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Thursday, December 26, 2002

Is there political diversity among UUs?

A Beliefnet participant asked, "Could a Republican become a U.U.?" and observed:

Practically I'm seeing the answer is no. From what I read on these boards and elsewhere, U.U. appears to be more an arm of the Democratic (or perhaps Green) party than anything else.

Are there Republican UUs? Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) is a Unitarian, but doesn't make a big fuss about it. She is from the moderate wing of the Republican Party.

The complaint, though, that Unitarian Universalism is little more than thinly-disguised left-liberal politics sometimes hits pretty close to the mark, especially in many smaller congregations. The danger is not that UUs derive their political values from their religious commitments, but that they sometimes dress up their political values in religious clothing. (Like ministers who never wear robes, stoles, or clerical collars — except at political protests.) This is called ideology; it's a way of claiming extra legitimacy for a political opinion by treating it as divinely (or at least religiously) mandated. It is unreflective, self-righteous, and creates a potent kind of social coercion that can push away good people who don't demonstrate dogmatic fidelity to the political creed.

If Unitarian Universalism is seen to be "the Democratic Party at prayer," the risk is that we will drive away the very people who really are asking fundamental questions — about religion and about politics — and who would therefore be most interested in an open-minded religious community. If we don't ask people to have their religious opinions all worked out before joining us, what makes it legitimate to expect that someone have all their political opinions worked out before joining us?

The other danger of a political ideology that pretends to be religiously motivated is that it demonizes its political opponents. One test of a religious movement engaged in politics is whether it dares to criticize its own party. It's an easy kind of religion that finds evil only in its opponents; a much better religion helps us see where we ourselves fall short.

I don't think religion and politics should be held absolutely apart. I just think we should be careful not to make our politics into a new kind of orthodoxy.

(Originally posted to Beliefnet; see message 79.)

Copyright © 2002 by Philocrites | Posted 26 December 2002 at 8:14 PM

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