When I was invited to be on the board of a liberal Protestant campus ministry several years ago, I found that the two magazines most often referred to by my fellow board members were Sojourners and The Christian Century (the other CC), and I subscribed to them in order to understand better the frame of reference of my Christian board colleagues. Even after leaving that board, I have continued these journals, since I am generally sympathetic with their values
and usually find The Christian Century in particular to be a useful and well balanced source on events in the progressive Christian world.
I was dismayed to find in the News section of the current (July 24) issue of the other CC a post-Portland article under the title “Racial, multicultural tensions still beset Unitarian Universalists”, from the RNS news service. It is not possible to review it in detail, but I think that it is reasonable to say that the article puts a somewhat negative spin on a number of discussions of racial issues within the UUA, and at recent GAs. Probably the best-balanced statement cited was that of UU minister Manish Mishra, who was paraphrased as saying that “the church and its leadership are sometimes unfairly blamed for issues that affect “all of white liberal America.”“
Racism is, of course, a world-wide problem, not just an American problem, not just a liberal political or religious problem, not just a UU problem. Since I grew up in a liberal white family in an openly racist part of this country, since my father taught in a historically black college, and since my former wife and I raised an adopted black child from the age of two months, I have some awareness of this problem and I have a personal investment in racial issues. Those are the assumptions that my adopted black son invoked when he called on Father’s Day this year and thanked me for saving his life (his words) through my support of him during a hard passage in his life in recent years.
Most persons of color are better qualified by experience to speak on these issues than I am, so I usually leave statements on them to others. However, there is a higher-order issue in terms of the place of issues of race within the UUA that needs to be addressed. Although the UUA can (and I believe that it should) act and exert influence on various levels to ameliorate racial problems, a political /social topic such as race is not and cannot be the primary focus of a religious organization such as the UUA. President Sinkford has made the issue of racism a more active issue at the UUA. Sinkford, probably more than anyone else, can make this a productive discussion, but to do so he must aim at specific concrete goals and situate the discussion of these issues appropriately within the primary religious mission of the UUA