Tuesday, July 3, 2007
A joke about liberal religious sectarianism.
I'm still making my way through recordings of the General Assembly events I would love to have attended in Portland. Right now, I'm enjoying Paul Rasor's Murray Grove lecture on "Universalism and the Sectarian Element in Liberal Religion." In it, he tells the following joke ("shamelessly stolen and rewritten" from an old Baptist joke, he said) to illustrate how sectarianism persists even in today's tolerant, expansive, inclusionist Unitarian Universalism:
I was walking across a bridge one day and I saw a man standing on the edge about to jump.
I ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he asked.
"There's so much to live for."
"Yeah? Like what?"
"Are you religious?"
"Yes," he said.
"Me, too! What religion are you?"
"Me, too! Are you restorationist or ultra-universalist?"
"Me, too! New England Convention or Philadelphia Convention?"
"Me, too! Transcendentalist or biblicist?"
"Me, too! Broad Street group [sic] or Free Religious Association?"
"Free Religious Association."
"Me, too! Institutional Free Religious Association or scientific Free Religious Association?"
"Scientific Free Religious Association."
"Me, too! Are you theist or humanist?"
"Depends on what you mean by theist," he said.
"Process theism," he said.
"Hartshorne's philosophical panenthism," he said.
I yelled, "Die, heretic scum!," and pushed him off.
These days, of course, when history and theology don't stir up passions among UUs in quite the same way as various approaches to "the countering of oppressions," we might have to recast the joke yet again to get at the liveliest sectarianism among us — but such a joke would have left large segments of the audience indignant rather than laughing, so Paul probably took the wiser course.
P.S. I noticed, while looking for some Web resources that would help people dig a bit deeper into the allusions Paul makes in the joke, that very little is readily available about these various doctrinal and ecclesiological movements in Unitarian and Universalist history. Also, Paul gets one wrong: My faves — Henry Whitney Bellows and Frederic Henry Hedge — were considered the "broad church" Unitarians (not the "Broad Street" group) in opposition to the more radically modernist Free Religious Association in the 1870s. I guess that just means I would have been pushed off earlier.
Copyright © 2007 by Philocrites | Posted 3 July 2007 at 9:15 PM