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April 26, 2001

CGNews #34

An occasional newsletter about a radical, new/old way of organizing your church. Read by 681 forward-looking Unitarian Universalists.

Subscribe or unsubscribe at www.swuuc.org in the "Rev. Bob Hill" section.


50 Million Cultural Creatives

In December of last year, the Rev. Davidson Loehr, minister at the First UU Church of Austin, gave a sermon in which he reflected on a book I have been recommending for some time as a source of hope and encouragement for Unitarian Universalists interested in extending more broadly our influence and our range of service to others: "The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World," by Paul H. Ray & Sherry Ruth Anderson (New York: Harmony Books, 2000). My apologies to Davidson for chopping his fine sermon up to make it fit into Covenant Group News length. Apologies, also, to Canadians; Ray studied only United States residents, but there are no reasons I know of to think that his findings would not be generally applicable to Canadian populations. -- Bob

FROM THE FRINGES TO THE CENTER?

The Rev. Davidson Loehr

Something revolutionary has begun being born in the past forty years, and it's arriving almost unnoticed. It is the birth of a new worldview, a fundamentally new way of understanding our-selves and our world. It is dramatically different from the two American worldviews which preceded it. I think it signals a cultural revolution already in progress, and still nearly invisible. ...

Your worldview is the content of everything you believe is real -- God, the economy, technology, the planet, being moral or smart, conformist or rebellious. It includes your view of how things work, how you should work and play, your relationships with others, everything you value. (The Cultural Creatives, p. 17) Most of us change our worldview only once in a lifetime, if at all, because it changes virtually everything in our consciousness. (pp. 17-18)

That's also why it is useful to group people by their worldviews. If you understand a person's worldview, you can understand a lot about them. You'll have a good idea how they will vote on a wide variety of issues, what kind of heroes and heroines they are likely to have, what kind of a life they admire, and what they think America and the world should be like. ...

Cultural Creatives

Since about 1970, a new worldview has emerged. If the first worldview, the one from 150 to 200 years ago, is Traditional, and if the second one - the one soaked in science, technology, and the American Way - is Modern, the new worldview might be called Creative. It's more concerned with trying to heal and mend, trying to become whole people in a whole world, than with taking sides. That's very different!

Now: how to persuade you there is a new worldview and that you are probably up to your eye-balls in it? It's kind of like trying to explain "water" to fish. Let me ask you about a dozen questions, and just mentally see how many you would answer Yes to. And as we're going through them, feel how fundamentally different they sound than anything in the Traditionalist or Modernist worldviews:

12 Questions

  1. Do you love nature, and are you deeply concerned about protecting it?
  2. Are things like global warming, the destruction of the rain forests, overpopulation, ecological irresponsibility and the widespread exploitation of people in poorer countries important to you, and would you like to see us take action to act more responsibly in these areas?
  3. Would you be willing to pay a little more in taxes, or for your consumer goods, if you knew the money would go to clean up the environment and stop global warming?
  4. Do you give a lot of importance to developing and maintaining your personal relationships?
  5. Do you think it's important to try and help other people develop their unique gifts?
  6. Do you believe in equality for women at work, and more women leaders in business and politics?
  7. Are concerns about violence and the abuse of women and children around the world important to you?
  8. Do you think our politics and government spending should put more emphasis on children's education and well being, on rebuilding our neighborhoods and communities, and on creating an ecologically sustainable future?
  9. Are you unhappy with both the left and the right in politics, and do you wish we could find a new way that's not just in the "mushy middle"?
  10. Would you like to be involved in creating a new and better way of life in our country?
  11. Are you uncomfortable with all the emphasis in our culture on success and "making it", on getting and spending, on wealth and luxury goods? Do you feel that it all misses the most important things in life?
  12. Do you like people and places that are exotic and foreign, and like experiencing and learning about other ways of life? (p. xiv)

Now: how many people, what percent of the American adult population, do you think shares those values? Maybe two percent? Five percent? Those are the answers that researchers get when they ask this question. Very few, maybe five percent, maybe not that many....But no, it's about 26% of the adult American population who share those values. Since the 1960s, about fifty million people have changed, or been born into, this new worldview.

These figures don't sound believable. When researchers began publishing them, a lot of Europeans didn't even believe them. Three years ago, officials in the European Union decided to do a survey in each of their fifteen countries. In the fall of 1997, they found an even higher percentage -- and between 80 and 90 million people -- in their own cultures who had, almost unnoticed, some-how changed to (or been born into) a worldview that embraced all the values in those questions I just asked.

Origins of CCs? Movements of earlier decades

A very important piece of this new way of looking at the world is that it is a vision that is beginning to appeal to, and that works in, business. Where political liberals have spent decades bashing business in the name of ecological and other concerns, business leaders are beginning to discover that, ideology aside, it simply makes better business and earns more money to be ecologically responsible, to hire the best people available, and to create healthy and respectful working situations. ...

We know where this new worldview came from. Its origins were in the civil rights movement, the movements for women's rights, gay rights, the environmental movements and the anti-war movements of the 1950s-1970s.

But while these different ways of thinking about nature, women, sexual identities, animals and the rest each began in a separate movement, they have now coalesced into this new Creative worldview. If you meet with the activists at Rainforest Action Network in San Francisco, for example, you'll hear about more than rain forests. You'll also hear them talk about feminism, gay liberation, social justice, organic foods, spirituality, and people of the third world. All these issues are in the air they breathe. They're imagining a whole new culture that's trying to heal what has been divided and broken for so long. (p. 166) That's the Creative worldview.

To Traditionalists, all of this just sounds like a weird bunch of people. They see the 1960s and 1970s as the birth of the Age of Narcissism and the loss of our moral center as a society. There is a lot of narcissistic personal behavior around to support the idea. But a better case can be made that we are actually far more morally aware and responsible today than we were forty years ago. ...

We are far more mature and responsible today than we were fifty years ago in the days of "Ozzie and Harriet." ... There are more "Cultural Creatives" today than there ever were in the Moral Majority!

It is a huge movement, with far greater intellectual, political and economic power than it has yet realized - primarily, I think, because it isn't aware of itself. For example: In 1998 and 1999, the top-selling movie video, The Lion King, was advertised and promoted everywhere. You couldn't turn on the TV or go to a fast-food place without seeing posters, cups and gadgets promoting that blockbuster movie. But it wasn't the top-selling video of the time. The Lion King was outsold by an instructional video for yoga, which sold more than a million copies. In fact, among Amazon.com's ten top-selling videotapes for those two years were two other yoga videotapes as well. (p. 328)

So what does all this mean? For one thing, it means that if you hunger for a deep change in your life that moves you in the direction of less stress, more health, lower consumption, more spirituality, more respect for the earth and the diversity within and among the species that inhabit her, you are not alone!

It's funny, how new worldviews are born. During the Industrial Revolution, the image of the machine became the central image of Modernism: it still is. Our new worldview also has a powerful guiding image. And just as the picture of the machine wasn't possible before the 19th century, so our new picture wasn't possible until the late 1960s. Interestingly, both the picture and its power were almost prophetically predicted over twenty years earlier. In 1946, astronomer Fred Hoyle said that when the first picture of the Earth taken from space was shown, it would change the world. (p. 303)

The photos of earth taken from the moon are powerful signs of a new consciousness, a new picture of our interdependence, our interrelationships, a world without borders that is an organic whole. Those photographs of the blue-green earth floating in space are the baby pictures of a new worldview. Our first baby pictures.

We're not the Lone Rangers any more. There are about fifty million of us; we're The Posse. What if our mission is ... to save the world, and our most sacred task is to get about the business of discovering, together, how to do it? -- Davidson Loehr

How does this fit with Covenant Groups? Easy. These Cultural Creatives feel alone and many of them want community. Many would feel affirmed and supported by our Purposes and Principles. Many of them wander through our congregations without finding the friendships and spiritual encouragement that would cause them to stay and become members.

When a Cultural Creative finds one of our churches focusing on small group ministry, he or she is likely to find a Covenant Group focused on one of his or her burning concerns. Being invited to join a Covenant Group will let the visitor find other Cultural Creatives with common interests, most likely, since a majority of Unitarian Universalists, I believe, are of the type Paul Ray's studies have identified.

How many people could reach your church's front door by traveling only 20 or 30 minutes on a Sunday morning? If about a quarter of those are Cultural Creatives, how many is that? And if even half of that number are potential Unitarian Universalists......?

Want more on this topic? Ray has a web page. I believe it is: www.culturalcreatives.org (corrected from www.culturalcreatives.com to right URL by David Wadleigh, web editor) but any good search engine will find lots of material if you type in "cultural creatives." -- Bob


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The Rev. Robert. L. Hill,
District Executive for the SW District, UUA,
713 660-7164
E-mail: rhill1@houston.rr.com