Monday, November 25, 2013



I mean, there's "living with paradox" and then there's just being incoherent.

Viewed through the lens of colonialism, these celebrate opposite actions.

If Ayn Rand and Karl Marx had the same birthday, could we just call it Four-Letter-Last-Name-Social-Theorist Day?

Should Minister's Housing Be Taxed?

There is a constitutional question.  Does the ministerial housing allowance exemption establish religion?  Does it violate the equal protection as it gives one profession a tax advantage over another?

The courts will decide that question.

As a matter of policy, should ministers get this preferential treatment?  

I don't know, and I am not going to try to figure that one out.

The question presumes a neutral position of the decider. That there is someone who objectively decides what is in the best interests of society as a whole. Whether such a person exists, and why, other than being elected, any person should take on that point of view, I doubt.

I am a minister, whose first circle of solidarity beyond my family are my colleagues.  And I am a particular minister: retired, financially secure, not currently enjoying the ministerial exemption for housing, although I will in the future.

So decency and solidarity keep me from advocating a position that will damage my colleagues so directly, when such pain is more remote for me.

At the same time, I fear for our professional self-interest leading us astray.

I would not advocate for a response that would further separate us from the people that we serve.  We already claim a lot of privileges that they don't have, which they must pay for.  I am aware that my spouse works incredibly hard at a profession which demands new knowledge all the time, and a sabbatical is never possible for her.  To go to those we serve and insist that they make up what we will lose when the IRS taxes our housing allowance: is that where we ought to be?

So I say, remember the context.  The income and wealth are being concentrated at the top.  Our position as ministers of locally supported congregations will be better served if the minimum wage is raised significantly, if the social security benefits are increased and not cut, if our congregants have health security, if there is major investments in infrastructure and education, if our communities have abundant food, if we have a growing and expanding economy, if prosperity is shared.

Taxing Minister's Housing

A US District Judge has ruled that the practice of exempting ministerial housing allowances from taxable income is an "establishment of religion" and thus, unconstitutional.

There will be appeals of this ruling, which will prove that the clergy are no more willing to see a tax increase on themselves as any other profession. Anti-clericals were be delighted with this unsurprising news. The tax code is riddled through and through with special favors, dispensations, exemptions, credits and deductions for all sorts of groups. But ministers are supposed to be above all that.

A tax advantage for one profession is indefensible, except that "everybody does it."

So let's leave moralizing aside and look at this for what it will do.

The "voluntary association" religious organization is dying out. By "voluntary association" religious organization, I mean a religious organization that is created and sustained primarily by the voluntary contributions of less than a thousand ordinary people. Out of their gathered contributions, the organization has a building and a professional leader, some staff and some programs. Churches and other religious congregations are the prevalent form of voluntary organization in the country, a long-standing fixture.

They are becoming unsustainable in their present form, in almost every aspect. They ran on volunteer labor, but the role of women as necessary workers in most families has dried up that source. Paying staff to do what volunteers used to do is expensive, and underpaying them is unjust. Rising real estate costs have made the building more difficult to sustain, and new buildings often prohibitive in growing areas. The rising cost of higher education has saddled the ministers with large debts, which must be repaid with current salaries.  

But the overall cause for the decline of religious institutions: stagnant incomes for all but the wealthiest is making churches and congregations unsustainable. Imposing an additional tax burden on ministers will only make it worse. Either ministers lose income which cannot be made up by the congregation, or congregations are further squeezed.

It's a class issue. For decades, there has been a conflict over the wealth created by this economy. The wealthy have managed to accumulate most of it, and as a result, popular grass root institutions that depend on grass roots financing are withering away.

Yes, there are some churches and congregations doing well. If they have wealthy members, or well-paid professional members they will do well. If they have endowments from previous generations, they can survive. If they can accumulate enough spare capital from wealthy members to market themselves effectively, they can become large enough to succeed, but how many small churches die to make a mega-church thrive? (Remember the total proportion of church goers is dropping, so rapidly growing churches are growing at others' expense.)

One can argue that capitalism's "creative destruction" has come to the religio-industrial complex.  This is no different, one could argue, than the destruction of the mom-and-pop stores by the supermarkets. Within the capitalist ideology, whatever happens is probably for the best. (And they say religious people are utopian!)

But within a worldview that says what is for the best will be made by self-directed human beings working in voluntary associations, economic conditions that threaten grass-roots institutions are not "creative destruction" but just "destructive destruction."(read your James Luther Adams, clergy!)

This ruling will bring new attention to the finances of the grass-roots church of all denominations.  But let's see it for what it is: part of the destruction of autonomous and self-directed voluntary organizations for the poor, the working class and the middle classes. It's coming close to the clergy, now. We, in the clergy, might want to blame the IRS for this downturn in our personal economies, but the larger picture is growing class divide, and the impoverishment of the majority.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Religious Community is Not Enough

An article of mine, in this month's UU World.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Every Baby Should be Blessed; Every Family Affirmed

I want to urge Unitarian Universalism to go into the baby blessing ministry.  I mean UU ministers and UU churches should commit whole-heartedly to the blessing of babies, all babies, any babies.

A baby blessing is a family ritual.  How being blessed in a ritual changes the baby, I have no idea.  But it can change the family.  At least, it can strengthen all that is good in a parenting situation.  A baby blessing ritual steps outside of the routine of child-rearing and invites the parents, the grandparents, the extended family and friends to express their best hopes for this new child, and to offer their best intentions for caring for it.

There are lots of babies being born.  For many of these babies, there is not an appropriate and meaningful ritual for their blessing.  For young people who are not connected to a religious institution, for young people whose relationship status doesn't conform to social expectations, for parents who are spiritual but not religious, there is no ritual form for them to solemnize their intentions to be good parents.  

There is a spiritual hunger, and we should offer to feed it.

Our baby blessing should come right out of our core theology.  Each baby is a person, unique and irreplaceable.  The baby blessing ceremony should challenge parents and families to respect and honor that child's own soul.  A child is not a toy, a pet, a person who can use to fulfill our own needs.  A child is not here to bring you glory, or fulfill your dreams.  In all likelihood, a child will not turn out as you expect, or hope.  In every baby blessing I have ever conducted, I have heard parents promise to love their child "unconditionally."  That's very hard, and it is a good thing to have made that promise solemnly and publicly.

At the same time, children will be shaped by the networks of people around them.  Our ceremony should challenge parents and families to bring their best and most loving selves to that child, to be mindful of what they are teaching and showing.  Our ceremony should make room for parents and friends to state their best intentions for parenting.

Our religious tradition names the tension between the freedom of every soul and intricate webs of mutual responsibility that makes human life possible as does no other, and the task of parenting is performed in that tension.

I envision a time when every UU church has an extensive ministry of blessing babies and families throughout their communities.  People know us as the baby blessing people.  I imagine our churches being the site of baby blessings on weekends; while we may bless the babies of our congregation on Sunday morning, we bless more babies and families at other times in our sacred space.  There is no reason why only ordained ministers should perform baby blessings.

I can envision other ministries that surround these ceremonies: a pastoral dimension.  Our young parents can be lay ministers companioning other young parents.

We could have a community ministry of parenting support groups, and serve as a contact point for resources for more serious issues.  As we touch more and more young families in our communities, their issues will become our issues: adequate childcare, education, recreation, child safety.

For some families, their baby blessing will be a start of longer term relationship with Unitarian Universalism.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hanukkah 2013:

Hanukkah 2013 comes around Thanksgiving, which allows preachers and worship leaders to separate it from Christmas and the solstice.  I urge Unitarian Universalists to take it up on its own terms.  It is a very relevant topic for today's culture, and one that has a bit of a bite for some of our prevailing religiously liberal thought.

You know the story by now, so I won't retell it here.

The Maccabean revolt was the revolt of a small nation against an overwhelming, globalized Empire, which was forcing a cultural assimilation onto the people it conquered.  The festival of Hanukkah celebrates a miracle that occurred as the Maccabees reclaimed a sacred site of their culture from the conquerers.  Celebrating Hanukkah is celebrating the struggle to be different, and to resist those who hold superior military and economic power from suppressing and misappropriating an indigenous culture.

The contemporary critique from African American women of Miley Cyrus for misappropriating twerking is in line with the spirit of Hanukkah.  Hanukkah argues that God is on the side of cultural resistance to conquest, colonialism and domination.

The problem is that UU's and other religious liberals, have been misappropriating Hanukkah for decades, dragging it into our "Holiday Celebrations of Light in the Darkness" as though it was just one slightly different way of expressing the same, universal impulse.

There is a stage of understanding differences in culture that minimizes those differences: A stage in which a person thinks that "we are all alike beneath our trivial surface differences."  UU's have often approached Hanukkah in that spirit.  Some UU's don't like Hanukkah because they detect within the story a message that subverts our understanding of Universalism.  In some ways, we can be more in tune with the Romans who saw no problem in filling Zion's Temple with altars to many gods and goddesses.  

This is an excellent year to upend the traditional UU understanding of Hanukkah.  It's not a quaint old story about God's supernatural powers, but a story that reveals real contemporary fault lines in culture.  It is a story that also reads us as we read it: who are we in this story?  How have we acted in regards to other cultures and religions?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Unitarian Universalism in the Age of Obama

In an informal conversation with John Buehrens at the UU History and Heritage Convocation in DC last weekend, we remarked on the 1890's as a period of inactivity in the history of Unitarianism.  He had noticed it in the history of All Souls in New York, and I had seen the same at First Unitarian in Worcester.  John suggested that periods of social progressivism were not good periods for Unitarianism or Unitarian Universalism.  The 1970's were another example of the same thing.

The hypothesis is that when there are many outlets for action for change, liberal churches are not as needed.  It seems to make sense.

But I have some questions.  One is that the 1890's was a progressive era, only in part.  The 1890's was also when Jim Crow was consolidated in the South.  Revisions to state constitutions in the Southern States formally disenfranchised African Americans, making possible the enactment of strict laws of segregation.  The 1890's saw the anti-lynching struggle of Ida B. Wells.  So, I think more historical analysis of how Unitarian and Universalist churches were positioned in that era is needed.

But if periods of progressive change (at least in the circles UU churches are tending to travel in) are not good for their growth and vitality, what about the near future?

The USA is currently in a period of extreme political polarization caused by reactionary resistance to the growing political power of reform-minded population.  All of the cultural, social and economic issues are being concentrated and expressed in an overtly partisan political conflict.  I have argued that Unitarian Universalism, as a religious movement, must recognize this, and act appropriately.  What we hope for, and have worked for, and have tried to embody is now resolutely resisted, by any means possible, by one party and its allies, and supported by the other.

History moves toward crisis and clarity.  All of the myriad opinions about slavery in the US eventually came down to the question of victory or defeat for the Union.  If the Union won the Civil War, slavery would end.  It it lost, slavery would continue in a breakaway Confederacy.

Our customary thinking about the political neutrality of liberal religion will not be applicable for the present and the near future.

But this extreme anti-reform reaction will be defeated.  The political branches of "powers that be" are not adapting well to the changing demographics of the country, and the viewpoints of the young. What political institution can the 1% rely on to protect their interests?  The GOP is too beholden to its elderly, racist, theocratic base to win and exercise power.  The 1% can also try to influence the Democrats, but there, they are trying to moderate a progressive party fueled by the votes of the One Percent's most politically aware adversaries.

There may be window of time when the GOP can no longer win, and the 1% don't yet control the Democrats.  In that window of time, serious reform is possible.  Just imagine what would be happening if the Democrats win the House in 2014, and if the Senate Democrats end the filibuster.  Comprehensive immigration reform, ENDA, better gun policies, raising the minimum wage, ending the war on drugs, national marriage equality, nationwide federal election and voting rights reform, Wall Street regulation, retirement security and more could be possible.  A tax on carbon?  Reproductive Justice?

Would Unitarian Universalism, then, still be relevant?  Or are we where socially progressive white middle-class people gather for strength and solace when and where the culture is hostile? Who are we going to be when most churches are welcoming, when marriage equality is universal, and when the general culture reflects the values of the millennials.

In the 1970's, some Unitarian Universalists looked for the cutting edge.  We embarrassed ourselves.

I do not think that we can be relevant purely on the basis of our "religious" ideas.  "Religious" ideas don't matter anymore in and of themselves.  On the other hand, people who seem to have clear ideas about important matters and appear to live by them seem to matter.

In both the time of greater conflict to come, and in an age of social reform, what matters most for Unitarian Universalism is whether we provide a path from humane thought to humane practice.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Federalism and Institutionalized Racism.

First, go and check out this article  at Talking Points Memo.

It show the 25 states that have refused to implement the Medicaid expansion provisions of "ObamaCare" and the number of people who are, as a result, still going to be without adequate health care.  It's about 5 million people.

It boggles the mind to imagine that this is a sustainable political position, but that is another question.

Non-cooperation with Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is one of the tactics that the Republican Party has adopted, so the map is close to the political map of the USA -- the familiar L Shape of a solid GOP South and then a vertical slice up the plains and mountain as well.

The slave economy of the South made all of the consumption done by the slaves a direct expense of the slaveowners.  The slaveowners could control the quality and quantity of food, clothes and housing that the slaves used.  There was no return from those expenses except the bodily continuation of the slaves and their families.

The wage labor system elsewhere put cash in the hands of workers, who then spent the cash.  That money circulated.

One of the legacies of slavery is that there is a whole section of the country which assumes that wages and benefits given to those who work, and consequently those not working, should be minimized to the greatest extent possible.

As soon as the Supreme Court said that states did not have to extend Medicaid to the working poor, those states took the opportunity to minimize another benefit to their workers.  That benefit would disrupt the whole low-wage, low-benefit economy of the region.

Whenever a federal program is implemented and administered by the states, the program will end up reinforcing the local systems of exploitation and oppression.  And that is usually the price of getting legislation through Congress.  Very few programs have benefit levels not set by the state: Social Security is one, although workers in low wage states will have contributed less over their working life and will therefore receive a lower benefit, no matter where they live.

"Federalism" is a crucial institution that makes up institutionalized racism.  Although it appears "race neutral" and motivated by the high principles of "decentralized democracy" and "local control", it reinforces racial inequality and empowers disproportionately those who lead local systems most successful in subjugating African Americans and other populations of color.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A Different Tribe for a Different World.

Rev. Thom Belote
Minister of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian 
Universalist Church in Lenexa, KS

Rev. Thom Belote preached recently about Unitarian Universalist identity.  He was inspired by an essay by Sharon Hwang Colligan about people raised as UU's:  Children of a Different Tribe

Belote writes:

Colligan writes that when the children of a different tribe reminisce about their cultural experience of having grown up UU, they talk about being in an environment marked by realness, honesty, friendship, and truth. I might unpack those just a bit.

Realness is the same thing as authenticity. It is the ability to be open with others without armor or defenses. It is the result of having a safe environment, a community that sings the “How can anyone ever tell you, you are anything less than beautiful?” song to each other.

Honesty is an inner commitment to follow the dictates of conscience. It is made possible only when acceptance is assured.

Friendship is a warm embrace of one another. It is the embodiment of welcoming and acceptance.

Truth is a method of exploration. It sees unquestioning faith as an oxymoron. It holds that revelation is not sealed and that our understanding is always evolving.

I grew up Unitarian and then Unitarian Universalist (the border moved; I didn't) and so that makes me also a child of this different tribe, in the geezer division.

Without taking anything away from Colligen and Belote's thoughts about the differences within the UU movement between those raised in the faith and those who come in later, I would expand the scope of this discussion.

It is an unfortunate result of our inward-looking anxious sectarianism that we see all the big questions as being about ourselves and through the lens of barriers to our own inclusivity.

Thanks to our religious education program, Colligen argues (and Belote agrees) that those who grew up in our faith are shaped by a culture of realness, honesty, friendship and truth.  This "tribe" rubs up against those in our churches who came in from elsewhere and were formed around different values and stories.  It's an uneasy interaction which raises the question of how our congregations can become shaped more by the mostly younger people who grew up UU, rather than by people who are adult converts.   An interesting question, for sure.

But step back and look at in a larger context.  It describes the interaction between Unitarian Universalism and the wider culture, as well.  Our goal is to humanize the culture: to make everything a culture of "realness, honesty, friendship and truth."  In other words, this is not just about our internal power dynamics, this is also about our evangelical work.

Sounds ambitious, yes?

Two points:   (1) we know how to do it.  The fact that we are even having this discussion means that we are already doing it some of the time.  (2) we are not doing this alone; there are already many others in this culture working to transform our culture into one one realness, honesty, friendship and truth.  

Monday, November 04, 2013

Why the "Lively Tradition"

Welcome to new readers, who may be visiting from the UU World.

 A religious tradition, like Unitarian Universalism, stays alive by looking at the present moment with fresh eyes whenever it can.   It asks itself, again and again, what is happening now?  How have conditions changed?  Are we speaking to what is happening now?  Are we offering yesterday's nostrums and platitudes?  How can we see the future if we cannot even comprehend the present?

The overriding concern of this blog is that Unitarian Universalism is not so much a fresh and relevant voice for today.  This is not a generational argument on my part.  I am a boomer through and through, and only a half a year out from choosing my Medicare supplemental insurance.  But I can see that we UU's are lagging behind reality.

I am most concerned about our public theology: the implications that we draw from our liberal religious theology about the state of the world and public policy.  I know that most UU's are more afraid that we lag behind in worship style and in community creation.  I think that these are secondary questions.

The primary questions are "Who are we?  What do we stand for?  What are we embodying in our social practice?"  The perceptions about us that we should be most concerned about are the ones that go like this:  "Unitarian Universalism: there's no there there" and  "Unitarian Universalism: nice people who have mastered the arts of inoffensiveness".

One of my starting points is my perception that contemporary Unitarian Universalism is still recovering from the 40 year dominance of anti-liberal conservatism in this country -- a period that started with Nixon and finally began to break up with the election of Obama.  (Presidents are only the tip of the iceberg of public thinking.)   UU's operate on the assumptions that we have little social power and that the majority of people would be angry with us if they knew about us.  I think that those days are coming to an end.  A new progressive majority is rising and the presumptions of liberal religion are at the heart of the new social system.

The questions about which this blog is trying to stimulate discussion and change:

1.  The state of our democracy and liberal religion: I point to all the ways that I think it is clear that the Tea Party/Republican/Libertarian/Conservative Christian coalition is actively seeking to thwart the power of the emerging progressive majority.  I think Liberal Religion should fight to expand government of, by and for the people.  Now.  But Unitarian Universalists are stuck in nostrums of the past: the supposed differences between Liberal Religion and Liberal Politics, the necessity of political neutrality in congregations, the need to not offend anyone.

2.  The conditions of poor and working class people in our economy and the incredible power and wealth of the 1%.  What's happening now out there are fights for a living wage, and to improve the conditions of fast food workers, and what will be a big fight to expand Medicaid in red states.  What's happening in here, in UULand, is a focus on "classism" as a type of exclusion within our congregations, making "class" an "identity" which matches our old ways of thinking.  Are we willing to be allies of the working poor and poor out there?

3.  Who are we? Beyond our sectarian and denominational identity, who are we and who are allies in what social struggles?  I am trying to shift the discussion from "what do our UU Principles demand of us as social practice?" to "what are the social implications of the centuries old liberal religious tradition?"  The former is sectarian, self-serving and isolating.  The latter makes us part of a larger historical movement, where there are numerous allies.

4.  And everywhere, on questions of theology, worship and church practice, this blog hopes to look beneath the self-satisfied conventional wisdom and happy talk of contemporary Unitarian Universalism: the atomization that prevents discussion. (One of the reasons people say there is no "there there" in UUism, is that UU's avoid saying that there is "we here".)

And it is equally dissatisfied with all the oft-repeated "old school" griping about UUism: that we need to return somehow to being the most liberal wing of mainline Protestantism and a happy wildlife refuge where the soon to be extinct moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats mix and mingle.

If none of this is clear, stick around.   I hope that it gets a little livelier around here.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Competing Moral Foundations.

Jonathon Haidt, the author of "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion" presents this graph.  

He calls values listed horizontally (harm, fairness, ingroup etc.) moral foundations.  He measures how people, presumedly self-identified, with different political loyalties use these moral foundations in their moral reasoning.  His point is that the Right and Left have differing moral compasses, and so they go in differing directions.

I couldn't even begin to make a rigorous critique of the social science involved here.  I don't even know what the vertical axis is measuring.  But I can tell what's bigger and what's smaller.

A couple of things stand out:  liberals are more likely to be motivated by concerns about the harm to people in any situation; liberals are more likely to be concerned with fairness.  They are less likely to be concerned about maintaining the boundaries between the ins and the outs, less concerned about authority and less motivated to maintain the purity codes that are the basis of the moral test of "ickiness".

I am especially confused about these last two categories of "lifestyle liberty" and "economic liberty" since they seem to be derivative of the other five values.  If you are not concerned about the harm that might flow to others and you are not concerned about fairness, then "economic liberty" seems to follow logically, if you define "economic liberty" as the freedom to make and spend money as you wish.

I do not think that these moral preferences are determined by brain chemistry on an individual level.  They are, I think, culturally produced.  They are values handed down through families and reinforced through the culture, including religious institutions.

This graph connects with one of my concerns about Unitarian Universalism.  Liberal Religion is not good at defining its pastoral mission on a social level.  We get pastoral ministry on an individual and personal level, but on a social level, we are tongue-tied and reticent.

Where are we trying to take people?  How are we proposing to change them?  How are we proposing to "convert" people in any deeper sense than getting them to join one of our congregations?

This chart is as good an explanation as any, although differing language could be used, and there is one thing missing.

Here's the question: how would we bring people to operate out of the particularly liberal cluster of moral values: compassionate, fair, open, and less deferential to authority? How could we make them the moral foundations of our culture? We will not, of course, be entirely successful at this; we are one strand of culture among many.  But this is who we are and what we stand for and it should be what we are trying to spread.

What tools do we have to do this work?  We have congregations, and buildings and religious professionals.  Most of work we do is the creation of worship experiences, mostly for ourselves, but theoretically for all.  We have programs, including our work to try to shape the moral universe of our children.  These are only our assets; but assets are not purposes.

To pull this together, the question that I have is this: How are we to use our ability to create worship experiences and to put together programs for children and adults to influence the people around us to count compassion and fairness more heavily than authority, tribal loyalty and "ickiness" in their moral reasoning? 

An Easy Fifth Principle Application

The fifth Principle that our UU congregations covenant to affirm says this:

  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
That would include, I believe, two things: a return to majority rule in procedures of the US Senate and making it possible for legislation supported by a majority of US House members to get a vote on the floor.  After all, "democratic process" includes majority rule. Right now, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which managed to get a 60 vote supermajority to get through the Senate, cannot get a vote in the House even though a majority would be vote for it.  It is only one of many pieces of legislation supported by a majority in both houses which has not only been 'slowed down for deeper consideration', but stopped outright by a minority.

Ed Kilgore, at the Political Animal blog at the Washington Monthly website, makes the point yesterday that the 'partisan gridlock' in Washington is the result of undemocratic procedures in both Houses of Congress.  Minorities have the power to stop the process, and then make demands for concessions, which thwarts the will of the majority.  Both of these obstacles (the filibuster and the so-called Hastert rule, which derives from House Rules which now give the Speaker the sole power to determine what gets a vote) are not in the Constitution.

This raises a point about UU public theology and preaching, and the way that we understand the implications of our theological commitments for the events of the day.

I suspect that many a UU minister has preached a sermon over the last few years which decried the political polarization in Washington and in the general political order.  And I suspect that most of those sermons identified the cause of that polarization in a set of personal shortcomings in the population at large: we need to listen more to each other; we need to have more compassion for each other's experience that lead to our political positioning; we need to learn better conflict resolution skills; we need to stop to listening to advocacy news sources; we need to see how we are all implicated in this behavior.  Oh, for the days of bi-partisanship and sensible centrism. 

I suspect that most of those sermons were considered acceptable UU sermons; after all, they would offend no one in the pews. 

But I doubt that many sermons straightforwardly called for majority rule and democratic processes in our national legislature, a position which is the clear implication of the phrase "in the society at large" of the fifth principle.  But such a sermon would coincide with the political interests of the Democrats in Washington right now, and that would make it offensive to politically conservative minority in our congregations.   

As I inquire into the state of UU public theology, I become aware that different congregations have different standards, and those standards are different than for the resolutions that GA passes.  In some congregations, straight forward advocacy on political issues is acceptable, and even expected.  A GA resolution can advocate explicitly, as well.  In our larger congregations however, I suspect that more caution reigns.  

Either we take our agreements to affirm certain principles seriously, or we don't.  I think we need a serious debate among UU's on the state of democratic governance in the United States today, and what role liberal religion, and the Unitarian Universalist movement, should play in its defense and revival.