Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Evangelical Unitarian Universalism

Evangelical Unitarian Universalism

  1. There is a big overlap between religion and culture.  
  2. It's not cool to force your culture on others.
  3. Therefore, liberal religions such as Unitarian Universalism and Baha'ism have not spread to other cultures to the same degree as aggressively evangelical religions.
One religion that is not aggressively evangelical, and which has prospered, is Judaism.  In this era, at a time when other religions have long histories of forced conversions, Judaism has stopped all activity for active outreach to non-Jews who are not connected in some way with the Jewish community.  Judaism wants the world to be good and does not need the world to be Jewish.

Why do so many UU's desparately wish for people from other cultures to become UU?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Updated Take on the 2016 Election

By a narrow margin, Americans elected Donald Trump as president in 2016.  He represented a rejection of the economic status quo, and an endorsement of the old cultural status quo.  In other words, he was and is a populist Republican.

It is widely recognized that the most popular national American politician today (mid-2017) is Bernie Sanders, a populist Democrat.

To many it seems that the social fabric is disintegrating.  One of the main remaining planks of bi-partisan consensus is the need for fiscal responsibility -- i.e. balancing the budget over the long run.  Yet, as I have argued extensively elsewhere, this is an idea that needs to go.  Which populist faction will move forward by severing this thread of our remaining bipartisan consensus?

There has been extensive talk by the Republicans of moving forward with this, and it could catch the Democrats off guard.  Suppose Republicans pivoted on middle class tax cuts (e.g. payroll tax), Medicare-For-All, or some other such populist measure that would greatly improve life for the middle class.  Would Democrats oppose this on the grounds that the Republicans were violating an (yet another) unwritten rule of the bi-partisan consensus?

In addition to arguing against the desirability of fiscal prudence as conventional construed, I have repeatedly argued, and continue to believe, that a financial crash is in our near future.  If and when this happens, the populist pressure will soar.  Democrats should get in front of this and embrace economic populism sooner rather than later.  The cultural wars that Hillary's faction led will be reduced in significance.

The recent Democratic defeat in the suburbs of Atlanta is also relevant.  In this election, the Dems poured big money into the cultural (anti-Trump who is characterized as racist, misogynist, etc) as opposed to economic issues, but weren't successful.  This was a relatively prosperous suburb, and even the Dems were unsuccessful in winning by appealing to cultural and economic prudence.

I could be wrong.  The economy may continue to muddle along; people may tire of Sanders' economic populism; cautious centrism may become popular again with a youthful face such as Emmanuel Macron or Kamala Harris.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE:  The same day as I wrote this, Kate Aronoff published a similar take:  Don’t Fly Like a GA-06.  Excerpt:

One of Ossoff’s more well-circulated ads (entitled “Table”) found him sitting alone at a kitchen table, aping a line from Margaret Thatcher to bemoan how “both parties in Congress waste a lot of your money.” In the folksy imagery and call to reduce the deficit, he invoked a trope that’s been circulated for years by pollster Frank Luntz and other right-wing goons to justify painful spending cuts: if hard-working American families have to make tough choices about their finances, then why doesn’t Washington?
The line — as several economists have pointed out — is nonsense. Households do not have the power to set interest rates and print money; the US government does. But from a political perspective, the logic is even more troublingly misguided. That “fiscal responsibility” is a popular, common-sense stance widespread among voters is a prevailing myth of neoliberal economics, and one now embraced across party lines.
It also has no discernible base of support with actual voters. Beating the GOP will mean taking that message to heart, and giving voters a bold vision to support rather than status quo austerity politics and a madman to revile.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Proposed 8th Principle

Proposed 8th Principle

In Black Lives of UU Organizing Collective Urges Adoption of 8th Principle in Unitarian Universalism, members of Black Lives of UU make the case for adopting the following as an 8th principle of Unitarian Universalism:

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.

The points in favor of adopting this include the following:
  1. White supremacy practices and antiblackness in the hearts of parishioners must be rooted out of the UU community.
  2. Why would we not adopt the 8th principle, since it is a logical step toward the UUA’s thus far unfulfilled 1992 and 1997 resolutions to intentionally become a multicultural and anti-racist institution?  We need the 8th principle to bring accountability to our good intentions.

My Opinion

After reviewing the proposal and reviewing our current 7 Principles, I oppose the adoption of this additional principle, for the following reasons.

1. The principles are and should be universal and constructive.

  • The proposed 8th principle focuses on one of many types of “isms”. Racism is the paramount form of oppression for some people, but not for others.  
  • The call to accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions is more political than I believe is appropriate for a basic religious principle.  A principle should be personal and inspirational, as opposed to a call to action.
  • There is no universal understanding of white supremacy practices.  Practices must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  The hearts of parishioners must be given even more leeway for individual history and circumstance.  Thus, we’re better off letting people wrestle with their own deeds and innermost beliefs, guided by our principles of reason, tolerance, democracy, and compassion.

2. Multiculturalism should not necessarily be an end in itself for every congregation.

  • For society at large, a multicultural perspective is critical.  Thus, the current 7 principles stress democracy, tolerance, human relations, world community, etc., with no mention of specific cultures.  The principles are the same whether everyone is of the same or different races, the same or different economic backgrounds, the same or different ethnic backgrounds, the same or different religious traditions.  We should not negatively judge a group solely on the basis of its cultural composition.
  • The UUA as an institution is not the same as the UUA congregations which affirm and promote the Principles.  It might be appropriate for the institution, at the national level, to have a somewhat unique vision with regard to multiculturalism, including hiring practices.
  • It is possible that the UUA made a mistake in focusing on race and cultural identity in 1992 and 1997.  It is good to welcome different cultures, and to encourage people of diverse backgrounds to join our religion.  However, there are good reasons why people may choose to spend their religious time with people from similar cultural backgrounds.  We can invite people of various cultures to join us, but should not necessarily be offended or overly self-critical if they choose not to.
  • Accountability with regard to a general principle such as the proposed 8th is not best achieved in this manner, in my opinion.  If our previous efforts didn’t work out, why should we expect yet another such statement to be more successful?  We do not use the Principles to hold ourselves accountable so much as to focus our thoughts on what we hold most sacred.


The Principles are very high level, inspirational ideals. Fundamental religious principles should not be conflated with specific political agendas and action items.  The path of political resistance may not be right for all people, at all times. I’ll close with these thoughts from Sophia Lyon Fahs (responsive reading #657 in our hymnal -- It Matters What We Believe), which I find beautiful and relevant.

Some beliefs are like walled gardens. They encourage exclusiveness, and the feeling of being especially privileged.
__Other beliefs are expansive and lead the way into wider and deeper sympathies.

Some beliefs are like shadows, clouding children's days with fears of unknown calamities.
__Other beliefs are like sunshine, blessing children with the warmth of happiness.

Some beliefs are divisive, separating the saved from the unsaved, friends from enemies.
__Other beliefs are bonds in a world community, where sincere differences beautify the pattern.

Some beliefs are like blinders, shutting off the power to choose one's own direction.
__Other beliefs are like gateways opening wide vistas for exploration.

Some beliefs weaken a person's selfhood. They blight the growth of resourcefulness.
__Other beliefs nurture self-confidence and enrich the feeling of personal worth.

Some beliefs are rigid, like the body of death, impotent in a changing world.

__Other beliefs are pliable, like the young sapling, ever growing with the upward thrust of life.