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Saturday, April 5, 2003

Kelly on the Unitarians.

Michael Kelly's Atlantic Monthly was wonderful in every way. The redesign he launched at the magazine made it one of a very small handful that we refer to frequently when we discuss good design at UU World. The writers he favored were livelier than the magazine had known in many years, but the feisty conservatism of Kelly's columns and some of the writers he brought to the Atlantic didn't turn it into a political magazine. Instead, it reclaimed its legacy as the home of some of the best cultural reporting and literary journalism in America. Kelly — who was the first U.S. journalist to die in the war with Iraq on Thursday — will be sorely missed. (Globe | NYTimes | Post | Atlantic)

The Washington Post reprinted one of his columns this morning as a tribute, which brings us back to my favorite topic: contemporary Unitarianism. In December 2001, Kelly described the Unitarian Christmas pageant in which his son played a small role. (Kelly is Catholic, his wife Jewish — a combination that has brought many families to Unitarian Universalist congregations.) The season is all wrong, but the message is timely:

Jack has not been cast in a pageant. Tom has, though. He has a walk-on in the pageant staged by our local Unitarian church. There was a rehearsal the other Sunday after the service, which featured the lighting of a menorah (during which apologies were offered to anyone who might take offense at a lighting before sundown), followed by the traditional singing of the great Christian hymn "Oh, Mitten Tree" (during which the faithful paraded around a tree that was decked, in fact, with mittens). A Unitarian pageant turns out to be different from a Roman Catholic one. In Tom's pageant, Jesus Christ is celebrated as "a very special person" and "a great rabbi" and an all-around asset to the community. The Son-of-God debate, which has proved so regrettably contentious over the years, is not mentioned.

Kelly also sums up the Unitarian theology he learned (after discussing the differences between tasteful folks who only put up white lights for the holidays, and people like himself who prefer colored lights and a bit of excess in their celebrations): "I should not be judgmental. I learned that from the Unitarians. Colored-lighters aren't any better than white-lighters; we are all special persons. Very."

Ouch. As my own tribute to Michael Kelly, I'll raise a flag for judgmental Unitarianism.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 5 April 2003 at 3:53 PM

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