UU Ministers & Labor Movement

These brief thoughts from an old UU friend and Seminarian are posted with permission:

Yup, there have been a lot of ministers who have supported the labor movement. Stephen Fritchman, James Luther Adams and David Bumbaugh all come to mind. As for labor organizers, no less than the arch- Wobblies Roger Baldwin (co-founder of the ACLU) and Utah Phillips were/are church members. I also hold a red card and one of my cohorts at seminary is a very talented ex-AFSCME organizer. I forget his name but a recent Chair of the Board of the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley was a union organizer. Also, Charles H. Kerr was a Unitarian. He was founder of the Charles H. Kerr Press, the longest running socialist press in the world and closely associated with the extreme left edge of the labor movement–think Marx, the IWW and the Glaberman/Lynd crowd.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time right now to really engage in this
debate. Let’s just say I think it is a lot more complicated than anyone
is making it out to be. As John Buehrens once pointed out to me,
Unitarian Universalism is both not a peace church and not not a peace
church (double negative is intentional). In our history we have both
radical communists, like much of the Socinian movement, and imperialist
creeps like Taft.  We do have a social justice history to be proud of.
We also have a lot of straight up bastards and liberal
accommodationists in our past.

I would suggest that like most movements we have both a left wing
and a right wing. Our left wing has often been on the edge and in the
minority. Usually they’ve dragged people kicking and screaming towards
doing the right thing. Sometime they’ve been ignored and sometimes
they’ve managed to change things over time. The AUA did kick out
ministers for being pacifist in WWI. In WWII, however, they allowed
them to stay-in. The transcendentalists were almost kicked out in the
19th century and had to form the Free Religious Association but they
eventually became the dominant theological current.

It looks like there may be another Young Adult Prophets conference
on the horizon (YES – March 10-11, register at http://www.ConnectUU.com or
email jsantoslyons@hds.harvard.edu). If it happens it’d be a good time
to try and puzzle through these issues.


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