Posts

Humanism in Context (Dialectical Theology -- part 3 of many)

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A sermon (since converted to an essay) that I wrote in 2015 is useful here. My argument was the sense of being counter-cultural and rebels entered into Unitarian Universalism during the 40's and 50's. We attracted those who were repelled by the effort to impose a Christian Nationalism on the USA, as part of the Cold War.

I note, and the comments received confirmed, that one effect of this origin story for many Unitarian Universalists is the vigilance that many UU Humanists have about any Christian influence in UU theology and liturgy.

Enjoy the essay:

http://www.tomschade.com/p/humanism-in-context-you-know-i-am-very.html

The Cold War re-shapes 40's/50's Unitarian Universalism (2 of many)

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Three historical developments re-shaped the Unitarian and Universalist churches of the 1940's and 1950's.

One: the Cold War.

As part of the Cold War, powerful business and political leaders sought to “Christianize” the United States of America — as an ideological counter to Godless Communism.

Kevin Kruse, a professor of History at Princeton, has written a very interesting book, called “Under God” and it is the story of how powerful forces in the USA sought to promote religiosity and public piety in the late 40’s and 50’s.
Here are some highlights of that effort: in the early 1950’s, the phrase “One Nation Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, and “In God We Trust” was inscribed on our currency. Political and Business leaders met in well-publicized prayer breakfasts, not only at the national level, but in every major city. The National Advertising Council ran radio, TV and billboards urging everyone to attend a worship service at the house of worship of their choice…

Let's Start Here #1 of many

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Think about the typical successful Protestant church in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. That church has a healthy membership by our standards. The minister is a white male, and he has a study. That minister has a secretary, a real secretary, not an church administrator, and she manages the great man’s schedule, and even types his letters, answers the church phone. But the rest of that church staff is, by our standard, quite small. Because that church doesn’t actually do very much. Weekdays, the small staff is around during the daytime, but on many nights, the building is empty. There are not a lot of small groups, support groups, or book clubs. The Sunday School program is, by our standards, rudimentary — just simple indoctrination into the faith.

Protestant churches in the 40’s and 50’s were about the Sunday service; and the Sunday service was about the sermon; and the mission of the church was to spread its particular message. The message was some variation of the Christian doctrine. Su…

Dialectical Unitarian Universalist Theology - Introduction

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Theology (“words about God”) is a conversation across centuries about what is most important in human life. For most of history, the nature of God was considered to be of supreme importance. After all, if human life was created and controlled by such a higher power, understanding the character and purpose of that power would be crucial.

However, in the 19th Century, the proposition that such a higher power does not actually exist became part of the theological discussion. When the idea of God no longer exists, the theological question becomes “what is most important, now”?

Theological discourse develops in relationship to itself, as theologians try to harmonize theological propositions which appear to be in contradiction to each other. For example, if God creates everything and is good, where does evil come from? Therefore, because theology is forced to harmonize numerous contradictory realities, theology builds toward synthesis, toward systematic theology.

Unitarian Universalist theol…

The Suburbanization of Liberal Religion

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Once upon a time, Unitarianism was an urban religion. Our most prominent and successful churches were in the cities, embedded in the urban culture and community where they were.

Yes, there are many exceptions of rural or small-town Unitarian, and Universalist, churches.

But in 1940, there weren't a lot of suburban Unitarian or Universalist churches, because there weren't a lot of suburbs.

Suburbanization and Housing Segregation are the same process, and could be the most important transformation of the society in the last century. We now know that it was a process driven by powerful financial and governmental policies. The white urban working class was offered the chance to buy new homes in the suburbs with subsidized and guaranteed credit, which allowed them to begin accumulating family wealth. The black working class in the city was denied this opportunity, and whole sections of cities were denied credit for new or improved housing. Vast profits were made in housing industry…

Families Belong Together: A story

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There was confusion about whether the June 30 rally against family separation at the Rhode Island Statehouse was going to happen. It had been on MoveOn's list, and then it was off the list, and then an email come from MoveOn said it was cancelled. Some people thought the email was fake.

About 300 people showed up. No platform, no sound system, no infrastructure, no police presence, no official leaders.

But a couple of women took on the responsibility of leadership. They held the space, spoke to the moment of the rally's unorthodox status. They called in everybody to be close so we could hear people through a megaphone, made of a rolled up piece of ordinary paper. A speaker's line was organized: anyone who wanted to speak.

People spoke. Amazingly, speeches were shorter, more direct, and less grandiloquent than the speeches at any rally I have been.

There was some ideological struggle, when a speaker said something to the effect that "everybody has a vote." An und…

What I See Going On in the UUA

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There is a national popular movement going on. Trump precipitated it, but it is widening and deepening to challenge many linked oppressive systems. It is not a shallow, or narrow, movement. It is not fly-by-night, or a flash in the pan.

Unitarian Universalists are in this movement in many ways. Congregations are answering the call to take to the streets in demonstrations, rallies, and in civil disobedience. For the most part, and of course, there are going to be exceptions, UU's are participating appropriately, following leadership from others more qualified, and staying in their proverbial lane. 
Our denominational leaders encourage participation. They, too, are acting appropriately for their role. They communicate frequently, and with clarity and precision. They rally UU's and they provide a broad, value-driven, analysis that grounds itself in our pluralistic religious tradition. Our leaders are now no longer Baby Boomers, so they bring a more up-to-date understanding of pu…