Time to turn off the cell phones.Time to put the pagers on stun.It’s even time to put a piece of duct tape on the face of your watch.It’s Christmas Eve and time is standing still for a moment. It is the time, maybe the only time of the year, when here and now drift away and we fall under the spell of story-time. Tonight we are both here, AND on a lonely hillside outside of Bethlehem. Tonight, we are with each other, friends and family, returning students and relatives from far away, AND we are also with the Magi, on a journey and such a hard time for journey. Tonight we listen to our choir, AND we listen to choirs of angels, a whole heavenly host of angels we have heard on high. Tonight, like every night, is new, a never happening before moment in onrushing time, AND yet, we have been here before, done this before, told this story before, and heard it before. There is way that the story we tell tonight is always happening: birth and death and taxes, weary travelers with no place to stay, b…
We are talking about the historical context of the 1940's and 1950's Liberal Religion. The first factor was the Cold War; the second factor was Suburbanization, and the third was the emergence of integrationist Civil Rights Movement, mostly in the South: Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Unitarians and Universalists were largely sympathetic to the Civil Rights movement. In this, they were moving in that direction with a larger force of white liberals. The question that I have is "how did those U/U's see the theological justification for that alliance?"
In 1946, in the immediate aftermath of the war, A. Powell Davies proclaimed in: ‘A Faith of an Unrepentant Liberal”: calling Unitarianism “the faith that begins in individual freedom of belief and goes to the limitless, building throughout the world the Free and Universal Church." Davies was centering a universal movement toward freedom in…
In 1947, President of the American Unitarian Association, Frederick May Eliot, proposed the formation of the United Liberal Church of America, which would be created by the coming together of Reformed Jews, Unitarians, Universalists, Ethical Culture, and religious liberals “of every name and sign”.
Eliot’s proposal was in tune with the times. World War 2 had been won through the creation of a large multi-national alliance of nations. The postwar era continued that trend; it was all about creating big institutions. In the postwar period, NATO was created and the European Common Market, and the United Nations. Big was good; big equalled power. President Eliot saw that the need to create a larger and more powerful institution for liberal religion. He had a specific understanding of what was needed for liberal religious growth — institutional strength.
The desire for greater institutional strength led eventually to the merger of the Unitarians and Universalists in 1961; it was a much more…
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.
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…