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Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Adlai Stevenson, Unitarian.

I've been thinking about Adlai Stevenson lately as people have been discussing Howard Dean's decision not to join the Unitarian Universalist church in Burlington when he decided he'd had it with the Episcopal church. (Dean ended up a nominal Congregationalist instead.) Stevenson was the last Unitarian to run for president as a major party candidate.

The following passage, written by Stevenson in 1958, was first published 19 years ago in the Unitarian Universalist World:

The Liberal Way

I think that one of our most important tasks as Unitarians is to convince ourselves and others that there is nothing to fear in difference; that difference, in fact, is one of the healthiest and most invigorating of human characteristics, without which life would become lifeless. Here lies the power of the liberal way—not in making the whole world Unitarian; but in helping ourselves and others to see some of the possibilities inherent in viewpoints other than one's own; in encouraging the free interchange of ideas; in welcoming fresh approaches to the problems of life; in urging the fullest, most vigorous use of critical self-examination. Thus we can learn to grow together, to unite in our common search for the truth beneath a better and a happier world.

On March 5, 1958 Adlai E. Stevenson wrote to his friend Maurine Neuberger in Washington declining an invitation to the annual workshop of the Unitarian Fellowship for Social Justice. This passage, never before published, constitutes the main body of the letter. Mr. Stevenson, who died in 1965, was the Democratic nominee for President in 1952 and 1956. A Unitarian, he served a term as governor of Illinois and, later, as US ambassador to the United Nations. The WORLD acknowledges the work of Alan Seaburg of the Andover-Harvard Theological Library and of Dillman Sorrells, a student at the Harvard Divinity School, in bringing the letter to light.

("The Liberal Way," Unitarian Universalist WORLD, 12.15.84; page 4)

I find it heartening that Stevenson represented Unitarian ideals so well — and disconcerting to think that a politician could not really identify as a Unitarian Universalist today and expect to be taken seriously in a national race.

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 6 January 2004 at 9:05 PM

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January 10, 2004 11:56 PM | Permalink for this comment

I suppose this would be the same Dillman Sorrells who is the minister at Rochester, Minnesota. I love her name: in a the fine Southern custom, I gather, of giving girl-children names that read like genealogies.

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