The other day, the UUA President, the Rev. Peter Morales and the President / CEO of the UU Women's Federation, the Rev. Marti Keller released a statement on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Go read it; there is not a single word in this statement I disagree with.
However, I wonder to whom it is written. It reads as though it is written to be read by Unitarian Universalists who are checking up on the UUA to make sure that it is properly focused on this issue. It reads as though it is written to be read by people who are our coalition partners who want to understand the fullness of our position as they work with us.
What I would like to see us say is something like this:
To all people, especially young people, especially young women:
You have the right to have the children you want to have, and to not to have children you don't want to have, You have the right to raise your children in safe and healthy environments, and you have the right to express your sexuality without oppression.
These rights are the cornerstones of reproductive justice, and every person, including you, should have them. They are human rights. They are bigger than just the right to choose an abortion if you are pregnant; you have a right to get appropriate health care, to receive complete and accurate information about sexuality, to express yourself sexually without coercion, violence and exploitation.
Unitarian Universalists have been fighting for your right to reproductive justice for all people for decades. Today is the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that upheld your right to choose an abortion. We celebrate that victory. We were fighting for reproductive justice before then, and have been ever since, and will continue to åas long as it needed.
If we are going to make a statement, we should make it to the people we are working for, and we should make it so it can be understood.
If you have not yet read Mark Morrison-Reed’s history of the Black Empowerment Controversy, do so as soon as possible.
Is there any period of time when the interplay of historical developments outside of Unitarian Universalism and its own history were more clear?
The rise of the Black Power movement was a mortal danger to the Unitarian Universalism that was formed in 1961. Racial Liberalism (integrationist, color-blind, universalist) was at the center of its public ministry, and its public ministry was at the heart of its mission. Public ministry had to be because the new denomination had punted on theology and liturgy because of the unresolved conflict between humanists and theists.
Reading Morrison-Reed, what struck me was the good faith effort that the UUA made to respond to the demands of the Black Affairs Council. But it could not let go of its racial liberalism, as evidenced by its unwillingness to stop funding of Black and White Action (BAWA). And that was the breaking po…
I wonder if the UUA's stuckness on race isn't built into our DNA, established at the time of merger. As I have mentioned before, our formation came in a particular time of history (1961) and at a particular time in the development of liberal religion.
Religious liberals were polarized between theists and humanists, and as a consequence turned toward public ministry as a way to unify.
At that point in time, the early 1960's, Racial Liberalism was the prevailing social vision. (Racial Liberalism can be defined as Integration and the minimization of racial difference. Color-blindness as a goal.)
In the absence of deeper theological unity, Racial Liberalism became the practical embodiment of Universalism, what we understood ourselves to be. Not just what we believed, but what we were.
You can see it in the shocked white response to the formation of black-only UU organizations in the late 1960's. Race-based caucusing was seen to a violation of something fundamental about…
We are talking about the historical context of the 1940's and 1950's Liberal Religion. The first factor was the Cold War; the second factor was Suburbanization, and the third was the emergence of integrationist Civil Rights Movement, mostly in the South: Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Unitarians and Universalists were largely sympathetic to the Civil Rights movement. In this, they were moving in that direction with a larger force of white liberals. The question that I have is "how did those U/U's see the theological justification for that alliance?"
In 1946, in the immediate aftermath of the war, A. Powell Davies proclaimed in: ‘A Faith of an Unrepentant Liberal”: calling Unitarianism “the faith that begins in individual freedom of belief and goes to the limitless, building throughout the world the Free and Universal Church." Davies was centering a universal movement toward freedom in…
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.
The institutional DNA of the Unitarian Universalist Association was established at the time of merger. (I am talking about the UUA, not individual congregations, or this larger thing of the "liberal religious tradition in the USA")
I see three governing assumptions that come down from the time of merger.
(1) We are going to be bigger. The merger generation assumed that we were poised to become the religious movement that captured the emerging new consensus: progressive, modernist, liberal, cosmopolitan, tolerant. Millions of people were coming our way; our work was to make them room.
The problem with the assumption that we are the verge of growth is that it has created a recurring frustration, a nagging "what is wrong with us?" bouncing around in our collective heads.
(2) The merger generation thought that public ministry was our most important work. The President would be our public spokesperson, and their ideal ministry setting was the steps of the Capitol.