Wednesday, May 28, 2014

UUA Surprises! Cool New Principles Version!

Tom Schade has dubbed the rebranding effort of the UUA a #thanklesstask. Yeah, he's right. And I don't want to heap on the criticism.  I believe the UUA is working hard to turn our ship in the right direction, and this is the work that they ought to be doing, and they're getting a lot of flack about it, much of which is unfair.

But...

You know how I've been saying that the UUA has been telling us "more is coming" and the logo was just the "tip of the iceberg" with regards to the branding?  And, at the same time, nobody has published the roadmap of where they're going, and even when you're asking, they won't tell you what it is? And how Dawn Cooley said, "surprised people react poorly"? 

Well...

As reported in Boston Magazine:
Proverb also worked with the UUs to shorten their seven core principles, making them easier to remember, and has suggested putting them into “some sort of acronym form so that they’re easier to pull up quickly in your brain,” Needham says. “We don’t know if that will fly.”
Let me say briefly, that I'm SURE what they meant was not "we've shortened the principles" but "we've created a shorter version of the principles...for marketing purposes."  That's OF COURSE what was meant.  They know that the principles are important and core to you, and they're not really just mucking with them.   

Now...

Um, let me just guess that people are going to be surprised.  And if the UUA logo was conflated with the sacred symbol of the flaming chalice, well then the Principles in the UUA Bylaws are conflated with scripture or creed, even though we'll quickly tell you they aren't a creed.

I hope the reaction will be love, support, excitement, and thanks to the UUA.  They deserve it, because this is really a good idea.  This week I was trying to envision what seven principle banners could look like in our sanctuary, and the wordiness was a big problem, but the kid's version was too simplistic.  An acronymn seems like a good idea, as long as it doesn't spell out something like FRACKER.  (Free and responsible, Respect for the interdependent, Acceptance of one another, Compassion, ummm.... Karmic inherent worth and dignity?, Equity, Right of conscience.)  The other mnemonic devices people have come up with -- pairing them with rainbow colors, using the image of an arch -- have been good, but UUs do love our acronyms

What I'm afraid of is that they're going to get a lot of people upset that they took on this #thanklesstask.  And that the stakeholders are going to be very, well, surprised.  Be prepared -- my prediction is a lot of acting poorly will ensue.

Do you remember the hubbub when a former UUA president said something about how the word "God" should be in the principles?  Or at least that's what people heard.  What was said was more like:

"We have in our Principles an affirmation of our faith which uses not one single piece of religious language. Not one. Not even one word that would be considered traditionally religious. And that is a wonderment to me; I wonder whether this kind of language can adequately capture who we are and what we're about."

People were surprised.  Much debate followed.  Many people said upset things about the UUA.  Humanists felt like they were being pushed out and unwanted.  People felt like the UUA was trying to change the principles, and that wasn't okay with them. 

Some of this was good.  We had a lively conversation in our tradition about "the language of reverence."  But there was no Twitter or Facebook back then.  The conversation happened in individual clusters of people, by e-mail, in our seminaries and other institutions, and on the fledgling blogosphere. And so the whole discussion was more subdued than it might be now. 

UUA, I love you and I think you're doing the right thing -- but when we're asking for the roadmap, even scouring the UUA webpage, the UUA board meeting minutes, the UUA world, and the VUU and blogosphere looking for the signposts (yeah, I have), as well as asking in independent conversations, give it to the stakeholders before Boston Magazine sometimes?  Mmkay?  That's all.  No feelings hurt.  Enough said.  Love ya. 

And don't be surprised that not everybody will love this.  Hopefully I'm wrong and we'll all go, "Wow!  Awesome!" and abandon, for a brief moment, our culture of critique.

Heck, that could happen.  Let's give it a shot, everyone. 

3 comments:

Elz Curtiss said...

This blog is emerging as a major voice for accountability based in theological tenets to which our leaders ostensibly subscribe. Thank you.

Cynthia Landrum said...

Wow. Thank you.

Sharon Pedersen said...

Great advice as always, Cindy.