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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

UUA film 'Voices of a Liberal Faith' now online.

A 10-minute film, "Voices of a Liberal Faith," which the UUA developed as a tool to help congregations introduce Unitarian Universalism to newcomers, is now available for viewing online in the RealVideo and WindowsMedia formats. DVDs of the film have been sent to all UUA congregations. You can order additional copies and find out more about the film at UUA.org. (You'll also notice that the clips that ended up in the 30-second TV ad are from the shooting of this film.)

I make my TV pundit debut about 6:20 into the film, explaining how the Unitarian and Universalist traditions came together in 1961, and again a minute later with a comment about UU involvement in the Selma civil rights campaign. How'd I do?

Update 10.3.07: And here's the YouTube version!

Copyright © 2007 by Philocrites | Posted 2 October 2007 at 8:14 PM

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31 comments:

Steve Caldwell:

October 2, 2007 09:19 PM | Permalink for this comment

The Windows Media Video format will not play on my eMac and I do have Microsoft's Windows Media Player for Mac OS X installed.

A decent resolution Quicktime video file would allow Mac users to easily make DVDs from the online file.

I'll let you know how the Windows Media Video format works with Ubuntu Linux later on tonight.

Thanks.

Philocrites:

October 2, 2007 09:29 PM | Permalink for this comment

I can't view the WindowsMedia version on my Mac, either, but I was able to install RealPlayer and the RealVideo version worked great. (The UUA doesn't seem to support QuickTime videos.)

Steve Caldwell:

October 2, 2007 11:02 PM | Permalink for this comment

The UUA Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office has their videos in Quicktime or MP4 format:

http://www25.uua.org/ya-cm/resources/index.html#videos

I'll be able to watch it with a different computer in my household. Perhaps someone at the UUA who is involved with this project will see this and look into other video formats?

Thanks.

will shetterly:

October 3, 2007 12:34 AM | Permalink for this comment

Psst. YouTube. Just saying.

And you done good!

Jason Pitzl-Waters:

October 3, 2007 09:56 AM | Permalink for this comment

Chris,

Your performance was just fine.

As for the video itself, and this isn't a criticism per-say, but I found its decision to emphasize monotheistic voices interesting. I'm not sure it helps paint an accurate portrait (even humanism is only mentioned in passing as "atheism"), and I wonder if some newcomers will be a bit shocked when they run into the large numbers of Humanists, Pagans, Buddhists, and other non-monotheists that currently make up the UU Church. That led me to wonder if this video represents what the "powers that be" wishes UU-ism was, a body of liberal monotheists with a sprinkling of "atheists" and other believers on the theological spectrum.

PS - I did catch the two-second flash to the bulletin board that read "Pagan interest", a subliminal nod to our support of earth-centered spirituality?

Jason Pitzl-Waters:

October 3, 2007 09:59 AM | Permalink for this comment

Oh, and I was able to watch the Windows Media file on my Linux machine using M-Player, but the UUA should seriously consider using a more open format. After all, don't we want this video to be shared far and wide? Isn't that the point?

fausto:

October 3, 2007 12:06 PM | Permalink for this comment

You were a star! But next time you do a history gig, call me first and I'll lend you a tweed jacket.

Jess:

October 3, 2007 02:19 PM | Permalink for this comment

You were great, Chris, but I'm pretty disappointed with the video itself. I think the individual contributions to it are valuable, but the total package, to me, came off as rather shallow and not an accurate picture of what a person might find in our congregations. It's definitely a marketing ploy.

I also felt that the appearance of racial diversity fostered in the film comes off as rather forced.

Were there any Midwestern congregations represented? I recognized New Bedford, All Souls in Washington, and Berkeley specifically, but nothing in the middle of the country, which is where, I would think, a great portion of our growth is actually happening. The numbers might not back me up, though -- this is just a personal perception.

Kurt Jensen:

October 3, 2007 07:00 PM | Permalink for this comment

I thought this video was just terrific. Bravo/Brava UUA!

Steve Caldwell:

October 3, 2007 09:07 PM | Permalink for this comment

FYI -- the Windows Media version of the video does not play nor does the Read Media version tonight using my Ubuntu Linux laptop.

I've gone to other video clip sites with movie trailers and both Windows and Real video clips work on this laptop.

The YouTube clip does work on my laptop.

Chalicechick:

October 4, 2007 09:19 AM | Permalink for this comment

Sigh.

Can we not actually use video of the girl using the Seven Principles as a creed?

The don't define us, darn it, and when people say "When people ask me what UUism is, I talk about the seven principles," it makes me crazy.

I second everyone who says you look great, but I also second Fausto on the tweed.

Dudley Jones:

October 4, 2007 12:13 PM | Permalink for this comment

For those who dislike the seven principles, try memorizing them and then silently reciting them repeatedly - by the way this is a wonderful thing to do if you have trouble falling asleep. I sometimes hear about people who are turned off the 7ps, but rarely hear an explanation of exactly why. If Buddhists can have five precepts why can't we have seven principles?

Rev. Jack Ditch:

October 4, 2007 01:04 PM | Permalink for this comment

I sometimes hear about people who are turned off the 7ps, but rarely hear an explanation of exactly why. If Buddhists can have five precepts why can't we have seven principles?

Because, as part of the free search for truth, any one of us should be able to disagree with any of the principles without being considered any less of a UU. It's the implication that they are what defines us that makes them come off as a creed, for what else is a creed?

Personally, I disagree with the use of democracy, believing instead that each of us is called to stand by our own principles, even when those principles might be in the minority. And so it really rubs me the wrong way when I go to church and hear, "But WE believe in democracy! It's in the Principles!" as if I am somehow outside of the church fold for reasonably disagreeing.

Paul:

October 4, 2007 05:42 PM | Permalink for this comment

I think it didn't suck. Yay! (Except for you, Chris. Oh, just kidding ;)

Why set the bar so low? Because I think doing something like this is really hard. And it was done well. Nothing seemed forced to me, and the bi-coastalism of the congregations surely won't be noticed by anyone not in the very-deep-(too-deep)-know. The UUA is never going to please everyone, especially not this crowd.

I think it's telling that anytime we try to represent ourselves the broader world, the reaction immediately turns to all of the old internal UU squabbles.

Sigh.

Jeff W.:

October 4, 2007 05:46 PM | Permalink for this comment

I thought they did a good job with this. If I hadn't been a Unitarian-Universalist already, encountering this video would make me want to check out a local church. So I think they accomplished their goal.

Chris, I agree with the others that you did fine.

I wouldn't have any difficulty giving this video to someone who asked about UUism and wanted to know a little more.

Steve Caldwell:

October 4, 2007 05:51 PM | Permalink for this comment

On 4 October 2007, Rev. Jack Ditch wrote:
-snip-
"Personally, I disagree with the use of democracy, believing instead that each of us is called to stand by our own principles, even when those principles might be in the minority. And so it really rubs me the wrong way when I go to church and hear, "But WE believe in democracy! It's in the Principles!" as if I am somehow outside of the church fold for reasonably disagreeing."

Well -- the only way we can remove our endorsement of the democratic process in our congregations and beyond would be through voting on it at General Assembly (based on the bylaws that we voted to use).

Sorta ironic, isn't it?

Jack also wrote:
-snip-
"Because, as part of the free search for truth, any one of us should be able to disagree with any of the principles without being considered any less of a UU. It's the implication that they are what defines us that makes them come off as a creed, for what else is a creed?"

Just because they are a "defining" statement does not mean that they are a creed. The other type of statement that defines a group is a covenant.

Philocrites:

October 4, 2007 07:58 PM | Permalink for this comment

Thanks for the kind words about my moment of glory as a UU talking head, folks! (And I think I'm already enough of a young fogey that adding a tweed coat would have been fatally precious for a TV appearance. "And here we have a historian...")

I rather liked the finished product (to which I contributed nothing more than an hour-long interview on our Unitarian and Universalist roots, most of the footage of which languishes on some cutting-room floor). I liked the personal voices, the quality of the editing and photography, the vibrancy.

I think it's fair to wonder, though, whether the film expresses particular preferences. This one, I think, puts its weight solidly on venerable churches, on Unitarian Universalism's well-establishedness. (The architectural details of the congregations it highlights convey age and tradition.) Since that was part of Unitarianism's draw for me personally, I'm in no position to complain, but this film isn't a paeon to the countercultural current in contemporary Unitarian Universalism. Nor is an ad campaign in Time.

fausto:

October 5, 2007 07:10 AM | Permalink for this comment

Steve, the deeper irony is that GA delegates are for the most part not chosen nor given voting instructions, nor are their credentials examined and accepted, by any sort of "democratic" process. In most of our congregations, if you're absorbed enough to want to spend your time in GA plenaries, and you have the dough to pay your own way, you just ask for delegate credentials and you get them. Very few congregations democratically determine who in the congregation would best represent them (regardless of means) or how they ought to vote on specific questions. So what comes out of the GA is the ephemeral instant consensus of the most enthusiastic outliers from our congregations, and not necessarily the thoughtfully considered central preferences of the majority of the members of the majority of each of our congregations.

fausto:

October 5, 2007 07:22 AM | Permalink for this comment

(BTW, my "modest proposal" for reforming GA along truly democratic lines would be to grant delegate credentials to three and only delegates from each congregation: the (popularly called) minister, the (elected) lay executive leader, and the (elected) lay financial officer. Congregations could send substitute delegates only by simple majority vote of the subscribed members. Together these three delegates would be expected to represent the will of their congregation, and in an opening worship ceremony would expressly pledge themselves to do so.

(Wouldn't that be different?!)

Steve Caldwell:

October 5, 2007 08:50 AM | Permalink for this comment

On 5 October 2007, Fausto wrote:
-snip-
"So what comes out of the GA is the ephemeral instant consensus of the most enthusiastic outliers from our congregations, and not necessarily the thoughtfully considered central preferences of the majority of the members of the majority of each of our congregations."

Fausto,

What most conservative Unitarian Universalists
seem to forget is that most of their co-religionists are as liberal as the folks attending GA and the positions coming out of GA are pretty close to the position of the majority of our congregation's members. Statistically, the "outliers" are conservative Unitarian Universalists.

Regarding the potential revision of the Principles, Purposes, Sources, and other language in Article II of the UUA Bylaws, the Commission on Appraisal is asking for grass-roots congregational inputs for this process from children (grades 2-5), youth, and adults through age-appropriate RE classes that ask for feedback on this when completed for each age level. Details can be found online here:

http://www25.uua.org/coa/

I suppose that this will ensure that the COA has "authentic" congregational inputs when they bring any proposals for change to GA Plenary.

Rev. Jack Ditch:

October 5, 2007 12:14 PM | Permalink for this comment

Steve writes:
Well -- the only way we can remove our endorsement of the democratic process in our congregations and beyond would be through voting on it at General Assembly (based on the bylaws that we voted to use). Sorta ironic, isn't it?

I wouldn't say "ironic" so much as "self-fulfilling" or "unfortunate consequence of our inability to view our religion as anything greater than the corporate structure in which it abides." But that is, perhaps, a tangent not worth overwhelming this thread with.

Just because they are a "defining" statement does not mean that they are a creed. The other type of statement that defines a group is a covenant

A rose by any other name, man. The slight differences between the two concepts don't put a dent in the commonality of covenant and creed as they function in institutionalized religion.

fausto:

October 5, 2007 01:18 PM | Permalink for this comment

Steve says:

What most conservative Unitarian Universalists
seem to forget is that most of their co-religionists are as liberal as the folks attending GA

Who said anything about being conservative? Politically, I am as liberal as most other UUs. That has absolutely nothing at all to do, however, with the reality that the current method of sending congregational delegates to the GA is deeply flawed as a democratic process.

Supposing that what GA delegates usually do anyway is pretty close to what a true democratic process would yield, if we had one, is not a good excuse for failing to follow a true democratic process. If we are serious about our commitment to the democratic process, we need to reform the way delegates are chosen and the voting instructions they are given regardless of whether we think it would have any effect on the results.

I would imagine that a true democratic process would indeed produce results in the same general vein as the sorts of proposals that are routinely approved in GA now. However, I also imagine that a lot fewer proposals would actually come to a vote. GA as presently constituted tends to offer its urgent, enthusiastic witness on a lot more matters than those that actually urgently engage our congregations deeply enough for them to have already formed consensus opinions. If delegates could only vote on behalf of, and with the authority of, their congregations, a lot of chaff would be tabled for lack of a quorum.

uuwonk:

October 5, 2007 02:47 PM | Permalink for this comment

It is completely unfair to say that critics of GA's political resolutions are "conservative". I have been active in many left-wing causes over the years. I work full-time in a highly political job now. Despite the fact that I usually agree with the UUA's positions, I dislike the UUAs dabbling in secular politics for several reasons.

Sectarian politics has been very destructive in much of the world. I think it is wrong and most Americans agree with me. Even the religious right generally sets up non-sectarian front groups like the Moral Majority rather than involve their denominations directly.

Also, I don't think the purpose of the UUA is to tell UUs what to think.

Anyway, after doing politics all week, politics simply isn't why I go to church. I go to church to do church.

UUA secular politics is amateurish. The UUA having a position on the science of global warming is as ridiculous as the American Geophysical Union having a position on the divinity of Jesus.

I would note that my congregation includes several other people who are also heavily involved in politics in non-church contexts. UUs often boast about the number of important political leaders who were UUs. None of these people had their political base in the UU church. Indeed, why would a person who was serious about secular politics want to work through the UUA? It's way too tiny. Putting the same energy into, say, the ACLU will have much more impact.

Of course there are legitimate religious issues which overlap with secular politics. Same-sex marriage is the obvious example. I think UUs have been very effective on gay marriage. It is probably the only issue on which any non-UU cares about UU opinion.

Ron Robinson:

October 5, 2007 04:53 PM | Permalink for this comment

I take a somewhat dissenting approach to the DVD. Blogged on it a few days ago at Planting God Communities, www.progressivechurchplanting.blogsplot.com. You can read full blog post there. Obviously my perspective; it does a fine job of what it sets out to do, and captures us pretty well in the mainstream, and that ought to give us pause :). I hope actually that current members and leaders will use it to look at the challenges (to use an important word) it really presents for us in keeping and transforming folks. blessings,

Ron Robinson:

October 5, 2007 04:57 PM | Permalink for this comment

Let me change that last line. One of the problems is that we, semantically, are committed to "keeping" people. What I really meant was how we learn to be agents of change in people's lives so they can be "set loose" on the world around them beyond the institution.

Steve Caldwell:

October 6, 2007 04:53 PM | Permalink for this comment

Chris,

I know you work at the UUA in a communications and marketing related area (UU World Magazine). Perhaps you know something about the marketing decisions that were made?

How did the marketing strategy that was picked do during focus group testing (assuming that our in-house and outside marketing experts did focus group testing)?

It's entirely possible that the slogans and marketing materials that were picked were responsible choices even though they don't resonate with all individual UU bloggers.

If the marketing decisions that were made were backed up through empirical methods (focus groups, etc) and if they are proven to work through empirical methods, would the video and other marketing strategies be OK even though they don't resonate with everyone personally?

Philocrites:

October 6, 2007 05:14 PM | Permalink for this comment

Steve, although I work at the UUA, I have not been involved in the planning, development, or implementation of the UUA's marketing plan. You'd have to ask Tracey Robinson-Harris about the campaign's strategic goals and testing. Here's what she told uuworld.org about the campaign's goals, target audience, and success metrics:

"The primary purpose of the Time partnership campaign is to generate greater name recognition for Unitarian Universalism," said Robinson-Harris. What will constitute success for the campaign? "We'll monitor website use information from UUA.org and Time.com, review membership and visitor statistics when available, and we'll get feedback from key constituent groups."

Robinson-Harris said the campaign is targeting young adults, families with young children, and "adults in transition" — those experiencing life changes such as job changes, divorce, and relocations — "circumstances that often cause people to be receptive to and seek out religious community."

("UUA launches national ad campaign in 'Time,'" Donald E. Skinner, uuworld.org 9.28.07)

Colin Bossen:

October 7, 2007 11:40 PM | Permalink for this comment

I used the DVD as part of my newcomer orientation class today and actually found it pretty useful. There are a ton of things about the DVD that I don't like (the bit about "if's there's a candidate for the great american religion" literally makes my skin crawl) but I think it is a useful tool for providing people with an introduction to UUism. Does it offer an accurate portrait of my somewhat ethically Jewish, humanistically minded, small, urban, Midwestern congregation? Absolutely not. Does it give a sense of the broader arc of UUism? Yes. Does it overplay our monotheism? Sure but a few moments of conversation can (and did) correct that (most of the people who joined today described themselves as atheists).

If I view the DVD as conversation starter I think it's a pretty useful tool. If I think of it as the definitive voice of UUism is about I find it less than compelling. That means when I use it in my congregation I will give it context.

Jaume:

October 8, 2007 01:48 PM | Permalink for this comment

Thanks for that opinion, Colin! I noticed that immediately but did not send a comment because I was afraid to be again the ranting one who always complains about the kind of "Unitarian Americanism" that some people seem to promote.

James Field:

October 12, 2007 12:43 PM | Permalink for this comment

Chris: Has anyone ever mentioned how similar you might look and sound to Happy Days' Ritchie Cunningham? There is something about the sound on the video...

I hadn't watched the video all the way through because of some WMP issues. I was very happy to see so many of the kids I worked with this summer and my spectacular youth assistants.

Philocrites:

October 16, 2007 06:57 PM | Permalink for this comment

Um, thanks, James! I'd like to attribute your reaction to the interchangeability of red-heads in the public imagination, except that I'm more often confused with Ron Howard (aka Opie) than with, say, David Caruso. Happily, I cling to the memory of the day years back when an attractive young woman asked whether anyone had told me that I resembled Eric Stoltz. No one ever had, of course, and I was too stupid to know how to take advantage of the opportunity, but it's a happy memory nonetheless.

I really don't expect any casting calls from my few seconds in the UUA film!



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