Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Class Issue for UU's

There is a lot of talk about "class" in UU circles.

Because we are an anxious, internally focused movement, we see the "class" issue as this: are our congregations friendly and welcoming to people who are poor or working class?   We fret about things like "is a requirement for a financial contribution for membership unwelcoming?"  Or "Do we assume too high an educational level to understand our sermons?"  One congregation I was in argued about whether they should use wooden salad bowls or donated shiny metal collection plates to take the collection.

The question is: "are UU congregations friendly and welcoming to poor and working class people?"

Another, more important, question is: "Are UU congregations on the side of poor and working class people in the conflicts and controversies of our day?"

Do we support the efforts of community unionizing, like the Walmart workers or the fast food workers of New York?  Are we on the side of public sector unions when their rights to organize as being restricted in Wisconsin?  Do we oppose the Michigan turn to right-to-work status?  Are we in favor of uninsured workers getting health insurance from someone?  Do we think minimum wage workers should get a raise?

UU's are generally silent on issues of class for many reasons, but mostly because we have never thought them through.

Unitarians and Universalists were involved with 19th century utopian communities (Hopedale, Brook Farm etc.) because they had a revulsion to the rise of industrial capitalism.

What are the traditions and concepts and enduring values that could guide us in these issues?

5 comments:

Joel Monka said...

As our next GA, and the majority of our recent GAs were and will be held in "right to work" states, we must not have a problem with it.

Peter Reilly said...

I don't think Hopedale was an expression of "revulsion" for industrial capitalism. Ballou wrote about finding a way between the schylla of communism and the charabdys of unrestrained greed. The attempted solution was to cap the return to capital and also have a maximum wage that of "a first class operative".

Jennifer Crawford said...

Yes. Thank you for this. Rather than sitting around hating themselves for being too educated or too white, UU's are at their best when they do the work of articulately promoting just policies over unjust policies.

Elz Curtiss said...

Now that I have been poor long enough to believe I will always be poor, it angers me to be asked always to "donate" skills I acquired by spending hard-earned money, or services for which trained professionals should be hired. Our association is a bunch of affluent old people because we refuse to pay for workers, and that forces us to rely on folks with solid pensions and health insurance enough to keep themselves going. As baby boomers swamp these systems -- and we've already blown through our pensions in our fifties and early sixties -- something will have to change.

Anonymous said...

I have started attending a UU rather recently. What kept me away for so long was the view that the UU was too white and too middleclass.

You say "The more important question..."

But I'm not sure "standing on the side of..." can really be meaningful if the voices of those you are standing with are not amongst you - informing and shaping your posture towards the issues.