Sunday, May 01, 2005

The juice and the buildings

Michael Strmiska draws my attention to an article published 10 years ago on the transformation of the Unitarian church: "Strained Bedfellows: Pagans, New Agers, and 'Starchy Humanists' in Unitarian Universalism."

According to the author, sociologist Richard Wayne Lee, the denomination had been a heavily rationalist group in the 1960s, characterized by Newsweek in 1967 as "atheists who have not shaken the church habit."

The UU leadership of the 1980s made a conscious attempt to incorporate more "spirituality" to appeal to younger Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers, leaving many of the old-line non-theistic humanists feeling pushed to the margins.

The "rapid influx of women into ministry" changed the denomination, and "female clergy served as the principle conduit into UU of neopaganism."

Intuitively, I had tended to see the growth of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans as the injection of their "juice," or energy, into a denomination that happened to own large buildings and meeting spaces, something almost no Pagan group could afford. Lee generally confirms this perception, although his purpose includes an academic definition of "cult" that includes UUs, insofar as it accommodates a number of "cult movements."


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