The Undead on Obama

November 12th, 2008 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

One famous UU minister, Carl Scovel, delights in two things:

I saw the second again this weekend when he was guest speaker at First Parish in Brookline. As with his King’s Chapel, where he was senior minister for three decades, 1st P’s parishioners are entitled and privileged by wealth and position. His willingness to tease the largely humanistic UUs with his overt Christianity might be enough, but he also enjoys jolting them out of their smugness.

Last weekend, he sat expressionless during the candles. In UU vernacular, these are candles of celebration and concern lit by congregants. Supposedly they say a few words about something personal. I tend to think of these as candles of bragging and whining, and wince when one after another become prolonged rants.

Carl ScovelQuite predictably this time, many were in fact of celebration. It was, after all, the first service following Barack Obama’s election. Yet, behind Scovel’s glistening eyes, the not very tall but very thin preacher (he truly looks like hillbilly evangelists I saw in my childhood) was ready. He must be in his late 70s, but has the clarity of vision of an experienced and vital preacher.

Rather than roll in the meadow of euphoria, he asked for transcendence. He reminded the almost entirely rich and almost entirely white folk that there are multiple ways of looking at the results. He asked us to get beyond the obvious and expect the other side to have its days again.

He did spare us his Christianity though. In most UU churches on most Sunday’s, that’s wise.  For a denomination/association that prides itself on its tolerance, we’re hardest on Christians. Over the years, I’ve heard parents at various Boston UU churches say their kids have learned more about Hinduism than Christianity.

Out in the West and Southwest, I’ve attended UU churches where most congregants were raised Roman Catholic. They don’t mind Christ talk or images. In contrast, the former Catholic in some Boston churches can be downright hostile to those. Some speak of being abused by priests and hit by nuns. GLBT parishioners have tales of feeling denigrated for their orientation.

Yet, the UUA’s president is an open Christian. Bill Sinkford has never downplayed or hidden that. Likewise, at Arlington Street, some of the finest people I have ever known are Christians. I think immediately of Dan Cheever, former chair of the board (the Prudential Committee) and generous benefactor to the church and association. He epitomized the ideal UU.

In Brookline, the anti-Christian riffs are not hidden though. Oddly, that doesn’t seem to be a factor among the numerous parishioners raised Jewish, many of who still call themselves Jews. At the most recent annual Passover Seder, several Jews at the table said they had no problem with blending Christianity into the mix or even singing Christian hymns.

Most UUs joined as adults and typically came from Methodism or other mainline Christian churches. How odd that they would take the best from other religions, while seeming to fear and dislike Christianity. Personally, I was a very devout little Christian, more so than the rest of my family. That’s past and I am no longer a Christian, but I don’t feel scarred by it nor do I think it cut me off from intellectual and spiritual growth.

Perhaps Scovel will return and share some of his famous five-minute radio lessons.

Those unfamiliar with King’s Chapel might be surprised to learn it was a loyalist/royalist enclave as the first downtown church in colonial times. It was Anglican and Episcopal before Unitarian. It has never identified as Universalist and reports everywhere that it is “unitarian Christian in theology, Anglican in worship, and congregational in governance.”

I can’t do a steady diet of King’s Chapel, even though it can be nice to sing hymns with the worlds I grew up hearing.

Like most 1st P folk, I was on quite a political high five days after Obama’s election. I think it was good for us all to step back and take the longer view. There’s lots of time at home for clinking glasses.


One Response

  1. Glass Coffee Table ` says:

    Hinduism is also a religion of peace and it is also full of wisdom just like any other religion-.,

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