A New Direction for UU

I know some readers of this blog are aware of the controversy that is currently roiling Unitarian Universalism. I’ve written about it in this space from time to time, when not rambling on about synthesizers or fiction technique.

This week there has been an important development.

A lot of us are disturbed about the direction in which the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is being steered. An alternative organization, the North American Unitarian Association (NAUA), is now being founded. Within a month or two, both congregations and individuals will be able to join the NAUA.

Tonight I joined a Zoom meeting with some people who are helping get the process started. It’s exciting! And if you believe that liberalism has a place in religion, your active support can make a difference.

For a very long time, Unitarianism has been a liberal religion. People were free to believe or not believe whatever they preferred. All were welcome, and the individual conscience was respected. Within the past decade, however, the UUA has begun moving Unitarian Universalism away from liberalism, not subtly but dogmatically. The UUA was founded as a service organization that provided support for autonomous UU congregations. Today, however, it has become an authoritarian, illiberal organization that is working energetically to transform UUism into something quite different. Frankly, into something toxic.

The people who are running the UUA mean well. They’re trying to combat the evils of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and so on. The problem lies not in their goals, which I’m sure most UU members would endorse, but in their methods. Some of their methods are divisive, hurtful, or simply not supported by logic or facts. And if you disagree with their approach, you’re accused of being “out of covenant.” Essentially, you’re asked to recant your wrong-headed views and get with the program. The program is dictated by the upper echelons of the UUA, and nobody is allowed to debate it. To give just one example, the official magazine of the UUA, UU World, no longer publishes letters to the editor. The magazine is no longer a place for discussion and debate: It has been restructured as a propaganda organ. People who question the UUA’s current direction can be, and are being, kicked out. Excommunicated, as the Catholics would say.

The point of the NAUA is not to cause or carve out a schism, though a philosophical schism is already well under way. Congregations will be free to belong to both the NAUA and the UUA (unless, of course, the UUA ejects those who try it). Our hope is that in time the UUA leadership will come to understand that they’ve taken a wrong turn. But it will be at least ten years before that can happen. In the meantime, it’s vital that liberal religion be actively supported.

The NAUA will offer the kinds of resources for congregations that the UUA offers, but with a liberal approach that emphasizes freedom of thought and our common humanity. Plans are under way to provide congregations who are seeking a new minister with links to ministers who uphold the liberal ideals that have long been a hallmark of Unitarianism. There will be resources for religious education for children and youth from a liberal point of view. There may even be a national print magazine for the NAUA, (Yes, I’ve volunteered to help with that.)

There are still a lot of UUs who know nothing about what’s going on in the UUA. I spoke about it with two members of my local congregation this week; neither of them had heard any of the details. If you’re a UU and you want to know more, I hope you’ll reach out and get involved. You may want to start by watching last week’s sermon by Rev. Todd Eklof.

I can also recommend several books: Used to Be UU (Casper and Kiskel), The Gadfly Papers (Eklof), The Gadfly Affair (Eklof), Against Illiberalism (Cycleback), Woke Racism (McWhorter), The Coddling of the American Mind (Lukianoff and Haidt), The Self-Confessed “White Supremacy Culture” (Anne Schneider), and Cynical Theories (Pluckrose and Lindsay). They’re all on Amazon. Full disclosure: I edited items 1, 3, and 4 in that list.

Too much reading? Maybe I’ll write a blog post in which I try to summarize the topic. But it’s a huge topic, and I’m not the world’s foremost authority.

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1 Response to A New Direction for UU

  1. Jay Kiskel says:

    Thanks for letting your readers know about the NAUA. It is good to know that there is place for the liberally religious.

    The UUA appears lost in the wilderness. It will take awhile before it can find its footing again.

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