29 December 2005

Unitarian Universalists and Theology - Layperson Responsibilities?

Recently, I've read a bunch of blog and other online commentary on Unitarian Universalist theology:
The question I would ask about all of this: What responsibility do laypersons living in local UU congregations and other UU religious communities have in developing a shared UU theology?

Should we expect professional "public theologians" do this work for laypeople?

Should we expect the religious professionals in our congregations (ministers and non-ordained professional religious educators) to do this work for laypeople?

Writing as a "mostly layperson" (who is a "paid religious professional" for 1-2 training weekend workshops each year), I think we should we be asking ourselves about what our responsibility as laypeople is in jump-starting a theological dialogue.

We can't realistically expecting our over-worked and under-paid congregational ministers and religious educators to jump-start this dialogue for us. Otherwise, we will find ourselves sliding into a consumer's attitude where we expect our paid professionals to provide us with our theology pre-chewed and pre-digested for us in this passive consumer role.

If we want to move ourselves out of this role as passive consumers of religious services, we need to acknowledge that laypeople have an essential role in this theological discussion if we want the discussion to be "deeper and wider" than the current discussion currently is.

We need to do more than passively waiting for "someone" to deliver better preaching and better academic theology to us.

Rather than expecting us to be a passive consumer of religion where the minister delivering the sermon is a form of Sunday morning "entertainment," we need to re-image how we view our clergy where the communication between clergy and layperson is much more interactive.

Instead of the commonly experienced metaphor of "minister = Sunday religious entertainment" and "layperson = passive consumer of religious services," we need a different metaphor. I have some suggestions:
  • "minister = coach or trainer" and "layperson = theological athlete"
  • "minister = ballet teacher" and "layperson = dance student"
  • "minister = writing teacher or editor" and "layperson = writer"
Perhaps you have some suggestions for how we should re-image this interaction between clergy and laity as well?


Paul Wilczynski said...

I've commented on this good question here

Bill Baar said...

Maybe we UU's so busy tossing rocks at intelligent design we forget to realize one can make a good case we do have a Theology Gene (google it for the literature).

We have no choice but to do theology.

To do it wisely, it's best down within the disipline of what Dan Harper has called the direct experiences of a covenanted community of persons because run amok it can cause damage.

But I think we have no choice as people but to do Theology. It certainly can't be restricted to a priestly or professional caste.