I’m not exactly sure why “Sunday Assembly” pisses me off, but it does:
Basically, “Sunday Assembly” is exactly what you’d get it you took “Unitarian Universalism” (which is already pretty much contentless), and squeezed the last few dribbles out of it, leaving an utterly inane, formulaic husk:
As Wikipedia describes this……phenomenon:
So, basically, in order to get together on a Sunday, to do stuff they’d probably do any other time….you’re expected to follow a charter?
Oh, wait…it actually manages to get even dumber:
What is Sunday Assembly? The founding myth goes like this: three years ago British comedians Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones were driving to a gig “when it turned out that we both wanted to do something like church for people who didn’t believe in God, but did believe in good.”
Last January that turned into the opening of Sunday Assembly London, and the response there was so good that by March they had announced Sunday Assembly Everywhere, a framework for local groups to organize their own Sunday Assemblies. By November, Pippa and Sanderson—they radiate such informality that it is impossible to think of them as Evans and Jones—hit the road to help local organizers from Ireland to Australia kick off their own Sunday Assemblies.
What happens at a Sunday Assembly? Singing, talking, silence, announcements, and a collection. At the order-of-service level, it doesn’t look that different from any other kind of church.
As a Unitarian Universalist, the fact that the talks weren’t about God didn’t surprise me. But the music did. Aided by a three-piece band and screen-projected lyrics, we sang pop songs that you might dance to at a wedding reception or sing at a karaoke bar: “Build Me Up Buttercup,” “Eye of the Tiger,” and other examples of the genre Sanderson calls “power cheese.” The point seems to be to let go and join in. We were just blending our voices together, having fun, and facing our fear of looking silly in public.
The lyrics were projected onto a screen and a three-person band accompanied, but one song was performed karaoke-style to recorded music.
Did anyone show up? About 100 people, which seems typical. Journalists reported similar numbers in Chicago and Nashville, while Los Angeles Assembly drew over 400.
In Cambridge, I was far from the only Unitarian Universalist present. I spotted two other members of my church, and the open seat I randomly plopped into was next to two UU ministers I had not previously met. They pointed out UUA President Peter Morales on the other side of the room.
Is it really an atheist church? Depends on your definition of atheist and church. The charter begins: “Sunday Assembly is a godless congregation that celebrates life.” Using a business-startup term, Sanderson describes a regular public meeting as the minimum viable product, “the smallest thing you can do to start the community.” How many additional churchy qualities—Sunday school, study groups, potluck dinners—a local congregation takes on is up to them.
What kind of atheism are we talking about? God is absent, but not actively banished. The charter says: “Sunday Assembly . . . has no deity. We don’t do supernatural but we also won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do.” Pippa expresses that idea like a comedian: “I don’t like . . . when people assume we spend an hour saying religion is stupid and people who go to church are dickheads, because we very rarely do that.”
On his Friendly Atheist blog, Hemant Mehta wrote: “. . . when I was asked to speak at last Friday’s inaugural event in Chicago, I was specifically told not to talk about atheism. That’s because these events aren’t about getting rid of your faith habit. They’re about celebrating life.”
So if you come to Sunday Assembly expecting a Christopher Hitchens-style attack on religion, you’ll leave disappointed. This issue has already caused a schism in New York, where the more anti-religious faction of the organizing committee dropped the Sunday Assembly label and started Godless Revival.
So, let me get this straight:
“Sunday Assembly” is all about re-creating a half-assed parody of your typical (Protestant) Christian church service, with none of the attendant theology — and shitty pop-songs, sung karaoke-style?
And — somehow — even without any “theology” whatsoever — and with a pseudo-creed which amounts to shitty, hippified, cliches about “celebrate life! Help Often! Wonder More!” — They’ve already managed to have what amounts to a fuckin’ denominational schism?
For whatever reason, I simply cannot find this thing at all interesting. Quite frankly, the more I look at it, the more it comes off as a gaggle of Hipsters attempt to “do religion ironically”, the same way they wear trucker-hats “ironically”.
For some reason, “Sunday Assembly” really makes me want to punch somebody in the throat, for no other reason than so that I can listen to them puke and gag.