Can You Be a UU Conservative?


Sunday Service Recap from Rev. Sean 

This past Sunday we continued our series No Stupid Questions tackling some core questions about Unitarian Universalism. This week’s question was: Can you be a Unitarian Universalist and a Conservative?

As I explored on Sunday, there is an easy answer to the question: Yes. We UUs affirm a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, which can and does lead people to affirm conservative political beliefs.

As Mark Morrison-Reed wrote in his recent book Selma Awakening:

During the first half of the twentieth century, prior to the rise of McCarthyism, Unitarianism had included outspoken Socialists like John Haynes Holmes on the one hand, and on the other a strong contingent of Republicans, including President William Howard Taft and Senator Leverett Saltonstall. On the Universalist side, Clarence Skinner represented the progressive wing, while several congressmen who attended [Universalist] National Memorial [Church] in Washington, D.C., were Dixiecrats. (197)


We are a liberal religion not a religion for liberals. Religious liberals hold fast to three fundamental truths:

  • We Don’t Know Much
  • We Can Know More
  • It will change.

Which means no matter your politics you cannot be a religious liberal without a great dose of humility, with no trace of fundamentalism, and have an opening for dialogue and relationship across difference. There is much to be gained by the tension between different political and theological differences.

The impulse to conserve and the impulse to progress. Held in the tension create the possibility to the deepest forms of transformation.

However, as is the case for most easy answers to questions, it’s not complete. As Tom Shade contends that when UUs in the 1960s affirmed the reality of systemic racism and aligned themselves with the civil rights movement, it began a rift that just gets wider and wider with the current republican party who has worked to resist and overturn the progress for racial justice.

In faith,
Rev. Sean

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One thought on “Can You Be a UU Conservative?

  1. As I have conversations with conservative folks, it would be helpful to be able to articulate tangible facts to illustrating how “the current republican party (is working) to resist and overturn the progress for racial justice.”

    I’ve adapted Brene Brown’s rumble language “The story I’m telling myself is ….” to aid in having constructive political conversations. Now I say, “The political story I believe is …” Can someone help me with tangible examples of republican party platform, or actions of named individual republicans, that “resist and overturn the progress for racial justice”? I want to practice offering verifiable examples to support my beliefs and to foster productive dialogue.

    No stupid questions, right? (I hope you meant that!)

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