Why The UUA is Doomed to Fail in Its Goals, by David Cycleback

The Unitarian Universalist Association leadership is attempting to both increase general UU membership and greatly increase racial minority membership. While the goals are admirable, the UUA’s approach is ill-conceived and likely to fail.

David Cycleback Ph.D. is a cognitive scientist and philosopher and a member of the British Royal Institute of Philosophy. Jewish, he attends both a UU congregation and a Reform Synagogue.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) is a tiny, eccentric, politically far-left, and predominantly white church with dwindling membership. It is far whiter than the United States population and then most Christian and conservative churches, including the Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Anglican Church, and Mormons. While UU has advanced from its heterosexual patriarchal roots, the lack of racial diversity has been a source of angst to many UUs who see themselves as social justice vanguards. (UUA 2010) (Braestrup 2017) (Pew Research Center 2015)

Doubling concerns, according to its 2022 report, the UUA has had the largest drop in membership and number of congregations in church history. There are currently the fewest UU congregations ever. The previous pre-Covid census in 2020 showed the largest drop in membership in twenty-three years and the largest drop in Religious Education membership in forty-nine years. (UUA 2022) (UUA 2020) (Loehr 2005) (Halsted 2019) (UUA 1997) The current national UU leadership has expressed that it aspires to both increase UU membership and greatly increase racial minority membership by moving UU even further to the political left into radicalism. This essay explains how these goals can conflict and how the current national UU’s attempts may achieve neither. (Frederick-Gray 2021) (CLFUU 2017)

UU’S TRADITIONAL CULTURE

As with most churches, Unitarian Universalism has had a particular demographic and culture. UU is associated with its white, Puritan, New England Unitarian roots. Famous Unitarians included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Kurt Vonnegut and Julian Jaynes. The Collegeville Pennsylvania fellowship is named after Thomas Paine.

Martin Luther King Jr. said Sunday at 11 a.m. is the most segregated time in America, with people traditionally tending to congregate with their demographic. Some racial minorities have said they are drawn to UU’s beliefs but have a hard time fitting in with the dominant culture. One congregant wrote, “I don’t think segregation is intentional. It’s a matter of music, demographics, age, culture, worship style, etc.” (Blake 2010) (Grossman 2015) (8th Principle 2021)

Anyone who attends a UU congregation knows they can have a controlled, insular, polite, Northern European-American culture. As a native of Wisconsin and with many Minnesotan relatives, I’ve commented that the culture of the Seattle UU congregation I attend is “very Scandinavian.” I am neurodivergent (autistic and bipolar) and Jewish and from personal experience understand how people who are different can feel frustrated and misunderstood in a UU congregation’s culture.

I agree with the UUA that UUs should work on being educated about different cultures and peoples and how to be welcoming to minorities who are attracted to UU’s beliefs.

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IT’S NOT JUST RACIAL MINORITIES: UU IS UNATTRACTIVE TO THE MAJORITY OF ALL DEMOGRAPHICS

Usually omitted in the argument that UU culture is unattractive to most racial minorities– and in the mind of some is, thus, “racist”– is the fact that UU is unattractive to most whites. Many outsiders would describe the current UU as a counterculture. I once wrote, “Yes, It is true that UU is unattractive to most blacks. It is also unattractive to most whites, Asians, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, Jews and every other race and ethnicity. That’s why it’s so small.” My white libertarian friend from Texas would follow the UU’s Principles and is a fan of the Unitarian psychologist Julian Jaynes. He told me he could stand about ten seconds of UU’s brand of identity politics and politically correct language.

I have talked to atheists who I thought might be attracted to a church that has atheists and shares their political persuasion. The majority of the small sample had no interest in joining a UU congregation because they don’t want to belong to any organized church, even one that has atheists and agnostics, and attend services that have a church-like style. Even to these politically left atheists, a “church for atheists” was an incongruous concept.

Many working-class and working-class background UUs have long complained about classicism and vocation/education elitism in UU and UU congregations. Most proponents of the prevailing UUA-style social justice and identity politics are university-educated “cultural elites” who are often out of touch with and even dismissive of white and non-white working-class and poor American cultures and views.

A complaint about the recent years’ narrowing of UU’s politics is that it excludes political moderates and conservatives who would embrace the UU’s Principles. There is no political litmus test to be a UU, and there is no reason that many moderates and conservatives who believe in “the inherent worth and dignity of every person” can’t belong to a UU or other religiously liberal church. UU Minister Rev. Sean Neil-Baron put it “We are a liberal religion not a religion for liberals,” and there used to be an active group for conservative UUs. (UUA 2017) (Morgenstern 2020)

I know numerous UUs who have said they wish their congregational membership had a broader political spectrum. Many UUs are rotely dismissive and even openly disdainful of conservatives, often just assuming all UU congregants share their progressive views. A more conservative ex-UU wrote, “I left the Unitarian Church several years ago when I came to realize that it is little more than a liberal-left wing political advocacy group masquerading as a religion.”

MOVING FURTHER LEFT MAKES UU ONLY MORE UNATTRACTIVE TO MOST MINORITIES

About fourteen percent of the country is black. It is simply the statistical reality that if every church wants to be, say, forty percent black, that is impossible. UU, in its traditional or current state, will not be the type of church that attracts large swaths of blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities.

In her 2017 essay Where Are We Headed?, UU Minister Rev. Kate Braestrup wrote that UU would have to become more conservative and welcoming to a broader range of political views to attract many minorities who are generally more conservative than UU. (Braestrup 2017)

Pew Research Center polling has shown that the progressive left is only 6% of the United States population, and is predominantly non-Hispanic white and culturally elite (highly educated and economically privileged). Similarly, a 2021 national education poll reported that the “extreme woke” (Those who advocate for the dismantling of society, that students should be taught that whites are oppressors and non-whites are oppressed, etc.) make up 6% of the population and is disproportionally non-Hispanic white and culturally/socially elite. (Pew Research Center 2021) (Sumner 2022)

According to a 2020 Pew Research Center Poll, 65 percent of black Democrats identify as moderate or conservative, and only 37 percent of Hispanic Democrats identify as politically liberal. By a wide margin, whites are the most likely to be in the far left or progressive portion of the Democratic Party. An Indian immigrant told me that he no longer felt welcome or heard in his UU congregation due to his more conservative viewpoints. (Pew Research Center 2021) (Pew Research Center 2020) (Winston 2020)

Taking a variety of fringe political positions unpopular with most minorities, the UUA has called for the abolishment of police and for congregations to quit calling the police. A 2021 national poll showed that only 23 percent of blacks, 16 percent of Hispanics, and 22 percent of Asians support reducing spending on police. Polls over the years have consistently shown that the large majority of all racial and ethnic groups want the same or more spending on police and the same or larger police presence in their neighborhoods. (UUA 2020) (Pew Research Center 2021) (Gallup 2020) (Parker & Hurst 2021) (Hirsi 2021)

Black civil rights leader and Democratic Party Whip James Clayburn said that the “Defund the Police” sloganeering cost Democrats seats in the 2020 election and harmed the Black Lives Matter cause. Los Angeles Mayor and former Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass called Defund the Police “probably one of the worst slogans ever.” (Brown 2020) (Moore 2020)

The national UU and UU groups have aligned themselves with fringe Jewish groups, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, and movements that are out of step with majority Jewish views and even labeled as antisemitic by mainstream Jewish organizations. (McCardle 2016) (Leblang 2017) (ADL 2015)

Multiple national polls have shown that not only are substantially large majorities of all racial demographics against politically correct culture and the politically correct language adopted by the UUA, UU World, UU ministers and many congregations, but the top three in opposition are American Indians (88%), Latinos (87%) and Asians (82%). Seventy-five percent of black Americans were against PC culture and language. (ThinkNow 2019) (Monk 2018) (McWhorter 2022)

Black linguist and black-English expert John McWhorter wrote that the term “BIPOC” is unpopular with most racial minorities. A Latino pollster found that “When it came to ‘Latinx,’ there was near unanimity. Despite its usage by academics and cultural influencers, 98% of Latinos prefer other terms to describe their ethnicity. Only 2% of our respondents said the label accurately describes them, making it the least popular ethnic label among Latinos.” Some Latinos have called white people using Latinx “Anglo-Imperialist,’’ “Anglicizing our language,” “culturally ignorant,” and “English speakers imposing their social norms on other cultures.” (Thinknow 2018) (Douthat 2019) (McWhorter 2022) (Cunningham 2017)

Common sense says that a white-dominant church or congregation is not going to attract or be welcoming to most racial and ethnic minorities by adopting unpopular and sometimes even offending language and political positions.

Rev. Braestrup wrote: “Despite our decades of self-flagellating attempts to scour away every vestige of racism from our bleeding hearts, religions that have never made the slightest effort to ‘dismantle white supremacy’ aren’t just more successful at attracting congregants of all colors, they are — according to our own preferred measures — far less racist . . . . The statistics, in other words, strongly imply that anyone who wishes to belong to a non-racist church should depart Unitarian Universalism and join the Assemblies of God. Or– easier still– become a Catholic.” (Braestrup 2017)

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While UUs like to think of themselves as independent thinkers and open-minded, I find them to be as much of groupthinkers and crowd followers as in any religious denomination. UU spaces are often political and ideological bubbles, unaware of or dismissing different viewpoints including from minorities. A UU said that to many UUs multiculturalism means “People who think like us but come in different colors.” I replied, “Multiculturalism means they aren’t all going to think like you, and many will think things you very much disagree with.”

UU leaders often hold up the goals of multiculturalism and diversity. However, they don’t really want multiculturalism and diversity. A multicultural and diverse church would contain diverse political, social and ideological ideas and values. With their new expectations of political and ideological conformity, national UU leaders are trying to create a monoculture that, ironically, will exclude most racial, ethnic and other minorities.
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CONFLICTING GOALS

The UUA’s efforts are not just about attracting minorities to UU but being more inclusive and empowering of minorities already in UU. The latter are important but cause a conflict.

Racial minorities in UU tend to be much further to the political left, more radical and identity politics-centric than the general racial minority population. Also, UU advertises itself as a “safe space,” so attracts from the small percentage of minorities who psychologically want or need safe spaces. Many white UUs and white progressives are under the mistaken impression that radical minority activists are proxies for their entire demographics. This often is because UU leaders and idealogues misleadingly say that the positions are the majority views or the only “authentic voice” of minorities. UUs are learning about race relations from a tiny group that is unrepresentative of the larger minority groups. (Hirsi 2021)

Doing what “BIPOC of UU” want will make UU even less appealing to most outside racial minorities. The radicalization of UU may not only not attract many racial minorities to UU but likely will lead to many religious liberals leaving.

The conflict is exemplified by the word Latinx. UU works to be LGBT+ inclusive and the UUA, UU World and many UU congregations and groups commonly use the term Latinx. Latinx is simultaneously seen as gender-inclusive and is off-putting to a majority of Latinos. (Douthat 2019)

The use of Latinx demonstrates that UU aspires for the diversity and inclusion of numerous minority identities, not just racial and ethnic. In both practice and theory, this is a conundrum because minority cultures and demographics are never in exact alignment with each other. That’s why it’s a challenge to create successful multi-cultural and interfaith organizations. People with multiple identities often experience such internal conflicts.

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MANY WAYS TO CREATE AND DIFFERENT CONSIDERATIONS OF DIVERSITY

Some UUs are not troubled by the lack of racial diversity. They say that most churches and congregations have particular cultures and demographics, such as Scandinavian Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox congregations, many Muslim and Hindu temples and Jewish synagogues. The least racially diverse American church is the National Baptist Convention with ninety-nine percent black membership. Of the six least racially diverse American churches, three are 90+ percent white and the other three are either 90+ percent black or 90+ percent Asian. With 80 percent of Jews worldwide being Ashkenazi, it’s no surprise that the synagogue I attend is predominantly Ashkenazi. Further, a congregation mostly attracts people from its neighborhood which means the congregation will tend to reflect the demographics of the neighborhood. (Pew Research Center 2015)

As far as attaining diversity and multiculturalism go, there is more than one way to skin a cat. For example, congregations can do interfaith work with other congregations and organizations. A Seattle UU congregation belongs to an interfaith network with members from the neighborhood mosque, Hispanic Catholic congregation and synagogue working together in neighborhood charity work. This type of work involves not only a diversity of races, but of cultures and beliefs.

It is problematic when UUs want ethnic and racial minorities to be part of their church but only if they “think the way we do.” I see a tokenizing and fetishism in focusing strictly on the percentage of skin colors in a congregation, and a pandering in doing whatever it takes to attract people of different skin colors. UU Minister Rev. Craig Moro wrote, “I suspect one of the things that drives ‘BIPOC’ folks away after a visit or two is that some UUs seem to be trying to ‘collect’ them– to add them to some sort of collection of skins and heads. That would scare me, too!”

An Asian man who quit UU wrote, “The tone of the entire organization has shifted more and more left and privileged as time goes on . . . When a person of color does show up (myself included), it was ridiculous. Our opinions were not valued because they were our opinions, but simply because of the color of our skin. In trying to be more inclusive, the organization became more racist. No non-white person wants to get in a room and watch rich white people flog themselves all day and apologize for transgressions that may or may not have ever happened. It is tiresome and has nothing to do with fellowship. It just makes those members feel better.”

I wonder about UU laity who are so easily and sometimes unquestioningly willing to discard their long-held UU values such as religious liberalism, self-determination, due process, diversity of individual views and paths, and freedom of expression and speech simply because a group of self-anointed authorities in classes and the pulpit instruct them to. It makes me wonder what other values they’d be willing to throw overboard in the name of a cause, because of the color of someone’s skin or to go along with a crowd.

Some UUs say that the object shouldn’t be to blindly fixate on a numbers game of “bringing in minorities” but on making sure congregations and members are welcoming to the racial, ethnic and other minorities who are attracted to UU’s beliefs.

I belong to different communities. These include a mostly white but gender diverse UU congregation, a synagogue, a multi-racial and racial minority-led workplace, my Armenian-Iranian immigrant partner and her family, and a vintage baseball card collecting club that is nearly all white male but with a wide diversity of religious and political beliefs. The combination of these and other relationships is my multicultural experience, and I neither expect nor want each to be the same.
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The challenge of creating racial diversity and how to attract and maintain minorities in dominant white churches is not an issue just for Unitarian Universalism. With challenges, successes and failures, there have been numerous attempts to create multi-racial Christian churches. (Gjelten 2020)

There is no one or objectively correct answer as to what should be achieved or how to achieve it, and any way involves conflicts and trade-offs. A church can’t be all things it wants and doesn’t want to be all things to all people. To gain one valued thing you often have to give up another valued thing, and pleasing one group of people within a community sometimes will turn off another group. Such is the nature of communities, especially in a liberal, pluralistic church.

I firmly believe the UUA’s attempt to move UU as a whole further to the left into extreme politics, in particular in the area of identity politics, and to try to create ideological and political homogony will neither attract substantial numbers of racial and ethnic minorities nor expand UU membership. My prediction is that UU membership will fall even more drastically.

It was after I wrote this essay that the UUA reported yet another huge drop in membership for 2023. (UUA 2023)

REFERENCES

8th Principle (2021), “Where Did This Come From Originally?”

ADL (2015), “BDS: The Global Campaign to Delegitimize Israel”

Blake J (2010), “Why Sunday morning remains America’s most segregated hour”

Braestrup K (2017), “Where Are We Headed?”

Brown, M. (2020), “Democratic Whip James Clyburn: ‘Defund the police’ cost Democrats seats, hurt Black Lives Matter movement”

Coyne J (2022), “The annual evolution meeting raises some questions”

Cunningham V (2017). “The Case for Black English: In his latest book, John McWhorter celebrates the dialect that has become an American lingua franca”
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Douthat R (2019), “Democrats’ Latinx Problem”

Frederick-Gray S (2021), “Sea Change, Not Slow Change”

Gjelten T (2020), “Multiracial Congregations May Not Bridge Racial Divide”

Grossman C (2015), “Sunday Is Still the Most Segregated Day of the Week”

Halsted J (2019), “My Church is Dying and I’m OK with that”

Hirsi I (2021), “Black Residents of Minneapolis Say They Need More Cops—Not Fewer”

Leblang D (2017) “Area Jews ask: Why would a church show an anti-Semitic movie?”

.Loehr D (2005), “Why Unitarian Universalism is Dying”

McArdle E (2016), “Rabbi Jacobs: Why I raised divestment concerns during the celebration”

McCardle E (2017),”Two-thirds of UU congregations participate in White Supremacy Teach-In”

McWhorter J (2022), “BIPOC is Jargon. That’s OK, and Normal People Don’t Have to Use It”

Monk Y (2018), “Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture”

Moore M (2020), “Congressional Black Caucus chair: ‘Defund the police’ is ‘one of the worst slogans ever’”

Morgenstern A (2020), “Conservative Values for Unitarian Universalists”

Parker & Hurst (2021) “Growing share of Americans say they want more spending on police in their area”

Pew Research Center (2015), “The most and least racially diverse U.S. religious groups”

Pew Research Center (2020), “5 facts about black Democrats”

Pew Research Center (2021) “Facts About the U.S. Black Population”

Sumner S (2022), “6 percent of Americans are woke extremists”

ThinkNow (2019), “Progressive Latino pollster: 98% of Latinos do not identify with “Latinx” label”

UUA (1997), “Toward an Anti-Racist Unitarian Universalist Association: 1997 Business Resolution”

UUA (2017), “Conservative Forum for Unitarian Universalists”

UUA (2020), “UUA Membership Statistics, 1961-2020”

UUA (2020), “The Unitarian Universalist Association Says It’s Time to Defund the Police”

UUA (2022), “2022 List of Certified Congregations”

UUA (2023): “2023 Annual Congregational Inventory”

UU World (2010), ”Racial and ethnic diversity of Unitarian Universalists”

Winston D (2020), “As Democrats go hard left, Hispanics head to the center”

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David G. Markham
6 months ago

The problem with dwindling membership in UU is that it has lost its sense of purpose. It is not a social justice agency. It’s function to to nurture the development of spiritual intelligence in all human beings. The third principle is to accept one another and encourage spiritual growth. What is the model of spiritual growth which UU affirms and promotes? It wallows in nihilistic narcissism and has no sense of mission in developing a theology both public and private that facilitates spiritual development. It is interesting to watch the growth of enthusiasm for Stoic philosophy, A Course In Miracles,… Read more »

Robert M Wallace
Robert M Wallace
6 months ago

Amen to that.

Stuart Hurlbert
6 months ago

Double amen.

John Minahan
John Minahan
6 months ago

David, some people can’t separate the spiritual from the political. Personally, I don’t mind religions being contexts where people can integrate their spiritual and political dimensions and I don’t mind UUism equally respecting these two dimensions of life. I believe it is quite natural and healthy for one’s sense of spirituality to motivate one’s desire for political action, and for spiritual communities to be contexts for the development of political awareness and action among the members of the community and others. I also think you hit the nail on the head when you said: mixing religion and narrow politics is… Read more »

larry lunt
larry lunt
6 months ago

Developing a theology wouldn’t fly with atheist members.

John Downing
John Downing
6 months ago

I have been thinking a lot of the same things about us UUs as David Cycleback, and he helped clarify my thoughts very well. We need to go back to our Principals and seek spiritual growth, whatever that means to each of us. We need to promote attitudes that help us to be happier and less anxious. We live in the best time in the history of our species, and we need to know about that and appreciate In the at least 100000 years we have been around, for all but the last 200 years, at least 90% of our… Read more »

Terri
Terri
6 months ago
Reply to  John Downing

I totally agree with you, that going back to the Seven Principles and encouraging spiritual growth is key. But, as far as the state of the world, the picture is not quite as rosy as it seems. One issue to especially note: The suicide rate among those 24 and younger has skyrocketed in the last 15 years, and the cause has been directly linked to spending more than two hours a day on smart phones: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2023/05/the-grim-new-consensus-on-social-media-and-teen-depression.html. UUs are very good, though, at recognizing problems when they come to the fore, and this is one that I’ve made it my business… Read more »

Jim Aikin
Jim Aikin
6 months ago

I fully agree with David — but I think I’d go a step further. Does it really matter how ethnically diverse a UU congregation is? I can’t see that it matters to anybody unless they’re doing a head count based on skin color, and what sort of nitwit would do something like that? One of the perennial slogans of Alcoholics Anonymous is “Attraction, not promotion.” If UU has something positive to offer African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or any other ethnic group, they’ll figure it out. They’ll show up on a Sunday, feel good about the service, and tell their friends. I… Read more »

Rev. Millie Phillips
Rev. Millie Phillips
6 months ago

Just a point that I have made before: I don’t consider what you are describing as “extreme left.” Language has changed a lot since I started being active in Marxist groups in the 1970s, but IMO, you can’t be “extreme left” without some degree of class analysis and a real commitment to the needs of the working class of all races. UU has always had a problem with class elitism. While I don’t agree with the general liberal perspective, those of us who have grown up in, live and work in multi-racial working-class environments would have to agree that there… Read more »

Robert M Wallace
Robert M Wallace
6 months ago

Susan Neiman has a new book _Left Is Not Woke_, which advocates the traditional sense of “left” that you and I endorse.

Tim Bartik
Tim Bartik
6 months ago

I agree with David that the UUA’s current approach means that it must draw members from a smaller percent of the U.S. population. As he points out, the progressive left is only 6% of the U.S. population. Using the same Pew data on “political typologies”, if the UUA also drew from “Establishment liberals” — which I think it once did — that would add another 13% of the U.S. population. Adding in “Democratic Mainstays” would add in 16% of the U.S. population. So, other things equal, restricting UUism to only the most leftist folks — at least in a cultural… Read more »

Julie
Julie
6 months ago

Great article, as usual, David.

It’s unfortunate that UU is being taken over by an ideological mass movement where the ideologues don’t care about things like reason & facts.

To understand how this works, read the book The True Believer, by Eric Hoffer, to which David referred in his previous article on this site.

The ideologues only value their ideology and their tribal loyalty & unity. So reaching them with facts is not possible.

Robert M Wallace
Robert M Wallace
6 months ago

I appreciate the essay and all the comments. I would add that the one key historical fact that the UUA and most UUs ignore is that racism has been systematically stoked, in the US since the Civil War and the New Deal, as a way of dividing working people against each other so that employers can hold down wages and taxes that they would otherwise have to pay. It’s “Divide and Conquer.” So rather than being a psychological state that has social consequences, racism is a psychological phenomenon that’s promoted for economic purposes by those who stand to gain from… Read more »

Terri
Terri
6 months ago

A very well-researched article, David! You have made many good points about what UUs can do to help make our churches more inviting. But I think the main problem is the UUA, and not the UUs. The UUA doesn’t care if membership is dwindling. It is plain from their actions over the last few years that they are trying to dismantle Unitarian Universalism slowly enough to where it won’t be obvious, but as quickly as they can. At best, the drop in membership is due to their utter ineptitude, at worst, malignant narcissism, and I think it is mainly the… Read more »

Odell Havsdotter
Odell Havsdotter
6 months ago
Reply to  Terri

You bring up good points, but I fear the rank-and-file UUs don’t really care enough. They see people leaving their church, but much like how many other churches rationalize the dwindling numbers, they think people are leaving because they can’t maintain their racist ideology in the “pure” church that has been created. The self-righteousness is almost impenetrable, and I worry that UUs will just fade away if we keep going on this path. But it’s like pushing a stone up a hill for eternity trying to talk to people who are fully indoctrinated into this ideology. NAUA is the only… Read more »

Robert Murphy
Robert Murphy
6 months ago

The UUA is small. Maybe that’s not a problem. There aren’t very many Quakers but the Quakers are well-known, well-respected, and surprisingly influential in American culture and politics. Every member of Congress has heard about the Quakers. Like the Quakers, the institutional roots of Unitarianism (sic) are in the Radical Reformation and in what is sometimes called “the dissenting tradition.” Historically, the Unitarians gave much attention to congregational polity and there was a distrust of elaborate creeds and big organizations. “Congregations come first” was a popular slogan, as recently as twenty years ago in many UUA congregations. Despite some reports,… Read more »

Connie
Connie
6 months ago

This is off topic, but I’m not sure where else to ask. Does anyone know the status / timeframe of the UUA bylaw major rewrite mentioned here. Microsoft Word – Bylaws Business Resolution FINAL.docx (uua.org)

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
6 months ago
Reply to  Connie
Robert Murphy
Robert Murphy
6 months ago

A few comments about class issues and today’s Unitarian Universalists. Historically, the Universalists were successful in attracting many working class people and lower-middle-class (bourgeois) people. Keep in mind that Universalism started as a radical offshoot of Methodism. During the 1880s and for much of the 20th century, the divide between the Universalists and the Unitarians was explained, in large part, by class divisions. There was some communication (Thomas Starr King comes to mind) but, in most places, the two religious groups moved in different circles. On the island of Nantucket, the Unitarian church was on the high ground with Harvard-educated… Read more »

Sasha Kwapinski
Sasha Kwapinski
6 months ago

The basic beliefs or teachings which initially attracted me to UUism, some decades ago, were as follows: (1) The concept of God as one personage or entity (as opposed to the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, which I found to be little more than a convoluted nonsensical abstraction); (2) The inherent dignity, value, and ultimate spiritual potential of the individual; (3) That we possess free will or agency — the capacity to distinguish between good and evil, and to use our initiative bring about positive service and good in the world; (4) That we are born in a state of… Read more »

Sasha Kwapinski
Sasha Kwapinski
6 months ago

“principles”^

Stuart Hurlbert
6 months ago

A brilliant and informative summary, David. Thank you! For me, a long lapsed Unitarian, the UUA seems a lost cause. Develop a different model, and its smarter members will come. Make UUism more spiritual, more intellectual, and more scientific. Drop all the virtue-signalling, social engineering, and Robin DiAngelo and Ibram Kendi rhetoric. Become the strongest religious voice educating the public on two matters: 1) the historic slight racial (genetic) diffferentiation of different human populations over tens of thousands of years and the completely unneeded, inappropriate, unscientific governmental racial classification schemes imposed on us at present. 2) the emerging understanding that… Read more »

Larry A. Cooper
Larry A. Cooper
5 months ago

A response to “Why the UUA is Doomed to Fail in Its Goals, By David Cycleback” – 8.24.23 I appreciated having the opportunity to review Dr. Cycleback’s comments and would like to offer my own comments. I was raised Roman Catholic, never comfortable with it, took a Philosophy of Religion class at the University of Wisconsin in the mid-sixties, wherein I was introduced to the philosophy of Humanism and how it differed from the authoritarianism of Catholicism as a result of reading Psychoanalysis and Religion by the Jewish psychologist Erich Fromm and several more of his books. Adoption of Humanism lead to… Read more »

allan foster
allan foster
5 months ago

i struggle at times to follow the conversation…acronyms being a case in point. the deeper points in discussion do spread my understanding of what is going on but some of what is going on in the uua i credit more to a sense of cluelessness followed by the old “do not confuse me with the facts as my mind is already made up” trope. it is watching intelligence going stupid……

Pat Hennessy
Pat Hennessy
23 days ago

Hello! I have been a UU member in PA for close to 30 years. I have become increasingly disappointed with the elitism and micro aggression in my congregation. Believe and say one thing but do another. Big turn offs from both members and ministers in various churches. Members appear to be primarily from upper classes and are not shy about showing their prejudices.

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