Adam Gonnerman, “organizer with Sunday Assembly NYC, member of the American Humanist Association & The Clergy Project, and parishioner at The Unitarian Church in Summit”, asks “Is the UUA Ashamed of Its Humanist Clergy and Members?” (28 mar 2016). His concerns for shame are misplaced. Corporate franchised religion of the Christian magisterial tradition (essentially all the large Christian denominations that exercise centralized authority) is wholly invested in the christomystic clergy/laity class system. As franchiser, the UUA cannot afford to be ashamed of any of its clergy. – Is the UUA ashamed of humanism and humanists? It seems a growing tend, especially when the new UUA tripartite Sins – individualism, exceptionalism and anti-authoritarianism – are so well championed by humanists. But my interest here is not the UUA but UU humanists, and in reversing the question so that it matters more to us humanists as humanists, and less as UUAers: Should UU Humanists be Ashamed of Its Clergy? My answer is Yes.
That any humanist group would have ‘clergy’ in this century (21) means that we ‘enlightened’ (descendants of century 18 Englightenment) humanists still haven’t fully realized all the principles of european Enlightenment and anti-class democratic Revolutions yet here on Turtle Island. Where has all the Cult of Reason gone?! Why are we humanists still calling speakers and administrators ‘clergy’ and ‘Reverend’ like the christian sects that we supposedly reasoned ourselves out of? Or have we not reasoned ourselves out of distinguishing between religious upper and lower classes and mystic titles of religious authoritarianism?
Why are we still using judeo-christian mystical language to describe what every other non-profit tax-exempt mutual-benefit organization would call ‘executive director’ or ‘speaker’? Because it’s UUA Christian tradition to do so? Because John Dietrich established the christian-humanist cross-over tradition? When we re-examine humanism and UUism in relation to WASP privilege, these become insufficient reasons for UUs and humanists alike to maintain the UUA’s christomystic façade of class-based leadership.
The shame i also feel when i hear mention of ‘humanist clergy and members’ is in the continued vitality of the dualistic classism and the inherent privilege of clergy over members used by a fellow humanist. As a matter of USA privileged historic record, we UUs are much more comfortable talking about Class in terms of schools, races, genders, and the current default, economic. We ignore the Radical Reformation’s call for religious classlessism two centuries before Luther alluded to the priesthood of all believers in 1520. We ignore the religious classlessism practiced internally by Catholic religious orders – especially women, and the elimination of religious class among Friends, and wholesale religious class elevation – for men – among the Mormons, and the organic meritocracies among rural Anabaptists.
I am ashamed, as a humanist and as a UU, that both UUism and humanism have not outgrown and dismantled the religious dualistic class system that we inherited from our previous christian denominations. Mostly i am ashamed that both our current and past three centuries of thinking ourselves ‘exceptional’ within Amerikan Christendom has kept us so fat and happy with our clergy and laity classes that UUs today still can’t see them as classes.
There are many good UUA humanist & nonhumanist ministers/leaders. This is not a criticism of individuals but of the larger denomination, the particular institution, its religious history on Turtle Island, and its privileged WASP religious classism that it has not yet recognized even exists. Four years should be time enough for UU ‘clergy’ and UU ‘laity’ to become informed and form an opinion on this issue. By 2020 UUA and humanist ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’ alike should be held morally accountable for any continued practice of religious classism.