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Silenced Admissions
Silenced Admissions
Tallahassee Unitarian Universalist asks a probing question that enables us to examine how Unitarian Universalist congregations can become more welcoming. Read more at tallahasseeuu.blogspot.com. –Ed.  

What are you afraid to admit at a UU church?

By Lee Walton Young Adult Coordinator The title of this blog is the first and only question in an anonymous survey I created and distributed online to different UU communities to raise awareness about an issue dear to my heart—we UUers are inadvertently excluding people from our congregations.

I first became aware of this issue when a close friend and committed Christian said to me, “Lee, I wanted it to work.  I really tried.  I wanted to be a part of Unitarian Universalism, but my faith is just not welcomed there. I couldn’t take the scoffs anymore when I’d talk about my faith nor the pot shots at my beliefs from others in service. It was just too much. I’ve decided to not go anymore, which is real shame because I don’t know where else to go…”

Those words crushed me. Unfortunately, it’s not the only time I’ve heard them. After a friend had gone to several church services, I asked him what he thought and he relayed to me, “Well, I loved it but I don’t think it’s for me. Talking with the people after service and hearing how politically divisive they are kind of turns me off to it. If it weren’t for this one issue I’d totally go, but my differing political views just aren’t welcomed.”

While we pride ourselves on our diversity and open mindedness, in practice that’s often the opposite of the truth.  Below are the results of my informal survey as they came in from September 2012 through May 2013.

RESULTS

Please bear several questions in mind as you read the survey results:  In what ways is my congregation wrongly making some feel unwelcomed?  What’s my contribution to the problem?  What can I do about it?  Are there times when it is acceptable to exclude some because their views are simply incompatible with the Seven Principles?  If so, where do we draw the line?

Final thought:  What binds us together as Unitarian Universalists  are the Seven Principles, not our stance on particular theological topics and not our particular interpretation and application of the Seven Principles.

Below are excerpts from the survey responses.  To read the full result, click here: http://ow.ly/pVjnC

Politics
  • “I'm not a Democrat.”
  • “The welfare system is broken, and not everyone should be helped indefinitely by the government.”
  • “I would like to see the draft re-instated.”
  • “Political beliefs that aren't aligned with the Democratic party.”
  • “Republicans are very regularly ridiculed and the Republican UUs out there are either driven away or insulted regularly but have to bear it.”
Christianity
  • “I find it difficult to admit that I am a devout theist with Christian leanings.”
  • “I believe that Jesus saves, and that God is sovereign.”
  • “That I'm a Christian UU.”
  • “I love communion and feel like I need it so I go to a Christian church in the afternoons.”
  • “I know a fair number of Unitarians that would make my Christian friends feel very uncomfortable because of their attitude.“
  • “A lot of UUs are...Christian bashing, etc.”
  • “I find it hard to share with my fellow UU church members that I am a UU Christian.”
  • “I learned about both evolution and creationism as scientific theories, and I respect both as scientific theories. Intelligent design is not just all about teaching the bible.”
  • “Religious beliefs besides atheism/agnosticism [aren’t accepted].”
  • “I pray.”
  • “Certainly in my church admitting that you believe in a god/God would be quite difficult.”
  • One person expressed that they opened up about their paranormal experiences and many others shared their own stories.
Gender Equality
  • “Concern over men's rights, and gender equality from a male perspective.”
Miscellaneous Ethical Issues
  • “I believe abortion truly is the taking of a life.”
  • “I own and love to wear my mink coat.”
  • “I don't care about recycling, and I'm pretty uninterested in the environment.”
  • “Eating meat is okay.”
  • “That genetically modified crops, herbicides, and pesticides have saved millions from starvation.”
  • “I water my lawn with a regular sprinkler...and I don't compost.
  • “I shop at Walmart.”
  • Children need more discipline.  (Two people stated this.)
  • “I support nuclear power.”
  • "Marriage is a sacred institution, even if it's optional. Anyone should be able to do it, but devaluing long-term commitment is harmful."
BGLT
  • “Disinterest in the problems of disadvantaged groups such as the GLBT community.”
  • “That as a gay man...I am not your “project” and I am not interested in being your ‘gay friend.’”
  • “The ‘Standing on the Side of Love’ t-shirts are patronizing, especially when the only places they get worn are to church and gay events.”
  • “If you want to attract gay people, offer programming that caters to them as gay people, otherwise, just attract them as people who happen to be gay. (The same goes for the other minorities as well.)”
Recreational Drug Use
  • “Even though we support radical change in the war on drugs, we still speak in hushed tones and not publicly about drug use, particularly marijuana.“
  • “That my religious leanings started with psychedelics. I would not be in church if not for THC and LSD.”
  • Worship
  • “I really desperately miss good worship music.”
  • “I HATE hymns!”
  • “I think it's disrespectful to sing other ethnic songs and pat ourselves on the back."
Elitism
  • “That I do not enjoy documentaries and that mindless television sitcoms are very relaxing to me.”
  • “That I dropped out of college or that I'm not familiar with an literary reference.”
  • “I'm in debt up to my eyeballs because of student loans.”
  • “I'm not wealthy.  I don't have a master's degree or a career job.”

Lee Walton is the Young Adult Coordinator at Tallahassee Unitarian Universalist.

About the Author

  • Ted joined the staff of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in February 2010. He brings more than twenty years' experience using media to create social change by creating communications strategies and content for progressive non-profits, political campaigns, and cause...

Comments (3)

Emma (not verified) 3 years 11 months ago

This is really sad. I think the part that saddens me the most is that Christians do not feel welcome in this faith. As an atheist agnostic, almost every time I tell someone my beliefs, I am given an intolerant response. Whether it is a subtle, "I am so sorry for you", or an insulting "You're going to burn in hell (insert list of cuss words here)", I am treated like my beliefs are an awful crime or problem which needed to be fixed and exterminated from the world. This was one of the reasons why I joined the UU church. I knew that people of all different faiths had treated me horribly, and I knew that I was determined not be like them. I wanted to treat people with the inherent respect they deserved, and I wanted to be part of a group of people who encouraged that. If we act this way, aren't we the same as the intolerant people whom we stand against? It is one thing to know and say the UU Principles, to live them each breath of our life is another.

Mari (not verified) 3 years 10 months ago

I HATE hymns too!!! I am guilty of Christian bashing, I will try to change that. A lot of UU children can benefit greatly from more discipline, many of the parents allow their children to do whatever they want, including be violent towards other kids and teachers. Your off the wall parenting technique does not work if your child cannot be a productive member of society as an adult. I haven't experience any UU classism, I am dirt poor and my kids and myself never feel unwelcome but I could definitely understand how this could be a HUGE problem for the future of our 'anti-ellitist' congregations.

Thanks for the survey, the results are very informative.

Mary Benard (not verified) 3 years 11 months ago

This is a much needed conversation and these comments are heartbreaking. Skinner House has a few books that can help promote dialogue on some of the topics that came up, listed below:
Elite: Uncovering Classism in Unitarian Universalist History, http://www.uuabookstore.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=1313
Christian Voices in Unitarian Universalism, http://www.uuabookstore.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=556
Coming Out in Faith: Voices of LGBTQ Unitarian Universalists, http://www.uuabookstore.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=1434

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