Reverend Matt Tittle is a retired UU parish minister who now does this and that for UU organizations and individuals, mostly in Texas. We share a lot on Facebook, where he posted this reflection:
Here is my two cents on the new UUA logo. Artistically and aesthetically, I’m not a fan, but that is neither here nor there. I understand and support branding and marketing in religion, as long as it comes with a theological and relational foundation. But I only see a promise that that foundation will be rolled out based on popular opinion about “who we are, what we do, and why it matters.” At least that’s what is currently on the homepage of UUA.org. Any other more deeply buried official explanation is simply a reinforcement of our verbosity and insider culture, neither of which are good marketing or religion. For now–just a logo. We shouldn’t be surprised that it’s going to rile people up. It’s an empty container. We don’t yet know what the UUA plans to put into the container. Nor does the container have a label, so no one will be able to tell what’s in it once it’s there.
This all would have been more effective if rolled out at the UUA General Assembly, with in-person explanation and discussion of its foundation, importance, and potential impact. I’m guessing this partial rollout was designed to coincide with the UUA headquarters moving across town. But the congregations don’t really care about that move. In my experience, what the rank and file members of our congregations constantly struggle with is how to share the good news of UUism, let alone what to share. This logo, by itself, won’t solve that. An explanation of the strategy to attract the “nones” (not a very viable strategy in my opinion, but that’s another post altogether) will not solve that because it’s like getting converted vegans to return to the life of an omnivore. Even answers to the questions of who we are, what we do, and why it matters won’t solve that.
For better or worse, we are congregationalists. Our congregations have a strong and accurate belief that the UUA headquarters can’t tell them what to do, and a mistaken belief that the same headquarters is trying to do just that. The UUA needs to work on how to overcome the latter. If this new branding is an attempt to overcome that mistaken belief, I don’t think it’s very effective, and is probably counterproductive.
I propose three different questions for the UUA:
1) What is the theological foundation of Unitarian Universalism?
2) How has it transformed and evolved over time (which it must if we believe that revelation is continuous)?
3) How do we communicate our good news both to our congregations and to the broader communities surrounding them?
I also propose that these questions don’t have specific answers, but that they spark additional and continuous conversation and revelation.
I think of the current taglines of Scientology and the United Church of Christ. Strange bedfellows, to be sure, but both of which have done a better job than the UUA in spreading their good news. Scientology has “spiritual technology.” Huh? Exactly! This simple tagline evokes the question, “What does that mean?” I expect they are trying to appeal primarily to millennials for whom both of these words have deep meaning. The UCC tagline is “God is still speaking.” A declaration which probably appeals to a wider demographic, but which evokes the equally salient question, “What is God saying?” The real genius here lies in the dual reality that each person needs to decide that for themselves, and that it expresses the theology of continuous revelation.
What is our evocative tagline? What grounds the new logo? What good news will come from this most recent attempt to explain ourselves and to create a “just and loving community?”