Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Lately I've been covering the UU blogosphere for uuworld.org — visit "The Interdependent Web" or subscribe to its feed to keep up with me there — and this past week I stumbled onto something I'm surprised and embarrassed I had not heard before. In a post examining the absence of any discussion of sexism in the UUA presidential race, Suzie at Echidne of the Snakes wrote:
Many UUs were proud to elect their first African-American president. The United Church of Christ was the first major, predominatly white denomination to elect a black president in 1976. But some media, including this interview with Sinkford by Bill Maxwell, a well-known columnist who also is a UU, attributed that first to the UUA.
It's true: In 1976 Joseph H. Evans, the UCC's national secretary and an African American, was elected president of the United Church of Christ upon the death of President Robert Moss and served in that role for one year. (Here's more about Evans.)
Many media outlets appear to have overstated the significance of Sinkford's election, however. A June 2001 Associated Press article about Sinkford's election, for example, said: "Sinkford is not only the first black UUA president, but he also is the first African-American to head any predominately white religious denomination." More to the point, and more embarrassing, I wrote in my UU World coverage of Sinkford's election that he was "the first African American elected to lead a historically white denomination in the United States." Oops!
I wonder why no one pointed Evans out to us Unitarian Universalists before. Certainly UUA news junkies complained when news coverage of the UCC's decision to endorse same-sex marriage in 2005 treated the denomination's decision as a "first," since the UUA had claimed that distinction in 1996. (Of course, most of the news coverage accurately explained that the UCC was the first "mainline Christian denomination" to support gay marriage; the UUA no longer describes itself as a "Christian" denomination.) But with all the UCC-UUA interaction, I'm surprised it didn't come up. Perhaps it did, and I missed it.
At any rate, almost eight years later, I'm setting the record straight. Thanks, Suzie!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The Winter 2008 issue of UU World is in the mail. William F. Schulz writes about the wisdom of endurance; Barbara Merritt muses on Leonard Cohen's "broken hallelujah"; John Gibb Millspaugh sees ethical dilemmas on the Thanksgiving dinner table; Christine Nielsen says social entrepreneurship is transforming women's lives worldwide; and Ted Sorensen talks about his experiences as JFK's Unitarian speechwriter.
You don't need to wait for your copy to arrive to start browsing the magazine online.
Members of congregations affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association in the United Stated receive a subscription to UU World as a benefit of membership, but others can subscribe for only $14 a year.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Among the moving comments I read this morning in the wake of yesterday's extraordinary election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States:
Sixty-six-year-old Jake Coakley picked cotton as a boy in Beaufort, S.C., just as his father and grandfather did before him. So yesterday, as he stood amid a throng of people hugging, high-fiving, and even weeping outside a Roxbury polling place, he wanted to underscore the significance of the day. . . .
"At the time when I came up, I couldn't see beyond the cotton fields," Coakley said. "There wasn't anybody in my life I could look at who could see beyond the cotton fields. And to see this man come the way that he's come, through all the struggle and all the marching and all the hanging and all the lynching and everything that was done in this country, whatever doubts that I have, whatever I feel within me, this is the best country on the face of this earth. And we're not just talking about it. We're living it."
Adam Serwer of The American Prospect writes:
A biracial man with a Muslim father and an Arabic/Swahili name, reared by his white grandparents, has ascended to the highest position in American politics. This was not Malcolm [X]'s dream. It was not something he saw as possible. Another man saw it, a man Obama paid homage to tonight when he said "we may not get there in one year or in one term, but America I promise you, we as a people will get there." That man knew he would not get here with us, and he was right. But we could not have come here without him. And we still have a ways to go. . . .
Obama's gift is that he understood America's great secret, that Americans have a deep and abiding need to love one another, and that we only lack the courage to do so. The theme of Obama's campaign has been a simple affirmation that we are in fact, one, in ways Malcolm never could have though possible and in ways Martin Luther King only dreamed of.
Red Staters should take heart in the knowledge that this ideal is not exclusive. Obama's victory does not mean this is no longer your country. It is not the country conservatives believed it was, but it is theirs as much as it is ours. This is a nation of whites, blacks, Asians and Latinos, gay and straight, conservatives and liberals, small towns and coastal metropolises. No passion can ever break our bonds of affection, no matter how often it may seem so. McCain was wrong: this isn't a proud moment for African-Americans. This is a proud moment for America.