Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Gory Details

Emerson Avenger inquired in a comment as to the gory details of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham. He also wishes to know about the young adult UU movement and its problems.

The problems with the national movement deserve a post all to itself (if not a series), so I will talk about UUCB for right now.

For starters, the church was housed for forty years in Mountain Brook, the uppity old money suburb of Birmingham. The 24 karot gold stick up the ass of many long term members stems primarily from that crucial fact. Four families had been instrumental in founding the church in the mid 1950s. These upper-crust, pretentious chosen ones believed that they ran the church and that the entire life of UUCB should revolve around them and the decisions they chose to make.

They made over-theatric gestures in reference to their own supposed activism in the local community. In reality, their glory days had long since passed. Some had taken minor roles in the Civil Rights Movement and rested on their laurels, wishing to receive accolades for their roles as martyrs and messiahs. In reality, few had actively stuck their necks out but all wanted credit; they stated, in hushed tones, that they had actually walked hand in hand with Dr. King.

The problem with B activists is that their stories are often more impressive than the reality of their deeds. The problem with B activists is that, having scaled one mountain, they are utterly oblivious to the fact that there are other ranges and hilltops worthy of climbing. They were instead content to bask in the dying embers of their glorious past while running in place and thumping their chests.

Some abused the Circle of Lights, feeling that every Sunday's joys and concerns were their own personal soapbox.

They did not wish to grow the church. Instead, they wished to preserve the country club for members who they deemed worthy. They made no efforts to extend a warm hand to friends and visitors and only made overtures of friendship once satisfied they were worthy of their attention.

The latest minister they've installed has proceeded to call them out on all of these issues. I find it immensely amusing because these people decided: This time we're going to have the gay minister we've always wanted.

I guess they thought maybe the gay minister wouldn't get angry at them nor force them to confront the fallacies of their ways. I'm afraid this was not the case at all.

I feel sorry for about half of the members, who have come to expect a sort of mediocrity. They could have it so much better, but they have sold out into this second-rate, medium-sized city, self-defeating, inferiority complex attitude to such a degree that they resemble the walking dead.

I feel immensely unsorry for the other half who feel as though common courtesy is a gift only bestowed on people who masturbate their own immense egos and narcissistic attitudes.


Robin Edgar said...

Wow! That's IS pretty gory Comrade Kevin. . . ;-)

Sounds a lot like some other "like-minded" U*U churches I know though.

BTW FYI "The 24 karot gold stick up the ass" is now officially known as -

The 24 karot gold stick up the U*U

Hope you see the humour in that asinine creative input from CUC Executive Director Mary Bennett.

I'm still ROTFLMU*UO about it. ;-)

Robin Edgar said...

Hi again Kevin,

I was wondering if you would like me to link to this post from The Emerson Avenger blog or even reproduce it over there with a link back to your blog.

Any and all U*U injustices, abuses, hypocrisy or just plain stupidity are up for discussion on The Emerson Avenger blog. Feel free to add comments or suggestions.

Comrade Kevin said...

By all means, post away on your blog.

Once I see what you've put up, I promise I'll comment as I see fit. :)

Robin Edgar said...

How's this for starters Comrade Kevin? Feel free to suggest changes or additions. I look forward to your insights about problems with the U*U Youth Movement.

Hopefully you will get some additional traffic on your blog from this. Even more hopefully. . . irate U*Us won't go to extreme lengths to try to deny and/or discredit or even cynically attempt to criminalize your criticism and dissent. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Um, Kevin, the * between the U's is just too precious for words (cough!) Um, no I'm not using that. Ever. JC

Chalicechick said...

Gosh, Kevin, this brings back so many memories of the Presbyterian church I grew up in. Members there had served water to people Marching on Washington and were still talking about it in the late 1990's!

The liberal self-congratulation thing is a problem everywhere, but is particularly bad in the south, IMHO, because in the south liberals tend to feel like they are pretty constantly under attack every place BUT their church. When I went to church in S.C. there was an elementary school teacher there who told me that if people at her school found out that she believed in gay rights, she could be fired. I don't know if I believe that, but she believed it.

Also, small churches where powerful members control things and are afraid to let the church grow happen everywhere. Saw that one with the Presbyterians, too.

The best cure for that problem is often a minister who knows what he's doing and is ready to slowly and persistently work for change and growth. You make the minister they have now sound like a good guy. I can understand why you needed to leave, but I can't help but think that sticking around and being one more vote to support the minister in his efforts to improve things might have been more productive.

Still, we need what we need, and I'm glad you're happier in your new church. I suspect the liberal self-congratulation will be something of an issue there, unless their minister is really good and can keep a lid on it.

I never liked living in the south for many of the same reasons you don't and was VERY happy to move. I hope you will be able to move, too. (My thousand-member UU church just outside of Washington DC could always use another member…)



Robin Edgar said...

Hi JC,

Yes, the ass-to-risk that was so deftly and creatively inserted between the twin cheeks of UUism by CUC Executive Director Mary Bennett in December of 2003 in a ludicrously misguided effort to affirm and promote a more "inclusive" U*U "religious movement" is indeed just a bit too precious-s-s-s for words. . . Come to think of it perhaps CU*UC Mary Bennett should be henceforth referred to as 'The Lady of the Ring'. ;-) I have already bestowed Mary Bennett with the U*U Jihad name 'Sister BlU*UnderBU*Us of ImmacU*Ulate Deception' in recognition of her not so secret service to U*U Jihad's ongoing struggle against U*U injustices, U*U abuses, U*U hypocrisy and just plain U*U stupidity.

Comrade Kevin said...

Chalice Chick,

I may comment at more length about the dysfunction that is the Birmingham church.

I didn't leave Birmingham just because the church was worthless. I had just been in the city too long. Time to move on.

The interim minister, Dave Johnson, was a really really sharp guy. He called these guys out while I was there, and seeing the way they treated someone who was a) brilliant and b) had their best interest at heart forever tainted my perception of them.

Chalicechick said...

It must take real guts to be an interim minister. I've noticed interim ministers are often the ones who have to point out screwy dynamics. Then they get to leave and the new minister starts fresh with a lot of that stuff out in the open.

I worked for Kinko's in grad school. They have "transition managers" that specialize in coming into screwed-up stores, making them profitable and leaving again within six months.

Interim ministry seems like a similar job.

I'm not sure what the benefit of publicizing the church's problems would be. If anything, it might scare away reasonable people who might join the church and change things.


Comrade Kevin said...

I wish I had some faith in the inherent worth and dignity of the residents of Birmingham.

But unless the current membership and/or minister improve matters, things will never change.

Many long term members will have to leave. I wish it were otherwise, but it is not. Their minds are closed and have been made up for quite some time.

The only hope is for the open-minded membership to either claim ownership of the church, or break away and found a new one.

That pioneer spirit is sadly lacking in Birmingham. It is a town living in the shadow of itself, used to feeling inferior, and of the belief that nothing good will ever change so why bother.

Birmingham residents either go there to die or they move away.

Comrade Kevin said...

Forgot something.

You are quite correct about the role of the interim minister. Rev. Dave would preach whole sermons about the role of the interim compared to the called minister that would be selected after he departed.

Yet, there are great benefits to being an interim. You can stir people up, knowing full well your position is time-limited.

As dysfunctional as the Birmingham UU church is, I know that there are other churches who are just as bad or worse.

MidSouth, which is the newest UUA district, of which Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and the extreme Southwest panhandle are a part: many of their churches have the same problems.

Networking amongst separate MidSouth churches is an unforgivably foreign concept.

Robin Edgar said...

I visited the Augusta Georgia Unitarian Church this summer and it was clear that there was some internal conflict there although I do not know any of the details. The tension was palpable between the minister and some of the members. It seemed that the minister was on the point of resigning as a result of this internal conflict.

Comrade Kevin said...

Durn it.

MidSouth (MSD) of the UUA comprises


and (as I forgot to leave off) the extreme western pandhandle of FLORIDA.

I often leave off things when I get in a hurry. Mind gets ahead of the fingers.

Emerson Avenger, I couldn't even begin to speculate what was up with the Augusta, Georgia, church.

As I mentioned earlier, we are so badly networked that each church in MSD is almost an island unto itself.

This is what I would like to see changed.

Robin Edgar said...

:As I mentioned earlier, we are so badly networked that each church in MSD is almost an island unto itself.

Sounds familiar. . .

Do you think that this may partly be due to geographcal distances between U*U churches?

Chalicechick said...

(((I visited the Augusta Georgia Unitarian Church this summer and it was clear that there was some internal conflict there although I do not know any of the details. )))

Wow. That is a huge change.

When I visited the Augusta church, which was admittedly four years ago, it was one of the happiest most extroverted churches I've ever seen.

At least half a dozen people greeted me, so many that I started to feel a little self-conscious. (Hospitality can be overdone.) I heard raves about their minister and their active young adult program.

It's so sad that things have taken a bad turn. That said, things can take a bad turn in any organization of people and for a lot of different reasons.


Robin Edgar said...

Maybe the minister was a bit *too* good for some members' liking. . .