Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What Would You Be Willing to Sacrifice for UU?

So ... I've been thinking about classism and growing Unitarian Universalism, and what I keep coming to, is what are we willing to sacrifice?

Red Sphynx asks, "In order to defeat classism, are we willing to give up the piece of the UU DNA that leads to those bumper stickers? I mean, our anti-authoritarianism is part of our identity."

Are we willing to give some of that up? Anti-authoritarianism is not just a problem in the context of classism, it can be a real church killer. I know I've heard or read countless times that church growth and anti-authoritarianism are not pals.

What about our reverence for higher education? This is more of a tough one for me. I do hold education in high esteem, and get frustrated with an American culture that says Joe the Plumber would be better at solving our problems than an Ivy-League, advanced degreed person.

But ... does this attitude make others, without that advance degree, without a college degree, feel inferior?

At the Women's Convocation, name tags identified those with a doctorate. "Jane Doe, Ph.D." On one hand, we take great pride in this -- look at how many of our members have advanced degrees! On the other hand ... we take great pride in this. And what does it mean, in that setting, if someone has Ph.D. on their name tag? Should their opinions count for more? Are they of more value?

Does this keep us small?

I want my grandchildren to be able to go to a Unitarian Universalist church. Heck, I want them to be able to choose from several UU churches in their area. Without having to move to Boston.

What do I need to sacrifice, to make that a reality?


Anonymous said...

Coming from someone who doesn't have a degree and didn't go to college...What difference does it make whether you have a degree or not? Being a church shouldn't you be willing to accept anybody who should walk through the door that needs a good church family? Or is UU basically only for people with college degrees? Not being a UU member or even having stepped foot in a UU church you make it hard for me to want to visit a UU church. Or have I totally misunderstood the whole concept? :)

Your non college educated cousin

Chalicechick said...

I don't know. A LOT of the more anti-authoritarian folks I have known have been blue collar. This may be a southern thing.

As for education, I find a lot of the classism discussions have an anti-intellectual streak and I don't know what to do about it.

To me, it seems really pandering to assume that blue collar people are going to be threatened by some of this stuff.


Bill Baar said...

I do hold education in high esteem, and get frustrated with an American culture that says Joe the Plumber would be better at solving our problems than an Ivy-League, advanced degreed person.

If you hire that Ivy League person to fix your plumbing problem in Chicago you could be in a real pickle with the Union. It took a long time before we could legally use PCV pipes (it all had to be copper).

Up until the late 70s it was illegal to buy meat in Chicago because meat could only be sold by Union Butchers and they didn't work on Sunday.

We have a similar law still in effect for cars. Can't buy them on Sunday's because the Union for Car Salesman pushed a law through closing down Car Dealerships on Sundays...

...your real confusion here is with credentialism and the notion that a credential which typically is for a very narrow ranch of expertise qualifies one to make better judgements than the rest of us on things outside ones expertise. That a Scientist is better capable of judging the moral value of life at conception vs later, or that an Ivy Leager is better at solving "our" problems than a plumber...

...it all depends on the problem and don't assume a credential makes you an authority on all problems or somehow makes one person's judgement better than anothers outside their very expertise.

It's a problem that afflicts today's liberals far more than conservatives and it's gotta be because liberals tend to have the higher education.

Most plumbers would "get this", know their limits, and simply stay away from Electrical work for example...

...of course in Chicago sticking your nose in another trade can have dire consequences. That may be on the plumber's mind too.

Having almost paid for my second kid through an Illinois University by the way.. I can tell you I'd be delighted to seem them learn a trade too. Those pay regardless of the times.

Christine Robinson said...

Did I miss something? What's the connection between class and anti-authoritarianism?

Putting "PhD" of anybody but the speaker on name tags anyplace but a university is thoughtless pretentiousness, not at all conducive to community creation...which I thought was what the Woman's conference was all about.

So is listing all the degrees a person has in their new member bio. What field they studied or worked in...that's good for making connections. Degrees earned is pretentious and off-putting to people who don't have such degrees. Yes, it makes them wonder if they are in the right place.

All that is completely different from valuing education.

What I would not want to give up is the acceptance of women in leadership and authority, which is a big problem in some enclaves of American life.

Lizard Eater said...

"What's the connection between class and anti-authoritarianism?"

Two items on the "what are you willing to sacrifice for Unitarian Universalism?" list.

And I would agree with you about the acceptance of women in leadership/authority. I know that I'm guilty for occasionally taking it for granted. But just look at the situation last summer where the Lifeways bookstore put an edition of a religious magazine behind the counter ... because it had female clergy on the cover. So controversial!

Anonymous said...

I'm a working class Unitarian who thinks "Question Authority" is a pretty darn good bumper sticker. And I don't have a problem with the plethora of college grads surrounding me, other than to hope that they don't always talk in language that requires a Ph.D. to understand. But then, I've always been a heavy reader of many topics, and did attend college for awhile, so I guess that's why I'm not totally out of the swing of things.

Kristina said...

So this discussion, along with a discussion in UUWorld called "Imagineers of the Soul" has me figuratively scratching my head. Honestly, I just don't get it.

I've only been a UU for a short time, so though I've thrown myself at UUism wholeheartedly ("Finally! A spiritual home!") I know that I am a newbie. But this newbie doesn't understand that there is a class division for UUs (there is?) or the use of the word "shame" in the UUWorld article. Really, am I just learning how it really is? Is my perception off?

I don't know what most people at my church do for a living. I don't know who went to college, who rents, who owns. It's never occurred to me to ask, really, because I go to church on Sunday to fill up my soul and to chat with friendly people who are same-minded in their spiritual church (they go to a UU church, so I figure there is some same-mindedness). It isn't more complicated than that.

My concern is that there is some idea that we should be sacrificing in order to let "others" in. If I'm holding predjudice, then it's no sacrifice for me to let go of it - it's a relief.

What am I missing? Is it just that I've stumbled on an amazing church? Is it that I'm blind to the problems before me? Am I just an eternal optimist? Whatever it is, I just don't see the problems as they're outlined here, or in UUWorld. What is the true reality?

(Full disclosure: I've got three degrees, my husband has one. We're white collar. Does that change something?)

Masasa said...

Kristina, it probably does change something.

Lizard Eater, earlier this week I sat in on a class at Harvard Divinty School on the history of Unitarian Universalism. The subject of the day was Transcendentalism, but even as the professor and students poured over historical materials related to Transcendentalism, several of them still indicated divisions between Universalists and Unitarians within Unitarian (non-Universalist) churches. There was even one fabulously interesting story on Universalists freezing the pay of a Unitarian minister so they could pay a minister whose preaching was more to their liking. The main issue in the debate: overly intellectualized sermons!

It was a good reminder for me (and I probably need them regularly) that this issue has a long historical context and is not new to us.

Ms. Theologian said...

I can't believe PhDs were listed on name tags. What is the point of that?

Donna said...

Please don't assume working-class people are uneducated. I wrote on this issue a while back in response to a comment by Governor Palin about "Joe Six-Pack."


If you encounter a working-class or homeless person coming to your church, the odds are very favorable that learning and thinking aren't alien concepts to them.

And, pardon me, I knew several upper-middle class students in high school (who were in the gifted program) who wouldn't know an independent thought if it came up and bit in them in the arse. Command of facts is not synonymous with a command of ideas nor does it guarantee imagination, creativity or originality.