Unitarian Universalism backed into a type of moral reasoning based on principles when we adopted the Seven Principles.
A "principle" is a formalized abstraction. "The inherent worth and dignity of every person." The moral reasoning that follows the promotion of a principle is discerning what they principle means and how to apply it to real life situations. Because we have seven principles, we have to also reason through how this principle relates to others. (Should the first principle be first, or should the last be first.?) And finally, because principles are generalizations, they can be tested by trying to find the boundaries and the exceptions, which leads to a lot of discussions about Hitler. Did Hitler still have worth and dignity?
"Virtues", in contrast, are character traits, habitual behaviors, and a mixtures of emotions and rational thought. A virtue is a way of being human. I have my list of the virtues of liberal religion: self-possession, hon…
There has been some discussion on blogs and email lists about this poem that I read at the UUCF communion service in Portland, OR this spring. Much has been said about its content and tone. Read it for yourself.
St. Thomas Didymus
In the hot street at noon I saw him a small man gray but vivid, standing forth beyond the crowd's buzzing holding in desperate grip his shaking teethgnashing son,
and thought him my brother.
I heard him cry out, weeping and speak those words, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief,
and knew him my twin:
a man whose entire being had knotted itself into the one tightdrawn question, Why, why has this child lost his childhood in suffering, why is this child who will soon be a man tormented, torn, twisted? Why is he cruelly punished who has done nothing except be born?
The twin of my birth was not so close as that man I heard say what my heart sighed with each beat, my breath silently cried in and out, in and o…
Voicing the suspicion that the Independent Affiliate disaffiliation has actually been an institutional and administrative dodge to the question of polyamory and the UUPA has, as could be expected, kicked off a discussion of the same subject on this blog. So be it.
Some of where I am coming from.
1. Monogamy has been the norm in this culture for a long time. It is a restraint in that it does not come easily to everyone. It chafes. It calls for self-discipline. 2. Other cultures practice various forms of polygamy, and that is usually to the detriment of women. How this works out in the new global culture coming is anyone's guess. 3. There has been, also, a bohemian rebellion against monogamy among the more privileged sets for quite a while under a variety of names: free love, open marriage, and now "polyamory". Polyamory is a neologism -- a new and made up word which carries within itself a loaded message. Who is against more and many loves? The question is not how …
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…
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.