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Suburbanization (Dialectical Theology Part 4 of Many)

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After World War 2, there was a housing shortage. Very little new housing had been built since the 1920’s. The Great Migration of African Americans from the South and the movement of rural people to the cities for wartime jobs, meant that a lot of new housing had to be built, especially for returning veterans.

Suburbanization was the chosen solution, implemented by the housing industry, but enabled by government policy.

Cheap farm land near the cities was developed into mass produced housing. The new houses were offered for sale on credit; an expanding mortgage market was guaranteed by the government. Governments invested in the infrastructure of the new suburbs: building the roads and sanitation systems, establishing schools, standing up suburban governments to administer new towns and cities. Vast wealth was created, much of that wealth accumulated as real estate equity held by the residents of the new suburbs.

But through a series of interlocking policies and practices, including u…

Humanism in Context (Dialectical Theology -- part 3 of many)

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A sermon (since converted to an essay) that I wrote in 2015 is useful here. My argument was the sense of being counter-cultural and rebels entered into Unitarian Universalism during the 40's and 50's. We attracted those who were repelled by the effort to impose a Christian Nationalism on the USA, as part of the Cold War.

I note, and the comments received confirmed, that one effect of this origin story for many Unitarian Universalists is the vigilance that many UU Humanists have about any Christian influence in UU theology and liturgy.

Enjoy the essay:

http://www.tomschade.com/p/humanism-in-context-you-know-i-am-very.html

The Cold War re-shapes 40's/50's Unitarian Universalism (2 of many)

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Three historical developments re-shaped the Unitarian and Universalist churches of the 1940's and 1950's.

One: the Cold War.

As part of the Cold War, powerful business and political leaders sought to “Christianize” the United States of America — as an ideological counter to Godless Communism.

Kevin Kruse, a professor of History at Princeton, has written a very interesting book, called “Under God” and it is the story of how powerful forces in the USA sought to promote religiosity and public piety in the late 40’s and 50’s.
Here are some highlights of that effort: in the early 1950’s, the phrase “One Nation Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, and “In God We Trust” was inscribed on our currency. Political and Business leaders met in well-publicized prayer breakfasts, not only at the national level, but in every major city. The National Advertising Council ran radio, TV and billboards urging everyone to attend a worship service at the house of worship of their choice…

Let's Start Here #1 of many

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Think about the typical successful Protestant church in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. That church has a healthy membership by our standards. The minister is a white male, and he has a study. That minister has a secretary, a real secretary, not an church administrator, and she manages the great man’s schedule, and even types his letters, answers the church phone. But the rest of that church staff is, by our standard, quite small. Because that church doesn’t actually do very much. Weekdays, the small staff is around during the daytime, but on many nights, the building is empty. There are not a lot of small groups, support groups, or book clubs. The Sunday School program is, by our standards, rudimentary — just simple indoctrination into the faith.

Protestant churches in the 40’s and 50’s were about the Sunday service; and the Sunday service was about the sermon; and the mission of the church was to spread its particular message. The message was some variation of the Christian doctrine. Su…

Dialectical Unitarian Universalist Theology - Introduction

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Theology (“words about God”) is a conversation across centuries about what is most important in human life. For most of history, the nature of God was considered to be of supreme importance. After all, if human life was created and controlled by such a higher power, understanding the character and purpose of that power would be crucial.

However, in the 19th Century, the proposition that such a higher power does not actually exist became part of the theological discussion. When the idea of God no longer exists, the theological question becomes “what is most important, now”?

Theological discourse develops in relationship to itself, as theologians try to harmonize theological propositions which appear to be in contradiction to each other. For example, if God creates everything and is good, where does evil come from? Therefore, because theology is forced to harmonize numerous contradictory realities, theology builds toward synthesis, toward systematic theology.

Unitarian Universalist theol…

The Suburbanization of Liberal Religion

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Once upon a time, Unitarianism was an urban religion. Our most prominent and successful churches were in the cities, embedded in the urban culture and community where they were.

Yes, there are many exceptions of rural or small-town Unitarian, and Universalist, churches.

But in 1940, there weren't a lot of suburban Unitarian or Universalist churches, because there weren't a lot of suburbs.

Suburbanization and Housing Segregation are the same process, and could be the most important transformation of the society in the last century. We now know that it was a process driven by powerful financial and governmental policies. The white urban working class was offered the chance to buy new homes in the suburbs with subsidized and guaranteed credit, which allowed them to begin accumulating family wealth. The black working class in the city was denied this opportunity, and whole sections of cities were denied credit for new or improved housing. Vast profits were made in housing industry…

Families Belong Together: A story

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There was confusion about whether the June 30 rally against family separation at the Rhode Island Statehouse was going to happen. It had been on MoveOn's list, and then it was off the list, and then an email come from MoveOn said it was cancelled. Some people thought the email was fake.

About 300 people showed up. No platform, no sound system, no infrastructure, no police presence, no official leaders.

But a couple of women took on the responsibility of leadership. They held the space, spoke to the moment of the rally's unorthodox status. They called in everybody to be close so we could hear people through a megaphone, made of a rolled up piece of ordinary paper. A speaker's line was organized: anyone who wanted to speak.

People spoke. Amazingly, speeches were shorter, more direct, and less grandiloquent than the speeches at any rally I have been.

There was some ideological struggle, when a speaker said something to the effect that "everybody has a vote." An und…

What I See Going On in the UUA

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There is a national popular movement going on. Trump precipitated it, but it is widening and deepening to challenge many linked oppressive systems. It is not a shallow, or narrow, movement. It is not fly-by-night, or a flash in the pan.

Unitarian Universalists are in this movement in many ways. Congregations are answering the call to take to the streets in demonstrations, rallies, and in civil disobedience. For the most part, and of course, there are going to be exceptions, UU's are participating appropriately, following leadership from others more qualified, and staying in their proverbial lane. 
Our denominational leaders encourage participation. They, too, are acting appropriately for their role. They communicate frequently, and with clarity and precision. They rally UU's and they provide a broad, value-driven, analysis that grounds itself in our pluralistic religious tradition. Our leaders are now no longer Baby Boomers, so they bring a more up-to-date understanding of pu…

Congregational Accountability and White Supremacy Culture

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The subject of Congregational Accountability came up again at the UU Ministers Association Meeting, again. It always comes up, because the problem never changes and is never solved. What is meant by the phrase is that congregations are never asked to justify to the wider UU movement why and how they sent a settled minister on their way. It's the murkiest decision in congregational life. Why did a minister leave, was it voluntary, or were they fired? What were the grounds? What does it say about the minister? What does it say about the congregation, its leadership, and its processes. Should  a minister in search be forewarned about that congregation? Should a congregation be forewarned about that minister? Has anybody, anywhere learned anything from this experience?

Compare the process of calling a minister with the process of ending a ministry. When a minister is called, there was a democratically elected search committee, who tried to communicate everything they can to the congr…

When systems thinking goes haywire

"Systems thinking" is an essential component of a progressive worldview. When analyzing a difficult situation, a systems thinker sees how all of the components fit together, rather than focusing on finding the one component at fault.

Take, for example, the problem of school shootings. The conventional approach is to identify the shooter as the problem, and then propose solutions to eliminate the problem. "The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a [bigger] gun." So some right wingers have proposed arming teachers. I can't imagine, though, a more terrifying nightmare to conservatives than the prospect of an armed National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers.

So some conservatives have turned to the powerful weapon of systems thinking to analyze the problem of why young, white, male students kill their fellow students. It's actually a very good question. It is a very good start to name that there is a school s…

Bishop Michael Curry's Homily

Bishop Michael Curry, on the occasion of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, opened his homily with an invocation to a "loving and liberating God."

Consider that theological assertion, and then consider the history of his people, and finally, consider the audience he was addressing. He is the descendent of enslaved Africans. The ancestors of his audience, which included the British Royal Family and assorted other aristocrats, were the perpetrators and perpetuators and profiteers of the Atlantic slave trade. In their house, and to their faces, set as is their custom, into bland non-committal, Bishop Curry told them that God was all about liberation.

Bishop Curry was there in the role of spiritual teacher, the one with spiritual authority. Given the protocols of Christian worship, Bishop Curry had the authority to speak as long as he needed, without interruption, and without rebuttal. All his congregants could do was roll their eyes, or grimace, or, as Prince Harry …

Electoral Strategy Beyond 2018

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I wonder how many white people have never voted with the majority of black voters in any contested election. I don’t mean voting for a black candidate — there are black Republicans candidates who don’t get the majority of black votes. I mean voting with the African American voting bloc.
15% of white voters in Alabama voted with their black fellow Alabamians to vote for Barack Obama in 2016. Obama lost the state by 28%. Doug Jones, on the other hand, received the votes of 30% of white voters in 2018; along with increased turnout by African American voters that margin allowed him a very close win.
Political parties are racially polarized. People know that the parties have racial identities. People know that the GOP is a white people’s party. They know that the Democrats are a multi-racial coalition. When we hear that some Alabama voters hesitated “to vote for a Democrat,” we suspect that crossing the color line was the unspoken subtext.
How you vote expresses how you understand your social…