How to fight classism in UU Churches

Is your congregation on the side of working class and poor people in the real world?

Is it as important to you and your church that people in your community are subject to exploitation as they are to oppression?

Same sex couples in your community may not be allowed the rights and privileges of a legal marriage.  It's an outrage.  It is great that your congregation will say so publicly, and will support every effort to change that.

Does your congregation also see it as also outrageous that minimum wage workers in your community, working for some of the biggest corporations in the country, cannot earn enough to support a family, even with two or three jobs?

Does your congregation also speak up for Walmart workers who must go through Medicaid for health care and food stamps for food?

Is your congregation willing to go to the State Capitol to lobby for Medicaid expansion in your state?  UU's organize lobby days for reproductive justice; do they do the same for poor kids' health?

Yes, our churches and congregations often have middle-class biases.  We have ways of doing things that are suitable for middle-class people.  We assume that our budgets are due to our prosperous members being cheap, rather than the limited resources of our community.  We assume a lot of things.  And we should work on those issues.

But we should also look outside at the real struggles going on in the world.  The real problem for a single mother trying to make it by piecing together a retail part-time job and a fast-food service job, neither with benefits is not that she might feel uncomfortable at First UU when people talk about their European vacations.  Many of her problems center around her low pay and poor benefits at work and cheap social services in the community.  She suffers economically because people like her have little political power, and she can be exploited at will.

Does your church still have a pro and con panel discussion and an open forum before it marches with its banner in the local Pride parade?  Probably not.  You've had those discussions and have moved as a body from the sidelines into the struggle.

We are not there yet now, but we should be moving on toward that place, where poor and working class people know that Unitarian Universalists are on their side.

Exploitation is as morally offensive as marginalization and oppression.


  1. I agree with what you point out as classism in UU Churches. But I don't see the "how". Maybe it's because people who have never experienced poverty or discrimination simply don't have the compassion-passion for these issues. In my own church I feel we are not as committed to these issues as we are for "standing on the side of love."

  2. In the Cherry Hill congregation, it has been a few years since our social justice program fell into disarray. A couple of people are committed, it seems but not the congregation as a whole--or at least I'm not seeing it. There's plenty of talk, but not a lot of action. So how do you suggest we "fight classism in UU Churches?"

  3. Susan, get involved in these struggles outside the church and in the community. Find the people in the church who are sympathetic and get them involved, too. The church isn't an object that you organize; the church is a part of the community where you can organize.

  4. Hi Tom - I know that this is an older blog post, but I'm just finding it as I'm doing a bit of research. I'm currently the Director of Lifespan Experience for a UU congregation, and I'd love to connect with you to discuss the topics of ageism and classism, particularly as they relate to the changing needs of families in our UU congregations. If you might have time to help me consider this subject further, I'd really appreciate it! My work email address is Thank you in advance for your time!


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