"Ironic Provincialism”

Paul Rasor, Director, Center for the Study of Religious Freedom and Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Virginia Wesleyan College

Berry Street Essay, 2009


Delivered at the Ministerial Conference

June 24, 2009

Salt Lake City, UT  

Does it sometimes seem that Unitarian Universalists are always in themiddle of an identity crisis? That at some level, we are forevertrying to figure out who we are?

Liberalism will do this to you. Our commitment to religious freedom,our openness to new ideas, our insistence that religion should livein the present and not in the past, our healthy theological pluralism– all of these, the very things that make us liberal,mean that our collective religious identity will inevitably bedifficult to pin down at any particular moment in our history. DeanLewis Fisher captured this reality nearly a century ago as heanticipated the question of where Universalists stand. "Theonly true answer,” he famously said, "is that we do notstand at all; we move.”1 The same could have been said for Unitarians, of course, and thisremains true for Unitarian Universalists today. We seem to beafflicted with a kind of theological ADD. I recognize this, becauseI also struggle with this annoying affliction.

Our peripatetic progressivism means that we are often ahead of thecultural curve in responding to the realities of the world around us. Yet there are times when the opposite is true, when the realitiesare so daunting that we freeze up, playing out Dean Fisher’saphorism in reverse: we do not move; we stand. Not to be overlydramatic, I believe we face a major turning point in UnitarianUniversalism, and our decision whether to stand or move will shapethe identity and set the course of our religious movement for thetwenty-first century. In a word, our turning point can be summed upin the term multiculturalism.

The context of our challenge is familiar but worth saying. Oursociety is right now, in our generation, undergoing the most radicaldemographic shift in its history. We see this every day in ourcities and towns, in our neighborhoods and schools and workplaces,and in our congregations. These changes are forcing us to reexamineeverything we thought we knew about ourselves, both as a society andas a religious movement. Being good liberals, we have been engagedin wrenching self-examination for several years now, at least sincethe 1992 General Assembly Resolution on Racial and CulturalDiversity, and long before that in many ways. A glance at the lineupof workshops at this year’s General Assembly reminds us thatthis important work continues. I am not going to talk about theseprogrammatic aspects of our work; others can do this far better thanI. Instead, I want to place this demographic shift in a UnitarianUniversalist context and then explore some of its theologicalimplications.

While we are bound to disagree at several points, I think most of usshare a general sense about where we now stand, and about the basicdirection we want to move. Just to be clear, my own view is that weneed to become a genuinely multiracial and multicultural faith, boththeologically and demographically. We need to do this not because itis the politically correct thing to do, or because our congregationsneed yet another exercise in anti-racism and cultural sensitivitytraining, though they might, or because we think this will attractnew members, though it may. Instead, we need to make this collectivejourney for spiritual and theological reasons.

Becoming a multiracial-multicultural Unitarian Universalism fulfillsthe vision we have long held. As Mark Morrison-Reed put it, we aremoved to do this because we "see the richness in humandiversity and [are] excited by its possibility.”2 Given the cultural context in which we now find ourselves, this iswhere we are drawn by our deepest theological principles andreligious values. Religious liberalism has always been marked by itsability to engage and respond to the circumstances of its own timeand place. This is what has kept us intellectually credible andsocially relevant.

If we fail to respond to this new multicultural reality – if wechoose to stand rather than to move – we not only fail to honorthis core liberal principle, we will simply become irrelevant. Wecould devolve into a quaint relic of a once-vital tradition, holdingfast to our good liberal ideas (while continuing to bicker aboutthem), protecting an increasingly insular identity, ironicallyslipping into the kind of safe and unchallenging provincialism wehave always resisted.

This would be a tragedy, because we have much to offer, much to saythat our world needs to hear. As I will discuss in a few minutes, inmany ways we are perfectly positioned to model a dynamic andlife-affirming religious multiculturalism. I sense in our movementtoday both an eagerness and a reluctance to embrace the changes thiswould require. This is understandable; change is always scary, andthe inertia of deeply embedded ways of being can be hard to resist. This is the flip side of our religious ADD – we can’t sitstill, but our constant fidgeting doesn’t always get usanywhere because we can’t maintain our focus on the task athand. We liberals can be easily distracted.

The Demographics

The Changing Cultural Context

Multiculturalism is partly about demographics, so I’ll beginwith some numbers that illustrate the shifting cultural contextwithin which Unitarian Universalism must now find its place. Here isthe most recent census data:

The Census Bureau currently uses six main reporting categories. Theoption of naming more than one was added in the 2000 census. On thistable, we can see that whites make up about two-thirds of thepopulation, Hispanics and Latinos/Latinas are about one-sixth, Blacksand African Americans are about one-eighth, and so on.

For our purposes, however, the long-term trends are more importantthan a snapshot of any single year. You are probably aware of thewell-publicized Census Bureau projection that by 2042, just over 30years from now, whites will no longer constitute a majority of theU.S. population.3 The next table shows these projections through 2050.

Notice that whites are the only group that declines steadily overthis period as a percentage of the population. Asians and Hispanicsand Latinos/Latinas are growing at roughly similar rates, but thefastest growing group is those who identify as multiracial. TheCensus Bureau reported last month that the number of people in the"two or more” category increased by three and a halfpercent in one year, and some demographers believe millions moreremain uncounted.4 My guess is that after the 2010 census, the projections in thebottom row will be revised upward.

The next chart might give you a better feel for how rapidly thesechanges are taking place.

If we assume the same rates of change continue past 2050, thensometime between 2060 and 2070 Hispanics and Latinos and Latinas willreplace whites as the largest population group. Some of us willlikely live to see this change, as will most of our children andgrandchildren.

A major factor in this shifting cultural context is immigration. Since the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, 38 millionimmigrants have come to the United States, and immigrants now make upone-eighth (12.5%) of the U.S. population. But more important thanthe numbers of immigrants is their diversity.

The previous peak immigration period took place around the turn ofthe 20th century, when 22 million people immigrated to theUnited States. But the racist immigration policies of that timemeant that 95% of these earlier immigrants were from Europe. Today,only 13% – one-eighth – are from Europe. Half are fromLatin America, a quarter are from Asia and the Middle East, and about4% are from Africa.5 Immigration has declined sharply over the past year or so, largelybecause of the world-wide economic situation. But the long-termeffects of this immigration cycle will remain with us, including itscontribution to our increasing religious pluralism.

These "new immigrants,” as they are often called, differfrom earlier immigrant populations in other important ways thataffect the roles they play in our new cultural reality. Just to giveone example, the average educational level of immigrants other thanthose from Latin America is now higher than the average educationallevel of native-born Americans.6 The religious group with the highest education and income levels inthe United States today is not Jews or Unitarian Universalists, oreven Episcopalians, as you might guess, but Hindus.7

Unitarian Universalist Demographics

So how do Unitarian Universalists fit into this picture? Do wereflect the pluralistic and multicultural reality of our time, or isour brand of religious liberalism fatally linked to a culture that isdisappearing? What progress have we made toward our announced goalof becoming a multiracial and multicultural faith?

To put this a bit differently: If you were asked by a colleague inanother faith about the racial and ethnic diversity within UnitarianUniversalism, what would you say? "Beats me,” is onepossibility. Or, you might have a general impression; you might say,for example, "well, I’d guess that we’re about 90%white.” But if you wanted to verify your impression ordiscover how much we have changed over the past decade, where wouldyou look? Whom would you ask? I tried to do this as I was preparingfor this talk, and what I discovered is that nobody knows. Wesimply do not collect the data that could tell us how we are doing. When it comes to our own racial and cultural identity, our policyseems to be "don’t ask, don’t tell.” I findthis both troubling and puzzling in light of our commitment seventeenyears ago to create a "racially diverse and multiculturalUnitarian Universalism.”8

So what’s going on here? First, I want to acknowledge thatthere may be some good reasons for not gathering this information. Multiculturalism is not simply about numbers. Taquiena Boston,Director of Identity-Based Ministries at the UUA, reminds us that"diversity alone is not the goal,” and that developing agenuinely multiracial and multicultural identity "must beintegral to the larger mission and ministry of the congregation.”9 Or as UUA President Bill Sinkford put it, "the objective offinding a few more dark faces to make our white members feel betterabout themselves is not spiritually grounded.”10

And it is not just about numbers in another sense too. UnitarianUniversalism has its own cultural tradition, one that is rooted inEuropean-American cultural norms and ways of being in the world.11 This normative lens is often invisible to those of us who lookthrough it, but it is all too visible to those who view the worldthrough different cultural lenses. As Joseph Santos-Lyons pointsout, these differences mean that people of color in UnitarianUniversalist congregations continue to experience isolation and lackof respect in ways that white Unitarian Universalists do notexperience and often do not recognize.12 This is why our ongoing anti-racism work is so important. We cannotbecome a multi-cultural faith if we – subconsciously orotherwise – continue to treat a particular mono-culturallens as normative.

Another factor is that race is a socially constructed category, onethat has been used – and continues to be used – to dividehuman beings into artificial groups and to establish structures ofprivilege and oppression based on those groups. We might argue thatusing these categories encourages us to see each other primarily inracial terms and ends up perpetuating the social divisions we hope toovercome. Mark Morrison-Reed points to the "preposterousoversimplification of cultural and racial variations” createdby the racial labels we use.13 For this reason, Bill Sinkford has commented that we need to stopsaying we are a predominantly white denomination. It’s true,Bill says, but continuing to say this is not helpful. These areimportant considerations, and we should be mindful of them as we goforward.

Yet there are also some bad reasons for not collecting our owndiversity data. One factor that often comes up in programevaluations is fear, especially fear of conflict and fear of change.14 Our "don’t ask, don’t tell” policy mightsimply be an avoidance mechanism, one that allows us to feel goodabout our workshops without having to worry about what they areactually accomplishing. Marilyn Sewell tells us that "thereare some things we prefer to be misinformed about, or hazy about.” Instead of confronting hard realities that might force us to change,she says, "We would rather deal in statistics.”15 Apparently we sometimes don’t even do that.

I understand that numbers are not the whole story, that seekingdiversity for its own sake is wrong-headed, that the demographicswill play out differently in different congregations, and thatcongregations with zero diversity can still be effective anti-racistallies in their communities. But in the end, the numbers matter. Ifwe are going to name ourselves as a multiracial-multicultural faith,the name should mean something, and part of that meaning is wrappedup in demographics.

So in the face of Marilyn Sewell’s caution, I want to give yousome statistics. I’ll begin with two sets of numbers that areprobably familiar.

The first column is from the 1997 Fulfilling the Promise survey;16the second is from the Pew Forum’s recent Religious LandscapeSurvey.17 As far as I know, these are the only recent sources we have thatattempt to measure the racial and ethnic diversity among UnitarianUniversalists. When we put these surveys side by side, the messageseems to be that we have changed dramatically over this decade. Theproblem is that these numbers are wrong, or at least seriouslymisleading.

I hesitate to turn this gathering into a math class, but these surveynumbers are widely circulated and many of us have relied on them. Ifthey give a misleading impression of who we are, we should do ourbest to correct this. So, without going into too much detail, I wantto summarize the problems as I see them and offer my own tentativecorrections.

I’ll begin with the UUA survey. With the help of TraceyRobinson-Harris, I was able to get the raw data from this survey, andthis confirmed many of my suspicions. Those of you who are good atmath or statistical analysis are welcome to take notes and challengemy conclusions later. And if the thought of doing math makes youwant to run screaming from the room, I won’t be offended if youdoze for a few minutes.

The first problem is the bottom row. This 8.1% figure is based on asurvey question that asked simply: "Are you bi-racial ormulticultural?” Demographic surveys today routinely ask aboutmultiple racial identities, but the term "multicultural”is not normally used for this purpose, and in this survey it was leftundefined.

A more important problem is that this question was asked separately. The common practice, the practice followed by the Census Bureau andthe Pew Forum, is to gather the information on all groups, includingthose with multiple identities, in the same question. Our survey didthat in the previous question, which asked: "What is yourracial/cultural identity,” and invited respondents to selectone or more of these five categories – the same categories usedby the Census Bureau at that time. Notice that the total for thefive main categories, disregarding the bottom row, is 103.3%. Theextra 3.3% represents the multiple answers. I don’t know whatto make of the 8.1% figure, except that according to the data, 360people who named only one racial or cultural identity in the firstquestion nevertheless claimed to be bi-racial or multicultural in thesecond.

The real problem lies in the way the overall results are reported. What we really want to know from this kind of survey, I think, is thepercentages of people in each group. Most of us have readthese numbers to mean that. But they don’t. Instead, thepercentages reported for the five main groups are based on acalculation that takes into account both the number of respondentsand the number of answers. On the surface this sounds logical, butin fact it gives a significantly misleading result. For example, the97.6% figure for whites was determined by dividing the total numberof responses for "white,” including the multipleresponses, by the number of respondents. In other words, this figurerepresents the percentage of individuals who named "white”in their response, either as their only identity or as one part of amultiple identity.

A simple example may help illustrate the problem. Assume we have agroup of ten people. Seven of them are white, and three are biracial– one white and black, one white and Native American, and oneblack and Asian. Most of us would probably say that this group is70% white and 30% multiracial. But the process used in the UUAsurvey would report this group as 90% white, 20% black, 10% NativeAmerican, and 10% Asian. This process gives us one kind ofinformation, but probably not the information we are looking for.

The raw data does permit us to determine the percentages ofindividual respondents who identified in each category alone, as wellas the percentage who identified in more than one. Here’s whatit shows:

Compared to the original report, whites drop six full points, to91.5%, and the other groups shift as well. My own belief is thatthis would have been a more useful way to report our survey findings,and it might have given us a somewhat different picture of ourselvesat that time.

This brings us to the Pew numbers, a decade later, in 2007. One ofthe helpful things about the Pew survey is that it gives religiousliberals their own category, which it calls "Unitarian andother liberal faiths,” instead of lumping us with MainlineProtestants or dumping us into an all-purpose "other”category. Unitarian Universalists are even identified separately inPew’s report of adult religious affiliation in the UnitedStates. Unfortunately, the demographic data were reported only forthe general "liberal faiths” category.

However, the specific numbers for Unitarian Universalists areavailable, and the Pew folks were kind enough to share them with me.18

The first column is the one I showed earlier for "liberalfaiths”; the other two columns use only the UnitarianUniversalist responses. The unweighted percentages are based on theraw data alone; the weighted percentages are adjusted according to acomplex formula that accounts for potential sampling errors. The Pewpeople prefer the weighted percentages, but both are statisticallyvalid, so take your pick.

When we place the two surveys side by side after these adjustments,we get this:

(In the bar graph, I split the difference between the weighted andunweighted Pew numbers.) One obvious implication is that we weren’tquite as white in 1997 as we thought we were, though 91.5% is stillpretty white. Another is that our diversity over the past decade hasnot fundamentally changed. Of course we can’t be sure of thisbased simply on two surveys taken a decade apart using very differentmethodologies. The experience in your congregation may be different. We could avoid these ambiguities by regularly collecting our owndata.

Ministers and Theological Students

Fortunately, we have better information on our ministers andtheological students. In fact, we have exact numbers rather thansurvey samples, and I want to thank John Weston and David Pettee ofthe UUA Ministry staff for sharing their data with me. I did not tryto gather comparable data for prior years, but the trend in ourprofessional ministry might be indicated by the differences betweenthese two groups.

It seems likely that the percentage of Unitarian Universalistministers of color will increase over the next decade as largenumbers of current senior ministers, mostly white, retire. But wecan’t take this for granted. We do not yet know how many ofthese students will actually become ministers, and placement ofministers of color in our congregations remains far too difficult. Of the 55 active Unitarian Universalist ministers of color today,only two-thirds, 38, are serving as parish ministers, and just 24 –less than half – are in senior or sole ministry positions. There are no MREs of color. As Mark Morrison-Reed and others havereminded us, the Unitarian Universalist parish ministry is a toughpath for ministers of color to walk.19

The next chart shows the diversity of our active ministers andcurrent theological students alongside Unitarian Universalists as awhole.

Notice that ministers are the least diverse; only one of thenon-white groups is larger than 1%. Our students are slightly morediverse than our movement as a whole, and the percentage ofmultiracial students is much higher. This is in line with theoverall demographic trend for young people, though of course we don’tknow the ages of these students.

Children and Youth

Finally, I want to say a few words about our Unitarian Universalistchildren and youth. We have even less data about them than we havefor our adult members, so I was not able to make any charts ortables. But we do know enough to make some useful observations.

When we look at the United States as a whole, we see that themultiracial and multicultural future toward which our society israpidly moving is already here for our young people. A few quickfacts: 44% of those under age 18 are minorities, and children areprojected to be majority non-white by 2023, only 14 years from now.20 Among the so-called millennial generation, those born between 1980and 2000, one in five has at least one immigrant parent, and one ineight millennials were themselves born in other countries.21 Finally, more than half of all multi-racial persons in the UnitedStates are under age 20.22 This is the world of our Unitarian Universalist children and youth,whatever their individual identities.

It’s tempting to think that all we have to do is wait anothergeneration and our vision of a multiracial-multicultural UnitarianUniversalism will happen by itself. But that would be a mistake. Itwould not only be a religious and moral cop-out, a repudiation of thevery work to which we have committed ourselves, it wouldn’twork.

Our less than adequate data suggest that most of our congregationshave at least a few children and youth of color, includingtransracially adopted children.23 We know, or think we know, that our children and youth are morediverse than the rest of us – than those of us in this room,for example. But we also know, or think we know, that they are lessdiverse as a group than the U.S. population under age 18 as a whole. The Mosaic Project Report published earlier this year tells usthat 42% of our Unitarian Universalist youth of color are the onlyones in their congregations’ youth groups, and another 44% arein groups that have only two or three. In other words, our UnitarianUniversalist children and youth for the most part attend religiouseducation classes and youth groups that are far less diverse thantheir school classrooms. Moreover, two-thirds of our youth groupshave no adult supervisors of color. As a result, many of our youthof color experience the same isolation and lack of support felt by somany of our adults. The Mosaic Project concludes:

The Unitarian Universalist culture [our Youth and Young Adults ofColor] experience may not be relevant to their life experiences. Even though many of [them] have been UUs from birth, feelings ofbeing an outsider are prevalent. The vision of community promised byour seven Principles often fails them.24

This is a powerful indictment, and it is another reason the numbersmatter. If we do not become the multiracial-multicultural faith wehave called ourselves to become, we will not only have failed ourchildren and youth of color, we will very likely lose them.

Before I leave the demographics, I thought it might be interesting,given our setting this year, to look briefly at racial diversityamong Mormons.

Mormons are sometimes held up as the epitome of religious whiteness,25but the Pew findings show that they are slightly more diverse thanUnitarian Universalists. Something to ponder.

Theological Implications

I want to stand back from the numbers now and offer a few thoughts ontheir theological significance for Unitarian Universalism. Inparticular I want to ask: What theological resources do we have, andwhat theological challenges do we face, as we continue our journeytoward becoming a multiracial-multicultural faith? I want to get atthese questions by looking at two aspects of Unitarian Universalisttheology that are especially relevant to this vision: its orientationtoward modern culture and its impulse toward theological pluralism.

Cultural engagement

It is widely accepted among scholars that religious liberalism’scentral defining characteristic is its posture of intentionalengagement with modern culture.26 Liberal theology starts with the premise that religion should beoriented toward the present, taking fully into account modernknowledge and experience. As a result, Unitarian Universalists andother liberals are not likely to feel their faith threatened by newscientific discoveries or advances in biblical scholarship, forexample. Rather than resist these kinds of developments, liberalstend to embrace them and incorporate them into their religiousworldviews. As I noted earlier, this is how religious liberals havesought to keep their religious commitments culturally relevant andintellectually credible.

This posture of cultural engagement would seem to make UnitarianUniversalists ideally situated to respond to the large-scale changestaking place in our culture – to become, in effect, thereligion for our time. But it’s not that simple. Thechallenge of multiculturalism raises some difficult questions aboutthe nature of our cultural orientation, and ultimately about ourreligious identity.

As religious liberals, we do not simply and uncritically absorb everyfeature of our culture. We oppose social and institutionalstructures that perpetuate injustice; we reject our society’scelebration of violence; we do our best to resist the lure of itspervasive materialism. Our cultural engagement is a criticalengagement. This posture grounds our prophetic practice, encouragingus to live fully in the world while bringing our religiousvalues to bear on it.

I want to suggest now that despite our activism, our primary mode ofcultural engagement has been intellectual. In adapting to modernculture, Unitarian Universalism has for the most part adopted thecore values of modernity, including its emphasis on human reason, theautonomous authority of the individual, and the critical evaluationof all religious truth claims.27 We want our religious beliefs and commitments to make sense, so weexamine them and reexamine them, taking nothing for granted, andespecially taking nothing on someone else’s say-so. These areimportant values, and we rightfully treasure them. Yet this legacyencourages us to keep our religious commitments largely in our heads,where we can hold them at a comfortable arm’s length. Thisgives us a sense of control; it allows us to feel spiritually safe.

Multiculturalism threatens this sense of safety. I have come tothink that for many Unitarian Universalists, multiculturalismrepresents a form of danger. I do not think the danger, or theperception of danger, lies in the shifting demographics. In fact, Ithink most of us welcome this as far as it goes. Instead, the senseof danger points to a deeper fear. At one level it is the fear ofchange, and the fear of difference that change always represents. AsI pointed out in Faith Without Certainty, the liberal emphasison individual autonomy masks "a fear of otherness that we havebarely begun to recognize.”28

At a deeper level, I think it is a fear of losing control. I am nottalking here about political or social control, the fear perhaps thatentrenched power groups in our congregations might lose theirinfluence, though that might happen. Instead, I think the real fearis the loss of intellectual control. Our move toward becoming amultiracial and multicultural faith challenges our safe and tidy wayof being religious. In this sense, multiculturalism might representfor some a threat not simply to our illusion of control, but to ourvery identity. Personally, I think our religious identity will bedeepened, not destroyed, as we become increasingly multiracial andmulticultural. I worry that our identity will be stunted by fear ifwe don’t.

The point is this: We cannot reason our way into multiculturalism. The reality of lived multiracial and multiculturalcommunities cannot be grasped through analysis, statistical orotherwise. We will have to embrace it bodily, not justintellectually. We will have to wade into the new cultural waters upto our necks, and even risk getting in over our heads, without firstbeing able to measure the currents or predict the storm cycles. Intheological terms, our challenge is to embrace a new understanding ofour cultural orientation.


Another feature of our faith tradition that should make us ideallysituated to respond to the new cultural context is our inherenttheological pluralism. This pluralism is a product of our commitmentto free religious inquiry and our openness to insight from manysources, including other religious traditions. While we sometimeslose patience with each other and occasionally bite our tongues, onthe whole Unitarian Universalists have learned to live comfortablywith and even to celebrate our internal diversity. At its best it ismutually enriching and helps create an atmosphere of welcoming andinvitation in our congregations.

Yet our comfort with diversity has its limits. Because we want ourtheological differences to be non-threatening, we tend to avoiddiscussing them too vigorously, or proclaiming our own beliefs withtoo much conviction, for fear of excluding or disrespecting otherviews.29 The result, once again, is that many Unitarian Universalists haveunwittingly adopted a kind of theological "don’t ask,don’t tell” policy. Out of fear of saying something thatmight offend someone, we can easily end up saying nothing.

Like our cultural adaptation, our theological diversity can be keptsafely in the intellectual realm. We tend to see it as an expressionof freedom of conscience and individual autonomy, the naturalbyproduct of a creedless faith. But multiculturalism involves adifferent kind of pluralism. Our challenge is to transform ourpluralism of ideas into a pluralism of being.

But how do we do this? What theological resources do we have thatmight address these concerns and ground us on this journey? I wantto close by offering an insight from our Universalist heritage thatmight be helpful.

Universalism’s core theological claim is that all humanity –indeed all of creation – is ultimately united in a commondestiny. This was the meaning of its original doctrine of universalsalvation. In contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of election, inwhich only a few of us – the "elect” – wouldbe saved, Universalists held that all would be saved. Universalisttheology refused to divide the world into factions or to excludeanyone from its vision. It said we’re all in this together,and wherever we are headed, we will all share in it.

Early Universalism was a communal faith. "Communal” heremeans more than a group of individuals who share a common belief andcome together for mutual support and worship, the way we mightunderstand it today. Instead, in this form of communal theology, theindividual was removed from the religious equation. Universalistsinsisted that our personal salvation was no more important thananyone else’s salvation. As Ann Lee Bressler puts it,Universalism "encouraged the believer to think of his owninterests as inseparably linked with the eternal welfare of the wholebody of humanity.”30

This theological core led to a radical egalitarianism. The Americanemphasis, shared by most Protestant denominations, includingUnitarians, had always been on equality of opportunity, at least inprinciple, while in practice tolerating vast inequalities of outcome. But Universalism’s egalitarian theological doctrine became thebasis for a truly egalitarian social doctrine – "anegalitarianism not of opportunity, but of desert”31or outcome. In other words, Universalism was not simply pluralistic;it was radically inclusive.

There is something theologically vital in the original Universalistinsight, something that might help us embrace multiculturalism aspart of a radically welcoming, radically inclusive religiousidentity. If we restate this Universalist principle in the languageof our own time, we might say that it is basically a commitment toliberation. And liberation has always been a central theme inUnitarian Universalism. James Luther Adams spoke of this a halfcentury ago when he noted that liberalism’s "characteristicfeature” is:

the conviction that human beings should be liberated, indeed shouldliberate themselves, from the shackles that impede religious,political, and economic freedom and which impede the appearance of arational and voluntary piety and of equality and justice for all.32

Early Universalists understood – as did Adams – thatliberation is communal, that human fulfillment and liberation arepossible only in a context of open and inclusive communities based onrespect and justice. Liberal theology today, like early Universalisttheology, recognizes that spiritual liberation and social liberationare inextricably linked.

Our commitment to creating a genuinely multiracial-multiculturalUnitarian Universalism has deep roots. It is grounded theologicallynot only in our current Principles and Purposes, but ultimately inthe early Universalist theology of radical egalitarianism, a theologylived out in radically inclusive religious communities andcongregations. Our shifting cultural context is both a challenge andan invitation to reclaim this vision and make it a reality in ourtime.

Thank you.

1 Quoted in Charles A. Howe, The Larger Faith: A Short History of American Univeralism (Boston: Skinner House, 1993), 96.

2 Mark D. Morrison-Reed, Black Pioneers in a White Denomination (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), 177.

3 U.S. Census Bureau release, August 14, 2008, http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/population/012496.html; detailed tables at http://www.census.gov/population/www/projections/tablesandcharts/table_4.xls.

4 U.S. Census Bureau release, May 14, 2009, http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/population/013733.html; Hope Yen, "Multiracial People Become Fastest-Growing US Group,” Associated Press (May 28, 2009), http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_MULTIRACIAL_AMERICANS?SITE=MAFIT&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT.

5 Michael W. Foley and Dean R. Hoge, Religion and the New Immigrants: How Faith Communities Form Our Newest Citizens (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 57-58.

6 Foley and Hoge, Religion and the New Immigrants, 58.

7 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (2008),Appendix 1.

8Journey Toward Wholeness, ii.

9 Taquiena Boston, Preparing for Multicultural Ministries, workshop #3021, presented at General Assembly 2008; excerpt available at http://www.uua.org/aboutus/professionalstaff/identity-basedministries/racialand/diversityministry/116006.shtml.

10 William G. Sinkford, address to the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, Fort Worth, TX (June 2005), quoted at http://www.uua.org/leaders/leaderslibrary/araomc/index.shtml.

11 See Anita Farber-Robertson, "Toward a Theology of Anti-Racism,” in Journey Toward Wholeness (Unitarian Universalist Association, 1996): 39-42.

12 Joseph M. Santos-Lyons, 25 to 1: People of Color Experiences in Unitarian Universalism 1980-2995 (Harvard Divinity School, 2006), at 5, 49-53.

13 Mark Morrison-Reed, In Between: Memoir of an Integration Baby (Boston: Skinner House, 2009), 239.

14 See Journey Toward Wholeness, 59.

15 Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell, "Repression of the Sublime,” in UUWorld, Fall 2005, available at http://www.uuworld.org/spirit/articles/1837.shtml.

16Fulfilling the Promise (Unitarian Universalist Association, 1998), 44-49. Survey results are also available at http://www.uua.org/leaders/leaderslibrary/demographics/130035.shtml.

17 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (February 2008), http://religions.pewforum.org/; race and ethnicity data available at http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/table-ethnicity-by-tradition.pdf.

18 Email from Allison Pond, Research Associate at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, May 29, 2009.

19 Mark Morrison-Reed, In Between: Memoir of an Integration Baby (Boston: Skinner House, 2009), 196-228; see Santos-Lyons, 25 to 1, at p. 66. The UUA Diversity of Ministry Initiative is working to address this; see http://www.uua.org/aboutus/professionalstaff/identity-basedministries/racialand/diversityministry/index.shtml.

20 Census Bureau release, August 14, 2008.

21 Laura W. Spencer, Mosaic Project Report: An Assessment of Unitarian Universalist Ministry to Youth and Young Adults of Color and Latina/o and Hispanic and Multiracial/Multiethnic Descent (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2009), 10.

22 Hope Yen, "Hispanic Enrollment in Schools, Colleges Rising,” Associated Press, March 5, 2009.

23Mosaic Project Report, 35.

24Mosaic Project Report, 48.

25 See Hua Hsu, "The End of White America?” The Atlantic (January-February 2009):46-55, at p. 52, referring to "the deliberately white-bread world of Mormon America, where the ’50s never ended.”

26 William R. Hutchison, The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), 2. See Paul Rasor, Faith Without Certainty: Liberal Theology in the 21st Century (Boston: Skinner House, 2005), 11-15.

27 Rasor, Faith Without Certainty, 34-41.

28 Rasor, Faith Without Certainty, 127.

29 See Christopher Hinkle, "Pluralism’s Problematic Appeal for Religious Liberals,” paper delivered at the American Academy of Religion, November 2007.

30 Ann Lee Bressler, The Universalist Movement in America, 1770-1880 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 35.

31 Bressler, Universalist Movement, 37.

32 James Luther Adams, "The Liberal Christian Looks at Himself,” [1956] reprinted as "The Liberal Christian Holds Up the Mirror,”in James Luther Adams, An Examined Faith: Social Context and Religious Commitment George K. Beach, ed. (Boston: Beacon, 1991):308-322, 311-312.