Friday, April 08, 2016

The Whole GenX UUA President Thing

The UUA President; Generations and Ages.

Allison Miller and Susan Frederick Gray were guests on the CLF’s VUU video broadcast and the observation was made that either one of them would be the first Gen X UUA President, after the long (and oppressive) rule of the Boomers.

The historical fact that the last four UU Presidents were of the Baby Boomer generation was brought up.  

The last four UUA Presidents were born in a narrow span — 1946 to 1949 — it is true. But that also means that they were elected over a broad range of ages. Schulz was 35, Buehrens was 46, Sinkford was 55 and Morales was 64. 

I think the issue is less passing the torch to a new generation (Boomers to GenX) as it is choosing leaders who are in the lifestage appropriate to leading the UUA. 

The Swiss psychologist Erik Erickson hypothesized a lifestage process of development. 

He divided adulthood into three stages of adulthood: a younger (up to 35), middle (35-60) and older (over 60). 

The stage of younger adult is defined by the contradiction between “intimacy” and “isolation”. 

The middle stage, in which first three Boomer UUA Presidents served, is a defined by a contradiction between “generativity” and “stagnation.” The current President was elected within the range defined as middle adulthood. 

The older stage is defined by the contradiction between “integrity” and “despair”.

The younger adult stage is defined by the intimacy vs. isolation. This is not only about finding a life partner, but also making the decisions about the people you are committed to as cohort.

It is not hard to see the call to become a denominational leader is an act which completes the task of choosing cohort of one’s life companions, and the completion of the lifestage of young adulthood. 

The task of the middle adult life stage is “Generativity” vs "stagnation." 

Generativity is sometimes defined as “creativity between the generations” and in family terms is about setting the conditions for the young and education. It also surfaces in life as the creation and building of new organizations, organizational redevelopment, strategy setting for the future, building programs. Under the right conditions, this is the most productive time of life. 

We should expect that leaders of sizable organizations would be in this lifestage, and younger in it, if the work to be done is building, creating, expanding, growing.

I have observed in myself and in other Boomers that the Generative work we do as we move to the end of our Generative stage is what I call ‘perfecting work:” the work of improving what we have done, fixing mistakes, creating better management of the processes we have been working on. The work that so many of us have been doing around governance, stewardship and leadership development is all about perfecting what we have spent our lives doing.

One example is President Morales’ growth strategy of “stop repelling visitors!” We have been doing Sunday congregational worship for quite a while; let’s finally do it right. It’s a perfecting energy at work.

So, it is appropriate that many would want to elect someone in their 40’s as UUA President, because of where they are in their stage of life work. The Boomers are passing out of the Generative stage of their lives.  The GenXer’s are in the full bloom of that lifestage. 






Wednesday, April 06, 2016

84% Democrats: What does that mean?

The UU World ran this article summarizing a recent poll about the political affiliations of various religious groupings in the USA. In brief, it shows that 84% of UU identify as Democrats. Only historic Black denominations are more Democratic.

Who was surprised that UU's were as strongly affiliated with the Democratic Party as this poll shows?

What does it mean?

What one thinks about this probably has a lot to do with what you think the highest value of Unitarian Universalism is.

If you think that inclusion and diversity is the highest value, then the poll is discouraging news. We are not very good at making Republicans welcome in our congregations..

But if you think that living our faith is the highest value, the poll shows our growing maturity as a faith community.

Everybody says that we live in a politically polarized time. That means more than that people of similar political opinions are forming tighter associations with each other. It means that both liberalism and conservatism as becoming clearer, more defined, and more ways of life.

Corey Robin argues that modern conservatism is defined by the defense of local hierarchies of power, such as the power of the father in the traditional family or the owner of a business. Wherever there is a hierarchy, conservatives instinctively try to preserve it against any democratizing influence. Conservatives say they oppose the state, but only when the state is breaking down the many small kingdoms of the world.

This same line of thought shows up in the popular meme that the political differences in the USA all come down to differences in our parenting preferences: the authoritarian parent vs the nurturing parent.

The Republican Party has become the conservative party in our time. The GOP is becoming ideologically conservative; it supports the relationships of domination and subordination in just about any sphere that you can think of.

Unitarian Universalist thinking has been moving quite deliberately in the opposite direction. I think that our commitment to become an "anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural religious movement" has set a moral imperative before us that is radicalizing us. We are increasingly seeing the petty tyrants and small kingdoms of this world, even in our churches and congregations, and opposing them.

You can even say that our vision of covenant as the ideal of all social relationships as being a direct contradiction of conservatism. A covenantal relationship is not one of domination and subordination but one of equality and mutuality.

I may be wrong, but I don't think that the 84% UU identification with the Democratic Party is really based on a commitment to the Party itself. I think it's anti-conservatism at work.

We are growing into the full meaning of our theological commitments. The evidence that we are gathering at one end of the political spectrum in a country polarizing over fundamental differences is a result of, and a sign of, that growth.