#310 | Bruce Pollack-Johnson | Teach Newcomers More About Us

Submission 310
Bruce Pollack-Johnson
Unitarian Universalists of Mt. Airy (Philadelphia, PA) 7325

What is your suggestion or idea?

Section C-2.3. Inspirations.

As Unitarian Universalists, we use, and are inspired
by, sacred and secular understandings that help us to live into our values. We
respect the histories, contexts and cultures in which they were created and are
currently practiced.

Our inheritances include the importance of justice from Judaism, the
importance of Love from Christianity and Universalism, the importance of
individual freedom of conscience and scientific rationalism from Unitarianism,
the importance of skepticism from atheism/agnosticism, the importance of
ethical principles from secular humanism, the importance of our relationships
with the natural world and each other from earth-centered spirituality, and the
importance of mindfulness and presence from Buddhism. As an evolving faith, we
draw on these and other traditions.

These sources ground us and sustain us in ordinary,
difficult, and joyous times.
Grateful for the religious ancestries we inherit and the diversity which
enriches our faith, we are called to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

This section is where we can give newcomers to UUism a good feel for where we come from, including where our spiritual values and practices come from. The proposed text wastes this opportunity to teach newcomers more about us, to give a context for our beliefs.

From a political and practical point of view, since the new Article II Proposal is quite radically different from before, putting in the material we have added here helps average UUs feel more connected to the Proposal. Since the proposal needs a majority this year and a 2/3 vote next year, we want to have the language feel reassuring to longtime UUs as much as possible, but reflect some dynamic evolution and appeal to newcomers as well. Our proposed language is intended to mention practices and beliefs that show up frequently in UU worship services all over the country, and where they come from historically.

Have you discussed this idea with your congregation or other UUs?

We had several conversations about this, involving around 15 of our members, which is about 1/3 of our active membership and 1/5 of our total membership. A subset of us came up with this wording together.


If Love is capitalized, then Justice and the other nouns should be also—it would be better to use a lower-case L in love.

WOW! This is the best Sources/Inspirations section I’ve read so far. Love how you draw a core focus from each of the many traditions. I would vote for this for sure.

I’m grappling with the religious Sources part of our proposed amendment and kind of leaning the other direction. I do like listing and including both religions and important elements we draw from them (in contrast to the current Inspirations section that seems too generic), but I am not sure that coupling them is the way to go. It risks simplifying, maybe even stereotyping religious traditions, and really, I think many of those key factors exist in multiple religions, though I do really like your emphasis on our UU history.

I think there are also both upsides and downsides to trying to group and label religious. The upside is that it is specific and acknowledges our history. The downside is that some groupings may not be that useful and/or might even feel insulting to some people. For example, “Abrahamic,” which has been suggested by me and others to replace Judaism and Christianity and include in Islam, as many have proposed, may not achieve the desired inclusivity. Likewise, there are many, many earth-centered “traditions” we are probably trying to include and in many cases, these are religions, not “traditions.”

Also, does it work to group together in a generalized way leave the desired future greater inclusivity of religions, as well as others not named in our past?

I can see why the Commission in my view sort of ducked this issue by its more generic “Inspirations” section, but for me and for many, that doesn’t work.

I have been leaning towards trying some labeling and groupings (with still to be tinkered language) and also including important key factors, but not coupling them together. My amendment originally proposed as feedback to one of the sessions held by the Commission tried to do this in an abbreviated way. See that amendment uploaded as a comment to @Janet 's proposed amendment on the Sources.* That’s the one that has been proposed to my congregation and is still being workshopped (will post it later today).

Nice hearing from someone who’s well-connected in UU circles. Enumerating our sources is good if for no other reason than it’s honest and transparent.

If people with connections to some of the mentioned heritages feel the representation is misleading, it would be great to get improvements, but I don’t feel that speculating about the possibility is productive. In my mind, we want to capture our history and our present, leaving a door open for our evolving future.

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It wasn’t speculation. There was specific feedback about trying to sort of “fold in” Islam in my proposed wording (“Abrahamic”).