Picking up where I left off yesterday, I want to continue to clarify my thinking on the missional church in Unitarian Universalism.
It has come time for Unitarian Universalists to admit that we have honored free thought over love as an institutional commitment, and to consider the possibility that our obsession with personal freedom of belief has caused our organizations spiritual harm. We have developed a congregational culture that honors intellectual dominance over love and tenderness. We are brilliantly conversant when voicing opinion, but do not know how to engage each other as vulnerable persons in need of hope, grace and healing, leaving it to the self-identified victims in our congregations to motivate and then control most discussion of what it means to love, to welcome and to accept.
Small group ministries have done some good to address this imbalance, but the continued insistence on many UUs to frame our deepest institutional problems according to false dichotomies informs me that our congregations and our association need to work harder to dismantle the idolatry of mind and intellect in our movement. Those of us who want to confront this idolatry are perpetually accused of having a “side” that we are on, a false and ignorant reading of this conversation.
Most of us –especially those of us who were born and raised UU — are both mystical and rational, interested in a variety of religious perspectives and practices (I, for instance, am a Tarot card-reading Christian with Jewish heritage and read Buddhist and Christian meditation manuals interchangably), and are highly educated. We know that Unitarian Universalism is a thoroughly Humanist religious tradition and find it exceedingly irritating to be anxiously quizzed on this point again and again and again.
Wherever we are theologically, missional UUs know that it is time for us to question our idolatry of the mind and of opinion, an idolatry that leads us to immature communal spirit, exhausting and interminable group process, and increasing irrelevance in the contemporary world. Â Our minds are not infallable guides, and our intellects do not comprise the totality of what makes humanity great (or great in potential if not in actuality).
Our obsession with free thought and “building our own theology” has encouraged UUs to participate in religious conversation from a place of debate rather than discernment. When each individual UU is obligated (or invited) to create their own religion, therefore it follows that each individual has to defend their own religion. All of which we do with great gusto, endlessly, shaping our religious identity around these debates and failing to realize how deeply dull they are to people who come to our churches seeking sustaining faith and spiritual community. Our societies attract debaters and defenders — people who love a good argument — while repelling those who are interested in less aggressive ways of connecting.
As a pastor and a woman, I am offended by the framing of these issues as “head vs heart.” It is another false dichotomy and does damage in our congregations and our ministry of both lay and ordained. I resent the idea that being led from the heart comes easily to me as a woman — it does not, neither by nature or by nurture — it is something that I have cultivated through years of disciplined and difficult spiritual practice. I do not expect any of my co-religionists to easily loosen their death grip on the confident feeling derived from being intellectually superior or terminally unique in the religious sense. Â We are addicted to this feeling and have created an identity based on it. It unites us. It is the unacknowledged foundation our social justice commitments. It is the reason we steer clear of deep ecumenism.
Nor do I expect the debate lovers to stop their debating. They are devoted to it, it is their spiritual practice, and they should be encouraged to keep at it as long as it feeds them intellectually and emotionally. What I hope for, wish for, and work for, is a Unitarian Universalism that more intentionally makes a place for unexamined reverence, love, humility, deep listening, crying, grieving, laying down the burden of trying to know and understand and explain and control everything, acceptance at the heart level, solidarity rather than paternalism and dominance, and faith. I call for a Unitarian Universalism that respects the soul and does not argue it, or ask it to explain or account for itself.
And I want someday for those of us who want to cultivate reverence, humility and soul to stop being categorized and dismissed as pissed off Christians who want to take over the UUA. On behalf of myself, my Christian, Humanist, Buddhist, Jewish, Pagan, Atheist, Transcendentalist and Other Unitarian Universalist kindred spirits who know exactly what I am talking about and who grieve the same insanity that I am grieving, I want to state that this is another ignorant prejudice that needs to be exposed and eradicated.
The emotional culture in too many of our congregations is thoroughly toxic. We need to recognize that it is, why it is, and move beyond, “Well, my friends and I like it this way” if we are to be a viable religious movement for the 21st century.
34 Replies to “Love Is More Important Than Freedom”
Iâ€™m not a great fan of building your own theology classes, and you makes some good points here, but never in the whole post do you mention truth.
Thereau wrote, Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. A UU Church, at its best, simply offers a supportive home to seek truth. Maybe not love; certainly not fame or fortune, not even truth; just support along our paths towards truth.
Thatâ€™s simply it, and if we bungle that task of supportive home, than weâ€™re no more.
Bingo. And I argue that we are not mostly providing supportive homes for people who aren’t psyched about the opportunity to be part of the “intellectually superior religion-rejecting in-crowd.” So far, I’ve been extremely disappointed with UU efforts to find Truth anyway. What most of them seem to do is spend their time affirming their assumptions and finding material to shore up their opinions (note how UU ministers use their social media space — propogating articles and materials that confirm their opinions). Congregation as echo chamber. Which would be fine, except that we pride ourselves on being the ones who seriously consider multiple points of view. Sure we do, as long as what we’re viewing doesn’t ever challenge our bedrock biases.
I like a lot of what you have to say here, particularly this –
“It has come time for Unitarian Universalists to admit that we have honored free thought over love as an institutional commitment, and to consider the possibility that our obsession with personal freedom of belief has caused our organizations spiritual harm. We have developed a congregational culture that honors intellectual dominance over love and tenderness. We are brilliantly conversant when voicing opinion, but do not know how to engage each other as vulnerable persons in need of hope, grace and healing, leaving it to the self-identified victims in our congregations to motivate and then control most discussion of what it means to love, to welcome and to accept.” (I love it except the “self identified victims” moniker)
I personally do use the frame of reference of heart vs. head and I want a religion more of the heart than the head – but people actually suggested you’d have an easier time with/more natural focus on love because of your gender? Wow. That’s one of the most “Un-UU” things I can think of. That’s simply flat out wrong. (and as a guy pretty offended too!)
[Oh God, yea, totally!! There was a UUMA meeting at General Assembly one year that flat-out insisted that women are more heart-centered than men, and that celebrated these horrible gender stereotypes. I was so humiliated for the men, who were being totally insulted as a species, and embarrassed for the women, who I personally know to be just as capable of emotional detachment as any traditional guy. The presentation basically said that UUism got its heart when women entered the ministry. AUGH!! Hopefully our transgender awareness work might help put an end to this nonsense. – PB]
Bill, I guess I’m more sympathetic to the perspective of Paul, writing in that famous passage in 1 Corinthians, in the Christian Scripture. He thought “truth” was ever elusive — making love the necessary thing.
“Now we see in a mirror, dimly, now we know in part . . .for our knowledge is imperfect. . . . But faith, hope and love abide, and the greatest of these is love.”
No reason to abandon the search for truth — but I can’t imagine a “supportive home” for the pursuit of it, that doesn’t have love.
I can’t say I disagree with you. I’m just not certain I’m 100% on track with you though either. I’m afraid when we start using words like “missional” we’re trying to compete with a Chrisitan Church that offers an incarnate “truth”, while all we offer is a more modest “home” [I get what your’e saying — the “missional” part for me means that we seek to create something within ourselves and among ourselves that goes out beyond the church into the community, and that means families, workplaces, and all our envrionments, not just politics.- PB] Our modest offer fine with me. If our thinkers not up to the task of getting beyond the echo chamber as you suggest here, we are probably better off with a far more modest effort too.
Thanks for these posts though. I’m sure this will gen much good and needed comment.
I recall a discussion at a GA on diversity, and an African American panelist said that the most important thing “we” could do to increase racial diversity was “to give up Bach.”
There was a mixture of laughter and gasps.
I think it is time to give up Thoreau. He has nothing useful to say about what it means to live in religious community. Naming churches after him is like naming a medical school after Mary Baker Eddy.
I live in the North Houston, Texas area. I think as a UU that we tend to make the simplest thing, complicated to the point of … To me the ability to give and receive love is the fundamental building block, with out it, all the other things talked about are a moot point anyway!
I am one “who want[s] to cultivate reverence, humility and soul,” and I am neither a Christian nor do I want to take over the UUA.
I’m just saying. Preach it.
@Tarry please note Paul wrote Faith, Hope and Love were gifts that abide (ahhmmm, we don’t IMO side with them. After all, they’ll abide, I’m term limited). I wouldn’t turn these gifts down but daily I see people to whom they’re not given. I’d rather side with those fellow citizens. I do so supporting a Church and offering it as a home.
@PB thanks for the clarification. I agree.
I 100% agree with this post and realize it articulates why i want to belong to a religion and not an ethical society. I want, for me and my children, a safe space for us to explore the emotiinal/spiritual /heart/love whathave you. I wonder though if the refusal by many uus is more defensiveness. I know my husband felt betrayed by religion in his youth that used emotion and love as ways to manipulate him. He was only able to protect himself by using his intellect, something that still prevents him from getting involved in church at all. [YES!! Exactly. And I think the only way to address this is to acknowledge that some uses of the intellect ARE a defense against being manipulated, and legitimate. So what I’m saying is, let’s deal with that and make our congregations places where we can do the healing work, and eventually find ways of opening our hearts that do not feel like a betrayal of self or an emotional liability. People who come abused by other religious communities are like people who were in abusive relationships. They need to learn how to trust again if they are going to find love. I suggest that we need to learn together to trust again and find love together. It sounds corny but I think that’s very much at the core of what can make our congregations life-giving places for a wider variety of people. One of the things that is really interesting about our contemporary reality is that an equal number of people are coming to our congregations hurt by religion and really hungering for some kind of real religious experience, ’cause they’ve never had one. They grew up with NO God, and they’re dying to experience that sense of the holy. Meanwhile you’ve got all these folks going, “Ah, no, we just don’t do that.”- PB]
First to open ones heart, one must feel safe and accepted. How do we cultivate safety without turning into complacency?
This is what Tom Owen-Towle touches when he talks about being Both-Andian. Not this or that, but both. Together… and more, too.
@David Blanchard–YES! While I think there’s useful *personal* stuff in Thoreau, he’s useless in anything beyond the individual, both in relations and community (ironically, Thoreau is one of our mystics).
We need not to abandon a commitment to individuals, but we need to stop letting that be grounds for any and every abuse and injury to the community.
@PB–I’d add a stricture on our debaters. Sure, feel free to debate. But DO NOT engage with new folk or anyone else who has not CHOSEN to join the practice of debate. The act of feeling entitled to comment on the current beliefs and practices of others is aggressive and noxious. No, you are not entitled to share your opinions about others “for their own good,” whether it’s about their (current) beliefs — precisely what we so object to in door-to-door proselytizers — their choice of vehicle, their wardrobe, weight… etc.
And a quibble; love is as slippery and elusive as truth. I think that’s why they’re both of such inestimable value to us. Hold them gently, reverently, in cupped, open hands, knowing that they might at any moment startle us and take wing.
Amen! The Rev. Peter Morales–current UUA president–has written and spoken eloquently about the need in US society for community, for individuals to crawl out of their isolation and connect with others. His essay in The Growing Church discusses the statistics of people living alone skyrocketing in the last decade, among other observable forms of isolation and alienation. What liberal religious seekers are looking for when they darken the door of one of our churches is not “freedom,” freedom from orthodox or doctrinaire religion. We all have lots of that. Most Americans are free to stay in bed on Sunday mornings and they exercise that freedom quite vigorously. Those who seek us out are in need of connection, a “third great place,” an emotional atmosphere of depth. We offer these hungry seekers a stone and not bread when what we offer them is “free thought” and “freedom” and rugged individualists out-arguing each other.
Mostly, I see UUs forgetting that a church community is a bunch of people who take care of each other. Because the church is an openminded oasis in many cities for multi-faith and multi-cultural families and those who seek “spiritual” community without strict doctrine, we tend to focus on that when discussing the church in text. But the people I know who go to church are mostly seeking to connect with those who value the holy altar of connection. A Catholic friend joined the Mormon church a couple years ago. She really can’t tell you much about core Mormon belief, but she can list the many supportive programs for adults and kids and the fact that no Mormon will go hungry. And it is lay-led! Perhaps UUs need to focus on communicating how it structures care and connection for its community.
David Blanchard, thank you for making tea come out my nose. Oh god, that was too funny! We have placed Thoreau and other individualists upon our altars (and forgotten that he still relied upon others; his mom did his laundry after all). I would like us to hold up those who built things and served others. How about Henry Whitney Bellows?
@Peter Boullata We UUs don’t offer a rugged individualism. (At least I’ve never heard that from a UU Pulpit, or read in our lit) We offer a disciplined search for truth within a Church Community. We ask an obligation from you to support our community with your money and time.
I suspect if you ask those “crawling to you (or Rev Morales) out of their isolation”, I suspect you’d find truth ranks high and they’re often annoyed we don’t tell them one. Community and connectedness abound, sometimes accompanied by booze, drugs, promiscuity, or the comforts of false truths offered as quick solutions and promises. Sometimes it’s what people coming to us escaping.
All we as UUs offer is a community within which one can search with partners until we meet death; which we’ll most certainly face on our own.
PS… I’m certain I’m not clear. If I go to my big box lite Church, people will hug me. They’ll offer me connection. They’ll offer me love. Yet it all “feels” to me false. Not that they aren’t sincere, or loving, or have a supportive community. It’s all there for sure. But it can be their in a cult too. I know it’s false.
The God they offer and ask me to accept is false. If all I wanted was love and community and connectedness, I’d stick with the big box lite Church; but if you want to seek the truth in life, and taste its meaning, and endure the pain it makes you go through to find it, I’d much rather stick with my UU Church. [Exactly why so many stay… and what I’d like to work toward is having where we stay be more loving and welcoming in authentic ways. – PB]
First, I deeply appreciate that this conversation is even taking place, we grow at the edges and this is an edge we need to push. I too bluster at the false dichotomies that seem so prevalent not only in our discussion of Unitarian Universalism, but also that seem to be interwoven in so many aspects of our communal life today. I personally long for, in my own life and in the life of my congregation, a search that does have deep meaning, an exploration that includes all that has come before (religious language included), and a more communal sense of what binds us a faith community. Although a (if I had to label) culturally-Jewish-UU-mystic-religious humanist-postChristian-Jesus appreciator, I do believe that we stand where we are today as a faith tradition through the thoughts and sacrifice of the mostly liberal protestant heretics that came before us. We evolved in such a way where UUâ€™s are here because these heretics set the stage for us to be able to have a denomination that accepted broad theological thinking.
One of the issues however seems to be that our ever increasing open theology, has led us to a place of struggle with having any cohesive theology at all or even at times the ability to explore. And of course, I hear people say to me, what about the seven principles and I think yes, they are great, broadly stated outlines of living in harmony with each other and the planet, but are they enough? Do they call us into deep reflection? Do they allow for us to have unity as much as individualism? Do they focus us to do or say things together as a community that binds us as we work to mend a hurting world? Do they ask us to move beyond our search for comfort and personal satisfaction on Sunday mornings? Do they call for sacrifice in order to build the connections, compassion and understanding that may be needed for such diversity to live together without destroying each other and the planet?
I continue to think that often we UUs are having the wrong discussions. I feel pretty done with the religious language struggle. I get tired of the head vs. heart debate. I even find myself wanting to move beyond the humanist/spiritual tug of war. We are who we are. Our roots are all of our roots not just protestant and not just humanist. Our evolutions as a faith tradition are a culmination of these things and I believe that there is very little language, history and/or theology that should be off the table for discussion.
The question for me is, ok, what are we doing with it? I guess for me itâ€™s about not where you are, or where we were when we started but where we are now. In other words, I have an opinion about what is important in spiritual journeys, it is to get to a place of love, compassion, mercy, grace, healing, wholeness and sustainable living with each other and the planet and I have to say, I donâ€™t really care if that is through Christianity, Islam, Paganism, Atheism or another variety of spiritual search. I donâ€™t want to over simplify, but it seems to be more about the process of spiritual maturation than whether or not we utter the word â€œgodâ€ in our UU congregations. There are things that I find problematic in most institutional religions or structures, but there are billions of minds that I am not going to ever completely change, so I am going to do what I can to help move the bar as much as possible.
So, anyway, to end the ramble, I think this conversation is happening at the right time throughout the denomination, but I also think at some point, we take our wounds, our fears, our vulnerabilities, as well as our strength and our gifts, and we move forward together. Internal reflection is always going to be a part of our spiritual and communal lives, but to quote one of the many blog posts I have read on this lately, â€œwe are not a social clubâ€ or â€œpolitical clubâ€ (or something), we are a faith tradition (in part because of our theological tradition) which I believe is called to live our faith to help mend the world through the healing power of love.
As a white male UU who does not believe in deities but believes that consciousness continues from life to life (so not your conventional atheist either) I agree that UU at its best is a mix of both heart and head. But I disagree with you that love is more important than freedom. I see these two concepts together as being at the essence of what UUism is for me. My dear atheist friend Toni, who was not a UU but I think embodied that essence said it this way, “Holding close with open arms”.
Many of us fall short in our humanity because we fail to embrace our fellow people with love and respect. But then many (if not most of us) who participate in that embrace do so with closed rather than open arms. “Holding close with open arms” to me is the genius of UU, and our ministry to the larger human community. We have the love and forbearance to give each other the liberty to be who we are, with the hope, but not the expectation, that we will find common ground and community together. Not sure if that makes any sense, but somewhere in there is why I continue to be a UU.
Nowhere is that “holding close with open arms” more evident than how we adult UUs interact and honor our young people. From my experience with my now young adult kids in the YRUU program, I cannot think of another youth program that allows young people such freedom to govern their own events and their own community. I can think of no other denomination that has such egalitarian “right relations” between adults and youth.
I was raised UU and went to UU youth cons. Later, I went to UU young adult cons. If I could articulate it best, I would say that these district and continental UU youth and UU young adult cons are the best place to find our modern day UU transcendentalists in action within the UU world, at least for a weekend. A whole conference of love in action. I have no problem with saying that this is a UU heart culture and not a UU head culture. I am a firm believer in the head/heart dichotomy in our denomination. All dichotomies are false dichotomies at some level. The UU head/heart split creates real conflict despite the ultimately false nature of the split. This conflict is the source of permanent UUA funding cuts of continental youth and young adult cons and democratic decision making bodies in 2005-2008, in my opinion. District level youth cons have been terminated in my district, but if you are very lucky you may be able to visit a UU youth con in your district as an advisor or driver of youth from your church, if these cons still exist in your district. This is all about the “head culture” not appreciating the “heart culture” of our youth and young adult cons. My favorite quote on this, in response to statements that the faith and spirituality efforts of our youth and young adults were being critically injured by this UUA action was that all was OK because UUA anti-racism programming can now be the new spirituality of our UU youth and young adults. So, while it is interesting to me that the transcendentalist side of the UU head/heart “yin and yang” is being encouraged in this discussion, it is also facinating to me that no one has mentioned this obvious fact: The UUA is currently stamping our pro-transcendentalist efforts out, such as they exist. Perhaps there is a way to support love in community within UU circles that I am missing. Love, Jim
why does it have to be either/or? I know that I can go to a big box church and get happy/clappy Jesus love. They aren’t hard to find. Heck, if I turn right, instead of left into my church, or stop at about 30 churches between my home and church, I’ll find whatever flavor of church I want.
To be truly open to love and community and connectedness, one needs to be able to be authentic and honest with others. To accept and be accepted is so moving and powerful and so damned hard to do and harder to maintain. We UUs do it with only a short checklist of 7 principles that are long in syllables and adjectives and short on clarity. Honestly, the UN declaration of human rights is clearer in places than our 7 principles.
No wonder we have two modes: either we shy away from honest conversation about truth and meaning – we are afraid of someone saying something we may need to reject and/or question, leading to destruction of the community, or we dwell exclusively in the intellectual debates and do not allow ourselves to feel and show love.
I have found this topic that I stumbled upon very interesting and surprisingly uplifting. As one who suffers from recurring episodes of depression I feel sort of motivated to seek a liberal Christian church for awhile, just for a change.
I know I will be back for future posts and hope to feel well enough soon to attach a name when I comment.
I have found this topic that I stumbled upon very interesting and surprisingly uplifting. As one who suffers from recurring episodes of depression I feel sort of motivated to seek a liberal Christian church for awhile, just for a change.
I know I will be back for future posts and hope to feel well enough soon to attach a name when I comment. [I wish you healing and I wish you a community of loving embrace. Bless you. – PB]
I am glad you posted this. I have felt this for a long time, but would never be able to articulate it this well. Thank you!
I’m very grateful for this conversation, as I have been considering leaving the church to find a more loving and inclusive community. My experience with Unitarian Universalism ranges from congregant, to long-time lay leader in the congregation, District and the denomination to church staff and I am discouraged at what we have become. There are long-time members in our fellowships and churches who are openly hostile to anyone who seeks a deeper spiritual connection with “god” and are smugly dismissive. It feels to me like a parent who regards my spiritual enthusiam as some kind of emotional hissy fit, while I long for a sincere question asking me why I find god so healing and comforting. In one of my congregations it was said that it was more accepting to be a republican than a christian. Ouch. And frankly, I’m not sure that I want to belong to a church that makes present and former members of the miltary afraid to tell their fellow congregants about their service for fear of losing their religious home. Who the hell do we think we are?
I’m very grateful for this post because I have been considering leaving Unitarian Universalism to find a more loving, accepting and inclusive church. And this is from a long-time congregant, lay leader in the congregation, District and at the UUA and am presently working as church staff. I was one of those enthusiastic new UU’s who learned quickly to keep my deeply held spiritual beliefs to myself, or risk the smug derision of my fellow congregants. It feels like a parental relationship where I’m treated as if I’m having an emotional hissy fit for expressing a belief in a loving god, instead of asking me why I find this so comforting. Why would anyone, who was looking for a supportine community stay? In one of my congregations, it was proudly stated that it was more accepting to be a republian than a christian.
And I am ashamed that former and present members of the miltary are afraid to mention their service for fear of losing their church community. Who the hell do we think we are?
Sorry for the double post, I thought I had lost the original and tried to recreate it.
I appreciate being included in this conversation however online. It is easy for me to ‘lose perspective’. Being amongst those who have been raised UU and having at least some success raising my son UU to, and being the type to have considered the ministry and trying to garner the support to found a monastic order….In reality, I sometimes feel subjectively as though “I own UUism”, and “I am UUism” meaning that all other UUs are automatically part of “my personal ego” without giving it any thought at all. This simply isn’t true and sometimes I stumble across the truth of this when a congregation or the UUA doesn’t just naturally “do what I want” or reacted to me as if the others should “instantly recognize me and dust off my shoes” in welcome. I have no idea why I even get like that – I swear to God: all it is, is that instead of being one of the convert members I’m not. So, please forgive me, as needed. I think we can be a nice and unique little religion but I think fundamentally we are just designed to be another flavor of Christianity. I don’t think the goddess is rightfully called a goddess ‘because that’s what we wanted’ but I do believe that involving the divine feminine esp. for women is important as it helps direct us to the inner divinity everyone has: when female it helps to use female images: I mean, how ‘duh’ simple is that? Anyways, forgive me if that seems way too all over the place. I enjoyed the article and think that everyone is holistic. Vision and focus are helpful. Sometimes we are doing better than we think and other times we wish were better than everyone else but the bickering quickly reveals that we’re not: which is humbling. So, thanks for including me: as I’m in Germany and there isn’t a congregation here its challenging in a different way.
@Siobhan I don’t think Truth and Love (or Faith and Hope) have to be mutually exclusive. We can, and I certainly do in my Church, Family, and Community have them all. (Although I certainly don’t have all of the truths.
I just think Truth is of a higher order. Like T, I’d rather have truth certainly than fame and fortune, and perhaps even love.
I think what we’ve lost as UU’s is the importance of truth because we’ve lost the ability to argue and discern by telling someone they’re False, and do that within the bounds of our covenants. We don’t know how to politely, lovingly, in a community way, tell a friend, they’re badly wrong. (We might psycho analysis them instead). The horrible downside to that is the truth that emerges from conflict is lost. We end up with polite group think.
@Siobhan I don’t think Truth, and love (or Faith or Hope) are exclusive. I just agree with Thereau that given a choice of only one, I’d say give me Truth.
I grew up U.U., and spent quite a while searching in other faith communities for insight and transformation. I remember quite clearly the moment when, sitting in my U.U. church, I realized that U.U.ism was capable of being the source of spiritual guidance and support that I sought, with profound opportunities for opening my mind and my heart as I was ready for them. I agree that our church culture doesn’t emphasize faith discernment enough, because it took me way too long to realize that.
Having said that, I will say that I’ve never received any pushback from my fellow congregants for discussing my faith journey, and haven’t felt the need to defend my beliefs. Instead, the message from other members has been more like “I’m sure that you have a faith journey, and I bet that you’re doing a good job of it.” (Which is nice in that it’s not pushy, but it also doesn’t inspire creative discussion.) In that light, it’s been good to see the leadership in my congregation developing more discernment opportunities over the last couple of years.
I continue to feel completely taken aback and saddened by the intellectual superiority and smugness that is easy to find in UU congregations. I’m curious about practical ways others have dealt with this in their congregations. I think some people do find a great deal of satisfaction in this position, but I think others use it as a way to deal with hurt and insecurity or just as a way to fit in, and would embrace a different culture within the congregation, but there has to be ways to shift the culture.