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Reflection on Merger (Dialectical Theology Part 8 of many)

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I wonder if the UUA's stuckness on race isn't built into our DNA, established at the time of merger. As I have mentioned before, our formation came in a particular time of history (1961) and at a particular time in the development of liberal religion. 

Religious liberals were polarized between theists and humanists, and as a consequence turned toward public ministry as a way to unify.

At that point in time, the early 1960's, Racial Liberalism was the prevailing social vision. (Racial Liberalism can be defined as Integration and the minimization of racial difference. Color-blindness as a goal.)

In the absence of deeper theological unity, Racial Liberalism became the practical embodiment of Universalism, what we understood ourselves to be. Not just what we believed, but what we were.

You can see it in the shocked white response to the formation of black-only UU organizations in the late 1960's.  Race-based caucusing was seen to a violation of something fundamental about…

What's In Our DNA (Dialectical Theology, part 7 of many)

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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.

The …

Merger (Dialectical Theology, part 6 of many)

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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…