Conservative UUs call for inclusivity
“How can we do viable social justice work if we don’t agree politically?” That was the question a crowd of about 175 people considered Friday afternoon at “Crossing Political Borders, Breaking Down Barriers,” a workshop focusing on the viewpoints of politically conservative and moderate UUs.
“We are not separated by the labels of our chosen party,” the Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael, minister of the UUs of Sterling, Va., said in her opening remarks, “but by the unholy authority we give those labels to speak for us and to split us, one from another.”
The gathering featured a performance of the short play The Unheard Voices of UU Conservatives, written by Anya Sammler-Michael*, which was compiled using interviews with real members of Unitarian Universalist congregations. The play examined the feelings of isolation and rejection that politically conservative UUs often feel within their overwhelmingly liberal faith community.
Organizers followed the play with a series of talks on the topics of theology, ecclesiology, and “How do we live this?”
The Rev. Scott Sammler-Michael, minister of Accotink UU Church in Burke, Va., spoke on the topic of theology. “Some Unitarian Universalists act as if our churches are the religious lobby for the Democratic National Committee,” he said. But, in order for UUs to be “justice-seeking people, we must be critical of the culture and its politics and never be a reliable source of support for just one party. Party affiliation is a corrosive substitute for theology.”
The workshop attracted a larger than anticipated audience, with some attendees standing or sitting on the floor along the walls and in the back of the small room at the Phoenix Convention Center.
The Rev. Nancy McDonald-Ladd, minister of the Bull Run UUs in Manassas, Va., earned a hearty round of applause from the crowd when she asked, “If the litmus test for ‘people like me’ becomes political affiliation, are we not mirroring the exact political partisanship and brokenness present in the world outside our doors, and are we not called—as faithful, courageous people—to something higher than mirroring the worst of the world around us?”
Paul Roche, a founding member of the UUs of Sterling, Va., spoke last. He said while he is proud of being a Unitarian Universalist, he feels that, “It is hypocritical of us to promise a free and responsible search for truth and meaning but quickly let it be known that some responsible searches are more equal than others.”
Roche argued that the only way for the faith to grow in numbers and spirit is to be “inclusive in words and deeds” of people of all political affiliations.
Correction 6.28.12: An earlier version of this post misidentified the author of the play. Click here to return to the corrected paragraph.