The DNA always carries on (Dialectical Theology, Part 9 of Many)

If you have not yet read Mark Morrison-Reed’s history of the Black Empowerment Controversy, do so as soon as possible.

Is there any period of time when the interplay of historical developments outside of Unitarian Universalism and its own history were more clear?

The rise of the Black Power movement was a mortal danger to the Unitarian Universalism that was formed in 1961. Racial Liberalism (integrationist, color-blind, universalist) was at the center of its public ministry, and its public ministry was at the heart of its mission. Public ministry had to be because the new denomination had punted on theology and liturgy because of the unresolved conflict between humanists and theists.

Reading Morrison-Reed, what struck me was the good faith effort that the UUA made to respond to the demands of the Black Affairs Council. But it could not let go of its racial liberalism, as evidenced by its unwillingness to stop funding of Black and White Action (BAWA). And that was the breaking point for the Black Affairs Council.

Racial Liberalism was discredited in the US political culture as a whole in the late 60’s. The African American struggle seemed to turn its focus on the accumulation of political power: mayors, legislators, and eventually Presidents. Racial Liberalism lived on, but largely as commemorations of the Civil Rights Movement, and the establishment of the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday as a national holiday. I am not the one to tell that story of the black struggle at that time.

In the aftermath of the Black Empowerment Controversy, the UUA still carried the same DNA as when it was formed. It saw itself, and could not imagine itself as anything but, a religious movement whose primary work is public ministry in support of popular movements outside of itself which advance its ideals and values.

I am not sure that either side of white people in the Black Empowerment Controversy did not think of the UUA in those terms: public ministry to support other people’s movements.

I think of the early 70's as a sort of 'zombie' period of the UU history. We carried on, but our self-conception was based on something that was no longer expanding: our support for popular movements, outside of ourselves. I think you can see this in the number of resolutions GA's passed at the time. The quantity suggests a frantic search.

However, something new was emerging: the first successful post-merger reformation of Unitarian Universalism.


  1. Looking forward to your talking about that reformation.

  2. The minister of my church calls those events the White Fragility Controversy. Sounds about right.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Complicating the Great Reformation: Dialectical Theology (Part 11 of many)

The 8th Principle

the difference between "principles' and "virtues"

Denise Levertov's Poem about Thomas

The Great Reformation (Dialectical Theology, Part 10 of many)