Inclusivity is Not the Issue

RaisingFaith1 tweets a link to a UU World article from GA 2012.  The article was from a well-attended workshop "focusing on the viewpoints of politically conservative and moderate UU's."

As is the usual case, the reporter (Sonja L. Cohen) posed the problem as one of inclusion vs exclusion.  Politically conservative UU's see themselves as "isolated and rejected their overwhelmingly liberal" faith community.

One of the features of political conservativism these days is its sense of victimization, which extends from its sense that there is a "war on Christmas" to the stockpiling of military grade weapons for an anticipated armed resistance to the tyranny of the United States government.  Everywhere, liberals oppress conservatives.

None of this is true, in actual fact.  What political conservatives view as oppression is the presence of liberals who fail to acknowledge conservativism's hegemony.

Most UU congregations are composed of political liberals.  There is a reason for this: the theological, anthropoligical, and philosophical viewpoints that make up religious liberalism lead to political liberalism when applied to this culture and society.   For example, our universalist understanding of humanity, which is expressed in the first principle (the inherent worth and dignity of every person), has led to a forthright stand in favor the rights of GLBTQ people.  As marriage equality crystallized as the national issue, political liberals have supported it.  Political conservatives, and their party, exploit anti-gay fear and bigotry for partisan advantage.

Everybody knows this, but it makes political conservative UU's feel isolated and rejected if somebody at church says it out loud.

What was missing from the Cohen article in the UU World are politically conservative UU's making the argument that the content of religious liberalism expresses itself with integrity as political conservativism, with all of its causes and loyalties, in the United States of today.

I am asking that conservative UU's "show their work."  How did they get from liberal religion to political conservativism?  

I'll be blunt.  I don't think that they can.  I think that there are two separate compartments in their minds -- the religious and the political.  They don't leak into each other.  It's easy to be loyal to both.  But there is this discomfort.  I am saying that that discomfort will not go away easily.  It's a spiritual dilemma for them.


  1. If people spontaneously took care of one another then we would not need the government to coerces us into doing it. Taxation is ultimately based on a threat of violence.

  2. So your argument, if I understand it, is that a politically conservative religious liberal is living with intellectual hypocrisy requiring willful blindness for its care and maintenance. Would you go a step further, asserting that as a church body we engage in the same willful blindness in coexisting peacefully with those whose political views seem to contravene the tenets of UUism?

    I'm still processing all of your posts, together with a couple of related issues I've been mulling over for the past few months. In the meantime, I am curious about at what point we feel it necessary/obligatory to call others out on the conflicts between what they believe and what they live.

    Certainly, we are *all* living in conflict with our values some portion of the time. That awareness (hopefully) brings a measure of humility, but I don't think it necessarily obligates us to remain silent. Futher, some things are of course so outrageous and damaging that to remain silent in the face of them is to commit an evil in its own right. Political persuasion, however, is a more subtle thing (this is true though it has of course become much less subtle and nuanced over the past several election cycles)--I think I'm wondering on what basis you are defining a need to speak or act based on the particular set of precepts to which one subscribes, rather than any overt action on his part.

    At some point, saying something against another's beliefs is justified . . at another point, it would appear to violate our principles (1 and 3, for starters).

  3. Raising Faith:

    Our religious commitments are challenges to what we believe and how we live. Our religious communities, both local and broader, are places where those challenges are brought home to us. I am regularly challenged by our religion about intimate details of my personal life. We are engaged, as a collective body, in thinking about how and what we eat, and whether our eating habits are consistent with our religious values. Surely, our political loyalties deserve the same level of self-examination.

  4. Appreciating your thinking here, Tom. And I especially appreciate the comment "Show your work" because unless I am shown it, like every math teacher I cannot be sure the work really has been done.

    But what troubles me, when I try to follow my own thinking here, is that it's hard for me as a UU humanist to assume I know what's in another's heart. Well, as you say, "Show your work."

    I also find it puzzling (for instance) that UU Christians actually find UU a comforting place to be. Why be a UU if you're Christian when the UCC has its arms open for you? The only way I can make sense of that is to believe deeply in each individual's right to hir own conscience, which includes definitions.

  5. Kim Hampton5:59 PM

    " Why be a UU if you're Christian when the UCC has its arms open for you?"

    Every time I hear this question I want to scream. Aside from the fact that Unitarianism and Universalism are, technically, Christian theologies; why is it only Christian UUs that are asked that question? How come no one asks the Humanist UUs why they don't join their local Ethical Society (or start one)? Or the Pagan UUs why they don't join their local circle (or start one)?

    While some Christian UUs have the option of the UCC or the Episcopal Church (or the DOC/UMC/ABC/etc.), not all of them do. And since U and U are Christian theologies, why shouldn't Christians be a part of UU congregations?

  6. Anonymous2:24 PM


    I am a new UU and politically conservative in many regards. Also, most of my friends are very conservative. I think it is interesting that many UUs seem to think that all conservatives ascribe to a specific Fox-news brand of conservatism. I want to remind them that different types of conservatives exist. But even if a person is conservative in ways that I don't personally ascribe to (anti-LBTQ,pro-defense spending), I think it is more important to realize that most of the time that person is not being hateful or wants to disrespects others' humanity. I honestly believe that most conservatives believe that their "tough stances" are a form of "tough love" that really is considering the humanity of those around them. They want a good community and in general, conservatives are good human beings too, just with tendencies towards different flaws.

  7. Hi,

    I am the lone lay person who ran the workshop you noted above from the GA in AZ. The rest of the folks were UU ministers. I am rather dismayed at your stereotypical characterization of conservatives above. First, I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative. In fact I would argue most of the US is as well. Our session in AZ and again in Providence were extremely well attended because there are a lot of closet conservatives in UU churches. They remain closeted because of the ridicule and insinutations that follow any attempt to speak their minds (in a UU church no less.) The folks that attended our workshop were overjoyed to see someone was addressing this issue. It has since become a movement within UU where we have conducted many workshops and hope to brief the UUA board and staff soon.
    We are not asking UUs to change their opinions on things, quite the contrary. We are asking that the fear exhibited by many liberal UUs towards conservatives be examined. If we expect to be a religion that matters we cannot exclude half the population who voted against Obama in the last election. We need a welcoming tent for all.


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