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Friday, December 15, 2006

Starring Unitarians as open-minded Christians.

Anderson Cooper's "360 Degrees" program last night asked, "What is a Christian?" And, falling conveniently (for UU publicity) into a stark right-left pattern, the options he presents in the hour-long program include: (a) politically-conservative Evangelical Protestants, (b) environmentally-conscious Evangelical Protestants (including both Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals and Jim Wallis of Sojourners), and (c) Unitarian Universalists. Mrs Philocrites is gnashing her progressive-pilgrim Episcopal teeth, but this is the best press UU Christians have had in ages. Better luck next time, mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Mormons, et al.! Maybe you could send Anderson Cooper a Christmas card. ("We're the Episcopal Church. Maybe you've heard of us? We own lots of extremely beautiful churches, including the National Cathedral right here in DC. And we're in the news all the time for pissing off our conservative minority because we ordain women and elected a gay bishop in New Hampshire. Please enjoy this complimentary Book of Common Prayer. A holy Advent and a blessed Christmastide to you and yours!")

The Unitarian Universalists, who are featured in the show's final segment (captured in this YouTube clip), are great representatives of the things I love best about Unitarian Universalism. My friend Rob Hardies, minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington DC, and two of his parishioners, former Baptists Billy and Christy Wynne, talk to reporter Randi Kaye. Rob explains: "We see a lot of people who grew up as Christians and who left the church for whatever reason and who are coming back now to reclaim the core of their faith without — without some of the baggage that came in the more orthodox traditions."

You can see the rest of the program — for now, anyway — courtesy of Faith in Public Life.

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 15 December 2006 at 5:55 PM

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Bill Baar:

December 16, 2006 09:11 AM | Permalink for this comment

Chrisitans cataloging the Christians and the non-Christians spooks me.

I don't know what compells them to do that.


December 16, 2006 09:14 AM | Permalink for this comment

Bill, I don't think I understand your point. Would you mind elaborating?

Bill Baar:

December 17, 2006 01:13 PM | Permalink for this comment

I worked in one of Chicago's large Medical Centers with clinicians from all the major faiths; from all over the world.

I realized as far as many Hindus and Moslims were concerned everyday for them in Chicago was an accommodation to a dominate Christian culture. Hardly hard to do in Chicago, but accommodation none the less.

The ugley EEO complaints were always one variety of Christian pointing a figure at another. As far as my non-Christian-by-culture colleagues were concerned, all of us occidentals were Christians; regardless of how we framed ourselves.


December 17, 2006 03:15 PM | Permalink for this comment

I wonder how fair a portrayal of contemporary Unitarian Universalism is offered here. The segment makes UUism sound like a non-creedal, theologically diverse Christian movement. I pity the poor soul looking for a progressive Christian worshipping community who walks into the average UU congregation and finds... well, something else.

Bill Baar:

December 18, 2006 10:41 AM | Permalink for this comment

Maybe it's a fair portrayel of All Souls.

I used to attend the UU Church in Arlington once in a while in the 80s and wouldn't have called that Church a place for a Christian to reclaim a core Christian faith with or without baggage.

I don't think one would find that in many of the UU Churches in Chicago today.

Ron Robinson:

December 18, 2006 02:05 PM | Permalink for this comment

Thanks Philocrites. You know what I think I might like best about it was how we were tagged on of sorts at the end with Erwin McManus, one of my favorite emergent church authors. And hey, maybe this will be a wake up call, again, for any UU churches the other commentators on this thread have mentioned that if people do come in, especially at this time of year or soon after in January, to find what the Wynnes did, they might want to prepare a welcome mat for them and their theological orientation and quest for a deeper well. I'd be glad to make sure the church was stocked with material by and about the UU Christian Fellowship, for example, :)...blessings, Ron Robinson

Bill Baar:

December 18, 2006 03:51 PM | Permalink for this comment

We see a lot of people who grew up as Christians and who left the church for whatever reason and who are coming back now to reclaim the core of their faith without without some of the baggage that came in the more orthodox traditions.

This is the troubling comment. What's the baggage these folks find themselves unloading becoming hyphenated UU-Christians? If it was the uniformity implied in this piece, a UU Church is seldom the most diverse place in a community.

Lite Christianity is about one of the most unappealing faiths around for me. It asks little and it abounds in America.

I'd like to think UU Churches asks members to bear a burden. That we're a far from Lite religous practice. We don't command belief but we demand members be ...seekers after Truth & Goodness.

If a member of a Christian Church finds they can't carry the baggage of their Church, I think they need to reflect a bit on what it is exactly that they can't carry with orthodox or Evagelical Christianity; because I'd hate to think they're coming to us with that expectation of a spiritual free ride. If by baggage they mean a UU core striped of obligation, they would be mistaken and wrong.


December 19, 2006 10:12 AM | Permalink for this comment

The baggage that most people leaving Christian churches wish to unload tends to be hard-core judgement of other people, the very idea of hell and a vengeful god, and polarizing conservative politics.

This is not "Lite Christianity," not by a long shot. It's the Christianity of Channing and Emerson, that calls people to DO religion, not just profess it. And All Souls in DC is exactly that kind of community.

For an idea of the kind of ministry they're doing there, check out Rob Hardies' John Murray lecture at last year's General Assembly:


December 19, 2006 07:39 PM | Permalink for this comment

Amen to Jess. Or in her case, Stainer's Sevenfold Amen.

Bill Baar:

December 20, 2006 08:04 PM | Permalink for this comment

...wish to unload tends to be hard-core judgement of other people, the very idea of hell and a vengeful god, and polarizing conservative politics.

I don't think one can be a seeker after truth and goodness if you don't acknowledge the last century has indeed seen humanity create living hell, that it's still here, and it requires hard (sadly for some), polarizing judgements. If they can't take it, then go to the lite Church. You can't (or shouldn't be able) to avoid hard judgments by going to a UU Church.

And perhapes the first judgement to be to be made is to read Channing's Slavery and ask if the kind of Christianity Channing would have had us DO; was the Christianity that should have been done. My Church stood with Channing and drove the Abolitionist Preacher away. They were wrong.

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