Tuesday, June 7, 2005
'Stand by this faith' or just standing by?
Phil Lund gets off to a bracing start in "What Price UUism?"
For some time now—several years, at least—I've had two distinct notions elbowing one another in my mind. One is Olympia Brown's call to "stand by this faith"; the other is Dietrich Bonhoeffer's concept of "cheap grace." And to be honest, when these two start tussling in my head, I begin to feel it in my body—my heart gets heavy and my stomach begins to flutter. Usually when I feel this way, I'm getting close to something of major importance in my life. And I'm pretty sure that is, indeed, important. I'm looking for an answer to this question: Is Unitarian Universalist truly a faith worth working for and sacrificing for (as Brown put's it [sic]), or is it merely a liberal religious panacea, one that lets us be comforted and rest assured in our worldliness (to use Bonhoeffer's words)?
He frames the question provocatively in his post — and I'm sure there will be more to follow as he broods on the question and as you add your own responses. I'll say this much about Phil's quarrel with the popular conception that Unitarian Universalism is an "easy" religion: Usually we UUs settle for easy because it makes a nice antithesis to a thesis many people take for granted — that religion is a boring, grueling, guilt-making grind. We take a bad Christian thesis and provide a liberating antithesis. Problem is, of course, that we eventually have to provide some synthesis — and I don't think that's been our strong suit.
In practice, I know there are UU congregations that push past easy rejectionism, but I think it's also true that we find it harder to talk about and cultivate real commitment. Why, just today I marvelled at the news that Kim B. Clark, the dean of the Harvard Business School, has resigned in order to become president of the Mormon Church's lowly Brigham Young University-Idaho:
Clark's surprise decision to leave an institution often regarded as the pinnacle of American business education for a little-known Mormon school in Rexburg, Idaho, was driven by personal and religious considerations, the 56-year-old dean said at a news conference yesterday before flying west to meet with BYU students and faculty. . . .
Clark, who is a Mormon, said he received a phone call on May 25 from Gordon B. Hinckley, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who offered him the job at church-run BYU-Idaho. The former two-year junior college was known as Ricks College until 2001, when it was renamed and accredited as a four-year institution.
After talking with Hinckley for only a few minutes, Clark said, he accepted the job. Then he called Summers, a friend for nearly 30 years, and told him he was departing.
Can you imagine a comparable scenario for a Unitarian Universalist? Or is that an unfair question? ("Harvard Business Dean to Step Down," Robert Weisman, Boston Globe 6.7.05, reg req'd)
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 7 June 2005 at 6:19 PM