Against Illiberalism, A critique of illiberal trends in liberal institutions, with a focus on neoracist ideology in Unitarian Universalism
by David Cycleback (ברוך בן אברהם ושרה)
Comment from the Fifth Principle Project
We are presenting the following Discussion by David Cycleback, a Jewish philosopher and cognitive scientist, as a Guest Contributor. David’s paper is thoughtful, well written and documented. The paper is an excellent single source to understand how illiberal ideologies such as Critical Race Theory are eroding UU Enlightenment values such as freedom of belief, democracy, and tolerance.
David writes, “. . . following illiberal trends in other institutions, the national UU leadership has been taken over by radicals who are trying to transform UU into an illiberal, top-town church. It controversially declared UU “a white supremacy culture.” In a church that advertises itself as having no creed, it unilaterally declared an extreme version of critical race theory as a “theological mandate” for all congregations and UUs.”
We recommend you download and read the paper slowly. It may take one or more sessions to read, but your time will be well spent. The paper can also be a resource for discussion groups.
Other Comments from the Paper
I just fundamentally believe that we should be fighting for a world in which there are no caste systems, in which people are judged based on their individual merit and character, in which we move from the historical construct of race, rather than reifying it. I just don’t think you look at history and believe making people fixated on their immutable characteristics and saying those immutable characteristics have immutable power leads to anywhere good.
Bari Weiss, author of How to Fight Anti-Semitism
This paper examines recent illiberal trends in traditionally liberal institutions. Specifically, it critiques extreme “anti-racism” approaches based on critical race theory (CRT) and the ideas of academics such as Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. It also focuses on Unitarian Universalism, a historically liberal church. Recent national UU leadership has adopted an extreme version of critical race theory that has caused strife and division and undermined long-standing UU values such as freedom of speech and expression, pluralism, freedom of conscience and democracy.
Many well-intentioned but misguided white UUs and young ministers have bought into a radical racial essentialist and antisemitic ideology and approach that not only do most minorities not subscribe to, but that is ultimately counterproductive to social justice and healthy communities. As the paper details, some of the strongest voices against critical race theory and illiberalism come from minorities.
David explains that illiberalism, dogmatism and authoritarianism are oppressive of all groups, minority and majority, and should be rejected wherever they appear, including in Unitarian Universalism.
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