Browsing the articles at the excellent Religion Online Web site, I came across a 1979 article about Unitarian Universalism by Robert Tapp. It’s fascinating to read an outsider scholar’s view of our denomination, written at the moment when we were about to start growing (very slowly, but growing at last instead of declining). I found the second-to-last paragraph especially interesting. While we haven’t seen that theological convergence with humanism, the emergence of liturgical innovations in the 1980’s (flaming chalice, joys and concerns, etc.) makes the comment about feeling and acting like a minority group seem prescient. And the idea of “axiocentrism” just might be useful in our ongoing attempts at defining ourselves:
What of the future [of Unitarian Universalism] — if we assume that membership shrinkage has stabilized, that fiscal stringencies have been effected, and that a theological convergence toward a religious humanism has not only occurred but has at last received official recognition? A possible pattern is that of the Quakers — smallness, integrity and influence. But the Friendsâ€™ ethos and ways are difficult and must be learned — a kind of orthopraxy. A pattern of orthodoxy — precise beliefs, precisely enforced — seems even less likely. A third communal pattern could be based on shared values, both explicitly and implicitly religious — an â€œaxiocentrism.â€ This model seems to characterize todayâ€™s UUs. Many of these shared beliefs and values are by-products of modernity and higher education. To the extent that U.S. culture is now tilting toward conservatism, those who hold such values may come to feel and act like a minority group — which seeks mutual support, recognizable in-group styles, viable defense patterns.
Full article: Link.