I can still be Unitarian and love facebook, starbucks, and birthday princesses – a minor critique of UU world cover article “Home grown Unitarian Universalism” by William Doherty
I can be a consumer and still have a soul
I finally had time to read this spring’s UU world Saturday night, on a flight from Dallas back home to Atlanta, another semi-monthly business trip. It was a pretty hectic trip as usual, although most of my thoughts were on the mess of a schedule that was waiting for me at the arrival gate. I finished up Runaway Jury for about the tenth time, and then saw the magazine waiting in my laptop bag. The cover article looked interesting, so after I read through some of the other articles (skimming over the just war article – I’m all sorts of peaced out for a while.) The writer, William Doherty, had good ideas near the end of the article and is right about a fair amount of points (and I appreciate that), but the article starts off with a premise I have issues with, and in fact, I think is telling of one of the biggest challenges Unitarians face: bringing our sometimes elitist faith into the 21st century.
“These three interrelated social pathologies of contemporary middle-class life – consumerism, time famine, and civic disengagements – are a real life curriculum, or anti-life curriculum, for our children. If we don’t find a way to counteract this curriculum, we will end up with feel-good faith formation that looks and sounds fine but lacks power and depth.”
By trying to remove your kids from pop culture and mainstream society, you will set their faith up for failure. The challenge of my generation, the “millenials” who are constantly busy and have been since we were born, is maintaining, no, adapting, our faith to fit our lifestyle. If we are taught that having deep Unitarian faith is only possible when we unplug from society and retreat back into the woods, then aside from feeling Unitarian guilt our faith will gradually disappear. We should be showing and teaching our children how to apply UUism to everyday life, and show them how they can see spirituality in the everyday – If our kids can see how they can find spirituality in Dance Dance Revolution, then our kids will grow up to maintain their faith as adults.
We can’t pretend we live in a world without pop culture and the evil “c” word of consumerism. I don’t think we can even try to set up our own little protective elitist bubble – no child wants to be the boy in the bubble. And even if we could – we shouldn’t.
One of the issues that faces our faith is what happens after someone walks into our church for the first time and bangs up against our elitism. And if you doubt UU elitism, this quote from the front-page article of our quarterly religious publication should quell some doubts – “Our me-first, materialistic, consumer culture.”
When we start our ritual criticism American society and consumerism, people, new and old alike, start to question what we’re all about. What’s the soul of Unitarian Universalsm? Is it rebellion against modern society? Is it anti-consumerism? Is it condemning our neighbor for having too many iPods? Is it peace at all costs? Is it some special interest or another?
Or is it love.
I’d rather be surrounded by the latter
And one final point:
“I’ve been working with parents to blow the whistle on one prominent example of consumer culture invading childhood: out-of-control children’s birthday parties…the frantic culture of busyness among adults and children also threatens the values of our tradition celebrates.”
That’s right, Ava (my niece), your Barbie blow out birthday is hereby banned. It doesn’t fit with my faith. On your upcoming sixth birthday, I think it would be better if we meditated on the meaning of cake. Let our chalice be your cake, and hey, it’s even got a candle!