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We are not alone

Unitarian Universalism is not alone on the 'religious left.'
By Christopher L. Walton
Winter 2009 11.1.09

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Unitarian Universalists sometimes see themselves as the all-too-small religious opposition to the religious right. The perception sets us up for disappointment, since there are so few of us, and blinds us to the presence of allies in many other traditions. (It also miscasts Unitarian Universalism as a political movement. Social witness is an important part of our religious tradition, but it is not the only part.)

Two articles in this issue illustrate the point that Unitarian Universalism is not alone on the “religious left.” Harvard Divinity School’s Daniel McKanan argues that religious progressivism has deep roots in American history—and a real opportunity to make a difference as the power of the religious right wanes (“The Religious Left,” page 26). Meanwhile, Scotty McLennan, a UU minister who serves as dean of religious life at Stanford University, has published a book called Jesus Was a Liberal, which makes a case for a theologically and politically liberal Christianity. In “Breath Is Life” (page 33), he offers a Christian rationale for abortion. That’s something you don’t see every day in the public debate about abortion.

UU World business manager Scott Ullrich explains on page 10 that the magazine erred in accepting an ad for the Fall 2009 issue from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that seemed to mock all religion, including Unitarian Universalism. Some readers have mistaken Ullrich’s apology, which we published online shortly after the Fall issue was mailed, as evidence of hostility toward nontheistic UUs. The magazine does not discriminate against advertisers or writers based on their theological opinions. It exists, however, to promote the UUA’s Principles and serve its mission, and we believe that ridicule is hard to square with “acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.”

We mourn the death of the Rev. Dr. Forrest Church, our friend and frequent contributor, who died September 24, three years after he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. In honor of his contributions to modern UU theology, we reprint what is undoubtedly his most famous passage, “The Cathedral of the World,” adapted from A Chosen Faith, the introduction to Unitarian Universalism he wrote with the Rev. John Buehrens (page 18). Church completed his twenty-fifth book just before he died, a collection of his theological essays entitled The Cathedral of the World. A review appears on page 56. An obituary appears alongside those of several of his colleagues in Milestones (page 53).

Finally, we thank our intern this fall, Eric Fershtman, for his diligent copyediting and his contributions to our weekly blogs, “Unitarian Universalists in the Media” and “The Interdependent Web.” Learn more about our internship program.

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