I think that we know this already; we, especially the Unitarians, are well aware of our New England roots, a heritage we are both proud of and embarrassed by.
On the other hand, we are clearly an ethnic religion with multi-cultural ambitions.
I have some questions to which someone might have answers.
Is there a Yankee diaspora? As the population of the US moved West, did New England Yankees create small outposts of New English Yankee culture across the country? Was the spread of Unitarianism tied to these circles? Anecdotal evidence of some of the largest and most established Unitarian churches in the Midwest point to that pattern.
When was the tipping point, if there was one, when Unitarian Universalism in the Midwest, South and West, ceased to be Yankee religion in a strange land? What percentage of non-New England UU congregations are of a different ethnic background than Yankee, or don't have New England connections?
If we are a Yankee religion by heritage and habit (by DNA as is now said), what was the process of that no longer defining us in the present? In other words, if we are less Yankee than we used to be, then we have already been in a process of becoming more multi-cultural. How did that work? What can we learn from it?
A final set of questions, regarding the larger context.
One of the features of the rise of conservative hegemony in the USA has been the shift in the relative power of groups within the elite. New England and New York capitalists used to be dominant, but that power has shifted West and South, especially due to the economic power of the oil industry.
The political power of New England within the US has been declining. That quintessential New England Republican is a vanishing breed. New Englanders get nominated for US President, but have not won since the Irish Catholic Democrat Kennedy. A New Englander, but not a Yankee.
Meanwhile, within Unitarian Universalism, Republicans are getting rarer. In much of the country, the UU congregation is unabashedly Democratic, or to the left of that. Those to the right are just as likely to be libertarian rather than traditional moderate Republicans.
All my questions center around this larger historical trend: what happens to a New England Yankee, elite religion as the New England elite loses political, economic and social power in the country as a whole?
|Arlington Street Church, Boston: A beautiful reminder of days gone by.|