Sunday, October 14, 2007

One more thing about the working class

The cover article of the Fall, 2007 UU World, "Not My Father's Religion" has netted me more mail than anything I've ever written. Almost all of it was very thoughtful and some people told me their personal stories of being working class UUs or of having working class parents who don't understand why they became UUs. I didn't manage to write back to everybody who deserved a response, but I tried.

I keep thinking I'm going to do a summing-up post of everything I learned from the responses I got, but that seems to be one of those projects that is too grand and wonderful to actually manifest in this world. Instead I'll just toss this out to acquire more comments. As I remember things, I'll add them to this thread as comments.

11 comments:

byfaith said...

Its a weird story about how I got to read about The UU religion and your father today. Doing research about faith in the second life community I stumbled in a UU church, got a link to the uuworld.org site, and read your article, liberal religion and the working class. Now this article hit home for me because of my background also. I am a bi-racial female that has one side of the family that is well off and another that is the working class. I am a member of a Vineyard church and your UU church sounds a lot like the same type of services that I have attended. people there dont seem to understand the working class but they want to reach out to them. Once they get there they feel uncomfortable. Actually I am a white collar worker and my husband is a blue collar worker almost like your father. Swing hours, never home, bad conditions but good pay. I do medical office work. I long for the church that I can go into that can deal with all the issues that are for my family and feel accepted. Guess I have to wait for Heaven.

EllenB said...

I wasn't surprised to hear that the *working class* article netted you a lot of mail. Excellent, I thought! I wonder if you have heard this quotation from Willem de Kooning? "The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all of your time."
In the conservation organizations for which I volunteer, there is always this same problem. People of fewer means don't have the luxury to try to save the earth.
Great food for thought! Thanks!

kim said...

How would you deal iwth working class people? what would be different? What would it look like?
And what happened to the comment I posted earlier?

Doug Muder said...

Kim -- don't know what happened to any earlier comment. I don't think I've deleted any on this thread.

I don't have a five-point plan for serving working class UUs better or attracting more working class people to UUism. Mainly, I'd advocate the same kind of common-sense awareness we'd use with any other group: We should try to become more aware of the ways that class affects our perceptions and expectations, and not assume that everyone shares those perceptions and expectations. It's not deep or profound, but I think it would help.

Doug Muder said...

ellenb,

Hadn't heard that quote. In return I'll offer this one from Anatole France: "The law in its magnificent equality forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges and steal bread."

Elizabeth J. Barrett said...

I disagreed with an argument in your original article: that only "professional" class are concerned with “discernment and inspiration,” and that only working class people are concerned with “self-control and making yourself do the hard thing.” Unitarian Universalism is a very challenging religious movement for all of us, no matter what our status, because it calls us to embody love, compassion, equality and justice while creating beloved community. We must use all four of the qualities mentioned above in order to fulfill what UUism asks of us. Discernment helps us choose the right action; inspiration allows us to see the ideal world we hope to create. Both self-control and making ourselves do the hard thing are what we all must do to truly become Unitarian Universalists living our seven principles out in the world. In fact, I think our religious movement is all about honoring and celebrating the sacred by coming together in community to help each other do the hard work of living our Unitarian Universalist faith. I hope we can do this without the barriers of class impeding us. I'm writing a few modest tips for welcoming working class folks, based on my own experience and that of other working class UUs I know. I'll post it on my blog.

Doug Muder said...

Of all the responses I've gotten to this article (most of which were positive), the ones I feel saddest about are those in which working class people express resentment at being stereotyped. I tried very hard not to do that, to root everything in my own story and my own experience, and to leave openings for exceptions.

I don't think I said or implied (or believe) that "only" professional class people care about discernment and inspiration or that only working class people need to push themselves to do the hard thing. I was trying to show that there are very strong currents pushing people in those directions -- an observation that I stand by.

SmilesMatter said...

Doug... I re-reading your article, and will do so periodically. I know that some UU churches actually have different social locations, are more working class, but I certainly seen ones that match your description.

I was interested especially in the Marxist term "alienation."

I'd love to understand the use of this term better... recommendations?

Elizabeth J. Barrett said...

Doug, it seemed to me that in your article you defined inspiration and discernment in career terms, did not mention that there already are some working class UUs, and kept using the term "Professional" class rather than the more benign "middle class."

I thought that your description of UU sermons made them seem a lot like the book What Color Is Your Parachute?, because your description was focused on professionals choosing their careers, being careful to find work that they love, etc.

kim said...

If I remember correctly from Sociology, where we learned "The Ten Middle Class Values" (I agreed with nine and a half of them), the teacher said that lower class and upper class values were more alike than either were like middle class values, but he never gave us any lists of what the upper or lower class values were. Anyone know what they might be?
Then, we work on getting along with people with different values....

Faith Van Horne said...

This article is speaking loud and clear to me. I grew up working class, am now middle class, and am starting seminary to become a UU minister. What keeps nagging hard at me is how different the UU church I attend is from the Pentecostal church I grew up with. Of course, UU speaks more strongly to my values. But if I made as little money now as I did then, I doubt this is the church I'd be going to. I'd feel way too isolated; that this is not the place for me.

I, too, see that as a huge problem. As I start in my path toward ministry, the question that's at the forefront of my mind is, how can we stretch to truly welcome all people? Thanks for giving me some thoughts to chew on.