(Okay, so I've been deep in the weeds of my internship for the last eight months. So mostly I've just been too busy with that, and the rest of life, and trying to maintain my family's sense of family--and feeding my own tremulous sense of sanity to blog. And before that, hospital chaplaincy--and HIPPA regulations are more intimidating to the idea of blogging anything having to do with one's life than anything my former life's security clearances might have done. But this... just demanded a rant...)
So, apparently, some folks have been suggesting/arguing that one isn't UU unless one is a member of a congregation. (I'd like to point out here that Rev. Naomi's post is entitled "Faith is not Membership;" we're not disagreeing. I just find her response too gentle for my soul; as I said, it called forth a rant.
And the first rant dropped into the ethereal abyss of the internet. So this one is Mark II, now with less spittle.
You have got to be kidding me. Really? Seriously? Someone wants to really make the assertion that you can't adhere to UUism without being a member of a congregation?
Someone hold back the Logicians of the HUUmanist wing of the faith, because it wouldn't be pretty if they ripped into it.
Really, one only becomes a UU by signing a book (or a membership card--not everyone has books. Some may not even have either of those...)? It's just a club?
So, kids--who aren't permitted by our congregation to be members until they're nearly adults, and only then by a more onerous process than the adults ever go through--aren't UUs? The youth I've chaperoned and ministered to at UU Youth Camps weren't UUs either? My goddaughter, who read the adults at her congregation the riot act (from the pulpit, during a Youth-led service) for their failure to live up to UU standards--those that they have taught to the kids in Children's RE--she wasn't a UU (and if so, what business did she have telling adult UUs that they were an embarrassment to the faith?)?
And the people who've written down--over a decade ago--what their vision of religion is, thinking that no such religion exists... and are overwhelmed to find out that it does, that there are already thousands of people who share their faith--they're not already UUs?
When do the members of a dying congregation cease to be UUs? When the last one goes in and turns off the lights, they are now no longer UUs, just because the congregation failed?
When someone who was raised UU and lives in some benighted backwater (which might, from census data, be some rural area, or might be a vastly populous part of some urban center...) decides to try to found a new congregation... they aren't UU? And they're not until someone else shows up and wants to be one?
The people who've spent decades feeling alone and isolated, who weep when they join a congregation and ask us where we've been all these years (because we failed them, keeping the light hidden so well that they'd never even heard our name...), they only become UUs when they sign up? Even though their beliefs didn't change in the slightest?
Let us speak then to the false idol of congregationalism, to the fetishising of a means of organization.
Because UUism isn't conferred magically by congregationalism. Baptists are congregationalists, too. And so are many others.
And our Unitarian cousins in Transylvania aren't congregationalists at all.
Congregationalism is simply the vessel in which UUism exists. In our tradition, in our time. But it's not hard to imagine a presbyterian form of UUism (and in fact, it's pretty clear that there are more than a few of us who'd be more comfortable with just such a scheme). But that wouldn't make it not UUism.
So the people who grew up UU, who think of themselves as UUs, who practice their beliefs and faith, and who adhere to the kinds of attitudes and behaviors that we hold up and inculcate--they're not UUs? Just because they either can't attend a UU congregation, or don't want to (or can't) drag themselves to the local congregation on Sunday morning? Or because the music and form of worship that the congregation is wedded to is demonstrably 19th century, and the individuals are used to late 20th and early 21st century forms of UU worship and music that speaks to them?
Words fail me.
On both sides of our tradition, the faithful have been free-rangers; going where the congregations weren't, or where the congregations (or ministers) weren't ready or willing to go. The idea that we want to jam the world into the Procrustean Bed of formal congregational membership so that we can sneer at those outside the walls and insist that they aren't really UUs... is insane. Were it a proposal from the dreaded entity "Boston," there would be a serious risk of the UUA being dissolved, or of a competing association/conference/convention forming (we've done it before).
Get over yourselves.
If there are UUs out there who aren't connected, then it's more likely our fault for not letting them know we exist, or not providing what they need in order to be in covenant and community with us. But for the love of that which has been called god, stop demonizing them. Stop pointing the finger. Stop falling into the illogical trap that imagines that there's something magical and mystical about a signature on a Book. Because there isn't.
The failing is ours, whatever it is. Perhaps it's the daunting paleness of an array of UUs. Perhaps its the grotesque and often ignored (and denied) classist attitudes and behaviors of our congregations. Perhaps its that a foray into Gershwin is avante-garde music for the local congregation. Perhaps... oh, hell, who knows?
But just stop. We are the people who keep trying to draw the circle larger. Not the people who exclude. At least that's our intent; we're human and we fail. But don't try to create an exclusionary communion of the booked held apart from the not-booked. That is just utterly contrary to our traditions, and it's a hideous violation of the universalist spirit.
Here I stand. Love ya. You're entitled your opinion, of course. And I'll insist on your right to hold it. But it doesn't mean I have to respect it.