The Counterfactuals

I don’t normally deal with counterfactuals, but since I’m avoiding writing about why I think UUism (or most UU congregations) will stay white it’s related.

So let’s play the “what if…” game:

–What if Rev. William Jackson had been welcomed by the meeting of the nascent AUA instead of being given a few dollars and sent on his way?

–What if the Unitarians and Universalists had given the Joseph Jordans the money to found a seminary instead of doing misadventures in Japan?

–What if the AUA had left Ethelred Brown and the Harlem Unitarian Society alone instead of stripping him of his fellowship and sabotaging the church?

–What if the AUA (and the local ministers) had done anything (like recognize) Rev. William H.G. Carter and church he founded in Cincinnati?

–What if the UUA had followed through on its commitment to BAC?

And that’s just the ones off the top of my head.

In a different view…what if the Unitarians had done like the Methodists, Baptists (Presbys and Lutherans to a much lesser extent) and had established a few Black congregations themselves? What is/was in Unitarian theology that stopped this from happening?

What’s striking to me is the lack of imagination that U/U/UUs displayed and continue to display. I’ll write about that eventually.

When They See Us

“So much of what we think we know about black history is actually white history. We’ve told the black story through a white lens, with whites as the main object of black experience and existence. The ‘unconventional’ story is the one blacks have lived themselves.”     -Peter Temin

General Assembly has been over for a couple of weeks now, and while there are many things I could write about, my mind is stuck in history and its connection to the present.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of two things that are loosely connected, even though they are seldom talked about together: the exodus from the UUA and the publication of James Cone’s “Black Theology and Black Power.” And it didn’t even occur to me that we don’t talk about them together until GA was over.

Dr. Cone said that the reason he wrote “Black Theology and Black Power” was he saw what was happening to Black people and the inability of traditional theology to speak to the conditions of those most marginalized.

The exodus from the UUA in 1969 happened for much the same reason; members of the Black Affairs Council (BAC) saw the same thing happening in the UUA.
[yes, I know money was part of the issue. but money is never the actual problem, money is a symptom of the problem]

Far too often UUs talk about the “controversy” as a money issue, when actually it was much deeper than that. I frequently wonder what would happen if UUs talked about that period in a different way; as a white backlash to African Americans saying they were not ancillary to the Unitarian Universalist project, but major players in it. Yet, since that period is still talked about in the former way, UUism is stuck.

So now I get to ask the question that’s been on my mind since Ministry Days: do UUs  know that liberation theology exists? Or did liberation theology pass UUism by? Because I think part of the reason UUism is stuck, theologically at least, is there doesn’t seem to be an active engagement with liberation theology at all. And that lack of engagement means that UU justice work can look spotty and ineffective.

What happens to UUism if/when the story about itself ever changes? When the focus isn’t on those who have been talked about ad nauseam?

What happens when they see us?