "Boy, those folks who call themselves followers of Fausto's unlcle Laelius sure can get cocky..."


March 5, 2005 12:09 PM | Permalink for this comment

Maybe the blogs tilt to what could be seen as the "conservative" end of Unitarian Universalism? Even so, how extreme is that, really? Compared to the stereotypes, we might look off-culture I own nothing tie-dyed, for instance but compared to the general population of UUs, I think we're just more likely to own a copy of "Channing's Works" or to know who Andrews Norton was. I realized that I own three different editions of what is now "Being a Liberal in an Illiberal Age: Why I Am a Unitarian Universalist." That's not extreme: That's just bibliophilia, a perfectly normal condition for our sort of people...

Scott Wells:

March 7, 2005 12:57 AM | Permalink for this comment

Well, there does seem to be a common denominator, or nearly so: age. Or so I gather. I'm guessing 80% of the UU bloggers are within eight years either side of 32.

And bloggers as a group skew male.

But these would only reflect the hardcore of the blogosphere, right?

Scott, aged 35 (and a Phi Bete '91 Alpha of Georgia, thank you)

Xpatriated Texan:

March 7, 2005 11:11 AM | Permalink for this comment

I also took exception to Ms. Cohen's statement that bloggers tend to be on the fringe. Speaking for myself, I am quite a distance from the evangelical church of my youth, but that is because they have become increasingly politicized and uber-conservative. With no movement on my part, I have gone from solidly moderate to strongly liberal.

There are definitely the fringe element represented in blogs. Yet revolutionaries have printed books for a thousand years and no one refers to book authors as being on the fringes. The truth is, I believe, that bloggers represent the meaty center of theology that tries to apply it to real life. Many churches, meanwhile, are living and, literally, dying on the edge.


Steve Caldwell:

March 8, 2005 09:56 AM | Permalink for this comment

On 5 March 2005, Philocrites wrote:
((Maybe the blogs tilt to what could be seen as the "conservative" end of Unitarian Universalism?))


Being on the conservative end of Unitarian Universalism may just be a reflection of economic class bias in who is online and blogging.

It would be hard for anyone living the lifestyle described in Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickeled and Dimed to have the resources and/or energy to blog.

Perhaps all of us who are blogging are doing so from a place of relative economic privilege? Or maybe it's just a religious version of libertarian economic conservatism often found online and documented in Paulina Borsook's writings.

((Even so, how extreme is that, really? Compared to the stereotypes, we might look off-culture I own nothing tie-dyed))

Well ... I have a tie-dyed t-shirt and tie-dyed underwear. Both were gifts from my children a few years back ... a Father's Day gift they did as a craft activity during the summer RE program in our church.

Anyone who has been a youth advisor for a few years in my district probably has a great collection of quirky UU-themed t-shirts, but none of these shirts are tie-dyed.


March 8, 2005 10:47 PM | Permalink for this comment

Not too many flamethrowers or rabble-rousers, in other words.
Hey, I'm trying,,,,

I, too, have noticed the relatively narrow theological range in the UU province of Blogistan. (That is, narrow compared to the UU laity in general.) There sure aren't many self-declared atheists or skeptical humanists. But I think Scott has his finger on the main reason for that: age.

Of course, that prompts a further "why?". I promise you that there are plenty of young U.S. nonbelievers out there (see, e.g., ) who could be a ready mission field for UUism, but not too many of them seem to be joining up lately. I wish more UUs were concerned about that.

- Rieux, who prefers "rabble-rouser" to "flamethrower" personally...

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