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Oh please do stay! (And the "liberal" in "liberal religion" does not refer to a political party or even a political bent--it refers to the sense of liberal as in "free," hence "faith of the free." So, you can feel ok about joining if you so desire: we are not, as a faith, politically affiliated.) More discussion on this topic welcome from other voices!
Though I admit it does hold some interest for me, what political bent other UUs follow ;-)
--Jennie (another Petaluman!)
Thanks for your message to my profile, and for welcoming me to this reading group. I like it here already.
Probably I should have posted to the discussion board instead of starting a new topic that is all about me. I'll do that next time, but for now:
I like the notion of a "free" religion, but this denotative meaning of the word "liberal" that the UU church embraces is problematic in that it is not the one that comes to mind for most people. Rather, the more well-known, connotative meaning "political leftist" (or even just "democrat") is the one that dominates in popular culture, so that the UU church's designation as a liberal religion does, whether advertently or inadvertently, send the message that it is the unofficial religion of liberal democrats. And in fact, it does tend to attract liberal democrats and repel others, so much so that one UU minister I know once gave a sermon on "the place of a radical in a liberal religion." (Somehow I doubt that anyone has ever given a sermon on the place of a conservative in a liberal religion, and in fact, it seems to be an unspoken assumption in UU church services that there are no conservatives in attendence -- a mistake, in my opinion.) In addition, it is so common for UU churches to form and/or support political activist sub-groups dedicated to democratic party issues, that while the religion may remain a-political from an official standpoint, it does seem to function in an unofficial capacity as a religious extension of the democratic party. It is this that I object to, though I see no easy solution to it.
Anyway, since this is a reading group, do you happen to know of any UU books that address this issue?
Nice to meet you! I see from your groups that we have many common interests. No surprise, mind you, given our common, pseudo-UU status. :)
I don't know of any UU books, but you could check out this forum for conservative UUs:
But I don't think the opposite of "liberal" should ever be construed to be "conservative." I think the opposite of "liberal" is "illiberal," as in dictatorial. And just because it so happens that there is, at the moment, some alignment between "dictatorial" and the so-called "conservative" party in power may be occuring, doesn't mean that "conservative" means dictatorial, or illiberal. Oh there I go, rambling again...
Oh good. I was hoping it wasn't coming off as obnoxious. And I enjoyed finding the cfuu website as well. It is an important conversation.
Unitarian Universalists include political conservatives, and every once in a while I have to work that into a sermon. Indeed, the 1946 Colliers Encyclopedia (which my parents owned) defined Unitarian as a theologically liberal but politically conservative church in the New England states! Today many members are politically as well as theologically liberal, but we still do indeed have some old fashioned conservatives among us as well. I usually both encourage them to speak out and provide an assertive defense for their right to have a differing opinion in matters of politics. Community does not mean group think, especially when we presumably value the "right of conscience and the democratic process." The right of conscience means the freedom to disagree with the group!
But in describing Unitarian Universalism as a "liberal religion," I think the WordWeb Thesaurus/Dictionary describes its usage as an adjective very well:
1. Showing or characterized by broad-mindedness
2. Having political or social views favoring reform and progress
3. Tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition
4. Given or giving freely
5. Not literal
If you ignore the word "political" (since it is followed by an "or" I thinks it's fair to do so), every one of the five definitions are very descriptive of the "liberal" Unitarian Universalist religion.
I'm a "Francophone". I beg your pardon in advance because I'm not sure I'm fluent in written English. I think I'm only easy in reading English. Sure, I should be silent ! :-)
There is an Unitarian trend in French Liberal Protestantism and an UU Church in Paris (France) since last year. I don't live in Paris.
I follow the news on UU websites. I don't understand very well what are "UU Books" because It's rather difficult to get English speaking books when you live in countryside.
Interesting to hear about a Unitarian trend in French Liberal Protestantism. For that matter, it's interesting to hear about such a thing as French Protestantism! I'm afraid I am terribly ignorant.
Can you order books via amazon.com in France? What are the public libraries like where you are?
Thanks for joining the group. As usual for Europeans apologizing about their ability with English, your English is so much better than my French ever was or will be--you seem completely fluent to me.
Just found a website for the Paris Unitarian Fellowship at
First you must remember that Belgium and France are great Roman Catholic countries. So the various Liberal Protestantism, mainly among Lutheran and Reformed which are together 2% of the population when they declare in gallups they have or they are "close to" a religion. Unitarian are maybe 1% from these 2%. It seems an underground trend is slowy growing among RC as shown by a gallup last end year
Maybe the most famous is Théodore Monod ? Each time a conference gave him the opportunity to have a talk about "religion" he explained he was a "pre-nicean" Christian.
Few magazines :
*Theolib (a Liberal one) (paper and electronic)
*Profils de Liberté (in Belgium) with Free-Masons and Atheist (more and more atheist, less other trends and electronic only)
*Correspondance Unitarienne (usually "deskjet printed", The general level of the essays is rather basic)
*The older one Evangile et Liberté" (160 years)
Of course we can buy on Amazon.com and even on Amazon.fr (or ".de", etc) but the parcel is delivered by Chronopost (Public Service of express mail) or PTT (national public service of mail) and if the customer is not on the point when the parcel is delivered, you must drive many miles to get it in the mail office of the closer town... during the opening hours !
Maybe Federal Europe shoulf be a good thing to get the critical dimension but La "Communauté de Leuenberg (CEPE)" (a federal union of 144 european protestant churches) is drastically trinitarian.
See also Protestantisme Liberal in the francophone Wikipedia which is mainly written by 2 friends of mine.
Katy - I wonder how you came to associate the "liberal" part of liberal religion with political affiliation?
Anyways, its good to have you - welcome!
I love being liberal, and I also enjoy hearing people's definitions. Of course, we are subjected to the concerted political efforts of people who might be regarded as extremists, that is, from both our wings.
We have to remember that King Leopold was calling his devastation of the Congo "my charity". He had bribed most of the newspaper editors of the world to perpetrate his deception. Marxists began using the slogan "progress through linguistics" --wholesale use of misleading labels and slogans. And Goebbels, in the next generation which started WWII, eagerly implemented the Big Lie as a strategy.
More recently, linguistic assaults were made on the word "liberal", and the "Reagan conservative" was lifted as a banner. The deliberate and successful effort of "conservatives" to vilify the "L"-word, was not an innovation of Karl Rove--he was copying the Big Lie technique.
It turns out, of course, that words really do have meaning, and will always be distorted and pressed into artful service. Some will become meaningless as used. "Liberal" remains somewhat tattered. However, I think we are seeing its recovery, now in the Obama era. He taught Constitutional Law for 10 years and for him the Founding Fathers and Mothers were "liberal".
I am a fiscal Conservative. It turns out that the division between Liberal and Conservative is an almost equal constant. It remains, in spite of regime change, strategic labeling, elections and thefts. The constant is not in our individual lives -- many of us rode the donkey of Marxism until it collapsed and we saw the shrugging Atlas. We live by miracle and mirage.
Still, there is that dialectic swing. It is important.
"Conservative" especially when "modified by "fiscal", is quite the "chic" thing to say in Unitarian congregations these days. Usually, these individuals end up, eventually, now identifying themselves as once "Rinos" (Republicans in Name Only), who now have good things to say about President Obama, hoping to "blend in" (and to have us all forget about their initial viral support of the "WMD" scare hysteria of GWB's Iraqi war "justifications") with our "Aren't-we-smart" Unitarian congregations and thus be accepted, on an equal basis, with those of our founding "academics" (After all, they do make substantial contributions to the collection plate.) and also be welcomed into our many extra-social activities.
Living in a community, where we feel much like pork chops in Jerusalem (i.e., not "blending in") with our very sociable Southern Baptist environment, we also find the 2 hours or so, once a week, Sunday ssessions, at the UU, plus an occasional shopping trip to Whole Foods, where we also experience a community revulsion to corporate food hustles.
Initially, we affiliated with the UU congregation, in Eugene, Oregon (to "vacinate" our off-spring aginst any Christian fundamentalist peers), and now, 5 congregational affiliations later, we find ourselves in the midst of the "soup". As Edgar Cayce was fond of saying, vis a vis karma: "Whatever your hangup is, that's what you are going to get over and over until you come to terms with it. With GWB's "presidential library" next door (at SMU, in Dallas), and GWB established as our resident linguist, "coming to terms" is extremely difficult.
I don't believe that other people's sexual practices are normally any of my business, and I want to stay away from people who make them their business. I have a problem with my Unitarian Universalist church in that it sometimes privileges certain sexualities that are not say heterosexual or monogamous or celibate.
I believe that government should pretty much not be involved in marriage.
Torture does not appeal to me in general and brought to age militarily with the Geneva Conventions I cling to them conservatively.
I am not sure how much government should be involved in social matters. I do know that I am happy serving the hungry at one of the local shelters on the church's dime rather than on your tax dollar. Conservative though I am I can accept at least some tax money's being spent to avoid suffering; I remain, however, wary of entitlement (I paid for my social security; how does that fit in?).
I think American conservatism needs tempering. Tempering might happen to conservatives who congregate among Unitarian Universalists.
And so on.
Tempering likely happens in both directions. If it is not too personal, would you mind sharing what draws you to the UU congregation you attend? Does it ever feel lonely?
My spiritual search began in college, almost fifty years ago, and was not conventionally American. It was at a time, however, that the beats had brought and were bringing Asiatic religions into the country enough so that there were readily available books. I have also been an atheist; I knew that. I have also been an existentialist; I know that only ex post facto.
I began to find that some of the things I was looking for in a spiritual life had been brought up for question for thousands of years in the West.
I was led to the twelve steps and became avid in their practice. It is not necessary to believe in God to do the twelve steps well. I needed, however, the comfort of prayer, and my non-godly spirituality notwithstanding, I found it easier to pray to God and developed a real relationship with him. I do not believe that God exists, but that lack of belief is not trivial.
A woman in my particular 12 step program suggested Unitarian Universalism. I went a few times, but attendance was difficult, I didn't get close, and I wasn't hearing some of the things I needed. I happened to call her a few years later, and she suggested we go again in part because there was a brand new minister. I took to the minister; I got to know the community; I was hearing some of the things I needed to hear, not most but some of them what I had heard before. I also read the principals of Unitarian Universalism, and I am at least okay with them and enthusiastic about the free and responsible search... Meanwhile I was getting along with a fellow in the congregation who was politically very conservative.
I stayed around.
I have been there long enough and know enough people who are at least acquainted with me that I can speak my mind. I don't stand up very often in the feedback part of the service, but if it is important to me I might. One day the minister led the congregation in a participatory male bashing. The feedback was going 'we women are really special, yes you women are really special, men have really screwed it up.' Some of that was 'female circumcision bad, male circumcision good.' I stood up and said, "I'm kinda reluctant to speak, but horseshit." And I went on. There are people there who don't like that, and there are people there who do.
Meanwhile, I am existentially lonely and not very apt socially. Alone I am not lonely, for the most part. In crowds I am lonely or in a shell. I think loneliness is a separate matter. Sometimes, after a week or two at home alone for example, I may want to engage with people, and there are people at church who can offer me that engagement, so I go.
I am sympathetic to, though I'm not sure I agree with, the Tillich quotation that Naren has provided us.
This church has made room at the table for a John C. Calhoun, and a Daniel Webster;. A Thomas Jefferson and a Whitney Young. Any well reasoned position will receive a respectful hearing. To me this is not "liberal" but ''radical''.
Why would a "radical" use an esoteric term like "orthogonal constructs", when a simpler phrase might be understood by a larger and more diverse readership (the masses). Besides, "orthogonal constructs " is two words;)
Here's a very brief discussion of what "Liberal religion" is by one of our great UU theologians, James Luther Adams:
And it's only seven pages, I think...short read.