Saturday, January 01, 2005

In Praise of Conservative UUs


Having just come from the AUC page a.k.a. the National Homepage of UUism's bitter ex-husbands, and read my thousandth "Boy, doesn't it suck that UUism doesn't work the way I want it to" post by a beliefnet poster who quit UUism a decade ago and thus has done nothing to improve things, I am finding myself feeling appreciative of Republican UUs who stay in UUism and stick it out and work hard to make UUism better for everyone.

Thinking back over the many UU churches I've attended, I find that some of my favorite members have been the Republicans. There's a certain cast of characters to UU churches and one of my favorites is the older man who is a Republican and a free thinker and doesn't care what anybody has to say about either. (Not that older UU Republican women don 't exist, but they seem less common and less proud of themselves.)

Is life always easy for UU Republicans? Of course not.

The majority of UUs are liberal and we decide a lot by voting. UU Republicans can easily get screwed if they end up ostracizing themselves. The interesting thing is that most of them don’t. They make their views known, but they work alongside everyone else for common goals.

In UUism, politics is preached from the pulpit more than I like to think about, and those politics are almost always liberal politics. This is possibly forgivable in a lay-led sermon, but inexcusable in services led by a minister. Truly, a UU church’s commitment to free thought can be judged by how it treats its conservatives.

I’m torn on political questions because while I really don’t believe that politics has a place in the pulpit, I have in the past belonged to a church in a very conservative state where the people came and talked about politics because they didn’t feel comfortable doing it anyplace else. I am loath to take that away from those people.

Now there were conservatives in that church, and they seemed pretty understanding about the need, say, an elementary school teacher might feel for a place where she can talk about her passionate belief in gay rights.

I’d love to believe that in liberal states, there are UU churches that are tiny bastions of conservatism, but I don’t.

I think we as UUs sometimes forget that there is no commonly accepted moral standard by which we can judge the morality of the political parties. To say that a good UU is a political liberal is to pass a judgment that UUism does not ask us to make.

If I want to take care of the poor through job training and daycare programs, and the guy down the street wants to take care of the poor through support for big business that will create jobs, I think he’s wrong about the way he’s going about it, but morally, we’re equal and he has just as much a place in my church as I do.

That having been said, I also think that one of the finer things about the Republicans at my old southern church was that they were aware they weren’t the majority and were willing to suck it up a bit. When, for example, you’re the only non-Christian in your office, you can jump up and down and cry discrimination when the office throws a Christmas party, or you can just understand that you’re not the majority and be gracious about it.

So I guess my answer to the issue of political diversity in the UU church as follows.

Liberals should:

1. Never let conversation become a monologue.
2. Accept that there are many ways to the top of the mountain and some conservatives are very good people who have chosen a different way.
3. Seek to learn from Conservatives. At the very least, they will improve their own arguments.
4. Try to keep politics out of the worship service itself. A political action group that meets Wednesday nights is one thing. A sermon on the evils of trickle-down economics on Sunday morning is another.
5. Remember that there are lots of kinds of Conservatives. A Bush voter can still be Pro-Choice, for example. It’s just probably not their first priority.

Conservatives should:
1. Accept that they are not the majority, and roll their eyes. If some old lady gives a sermon every year about how awful the Republican party is, make like a humanist on Beltane and pick that Sunday to try a different church or go to an art museum rather than making a fuss about it.
2. Join the worship committee and make your voice heard. Seek balance.
3. Speak up in discussion groups. You’re hard to demonize if you’re sitting right there and sometimes people who are strongly on one side really haven’t thought the other side’s logic through. Present that logic and you will be making a bitch session into a conversation.
4. Remember that there are lots of kinds of liberals. If there’s one loudmouth liberal and a four people nodding in agreement, that’s not five people attacking your position, it’s one. And the people nodding may only half-agree anyway. Sometimes it’s easier for a moderate liberal to smile and nod at the radicals than to argue out the finer points.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for sticking by your faith and making it better.


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Anonymous said...

"I think we as UUs sometimes forget that there is no commonly accepted moral standard by which we can judge the morality of the political parties. "

My partner and I were Unitarian Universalists for years. It is because there is no "moral standard" that we left UUism for Quakerism. We would be considered pretty ultra-liberal both socially and economically. Yet, our political beliefs are deeply rooted in Christainity. We are liberals BECAUSE we are Christians...that Christianity as guided by the Inward Light shines brightly and can illuminate all our "political" ideologies.

One more thing...UU's try to be all things to all people. Be a liberal denomination! Reach out to liberals...both political and religious liberals. There are plenty of congregations where conservatives are welcome, even non-religious conservatives (what the heck would they want with the UUA anyway).

Don't get me wrong, I love UUism. I just don't think it has a Center. Today's average UU congregation welcomes all, but includes none.

And yet another thing...why is it not okay to have a Christian UU service but have a pagan "dungeons and dragonesk" service almost every Sunday.

UU's...reclaim your religious core and embrace your history both as liberal christians and liberal politicos!

NCLotus at