A little over a week ago, Steve Caldwell wrote:
“While it’s true that our Unitarian and Universalist historical roots were more theistic and more Christian in the past, that is probably not true for today’s Unitarian Universalism as a whole. It’s been many years since the topic of hellfire and damnation by deity has been a serious concern for Unitarian Universalists.”
That, my friends, is the problem. We stuck our heads in the sand and ignored (and continue to ignore) the theological conversation that has continued to flow in the rest of the world. And we wonder why we don’t grow.
America is not “post-Christian”. And if we want to speak to America, we damn well better start talking about the things they are talking about; and they are still talking about Christology and Soteriology. Theodore Parker and Hosea Ballou are getting more play in the religious world outside of Unitarian Universalism than they do with their own people.
Lest you think that the talk of Universalism that is going on at the moment is new–or limited to those like Phil Gulley (who is catching hell in Western Yearly Meeting–where is our support of him outside the UU Christian Fellowship?), take a walk through the Exhibit Hall at the American Academy of Religion meeting, and you will see that the academy never stopped talking about it.
But why is this comment sitting with me the way it is? Because it is tied to our thinking about justice and “Justice GA”.
I am concerned that too many people who are thinking about going to Phoenix in June don’t see that our primary purpose in going is not political or sociological; it is theological. And most UUs run from theology like it’s a communicable disease. Yet, if you listen to many of the arguments on the issue of migration-immigration-movement of people, at their root they are theological arguments. And effective witness when the arguments are theological means that one has to be able to talk to same language–in this case theology. And what I’m really afraid of is that most UUs who are going to go aren’t equipped to do that kind of witness because they think that Unitarian Universalism is “post-Christian.” Even if I believed that, the people we want to witness with are NOT “post-Christian.” So what kind of witnessing can we really do?
At its heart, the migration-immigration-movement of people issue/debate is all about endogamy and exogamy. And the biblical tradition is full of examples of both. Yet most UUs wouldn’t know even one of those examples. This is a shame and puts us at a real disadvantage in doing the kind of witness that we should be doing.
So…while many of you will be reading “The Death of Josseline” in preparation for going to Phoenix, may I recommend the following books–organized in two separate categories.
Category #1- History and Theology
-Holy War by Nigel Cliff
-A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutierrez
-Liberation Theologies in the United States edited by Stacey Floyd-Thomas and Anthony Pinn
-Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman
Category #2- History and Theory
-1493 by Charles Mann
-The Colonizer and the Colonized by Albert Memmi
-The Tempest by William Shakespeare
-Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
-Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality by Joel Spring
And while you’re at it…take a gander at Theodore Parker’s “Transient and Permanent in Christianity.” You’ll see it’s more relevant today than much contemporary UU writing.
I’ll end with two quotes that I think speak to this better than I do.
“The past is not dead. It isn’t even past.” -William Faulkner
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” -Marcus Garvey