Political polarization poses a special challenge for Unitarian Universalists. Our commitment to worldly change draws us into the partisan fray, increasingly on the liberal side (as Tom Schade described in “There Is No Going Back” in the last issue of UU World). But our Universalist heritage rejects a vision that divides the country into good people and bad people; it calls us to resist the all-too-human temptation to cast opponents as enemies.
As the national polarization gets ever more bitter, we must work all the harder not to stereotype those who disagree with us according to their race, class, income, or other demographic category, no matter how closely such traits may correlate with ideas we oppose. The more tempted we are to write people off without a hearing, the harder we should be working to understand them.
Many Unitarian Universalists, who are on average more highly educated and who live in higher income neighborhoods, take our privilege for granted. As a result, few segments of American society are harder for UUs to reach out to than the lower economic reaches of the white working class, which we often associate—not always unfairly—with nativism, racism, homophobia, ignorance, and violence. Fortunately, two current books (and one slightly older) can help us improve our understanding of who these people are and the life experiences that shape their views.