The demobilization of reform forces is the historical context in which we have to look at UU history since 1961.By "demobilization of reform forces," I mean the Nixon-Reagan Thermidor, the mobilization of a conservative counter-movement to all the reformist movements which surfaced in the 50's and 60's.
To tell the story of Unitarian Universalism since merger is to tell the story of the many UU strategies for resisting, escaping, accommodating, subverting and ignoring this counter-revolution. It is the most useful lens through which to view this now 50+ year history, just as we now view the story of Unitarianism in the antebellum period through the lens of abolition and slavery.
It is not our preferred lens. We tell other stories to organize our history. We tell the story of our ever-increasing inclusiveness and openness, as women, gays and lesbians, bisexuals and trans people entered our ministry and congregations. We tell how we created an interfaith solution to the humanist/theist divide which dominated the pre-merger times. We tell a story of courage in Selma and cowardice in Boston and Cleveland, repentance in Calgary and the slow journey since then. You could trace our history along the lines of our youth ministry: LRY and Common Ground, and YRUU, and AYS and OWL.
None of these story are false, and still stand on their own, as histories. I am saying that the overall narrative which brings these together is the story of our attempts to deal with the rising tide of anti-liberalism.
Telling our story in a different way, around a different theme, or in a different key, does not change what happened. It does shake up our thinking, offering different ways to view the present and to see a different future. We are shaped, but not determined, by our history. The first step to changing ourselves is to change how we understand who we are and how we got here.
Such a view, de-centers us. The Nixon-Reagan Thermidor affected every institution, culture and subculture in the country. It gets us out of thinking that we make our history, and in touch with the fact that history makes us, as well.