Thursday, April 29, 2004
We have no position. Yet.
Almost a week ago, the public information office of the Unitarian Universalist Association posted a clarification about the independent group "Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness." Somehow I managed to miss it:
A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle on polyamory conveyed several mistaken impressions about Unitarian Universalism. The following is to clarify the Unitarian Universalist Association's stance.
First, the UUA has never supported the legal recognition of polyamorous relationships, nor has this issue ever been considered by any official decision-making body of the Association.
Second, Unitarian Universalists are free to organize around any issue they consider significant. Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness (UUPA) is a “related organization”; unlike associate member organizations and independent affiliate organizations, related organizations are not endorsed by the UUA board of trustees.
Third, the Association has no official position on this issue because official positions are established by passage of resolutions at our General Assembly, and there is no resolution on this issue.
The Association's social justice work is focused on women's equality and reproductive choice, protection of civil liberties, marriage equality, and voter registration.
Meanwhile, according to a post on the Unitarian Universalists' LiveJournal site — a group blog that tilts rather more to the neopagan and anarcholibertarian end of liberal religion than I'm used to — the president of UUPA has also issued a clarification:
The work of Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness relates to promoting dialog among Unitarian Universalists about how UU congregations can minister to polyamorous families already in their midst, and how UUs with vastly varying opinions on polyamory can discuss this extremely controversial issue with candor, integrity, and respect.
UUPA is an independent organization. UUPA's relationship to the Unitarian Universalist Association is that of "related organization," which means that the UUA has no position on UUPA's work, while recognizing that fellow UUs make up the membership of UUPA.
But the more interesting clarification comes from Rebecca Parker, president of the Berkeley, Calif., Starr King School for the Ministry (one of two officially UUA-related seminaries), who takes a rather Berkeleyed position:
For the record: I support Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness and completely disagree with those who use their belief that monogamous heterosexual marriage is ordained by God as a basis for rejecting same sex couples and polyamorous relationships. I was sorry to see the Chronicle article give the inaccurate impression that I hold to the theological view that God ordained heterosexuality as the norm. My sense when I spoke to Don Lattin, the Chronicle's religion writer, was that he understood my theological affirmation that there are diverse ethical expressions of human sexuality. I'm guessing this was a copy-editing error.
I'm not sure what sort of support Parker means to extend to UUPA. (I suspect it has to do with making some of her students and faculty feel "affirmed.") As a religious and political liberal who has largely been convinced by the conservative case for same-sex marriage, it's quite a stretch for me to see any connection between the gay-marriage movement and polyamory. But if you treat gay marriage as just another option on the erotic salad bar — you know, some people get their kicks from monogamy — and if you see the church or state's role in giving marriage a protected status as morally illegitimate, then, sure, poly is the obvious next step.
But it's almost impossible to figure out what Parker's theological stance might be, since she mentions really conservative biblicist arguments that she doesn't accept but only alludes to a theological affirmation of "diverse ethical expressions of human sexuality." I'd like to know more, since I'd agree that there are diverse ethical expressions of human sexuality — but I wouldn't agree that the church or society or the state needs to treat them all the same. What is the theological basis for such a claim?
Here's a question that might cut to the heart of Unitarian Universalist identity: The UUPA's Web site says they want "Unitarian Universalism to become the first poly-welcoming mainstream religious denomination." How exactly would we be "poly-welcoming" and "mainstream" at the same time?
Our congregations do a marvelous job of embracing individuals who hold all manner of sublime and ridiculous views, and whose lives I sometimes admire but sometimes find deeply disturbing. But I'm even more fascinated by the eagerness of so many of the non-mainstream folks for the endorsement of a "mainstream" institution. The polyamorists seem to think they can find mainstream credibility by convincing soft-hearted, perenially nonjudgmental UUs to encourage their "self-discovery." My prediction: The vast majority of UUs won't buy it.
Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 29 April 2004 at 7:34 PM