“When In Doubt, Pray. When In Prayer, Have an Existential Crisis.”

Oh for heaven’s sake, what new nonsense is this?

when in prayer doubt

Yet again the Unitarian Universalists are choosing to market themselves as the “faith” for those who are totally ambivalent about whether or not intelligent people should have any faith, and playing the old “we’re not led by creed or doctrine” bit, which is getting SO TIRED. How many 21st century religious individuals mindlessly obey their religious tradition’s doctrines in the first place? Hello, post-modernist angst about the validity of religious institutions and broad eclecticism in personal spiritual practice: not just for unchurched seekers anymore! WHEN will the UUA stop marketing trumpeting unique aspects of our tradition that are incredibly un-unique?

It’s the old definition-by-negation business again, and it assumes that we have no doctrinal, dogmatic attitudes or creedal practices or individuals among us, which of COURSE we do. Just look at how we treat the precious Seven Principles, which have been lifted to quasi-creedal status by many serious UUs (and maybe that’s not such a bad thing). Ech. More terminal uniqueness. Quippy, cutesy crap. Clever wordplay instead of a warm and loving invitation to find us and worship with us.

It would be so much less offensive if Unitarian Universalists weren’t notoriously uncomfortable with the mere notion of prayer and famous for using a long, comma-separated series of euphemisms to introduce That Portion of the Sunday Service During Which We Come Into the Place of Honesty, Or Join Our Spirits In Openness and Compassion, Or Meditate, Or Muse Or Think Good Thoughts Or Even Perhaps Join In (The Spirit Of) Prayer (Because You Musn’t Say ‘Let Us Pray’ For Fear Of Being Run Out Of Town After Coffee Hour, That Is, If You Make It Alive To Coffee Hour).

I’m sorry I used the word “crap” to describe this ad; that’s strong condemnation. But I’m not editing it out. I’m sick and bloody tired of insulting Baptists, Methodists, Muslims, Episcopalians, Catholics, Presbyterians, Mennonites, Orthodox Jews and others whose religious traditions are creedal and doctrinal and who often manage, nevertheless, to have wonderful ministries, whose communities are welcoming and even rebelliously so (how many of you know of renegade Catholic, Episcopal, Presby or Lutheran individuals or parishes that openly welcome and advocate for the g/b/l/t community, for example? I thought so…), and whose life together is a thing of beauty that draws more seekers to find, and stay with them, every year. Those doctrinal, creedal congregations are not necessarily any more dysfunctional or even close-minded than our own non-creedal, non-doctrinal ones. We must stop advertising these aspects of our tradition as if they confer upon us some magical ability to love, to minister, and to support an individual or a family’s search for truth and meaning. They do not.

“When in doubt, pray??” How about,

“All our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us.”*

Join a Unitarian Universalist congregation near you for Sunday worship. We are waiting to welcome you, and to include you in our circle of caring.

“The Unitarian Universalists welcome you to worship with us, and to join in the great work of loving the world.”

“Unitarian Universalism: The search for truth in the spirit of freedom. Don’t walk the path alone: come for Sunday morning worship and stay for community.”

I mean, these aren’t genius or anything, but they took me fifteen seconds to think up and I’m not getting paid for them, if you know what I’m saying.

The best advertising for our tradition, or any tradition, is for our congregations to be healthy communities full of individuals who have a strong sense of ministry and are guided by an ethic of love and covenantal relationship. They should make the news for doing good works in the community, and when people walk through their doors (as they will if they are guided there by spiritual need, not prompted by an ad in Time magazine), they should encounter powerful worship services, quality religious education, well-organized, inclusive pastoral and prophetic ministries, and people with authentic welcome on their lips and in their hearts.

And when they are invited to pray, it should be in the spirit of hope and faith, because why the HELL would anyone who understands the first thing about the Unitarian or the Universalist traditions suggest that prayer and doubt are a wise pairing in the search for truth and meaning?

All right. Rant over. I have a sermon to finish. I’ll leave the rest of the rant or the BangBack to you, my friends.

* quote by George Odell

40 Replies to ““When In Doubt, Pray. When In Prayer, Have an Existential Crisis.””

  1. Can you elaborate more on this part:
    “why the HELL would anyone who understands the first thing about the Unitarian or the Universalist traditions suggest that prayer and doubt are a wise pairing in the search for truth and meaning?”

    In what ways are they unwise? [When I get some time — augh! — I do hope to elaborate on this, and thanks for asking. – PB]

    I didn’t care for the slogan, though I did like the rest of the ad. This isn’t my favorite kind of advertising, though. I’d much rather see an ad that featured some UUs or a congregation doing something – as in introduction, and then invitation to check out what the UU congregation near you is up to.

  2. Preach it Sister!

    You’ve got the right spirit. When will our denomination stop trying to appeal to negative energy (“we are the people who do not believe…”) and look to positive energy instead (“We are the people who believe….”).

    This whole UUA ad campaign is based on a mistaken idea.


  3. I’m with you. I’m tired of ads that seem to exclusively target the “skeptic with a chip on their shoulder” demographic.

    And with this ad … REALLY? My daughter’s cancer may be back, so if I puddle down into a heap and offer up a prayer, I should take that time to doubt? REALLY?

    Oh, that’s helpful.

  4. It’s funny– How different this slogan reads from my actual UU experience. I actually first joined UUism by taking a small group class at the local UU church called “Working Toward Prayer”. I came with lots and lots of doubts– doubts that we’re keeping me from experiencing the fullness of prayer. And I came because I wanted to know if it was possible to both question AND pray. My very wise minister’s advice to the question: “But how do you pray when you are filled with doubt?” was very simple (and gentle). “Just begin.” And I did.
    I am just so glad she didn’t say– “When in prayer, doubt!!!!” (To explain: There is a time to doubt and to question…just not in prayer. Prayer is a time to experience, to connect, to be.)
    [TESTIFY! Thank you for saying this. -PB]

    I have to wonder though about the UUA slogan’s audience. I doubt my type (read:spiritual seekers) is their audience…i just wouldn’t go looking for religion on the pages of Time magazine…But if they’re not looking for spiritual seekers, then who do they want to attract? Maybe my husband (read: analytical philosopher type) would have liked the ad if he’d seen it back when we were looking–but he wouldn’t have gone to church unless I dragged him through the door first! (His thinking: great ideas and philosophy– but why do you need a church?)

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is this– it seems that those who might be intrigued by this ad are not the people who are really looking for a church. Those who are looking for a church are spiritual seekers– seekers of community, connection, and hope. (And of course freedom and openness to search, but the point about UUism is that we do this IN communities of connection and hope!).

    Now I wonder– does anyone actually know anyone whose come through our doors via national marketing campaign? Maybe such an individual could shed some light…

  5. thank you. seriously, who ever looked at an ad in a magazine, and was like “oh hey, looking at this here time magazine has made me feel religious, oo look there’s an ad for a religion I’ve never heard of, I’m gonna go to their church this week!” come on now UUA, magazine ads, billboards, talk of telemarketers, who wants to be represented by that stuff, I mean it’s hard enough defending my faith to people who have no idea what it is and think I’m a member of some hippie cult without having to respond to querries like, “oh, so you’re part of that church with the billboard over on hwy 1? the billboard just past the one for Denny’s and a strip joint?” I’m all about outreach and telling more people about UUism, but this is not the way I want to be representd!

  6. I’m at the moment an ex-new-UU (found it, got really excited for a while, then got broadsided by medical school at the same time my particular church experience became less compelling) and all I have to say to this post is THANK YOU for all the great points you bring up and the ardor behind them. I think I’m exactly the type of unaffiliated spiritual seeker Terri mentions these ads are probably targeted for, and they sure don’t grab me. I already know I don’t particularly want to be a Something Else and the ads are telling me UU is not That… but why should I want to be a UU? I like your slogans better…

  7. I’m doubting a lot lately because I’m writing my This I Believe sermon to be given in the summer. How to say, I’m happy in my UU community and sometimes I’m not sure why? UUs are not consistent, do not always live according to UU principles, are not always welcoming – just like in the Real World. But the UU is a place to challenge and question and be real with each other. Unfortunately, not everyone wants that. Who decided on Time magazine? Why not the Utne Reader?

  8. Thank you. As a non-traditional Christian who accepts – and believes – truths from other faiths, it is refreshing to find an article that does not make me feel like I do not belong in the UU. My faith is as essential to my being as being free to grow, change, and yes – have doubts sometimes. However, I am not trying to grow away from my spirituality, but find true expression of it. After having been in a UU church for over 2 years, I have been contemplating leaving due to the attitude that this appears to express. Reading this helps me know that perhaps there is a place for me after all within the UU community. [Marie, bless you for sharing this. Then it was worth the time it took to write it. – PB]

  9. This issue points to the increasingly prevalent idea that religion=faith=belief=intellectual assent to a series of questionable if not outright absurd propositions. And as others have pointed out, the slogan in the ad misses the point of prayer– again, implicitly equating it with a ritualistic version or mechanical manifestation of assent to a list of questionable notions.

    A recent talk by Karen Armstrong tackles this kind of thinking head-on and is, if I may be bold, something that the people who write slogans such as the one you are criticizing could stand to listen to. Here are some relevant excerpts:

    I found some astonishing things in the course of my study that had never occurred to me. Frankly, in the days that when I thought I’d had it with religion, I just found the whole thing absolutely incredible. These doctrines seemed unproven, abstract, and, to my astonishment, when I began seriously studying other traditions, I began to realize that belief, which we make such a fuss about today, is only a very recent religious enthusiasm. It surfaced only in the West, in about the 17th century. The word “belief” itself originally meant to love, to prize, to hold dear. In the 17th century it narrowed its focus, for reasons that I’m exploring in a book I’m writing at the moment, to include — to mean an intellectual ascent to a set of propositions — a credo. I believe did not mean “I accept certain creedal articles of faith.” It meant, “I commit myself. I engage myself.” Indeed, some of the world traditions think very little of religious orthodoxy. In the Qur’an, religious opinion — religious orthodoxy — is dismissed as zanna — self-indulgent guesswork about matters that nobody can be certain of one way or the other but which makes people quarrelsome and stupidly sectarian.

    So, if religion is not about believing things, what is it about? What I’ve found is that, across the board, religion is about behaving differently. Instead of deciding whether or not you believe in God, first you do something, you behave in a committed way, and then you begin to understand the truths of religion. And religious doctrines are meant to be summons to action: you only understand them when you put them into practice.

    Now, pride of place in this practice is given to compassion. And it is an arresting fact that right across the board, in every single one of the major world faiths, compassion — the ability to feel with the other, and the way we’ve been thinking about this evening — is not only the test of any true religiosity, it is also what will bring us into the presence of what Jews, Christians and Muslims call “God” or the “Divine.” It is compassion, says the Buddha, which brings you to Nirvana. Why? Because in compassion, when we feel with the other, we dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and we put another person there. And once we get rid of ego, then we’re ready to see the Divine. And, in particular, every single one of the major traditions has highlighted — has said — has put at the core of their tradition — what’s become known as the Golden Rule. First propounded by Confucius five centuries before Christ, “Do not do unto others what you would not like them to do to you.” That, he said, was the central thread that ran through all his teaching and that his disciples should put into practice all day and every day. And it was the Golden Rule would bring them to the transcendent value that he called rén, human-heartedness, which was a transcendent experience in itself.

    And this is absolutely crucial to the monotheisms, too. There’s a famous story about the great rabbi Hillel, the older contemporary of Jesus. A pagan came to him and offered to convert to Judaism if the rabbi could recite the whole of Jewish teaching while he stood on one leg. Hillel stood on one leg and said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor — that is the Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and study it.”

    And “Go and study it” is what he meant. He said, in your exegesis, you must make it clear that every single verse of the Torah is a commentary, a gloss upon the Golden Rule. The great Rabbi Meir said that any interpretation of scripture which led to hatred and disdain or contempt of other people — any people whatsoever — was illegitimate. Saint Augustine made exactly the same point. “Scripture,” he says, “teaches nothing but charity, and we must not leave an interpretation of scripture until we have found a compassionate interpretation of it.” And this struggle to find compassion in some of these rather rebarbative texts is a good dress rehearsal for doing the same in ordinary life…

    There’s also I think a great deal of religious illiteracy around. People seem to think–now equate religious faith with believing things. As though that– We call religious people often believers, as though that was the main thing that they do. And very often secondary goals get pushed into the first place, in place of compassion and the Golden Rule. Because the Golden Rule is difficult. Sometimes when I’m speaking to congregations about compassion I sometimes see a mutinous expression crossing some of their faces because a lot of religious people prefer to be “right” rather than compassionate.

    link to the complete talk

  10. My guess is that the UUA ad campaign is basically copying the “seeker’s church” model used so successfully by some evangelical mega-churches. “Seeker-sensitive” churches work very hard to downplay the hard core of belief in the evangelical church, so that Baby Boomers (the preferred demographic for a seeker-sensitive church), who often have phobias about religion, don’t get scared away. Then once the “seeker” is in the door, the idea is that you gradually desensitize them of their religious phobias, and move them into a deeper faith. The basic theory, as I understand it, is that not everyone is ready to jump into the deep end at first, so you give them a wading pool.

    The “seeker-sensitive” churches have been roundly criticized by other Christian evangelicals, and their critiques of their co-religionists sounds strikingly similar to your critiques of the UUA ad campaign. The difference, of course, is that the UUA is using money they get from us, the local congregations, while the seeker-sensitive churches raise their ad money on their own.

    I, too, am critical of the “seeker-sensitive” approach to church growth. While that approach has worked well for the Baby Boom generation, I don’t believe it works very well for succeeding generations — and, quite frankly, I’m not worried about attracting even more Baby Boomers to our UU churches (which are already filled with Baby Boomers) — I’m worried about attracting Gen X and Gen Y. So I wouldn’t even advertise in dead tree publications like Time magazine — I’d put my advertising money into Web ads, and into building a Gen-X-friendly Web presence (including online videos, supporting UU bloggers with tech and other help, Web-friendly music, etc.).

    I just don’t believe in mass marketing in any form any more. And I wonder if that’s the underlying reason why some of us dislike these ads — it’s not the content so much as the fact that the whole idea of mass-market dead-tree ads is just wrong-headed.

    My $.02 worth. Your mileage may vary. [Good to hear from ya, Bro. Definitely worth more than $.02 to me, anyhow. -PB]

  11. I’ve been quietly reading the reactions to this ad on the UU-lay leaders list. I wasn’t thrilled with the ad, but wasnt sure what I didnt like it about it (I knew I liked it better than the first ad though). One of the complaints was that this ad seemed like a good ad for the early 1960s…but that things had changed a lot since then.
    “When in Doubt, Pray; When in Prayer, Doubt” could probably result in a very good sermon; but for an ad showing the UUA off, it’s way too glib.
    But yes, the problem is indeed what you say: too negative focused. Our negativity is not a strength…

  12. Steven R mentioned the UU-Leaders email listserv discussion on the new UUA ad campaign.

    As a volunteer list administrator for this listserv, I thought it would be useful to get some information from the UUA staff reps regarding the ad campaign and how it was developed.

    Here’s a summary of what we learned:

    The ads were developed by Swardlick Marketing Group of Portland Maine.

    The principal partners of the firm are both Unitarian Universalists.

    Numerous ads were developed and tested with focus groups (both UU and non UU) in the fall of 2007.

    The ads chosen are intentionally provocative, memorable, and designed to get the reader’s attention.

    Detailed and nuanced information about our faith is available as the ads indicate at uua.org and with the request of a copy of the DVD “Voices of a Liberal Faith.”

    The web page FAQ for the ad campaign can be found online here:


    There has been a broad and diverse reaction to the new ad on the UU-Leaders listserv.

    Personally, I have a lot of sympathy for any marketing person who has been given the impossible task of distilling the discordant theological diversity within Unitarian Universalism into a one-page memorable ad that doesn’t piss off somebody.

  13. I like the tagline at the very top of the ad:

    Nurture Your Spirit,
    Help Heal Our World. [me, too! Thanks for pointing it out…PB]

    Agreed that the UUs need to stop acting as though they are the only faith that allows/encourages doubt and questioning.

    Maybe my favorite thing about this ad is Peacebang’s rant. 😉

  14. Just a small quibble—Episcopal churches that welcome/include/fight for GLBTs are NOT “renegade.” That is why my denomination is in so much trouble with the fundagelicals who claim to be “Anglican.”

    We may be arguing over whether non-celibate GLBTs should be ordained or elevated to the episcopate, but we have made it quite clear through our General Convention that GLBTs are beloved children of God–as are we all–and are welcome and wanted in our church. (Individual parishes, of course, can be unwelcoming—but, in our current context, THEY are the renegades.)

    Thanks for letting me defend my beloved church. I came to it because of its inclusive stance.

    Doxy [Thanks for weighing in, Doxy, and for introducing me to the term “fundagelical!” – PB]

  15. This ad wouldnt appeal to me. When I found UUism, I was looking for spirituality that I could swallow. I wanted to find religion because I needed it (still do) to deal with some rough things in my life. But I left the “give my life to Jesus” sector of my life long ago and I still couldn’t find or make sense of it. I needed some place to go to find a spiritual experience that allowed me to believe in something–how I perceived God–without having to accept a doctrine and dogma that I just didn’t believe whole-heartedly. The great them about UU is that I can believe in my ubiquitous interpretation of God (or, as I see it, more like a “life energy”), read religious texts and decide for myself what is true.

    I am definitely NOT one of the atheists in the congregation. Though, having been one once, I find what the atheists bring to the table just as enlightening (and sometimes moreso) as what the theists bring. Everyone puts a new light on an aspect of a religion that I never contemplated before. In fact, being a part of my UU church has made me more appreciative and accepting of Christianity. I no longer squirm when I go with a friend to a Christian church or when I am at someone’s funeral or wedding… I have found the beauty in something I once thought I abhorred.

    I think the UUA should create ads that focus also on the group of spiritual seekers who are lost admist the chaos of their own stereotypes of what religion is… UUA is having your cake and eating it too–you can read that Buddhist text and follow it today, read the Bible the next day, study Judasim the next, or read nothing at all. At the end of the day, you can be a person who wants to believe, has found bits and pieces of something to believe, and then wakes up in the morning refreshed.

  16. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with PeaceBang, and the word was, “PeaceBang”. [Sacrilege!! Sacrilege!! LOL! – PB]

  17. At the risk of sounding all marketing-y, ads like this make me wonder what value proposition the UUA is trying to put forth, and how that might differ from the value that most UUs derive from their participation in the faith. Speaking only for myself, “doubt” doesn’t make the top ten things I get from being a UU. I’m not sure it makes the top 100.

  18. I’m not saying I like the ad.
    I know I DON’T like the “fine print” if you will between those horizontal bars.

    What I really don’t get is WHY that text is even there. To me, it doesn’t even RELATE to the rest of the ad.

    The When in doubt, Pray, When in prayer, Doubt is an interesting Gospel of Thomas approach that I in fact find appealing personally… but then, I’m already UU, and I’m not the target audience.

  19. When I attended UU churches for a year or so in the late 1980s (before I drifted away), I was pretty close to being an atheist, but even then, what attracted me was the idea of spiritual exploration and valuing faith traditions, rather than the idea of running away from religion. This ad would not have appealed to me even back then, and it certainly doesn’t appeal to me now.

  20. I’ve been thinking on this ad for a minute.

    I like the first part. It’s the second part that needs work. So I came up with this:

    Wnen in doubt, pray. Wnen in prayer, listen.

    Can’t you tell I’m in school with Quakers? 🙂

  21. Bree on Desperate Housewives referred to Unitarians as “Anything Goes”. Welcome back Desperate Housewives!

  22. Perhaps the UUA should scrap the focus group testing . I’ve filmed focus groups and they are very limited. When the marketing group that developed this did their focus group testing, what did they test with???

    I’d love to see the UUA do AD WORDS testing — create a series of google ads that rotate and automatically serves the better ad. Let the actual clicks tell us what works. Back it up with some nice google analytics to know where people are coming from and where they go when they hit UUA.ORG….

    Me, I’d like to see an ad that upholds our pluralism.

  23. Despite whatever our own UU spiritual shortcomings may be, Bree’s pastor was hardly spiritual, inspiring or even helpful back when her son came out of the closet, was he?

  24. Peacebang: Thank you for the ability to put into words the gut wrenching feeling I had when I first saw this ad. I agree with you. If I had seen this ad when I was in search for a spiritual home, this would not have invited me in. I would have gone running the other direction.

    Fred [Back atcha, Fred. – PB]

  25. “Unitarian Universalism: The search for truth in the spirit of freedom. Don’t walk the path alone: come for Sunday morning worship and stay for community.”

    I like this one. Maybe the UUA SHOULD hire you, PB!

  26. Peter, the UUA is also experimenting with Google AdWords, including testing different ads and monitoring user behavior on UUA.org. You would need to talk to the people involved with the campaign to find out more. (I’ve consulted on the project, but am not currently involved in it.)

  27. <> This is just what I was thinking. It reminds me of the Vineyard ads I see or the ads from my megachurch church that I went to in high school.

  28. Well, I meant to quote what Dan said here “My guess is that the UUA ad campaign is basically copying the “seeker’s church” model used so successfully by some evangelical mega-churches.” But somehow my littl made the text disappear. Sorry about that.

  29. As a member in the Disciples of Christ (and former UU) it may be odd: but I can see how this ad can work. The problem is folks on the whole (certainly on the campus I’ve worked) see fundamentalism or see no religious option. That’s it. There simply is no space in a lot of folks heads to imagine a third option.

    To consider UUism or any alternative means to consider the possibility that there is a religion which does not look like religion as they know it. This ad (like the UCC ads) try to create that opening.

    For folks more sophisticated about religion it won’t be compelling. But most folks who give up on fundamentalism don’t join UUism, Buddhism, and the like, they simply become members of the church alumni association (thank you Spong for that term).

  30. When in TIME, have a typographical crisis.

    The “Nurture…” tagline is nice, but I hardly even noticed it until commenter “Wonder and Wondering” pointed it out here. It’s typeset in that light green, and it’s got the Chrysler-style “wing” lines on it, visually transforming it into a graphic element instead of written content.

    And now that I think about that green, I realize that the big text in black makes the big text in green fade out by comparison — and the two halves of the slogan (oh, it’s not the UUA slogan? Well, it is now) are vexingly mismatched, colorwise. It’s a badly-constructed meaning sandwich. I’m getting semantic indigestion.

    Also, note that this ad — intrinsically provocative, regardless of context — is in an issue of TIME dedicated to the Pope.

    And good heavens, the UUA says: The May 12 issue of TIME (available on newsstands May 2) — the popular “TIME 100” issue — will carry a UUA ad with the provocative headline, “My God is Better Than Your God” — that’s going to go over REALLY REALLY well! Yes yes, I’m sure there will be an explanatory paragraph on the page, just like in the current ad, but what will people see at first glance (and read no further)? Same thing as this time: the headline and the UUA logo. Awesome.

    I admire your strength, PeaceBang, carrying on your mission while the organization repeatedly shoots itself in the foot.

  31. A detail: UMs are not creedal. We do have an assortment of creeds in The UM Hymnal, but we are neither asked nor required ro assent to a creed as either lay or clergy, or to have any or them recited in service, ever. They’re used in some churches, not in others. Moreover, when creeds are recited in churches, it is quite usual for people to be unobtrusively silent for some clauses. [Thanks, Mary Ann. BTW, I totally dig the Methodists. – PB]

    Otherwise, yep. I particularly liked your first slogan.

  32. I don’t particularly like this ad either – I am tired of primarily defining ourselves in negative terms, too. It is little better than those bumper stickers they put out a few years ago “The Different Denomination” – different than what? [Jerry, it was actually “The Uncommon Denomination” — which, of course, implies that every other faith tradition is “common.” Not to mention its similarity to the 7-Up ad, “the UN-Cola” and to add insult to injury, we’re not technically a denomination but an association of congregations. – PB] This ad at least has some content, even though it is still framed negatively.

    But I do not think the ad is quite SO terrible, either. In New England and other areas the kind of religious diversity and flexibility UU’s take for granted is shared by many other faith communities, but there are many places where this is not true at all – many places where the kind of approach to prayer the ad promotes would be a revelation.

    Although I do not think our primary mode of self-definition should be in negetaive terms, what we do not do and who we are not is still important because it does still distinguish us from most other religious communities – even in liberal places like New England. Sure, there are many liberal and progressive Episcopalians, Catholics, etc. out there, but they are often in conflict with their own faith communities. These other faiths are not as comfortable with doubt – whether in prayer or in other contexts and are expressed in their internal disputes about gay bishops, activist laity, and other things – which are not issues for UUs in nearly the same way.

    And i don’t think these other faiths will be much insulted – or even upset by these ads. Who will be upset most are all the UU humanists appalled at having their religion advertised as “praying.”

    All that being said, I think the slogans you suggested would be much better – more positive, substantive, and accurate. It is always more powerful to talk about who we are and what we do, than who and what we are not.

  33. What I want to know is, why is it that the one thing a seeker after truth is forbidden to do is to find it? That’s what “When in prayer, doubt” says to me. “If you want to hang with us cool kids, don’t ever let go of your sophisticated and detached disdain for faith.” Bah.

    And I think Kim’s revision is the best: “When in prayer, listen.”

    And to Lizard Eater, may your daughter be well and your prayers be answered.

  34. Well, to be honest, I don’t know that UUs ever agree on an ad campaign. When I first learned about the 7 Principles, I was amazed it was able to be agreed upon. Later, I met lots of UUs who didn’t like them.

  35. http://eldithadisciple.livejournal.com/39170.html#cutid1

    I wrote out a long and weakly written reply to this on my blog, but the jist of it is that I think there are a number of people who would respond well to an ad like this as I am one of the people who would have loved to have discovered the religion in this fashion.

    I think the ad does what it is supposed to do. It catches your attention and makes you curious.

    For a fuller more arguementative post, please click the link provided. Ta.

  36. This whole UU campaign reminds me of the marketing attempts of a former employer; the commercials were so silly, so intent on being “clever” that they were just awful. Even my grandmother made a point of telling me how bad they were.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the United Methodists and the UCC have well modeled how to advertise religion. This “we’re a religion, but not really-if that sort of thing bugs you, but if it doesn’t, well then we are. or are we? come on in to find out!”

    “Bree on Desperate Housewives referred to Unitarians as “Anything Goes”. Welcome back Desperate Housewives!”

    I just knew as soon as that episode was going to address church-shopping that such a comment about Unitarians wasn’t far behind!

  37. [Sorry first post didn’t quite paste correctly]

    This whole UU campaign reminds me of the marketing attempts of a former employer; the commercials were so silly, so intent on being “clever” that they were just awful. Even my grandmother made a point of telling me how bad they were.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the United Methodists and the UCC have well modeled how to advertise religion. This “we’re a religion, but not really-if that sort of thing bugs you, but if it doesn’t, well then we are. or are we? come on in to find out!” doesn’t appeal to me, anyway.

    Bree on Desperate Housewives referred to Unitarians as “Anything Goes”. Welcome back Desperate Housewives!

    I just knew as soon as that episode was going to address church-shopping that such a comment about Unitarians wasn’t far behind!

  38. I find all of these interpretations of the ad very interesting. Thank you all.
    I actually like the ad. Had i seen this ad a few years ago, i believe it would have drawn me in and it’s all because of the would ‘Doubt’. So many people seem to be convinced that doubt is bad, or more precisely, negative thing. I don’t think of it as negative at all. Doubt is just doubt. It’s neither good nor bad. You can do with doubt what you wish to do. Some people see doubt as something trying to destroy something. I don’t believe it’s that at all. To me, and to many people, doubt is a motivator to keep seeking. If you have no doubts, you have no reason to change, move or grow. So, doubt should be seen as a positive (growth) word. If doubt is negative, what’s its positive opposite? “When in doubt, Pray. When in prayer, convince yourself of your certainty?” That doesn’t sound too appealing. That certainly wouldn’t be the creed of a seeker, would it?

    Had one of the other suggestions that were made here been used, it probably would’ve turned me off. UU’s are so diverse that it’s impossible, i think, to find a single slogan that would attract every potential UU member out there.

    Maybe i’m strange, but i don’t get why people are so afraid of doubt and not being certain. Doubt helps challenges us and helps us grow. Not knowing gives us reason to seek and explore. Since when are these bad things? [Thanks for writing in, Fernando. I think for me, and for some others, the suggestion that one can/should never feel secure in any spiritual truth was what irritated us about this ad. Having been a UU all my life, I admit to being weary of the “To question is the answer” attitude. I will always be a seeker, but I like to arrive sometimes, too. I’m glad the ad appealed to you and I appreciate your comments. – PB]

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