I’ve been reading with interest a couple of the recent Berry Street Lectures – Paul Razor’s from 2009, and Fred Muir’s from 2012. They both explore what the future of Unitarian Universalism can be – from finding ways to embrace multiculturalism to shedding the negative impacts individualism and a polity founded in the dominant European-American culture.
They both offer sage advice and good ideas; Razor’s examination of race and UU culture especially is insightful and challenging. He prods us our of our comfort zone, suggesting “we cannot become a multi-cultural faith – subconsciously or otherwise – continue to treat a particular mono-cultural lens as normative.” Muir wants to shake us out of the ill-advised individualism that keeps us from building beloved community, reminding us that “individualism will not serve the greater good.”
My problem with both of these lectures is simply this: we keep talking about what we need to do without recognizing what is already happening. They talk about the status quo – that environment that has been shaped and led by the Silent and Boomer generations – and ignore what’s bubbling up from GenX and the Millennials.
For the under-50 crowd, individualism is anathema to the great connection and community they already experience in their cohorts. They long for spiritual, heart-led experiences in worship, and are finding ways of creating it (or seeking it elsewhere). They love what UUism means and lives radical inclusivity. They aren’t trying to figure out how to be a multi-cultural, inclusive, radically beloved community of spiritual seekers – they ARE. The problem is that while GenX and the Millennials are heading for the 19th hole, Boomer and Silent Gen leaders are still hunting for the fairway.
Maybe I’m giving too much credit to the younger generations – or not enough to the older generations. But if we want to be the religion of NOW, of “the future”, we need to look at what our under 50s are doing and WANT to do…and not consciously or subconsciously perpetuate the mono-cultural lens that we’ve been looking through.
What makes me hopeful is the greatness of our current seminarians. They are young, energized, spiritual, passionate, and eager to live TODAY into the promise of who we are. They aren’t looking at who we CAN be in the future. They are living the best of UUism in their daily lives…and will bring it to their pulpits.
The future is now. Let’s not keep them from living it.