Mismatches, History, and Hope

In the little world touched by this blog, people have been very likey and sharey and retweety with Mismatches between Unitarian Universalism and the Work It needs to do. I am touched.

Maybe it is just the shorter time period, but people have not responded as fulsomely to the second installment Why the UU Mismatches.

Which should not surprise me; my argument has been that we are out of step with  our times because the forty year period of conservative cultural hegemony turned us inward, limited our growth, and froze our development.  Many resist this line of analysis. As neo-Calvinists, we think that explanations of our disappointments and failures that put the blame on anyone other than our own terrible selves are somehow cheating.

We would rather see ourselves as uniquely awful, but powerful, than ordinary and not in control.

We don't make history as much as history makes us; that is a hard message for us to hear.

But the reign of conservative ideology is coming to an end. That is why our culture is so polarized; we have entered a period of deep conflict and some either/or choices are on the table.

Right now, six social movements are on the move.

  • The Movement for Black Lives, the present incarnation of the Black liberation movement. 
  • The Movement for Reproductive Justice
  • The Movement for LBGTQ Lives, especially the lives and safety of transwomen of color.
  • The Immigrant Movement
  • The Climate Defense Movement.
  • The Movement of low-wage workers and the fight for $15.

Each movement has many fronts and facets, organizations and campaigns. And there are others, as well.

You can trace a direct line between each of these movements and the most important statement of UU public theology (the Seven Principles). People are fighting for the principles we have named as the Seven Principles in the streets everyday.  They may have never heard of Unitarian Universalism. We are not their leaders. The question is whether we will see them as our leaders.

Imagine a world in which all of the social movement I have named  are defeated, defused, and repressed.

Law enforcement continues to kill people at will; the prisons are expanded; women's health is sacrificed for patriarchal morality; transwomen are murdered unnoticed; 11 million people ride cattlecars to the border; the world gets hotter; the rich get richer; the poor get poorer.

What are the prospects of Unitarian Universalism in such a future?

The mismatches I named earlier are the surface signs of a deeper problem, which is our insularity. And our insularity comes from the way that the historical process has shaped us. For we have been shaped by history in such as a way as to be out of touch with what is ground-breaking and innovative in the culture in which we live. History has shaped us to be on the sidelines.

And on the sidelines, we will wither.

So, we need to get off the sidelines, and into life, as it is known and lived by ordinary people today. There is our hope.

Unitarian Universalism must become the most accessible point of contact for and a holistic expression of the movement for social and personal transformation in our culture.

It is a deep spiritual challenge, but we have the theological and religious tools to guide us in that process of spiritual growth.

More on that tomorrow.....


  1. Kim Hampton7:56 PM

    You and I don't normally fundamentally disagree on most things, be we do on this: "But the reign of conservative ideology is coming to an end. That is why our culture is so polarized; we have entered a period of deep conflict and some either/or choices are on the table."

    I don't see the "reign" of conservativism coming to an end anytime soon. Just look at what's happening in many states...the curtailing of voting rights...roll back of women's rights...defunding of education (both elementary/secondary and post secondary)...and on and on and on. Plus, when every major candidate for President on the conservative side has said that we need to re-look at the 14th Amendment, and they don't slide in the polls, we have entered an entirely new era of conservative governance and thoughts about it.

    But then again...my thoughts on hope have changed radically in the past few years. Frankly, I think religious people (of all theological persuasions) use it as an opiate. ok, let me stop and not try to take over your blog.

    thanks for giving me something to think about

  2. Kim, either the reign of conservative ideology is coming to an end, or it isn't. The thing about the future is that it hasn't happened yet. So neither of us really know --- yet.

    I do know that the social movements I have been around usually make their stupidest mistakes when they are desperate and anxious because they think the world is turning against them. Social movements get creative when they think that the tide is with them.

    The incredible staying power of conservative ideology, and their ability to turn any situation to their advantage (invade Iraq, unleash Civil War, create conditions for Sunni based ultra extremism, ISIS happens, shoots up Paris, so we should invade Iraq again.) is daunting.

    Hang on; we'll see.

  3. So do you see a class war going on inside UU culture ? (I do)

  4. Oh, Keith -- whatever happens will. I wish for our ministers and lay leaders to step out into the community and lead us into active solidarity with the social movements already at work in the society. There will be plenty of healthy conflict among us if that happens.

    The watchword for the next period ought to be "relevance".

    The watchword for the last period has been "inclusive".

    A round of discussions about whether our little insular communities are inclusive when it comes to class differences is not what I have in mind.


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