Friday, August 30, 2013

Regaining Balance: The Evolution of the UUA by Michael Werner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just finished this book and it gave me a lot to think about, not just about Unitarian Universalism, of which I am not a member (but my spouse is, and my children have all gone through the Coming of Age and OWL programs) but also about the relationship between Humanism and religion and Humanism and Interfaith.

In my own work as a Humanist I sometimes find myself participating in Interfaith work, because I have a strong inclination towards social justice. As a result of this work I can see the limits of Interfaith work: It's easier to work with those of liberal religious persuasions than it is to work with those of a conservative, orthodox, fundamentalist or ethnic point of view.

For the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), broadening the base and adopting an unrestrained pluralism has weaken and marginalized what once promised to be a rational and Humanistic religion. According to Werner, in rejecting rationality and embracing unrestrained tolerance, the UUA has put itself on a path towards extinction.

One section of particular interest to me was on the use of language. I have long felt that the metaphorical use of words like God, religion, prayer, spirituality and faith is a form of dishonesty when the metaphors are not labeled as such. As Werner says, "Religious language has become a manipulative tool that allows us to pretend we are all talking about the same things when in fact there are irresolvable differences."

Werner also says, "...in UU circles the word God has become an all-purpose enigmatic metaphor. It has become a piety widget."

The book is short, more of an extended essay than a full blown history or critique, but Werner's end notes provide a wealth of interesting sources with which to pursue further information.

I was annoyed by the number of typos in the work, a final, professional proofread would have been an immense improvement, but the book is an essential read for anyone interested in the future of the UUA, Interfaith, liberal religious traditions and the growth of Humanism.

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