Friday, April 10, 2009

Situation Comedies, Film Noir, Tragedy

When I was a child in the 1950s, watching TV situation comedies often frustrated me. The half-hour shows would start with misunderstanding and failure to communicate. For the next 25 minutes, the characters would go through elaborate gyrations, faulty thinking, and emotional turmoil before one of them finally told her or his truth.

I would sit in front of the TV wanting to shout "talk to one another." I soon stopped watching these shows.

Film noir was another matter. In films such as Night and the City (1950), you could see how the protagonist's guile, ambition, and desperation led to his inevitable decline. This was not a simple and stupid miscommunication followed by an inevitable happy ending; this was character as destiny, a lesson of what might happen if you failed to take A. Powell Davies' advice to grow a soul.

Tragedy was even more compelling. As an adolescent, I saw A Long Days Journey Into Night at Arena Stage, a theater in the round in Washington, DC. On leaving the theater, I felt like I was escaping from a spider's web. Each member of that tragic family contributed to her or his own destruction and to the destruction of one another. They could not exit from the web of their own creation.

You may be wondering by now what the above is doing in a blog on examining for UU ministry. I started this blog because I believed that there were opportunities to improve examining for UU ministry for the examiners, the examinees, and the denomination. However, my interest broadened from the question of examining to the question of ministerial formation and development. That, in turn, lead to the question of the evolution of UUism, including the question: Is UUism producing the leadership it needs for the 21st century?

When I was a child in the 50s, UUism was a vital and vibrant faith in the Washington, DC, area. It was a faith for the modern, post-World War II era, not encumbered by the superstitions that weighed down other religions.

Now, 50 years later, with the average age of UUs reaching 55, I wonder whether UUism needs a new sense of purpose and destiny. Is UUism a faith with a future, or will it, like MacArthur's old soldier, just fade away?

I believe UUism can be a faith for the 21st century. I believe it is time for soul growth. Shall we grow together?

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