Is The Republican Platform Compatible with Unitarian Universalism?

Republicans traditionally have been a minority in our Unitarian Universalist congregations.  I have generally sought to be tolerant of republican ideology because my grandfather and great grandfather were both republican politicians having served as Town Supervisor and Mayor. Their achievements in these roles are ones I have been proud of and continue to be so.  However, what I have been observing in the  political arena of late is not my Great Grandfather’s or even my Grandfather’s Republican Party, the party of Lincoln.

This has been a very difficult year politically. In a spirit of full disclosure, I am currently a registered Democrat.  I am moving my affiliation to Independent because the values I am also seeing expressed in the Democratic Party are also not my values. However, I am even more uncomfortable with the values I am seeing expressed by the Republican Party.  My discomforts in these two parties lie in my convictions to embody Unitarian Universalist values.

We all  come to this faith from some place on the political spectrum, even those who are born into this faith have a socially constructed political framework in which they operate.  However, if we are serious in engaging our faith as Unitarian Universalists, I do not believe we can stay in the same place we were in when came to this faith. We must engage our political framework with the same fervor that one might engage one’s privilege or racism, as the  political framework in this country is tied into the matrix that supports privilege and racism.  Ours is a transformative faith if we allow it to be so.  While on the one hand, I would want to create a space to allow republican ideals, such as my grandfather and great grandfather expressed them, within our congregation; I am on the other hand increasingly concerned that the platform of the Republican Party is not compatible with our faith values and is in fact dangerous in our desire to dismantle privilege  and racism.

The Democrat party also has its play in seeking to maintain privilege and racism in our country, so  I am not ignoring the incompatible values of this party.  It seems current and past administrations have adopted the policy of democratizing the world by force and ironically are punitive when democracy is spontaneously expressed here at home.  Democracy is one of our Unitarian Universalist principles but it has a caveat attached to it; the right of conscience.  This speaks to me of the freedom for a people to choose their own democracy structure even when it does not support American corporate interests.  American foreign policies have been based on privilege, on a belief of American supremacy, and on the false assumption that America is God’s chosen nation to police the world.  An example of this is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, the secretive force that assassinated Osama Bin Laden.  Regardless of America’s ethical justification about this particular mission, the JSOC operates through out the world with little to no accountability, not even to the Commander in Chief[i].  This stance of our nation is antithetical to Unitarian Universalist values as I understand them. Both parties are guilty in adhering to values that represent ultimately in sustaining America’s shadows.

However, The Republican Party has expressed an agenda that is anti-woman, anti-worker,  anti- immigrant, anti-religious freedom, anti-elderly, and racist.  I do not understand how any Unitarian Universalist, who is seeking to honor the principles of inherent worth and dignity of every person; Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations; and the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process can in good conscience continue to support a party that is actively working to devolve American society back to a repressive and oppressive era, more reminiscent of 1812 rather than 2012.

Recent laws that have been passed or proposed in our country by our Republican leaders support my thesis.   Several states have passed or are in the process of passing a personhood amendment, where the rights of personhood are conferred at the moment of conception.   This law would make abortions for any reason—be they economic, life preserving, or rape induced–illegal.  It would make many contraceptives illegal because these contraceptives work in preventing the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall and thereby aborting the pregnancy.  Virginia’s republican leaders just passed a bill that would force women who are considering an abortion to have a transvaginal ultrasound[ii], a very intrusive forced procedure.  The republican governor has stated he will sign the bill into law.  In this sense, the Republican Party is legitimizing rape by forcing women to an intrusive, medically unwarranted probe procedure against her will.

The current brouhaha by republicans over health plans requiring contraceptive coverage is being called an attack on religious freedom; however, these proposed laws are an attack on religious freedom by forcing non-believers to adhere to another’s faith dogmas.

Further, a recent hearing on the contraceptive insurance issue[iii] excluded women from testifying on the issue that directly affects them, further proof that the current Republican party is anti-woman.  To quote a banner from an earlier time in our history, “No self -respecting woman should wish nor work for the success of a party that ignores her sex.[iv]

The Republican Congress majority just voted to not reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act because it has provisions that offer “protections for LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse and the authority of Native American tribes to prosecute crimes.”[v] This stance by the Republican Party is against the Unitarian Universalist principle of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. These laws are incompatible with Unitarian Universalist principles.  These laws are an attempt to return women to an era of bare-foot and pregnant, and therefore to a subservient status of a previous century in order to curtail their freedom and growing power.

In Indiana, the republican senators have introduced a bill  to empower that state to withdraw from Medicare and Medicaid,thereby leaving the elderly, disabled, and the poor who need these services for their own quality of life.   This is an act of war on the marginalized in our country.  This is not a political party that has the interests of its constituents at heart but rather interested in maintaining the privilege of the elite.  This action does not reflect the values of Unitarian Universalism.

It has been said, the greatest threat to any nation is not the threat from abroad but rather the threat from within.  The Republican Party has been active in promoting that this threat exists.  They have chosen to give this threat a name:  the illegal immigrant.  However, factions within the Republican Party have expanded this threat to the immigrant, with or with out documentation[vi].   The laws that have been passed against immigrants, while claiming to be racially unbiased have in fact used race and foreign language usage to be criteria for asking for documentation.  Proof of racism by the Republican Party is in the response of republican legislators in Alabama who refused to see constituents who were Latino at a recent lobbying day sponsored by Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice.  White constituents were allowed in to see their legislators but when the white constituents wanted to include their Latino friends, the Latinos were denied access[vii].  There have been republican attempts to pass legislation to prove presidential nominees are birthright[viii] American citizens which is a racist response to the Obama presidency. No amount of legitimizing the concern can convince me that these legislative moves are not racially motivated.

The Republican Party is anti-LGBT.  The Republican Party has publicly endorsed their opposition to same gender[ix] marriage[x], gays in the military[xi], adoption by gay parents[xii], and support for protecting anti-gay bullies,[xiii] and support for the discrimination against gays.[xiv]  The Unitarian Universalist Association has since 1970[xv] fought for the inclusion of sexual minorities in the citizenship of this country.  This anti-gay stance by the Republican Party is in direct opposition to Unitarian Universalist values of inherent worth and dignity of every person.

The Republican Party is anti-worker.  Unitarian Universalists since our consolidation of our two denominations have made strong resolutions for worker rights and economic justice[xvi].  The Republican Party however has opposed worker [xvii]rights and worker [xviii]organization by passing bills[xix] that diminish [xx] labor[xxi] protections  and the worker’s ability to survive economically.  Again, these measures by the Republican Party go fully against the positions that Unitarian Universalists have consistently made at General Assemblies for the past 50 plus years.  Passing legislation that would create and enforce an extreme power imbalance between worker’s rights and corporate interests flies in the face of our principle for justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

For these reasons, I have concluded that the Republican Party platform as it stands now is antithetical to being Unitarian Universalist.  One simply cannot live Unitarian Universalist values and remain to be a Republican in this day and age.  I realize this will be seen as an offensive statement to those who identify as Unitarian Universalist Republicans but if you are still reading, I would encourage you to contrast your values to the values of the Republican Platform.  The number of  incompatible positions by the Republican Party are far too many to overlook to enable Unitarian Universalists to assent to its platform.   I recognize that there are some aspects of the Republican Platform that a Unitarian Universalist could easily assent to but in my mind they have become too few in order for a Unitarian Universalist engaged in embodying our principles to live in harmony with Republican values.


5 Comments

  1. I can’t argue with any of that. I would have used stronger language.

  2. […] Fred Hammond suggests that it is impossible, or at least incongruent, for Unitarian-Universalists to belong to the Republican Party.  Leaving aside the reasons and arguments for this position, it is worth noting that historically […]

  3. I can understand how the Republican platform contrasts with many of our UU ideals, but it is a huge mistake to lump people together based on your own limited perspective.

    I would not label myself as Republican, although I do support one of the Republican candidates running for office this year. I would also not label myself as a Democrat, and why should I be forced into one of those two boxes anyway? Of course you can be a UU Republican! I know quite a few who have been very dedicated and active in their UU congregations. We need to find common ground. We need to to unite and work together. We need to stay connected so we can listen to and hear one another.

    In my opinion, this entire article is Anti-UU. For me, the most appealing aspect of Unitarian Universalism is that we are welcoming and inclusive. We believe that all beings are connected. Each person is good and worthy. You cannot pick groups of people to exclude – Republicans, Christians, people who have different ideas & beliefs than you…It is up to the individual to find their own truth, and it is not up to us to decide what is right for everybody.

    Just be careful with ideas like this: “No self -respecting woman should wish nor work for the success of a party that ignores her sex.” It is unfair to claim that I do not have any self-respect because I support a Republican candidate. I would never dare to make assumptions like that about others – Who are you to judge any other person in that way? Comments like these only divide us, and what good could possibly come from that?

    Instead of looking at the Republican Platform and lumping a group of people together, perhaps you should ask individual UU Republicans why they support a Republican candidate. What is it they like about the Republican Platform? What problems do they have with the Democratic Platform? Truly listen and search for the goodness they are hoping for – I can assure you it’s there.

    In love and peace,
    Ariel

    Ariel, thank you for your response. As I stated in the beginning I am also leaving the Democratic party because I do not believe its platform reflects the values I have come to hold as a Unitarian Universalist. So I am not lumping one group against the other. I am questioning both platforms. The Republican platform however, seems to me to be most egregious against Unitarian Universalist values and I do not see in your response how I may be in error in this thinking. You stated we should be welcoming and inclusive as the opposing argument. I can be welcoming and inclusive of individuals and still oppose a platform on which a group of individuals stand. I further steered clear from labeling individuals and remained focused on the platform. The quote about no self-respecting women working for a party that ignores their sex was from the early 20th century in the fight for a woman’s right to vote. A party that ignores women’s input in her health care choices is not,in my view, aligned with Unitarian Universalist values.

    Here is what I would like to hear from you. Please detail for me how the republican platform against a women’s right to choose is aligned with Unitarian Universalist values? Please detail for me how the republican platform against gays, lesbians, and transgender people is aligned with Unitarian Universalist values? Please detail for me how the republican platform against worker’s rights and collective bargaining is aligned with Unitarian Universalist values? Please detail for me how the republican platform supporting privilege in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy is aligned with Unitarian Universalist values? Please detail for me how the republican platform against immigrants (both documented and undocumented) is aligned with Unitarian Universalist values?

    If you are able to answer how these positions are aligned with Unitarian Universalist values, then I will write a full retraction of this piece. A faith that is unexamined is not worth living. I am examining our faith, I ask you and others to do the same.

    • If your intention is solely to criticize the Republican Platform, I cannot argue for something I do not support, and I’m not trying to get into a political debate or convince you to retract your statements. I just want you to think about it from a different perspective. It’s not our place to say whether or not people are living their values. You can support the principles of limited government and individual freedoms without supporting the Republican Platform. The divisive two party system does nothing for the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all – it’s just the game we have to play.

      People are attracted to Unitarian Universalism for different reasons, and if we use our faith to look down on people with beliefs we don’t understand, we become a kind of congregation I’m not interested in promoting. Just because it wasn’t your intention in writing this article, it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in our congregations. I visited a church in Arizona with a friend of mine who is a Republican. A Conservative talk show host’s name was mentioned from the pulpit & it attracted boos from the congregants. How is that welcoming and inclusive of people with different beliefs? My friend is obviously never going to step foot in a UU congregation again. Perhaps some of the Anti-Republican UUs would say “Good riddance!” but I think it’s a real shame that we are turning people away and thinking we’re better than them. How does that support the idea of the individual search for truth and meaning?

      I worry about mixing our religion with politics. We certainly don’t want other religions mixing with politics.

      Actually, as a covenantal faith, it is our place to call people back into covenant when our Unitarian Universalist values are not being lived out. That is part of my role as minister. The congregational polity that we inherited had two parts to it. Most of us get the first part which is ‘you are not the boss of me’ and so congregations are their own authority in how to express the values of the faith. But the second part of congregational polity is the covenantal piece which calls us to be in relationship with one another. When we are not seeking to be in relationship with one another then we need to be called back into that covenant. I hope that if I make a remark from the pulpit highlighting a comment about the republican platform and if the congregation boos, that I would have the presence of mind to stop my sermon and call them back into covenant. Such behavior is bullying behavior and is inappropriate and does not reflect our Unitarian Universalist values.

      Thank you again for responding, you have given me some additional things to think about. I am appreciative for that.

  4. And no one can be a UU who identifies as Christian because of Christianity’s history of violence against (fill in the blank) or Jewish because of the male oriented theology, Democrat because of the party’s hypocrisy and manipulation minority/labor/women’s loyalty. The litany of negatives related to the GOP is all true and I could make a nice negative list for the Dems (not quite as hair raising) and probably about how Independents don’t belong because they are running from the fight for justice within either party.

    It isn’t the arguments about how awful either party is that bothers me it is the incredible ego in statements like, “One simply cannot live Unitarian Universalist values and remain to be a Republican in this day and age.” That kind of ego is far, far from being UU. It makes me queasy to read that as written by a UU minister. Would you refuse to minister to a Republican UU since they aren’t “real” UU’s?Should we be asking “Are you now or have you ever been?”

    Thank you for your response but perhaps I am not being clear here. The question for me here is ‘does Unitarian Universalism have a saving trans-formative message or not?’ If so what are the values that Unitarian Universalism holds in contrast to the larger world? It is not a matter of being a “real” UU but rather being willing to question the values that are being propagated in the world. Are the values of the Republican platform in alignment with the values that Unitarian Universalism promotes? My argument is that they are not and I detailed more than several of those values as expressed by the Republican platform. These values as expressed by the current republican party makes it very difficult for a Unitarian Universalist, if they are being true to upholding our current principles to remain in this party. As I stated, the current form of the republican party is not my grandfather’s or great grandfather’s republican party. To remain in a party; democratic, republican, green, libertarian, or socialist and not grapple with the values that party promotes is to choose to divorce one’s political life from one’s spiritual life. Such a segregation is not healthy for the individual nor for the faith as a whole.

    If you are suggesting that Unitarian Universalists can be aligned with being anti-gay, anti-women, racist, and anti-economic justice, I would have to say no. I would also suggest that a person who espouses terrorism, white supremacy, and fascism would also not be able to be a Unitarian Universalist. They would either have to allow the values that Unitarian Universalism promote to transform their thinking, Christians might say renew their mind, or leave. It is a fallacy that Unitarian Universalists can believe whatever they want.

    I agree with you btw regarding the stuff that Democrats have promoted that are not aligned with Unitarian Universalist values and I made that clear, or at least I thought I did in my opening paragraphs. Reread them again and you will see that I am pointing the finger at the current democratic administration as well for not being aligned with our values. I am not sure that I agree with your statement that independents are just running away from the fight. I surely am not running from anything but rather seeking to find alignment in my political values and my religious values as a Unitarian Universalist. I am choosing to integrate myself.

    Now you do raise an interesting point. You equated the negative values of the Republican Platform with the negative values that Christianity has over the centuries promoted. The difference that I see here however, is that Christianity when removed from the Western cultural supremacist stuff, has a set of core values that are presented that are indeed aligned with Unitarian Universalist core values as presented in our principles. So if your argument is indeed parallel, and I suspect it may be, then there should be some core republican values that contrast from the hateful oppressive ones that I detailed? At the moment, these escape me so I will wait to read your answer.


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