Humanism for Such a Time as This

Sermon copyright (c) 2023 Dan Harper. As delivered to First Parish in Cohasset. As usual, the sermon as delivered contained substantial improvisation.


The first reading is by Russell Moore, an evangelical Christian who forced out of the Southern Baptist Conference for speaking out against Donald Trump’s morals, calling out white nationalism as sinful, and demanding ethical accountability for clergy sexual misconduct. In an interview on NPR< Moore said:

“…Multiple pastors tell me, essentially, the same story about quoting the Sermon on the Mount… in their preaching — ‘turn the other cheek’ — to have someone come up after to say, ‘Where did you get those liberal talking points?’ And what was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, ‘I’m literally quoting Jesus Christ,’ the response would not be, ‘I apologize.’ The response would be, ‘Yes, but that doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak.’ And when we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive to us [evangelicals], then we’re in a crisis….”

The second reading comes from: “Anybody There? Reflections on African American Humanism,” by Anthony B. Pinn, published in the UU Humanist Association Journal in 1997:

I argue for the possibility of a humanist theology, a theology that holds community rather than God as the center of life-altering questions, accompanied by an understanding of religion and theology as centered on the problem of evil, or theodicy. Christian theology as done within African American communities is premised upon a sense of redemptive suffering as the best response to moral evil in the world. Furthermore, this theological stance is intimately tied to the Christian tradition, complete with a God who is concerned for and working on behalf of the oppressed. It continues to be my belief that, although important in many ways, this theological stance and its narrow perception of religion may not be the best means of achieving the social transformation or liberation sought by the African American community. I conclude that a theological stance on moral evil requires an alternate religious system — African American humanism. This is not meant to dismiss Christian approaches out of hand, rather, to broaden the possibilities, the religious terrain, and to foster conversation concerning liberating ways of addressing the problem of evil.

Sermon — “Humanism for Such a Time as This”

Since I want to talk with you this morning about humanism, perhaps I should begin be defining “humanism.” Like many terms that have to do with religious conviction, different individuals and different organizations are going to define “humanism” in different ways. Some conservative Christians, for example, probably lump humanism together with atheism; those conservative Christians would probably define humanism as just another name for the heresy of not believing in their God. And some fundamentalist atheists would no doubt define humanism as “atheism lite,” by analogy with lite beer — half the calories and half the flavor, and why not just drink the real thing.

In contrast with these derogatory definitions, I choose to define humanism as a positive and valid religious outlook that does not include belief in God. I would call humanism a religious outlook, although I also understand that some followers of humanism would prefer not to be considered religious. After all, these days religion in American popular culture is often equated with narrow-minded conservative Christianity. Nevertheless, I’m going to say that humanism is religious.

As its name implies, humanism puts human beings at the center of religion. The African American humanist theologian William R. Jones calls this “humano-centric” religion. Jones says this is quite different from traditional Christian religion, which — using his terminology — is “theo-centric.” That is to say, conservative Christianity puts God at the center of things, and therefore God has the primary responsibility to solve problems. Humano-centric religion tells us that we human beings are responsible for our own actions; humano-centric religion tells us that if we humans see something wrong with the world, it is up to us to try to repair it and make it better.

Humanism is not unique in teaching us to take responsibility for our own actions. Liberal Christianity, liberal Judaism, engaged Buddhism, and similar groups are also humano-centric religions; that is, each of these groups teaches us humans to take primary responsibility for our own actions. But humanism is different because it says there’s nothing beyond human beings and this present world. Humanists say there is no God, except whatever human-made gods and goddesses we might choose to invent. Humanists teach that there is no supernatural world — no heaven, no nirvana, no karma, no holy beings or holy persons — there is just this world.

I’m not a humanist myself — my current religious self-identity is Haven’t-figured-it-out-ism. However, in this current political and social moment, I find myself both inspired by and grateful to humanism. A certain kind of conservative Christianity has become very emboldened here in the United States. These conservative Christians are giving Christianity a bad reputation. No, more than that, these conservative Christians are giving all of religion a bad reputation. And this type of emboldened conservative Christians is epitomized for me in the story told by Russell Moore, which we heard in the first reading this morning. Let me remind you of this story.

A Christian pastor preaches a sermon based on Matthew 5:38-39. That’s where Jesus is preaching the so-called Sermon on the Mount. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” So this Christian pastor preaches on this classic text from the Christian scriptures, and after the sermon he is confronted by an angry parishioner who demands to know why the pastor is preaching those liberal talking points. The pastor informs the angry parishioner that, according to their Christian beliefs, those words were spoken by Jesus Christ, which is to say, those words were actually spoken by God himself. The angry parishioner says, “That doesn’t work any more”; in essence saying that the Word of God is outdated.

Russell Moore, who tells this story, has impeccable conservative Christian credentials. He was a very powerful figure in the Southern Baptist Convention. He taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was the chairman of the board for an evangelical Christian nonprofit called the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In this latter role, he would have been diametrically opposed to our Unitarian Universalist notion of the full equality of men and women and other genders. We here in this room would find many areas of disagreement with Russell Moore.

Yet there are several key issues where we would agree with Russell Moore. For example, in 2016 Moore condemned Donald Trump’s derogatory comments about women and his alleged sexual misconduct. But Moore was forced to recant by Southern Baptist leaders and say he had been unnecessarily harsh. At about that time, Moore made a public statement saying the Confederate flag was not compatible with Christianity. Once again, some influential Southern Baptists took him to task for standing up for the dignity of African Americans. Then a few years later, Moore began calling on his co-religionists to face up to the serious clergy sexual abuse crisis among Southern Baptist churches. Once again he faced bitter backlash from other Southern Baptists for taking a moral stance. He finally grew tired of being forced to apologize for taking moral stances that he felt were based in the Bible. In 2021, Moore left his post as president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and left the Southern Baptist Convention entirely.

Unfortunately, this is what American conservative Christianity has come to — Christians rejecting the teachings of Jesus, Christians ignoring sexual misconduct in politicians and in their own pastors, White Christians refusing to deal with racism. A growing number of people don’t want to be associated with the excesses of conservative American Christianity — the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the blatant introduction of partisan politics into religion, the Confederate flags in churches. And the reality is that American conservative Christianity has become the paradigm for all religion in the United States. As a result, a growing number of people don’t want to be involved with any kind of religion at all.

And so it is that humanism has a lot to offer in this current moment of history. In a time when the conservative Christian God appears to be a deity which is sexist, racist, and homophobic, many people are ready to reject all religion. Humanism provide an alternative to conservative Christianity that can help Americans see new possibilities for religion.

And we actually do want people to be part of organized religion. Sociological studies have shown that religion is good for people. This apparently has little to do with belief or lack of belief. After reading some of these sociological studies, and comparing them with my own observations, I would say religion is good for us in large part because we participate in a community of shared values. The shared values I’m talking about are not abstract theology like: do you believe in the Trinity or not; I’m talking about more basic shared values like: being kind to one another; helping one another; working with other people to make the world a better place.

Humanism can help us see this truth about religion. It doesn’t much matter whether everyone believes in God. It does matter that we attempt to lead moral lives, that to the best of our ability we treat all human beings with respect. If someone becomes disillusioned with God, they may feel compelled to leave all organized religion behind, thus cutting them off from the benefits of a religious community. Humanism offers the opportunity of having a religious community without the perceived hypocrisy of today’s American religion.

Humanism can also serve as a healthy challenge to those who may not be humanists, by insisting that we human beings are responsible for our own actions. Humanists teach us that when we see something wrong with the world, it’s up to us to repair it. By contrast, conservative Christianity promotes a kind of passivity — everything is up to God; it’s God’s will if you live or die; all you need to do is pray. As an example of this kind of thinking, some conservative Christian pastors right now are saying we should not strive for peace in Israel and Gaza, because they believe the war there is a sign of the End Times when Jesus comes back to earth. God has decreed this — so these conservative Christian pastors say — and so we should let the warring parties do whatever they want. If the war escalates, then so be it, that’s what God wants. Humanists help us understand why these conservative Christian pastors are so wrong. Humanists teach us that when human society goes wrong it’s up to us to fix it. Progressive Christians, progressive Jews, and progressive Muslims might word this a bit differently; they might say God has given humans freedom to act, or something similar. But it comes down to the same basic principle: the war in Gaza and Israel was started by humans, it is being fought by humans, and therefore it’s up to us humans to put an end to the fighting and violence.

Humanists apply this principle to many other contemporary social problems. In the second reading this morning, Anthony Pinn, an African American humanist, argues that humanism offers the best hope for repairing the evils of racism. In his opinion, the Black churches have responded to racism based on “a sense of redemptive suffering as the best response to moral evil in the world.” Pinn rejects the notion of redemptive suffering — in Pinn’s view, suffering the evils of racism is not going to redeem anyone. Instead, Pinn argues that a religious outlook focused on the problem of evil, a religious outlook which relies on community rather than God to address the evil of racism, is what we need. No more redemptive suffering, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Once again, I don’t think that humanism is all that different from progressive Christianity or engaged Buddhism or progressive Judaism. The main difference I can see is that humanism doesn’t have a central personage like Jesus or God or the Buddha. Yet all these religious outlooks are similar in placing a very high importance on community. God, or Jesus, or Buddha remains important, but human community is also critically important.

And here is where we find the main distinction between religious humanism and organized atheism. Both atheists and humanists do not believe in God, or in any divinity. But the most important thing for organized atheists is their disbelief in God. By contrast, the most important thing for religious humanists is that they come together in community to try to solve the problems facing the world. Thus, the well-known atheist Richard Dawkins spends much of his time trying to convince others that God is a delusion. By contrast, humanist Anthony Pinn is mostly concerned with addressing society’s problems, and he brings up his disbelief in God only because he feels it can get in the way of fighting evil. Theoretical physicist Peter Higgs — who predicted the existence of the Higgs boson — once quipped in an interview that “Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind.” I think there’s some truth in that. Just as the conservative Christians feel they have to defend the purity of their belief, atheists like Dawkins feel they have to defend the purity of their disbelief. Whereas atheists like Anthony Pinn don’t spend much time on purity of belief or disbelief. Humanists believe that instead of spending so much time on purity of belief, we should be spending most of our time on ending racism, or on promoting world peace, or addressing any number of other social evils.

I already told you that I’m not a humanist myself, that I’m what you might call a Haven’t-figured-it-out-ist. Yet as a stalwart proponent of Haven’t-figured-it-out-ism, I find myself inspired by humanism, and by humanists like Anthony Pinn. I admit that I really enjoy talking about abstract issues like the nature of God, the requirements of the Dharma, and the ways the rabbis have interpreted the Torah. (I have an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a graduate degree in theology, of course I like talking about such things!) But I feel Anthony Pinn is correct. It’s more important, as he says, “to foster conversation concerning liberating ways of addressing the problem of evil.”

In other words, what I learn from humanist is that our top priority as a religious community should be ending racism, sexism, homophobia, war, and so on. What each of happens to believe or disbelieve about God, or Dharma, or Allah, or any of those abstract religious questions, deserves less of our energy at this particular historical moment. Let’s take care of racism first. Let’s end hunger and poverty first. Let’s solve the looming environmental crisis first. Let’s focus on the human problems that human beings can solve. Once we have those problems taken care of, then we can find the time to argue about the existence or non-existence of God.

Which Black Church?

This sermon was preached by Rev. Dan Harper at First Unitarian Church in New Bedford. As usual, the sermon below is a reading text. The actual sermon as preached contained ad libs, interjections, and other improvisation. Sermon copyright (c) 2007 Daniel Harper.

Story — “The Lowells and Oatmeal” — as told by Helen Cohen

This is a little story about change and learning new ways of doing things.

It was 7:30 in the morning, by the grandfather clock at the Lowell household. Judge John Lowell had come to the table for breakfast.

Judge Lowell sat with a newspaper up in front of his face, as he had done at breakfast every morning for the past thirty years. All of a sudden, from the pantry, the maid came rushing inn to whisper something in Mrs. Lowell’s ear. It was clearly bad news!

The maid had burned the oatmeal! And there was no more oatmeal in the house! Mrs. Lowell thought for a moment. She said to herself, Well, I must tell him right away.

So she turned to Judge Lowell and said, “John, my dear. There isn’t going to be any oatmeal this morning.”

Now this was no minor domestic tragedy. Because, to Mrs. Lowell’s knowledge, Judge Lowell had eaten oatmeal for breakfast every morning of his life.

The silence was deafening.

Slowly the judge lowered his newspaper.

He looked at his wife, and he replied, “Frankly, my dear, I never did care for it.”

If you are someone who hates oatmeal, your first thought about this story was how awful it must have been to eat oatmeal every day of your life if you didn’t like it. And if you’re like me, you thought to yourself, Oh, why didn’t Mrs. Lowell ask him what he liked? And then maybe you thought to yourself, Yes, but why didn’t Judge Lowell just tell her that he didn’t like it?

I don’t know why! But this story does raise questions about how we live our lives, and why we don’t change things we don’t like.

[Adapted from a story told by Helen Cohen, who adapted her story from an anecdote by John Ciardi.]


The first reading this morning comes from a chapter titled “What If God Were One of Us?: Humanism and African Americans for Humanism” in the book “Varieties of African American Experience,” by the humanist theologian Anthony Pinn. Pinn writes:

“I am not convinced that religion is dying wholesale, because religion provides a language or grammar for making sense of the world in life affirming ways. Rather than dying, religion emerges in new forms of expression. Some who acknowledge this still avoid humanism because they believe that it robs adherents of valuable hopes and comforts. [The humanist Unitarian minister] John Dietrich states, however, ‘Humanism robs man of nothing that actually exists. It takes from him only his comforting illusions and substitutes from them consolations that are real and hopes that are realizable.’ Humanism challenges activities and thought that do not appear liberating in nature. Organized traditional religions, therefore, have come under increasing attach because of their perceived failure to combat continued socioeconomic and political turmoil. Although the churches’ role in promoting such transformative events as the Civil Rights movement must be acknowledged, humanists will point to more examples of the churches’ failure to engage relevant questions and issues.

“Theistic forms of religious expression resolve the problem of moral evil in the world through some interaction between god(s) and humanity. This resolution, however, stimulates additional questions for the humanist. In the words of Raymond Knox: ‘Here they lynching Negroes — if God’s all that good, how come he don’t stop the police from killing Negroes, lynching Negroes, if God is all that just?’ Or, as James Baldwin articulates the question: ‘And if one despairs — as who has not? — of human love, God’s love alone is left. But God — and I felt this even then, so long ago, on that tremendous floor, unwillingly — God is white. And if His love was so great, and if He loved all His children, why were we, the blacks, cast down so far?…’

“Humanism resolves the problem of accountability through an appeal to human accountability. Humans have created the conditions presently encountered and humans are responsible for changing these conditions.

“For African Americans humanist history demonstrates that this goal is noble but its achievement is far from guaranteed. African American humanists’ sense of optimism based open human potential for transformation is more guarded that that present in white humanist thought because of black people’s disproportionate suffering. Nonetheless, African American humanists hold that humanity has no choice but to continue seeking progress. The alternative is stagnation….”

[pp. 184-5]

The second reading is from the book “Black Pioneers in a White Denomination” by Mark Morrison-Reed. Morrison-Reed calls himself “black-born, Unitarian bred,” and in this passage he talks about the church he was raised in:

“The efforts of the First Unitarian Church of Chicago to become integrated are especially interesting…. The Reverend Leslie Pennington [of First Unitarian] had long been involved in race relations and had frequently exchanged pulpits with black ministers in Chicago…. For Pennington, it was understood that blacks were welcome, but other wanted a distinct proclamation. The Evening [Women’s] Alliance, which included Muriel Hayward, Gladys Hilton, Margret Adams, and Dorothy Schaad, pushed for a church resolution that would clearly state that the First Unitarian Church welcomed people of all races. The knew that ‘ “whites only” was never carved over the door of any Protestant church in America; it was understood.’ To dispel this assumption, they needed to make a public statement to the contrary, but this was not an easy matter, since there were people in the congregation who opposed integration altogether. James Luther Adams remembers a meeting of the board of trustees that went late into the night as they argued over whether or not to become an integrated church. Finally, in the early hours of the morning, one trustee, still recalcitrant on the issue of integration, was challenged with this questions: ‘What is the purpose of the church?’ He blurted out, ‘To change people like me!’ He and another trustee later left the church. In January, 1948, a resolution was passed at the annual meetings, and in that year the church received its first black member. Since then it had turned into one of the most thoroughly integrated church within the liberal faith….” [pp. 130-1]


This is the third in a series of three sermons for Black History Month. Black History Month is, in part, a time to celebrate African American culture. This morning, I’d like to celebrate one aspects of Black religious culture that is mostly ignored, and that is the fact that Black religious culture in the United States is not limited to the traditional Black Christian churches.

In the second reading this morning, we heard a little bit about First Unitarian in Chicago, one of the few fully integrated, truly multi-racial Unitarian Universalist congregations. At present, perhaps thirty percent of the membership is African American, and another ten or twenty percent is Hispanic or other non-white persons. First Unitarian is located right near the University of Chicago, in a racially mixed part of Chicago. The congregation meets in a large stone building they built in 1929, which is meant to imitate an English medieval church. Since it was built as a Unitarian church, there is an empty niche above the chancel to remind worshippers that each individual brings his or her own individual conception of the spirit to a worship service — an empty niche, instead of a cross or some other limiting symbol.

I went to First Unitarian for some months when I studying for the ministry at Meadville/Lombard Theological School — attended worship there, rented a room from the president of their board of trustees, and taught Sunday school now and then. I have to admit that the worship services tended to be a little too formal for my tastes; it was what I call a “high-church humanist” kind of worship service. I also have to admit that I found their big, echo-y stone building to be a little cold. And I also have to admit that since I was attending school on a very part-time basis, I only went to worship there a total of perhaps twenty times over four years. Yet I felt more comfortable in that congregation than in any other congregation of which I have been a part. Why? Because I liked being in a truly multi-racial, multi-generational congregation; and sociologists tell me that I am typical for college-educated people my age (I’m 46) and younger — we have gotten used to multi-racial settings. This in fact was one of my great attractions to our own congregation, First Unitarian in New Bedford: this congregation is already somewhat multi-racial, and given the demographics of the city has the potential to become far more so.

There are in fact many Unitarian Universalists my age and younger who really want to see truly multiracial congregations. Yet there are only about a dozen truly multi-racial Unitarian Universalist congregations in North America. I think there are two main reasons that we have remained so white. First, I think we have remained predominantly white out of habit — not out of malice, just because old habits die hard. Second, I think lots of white Unitarian Universalists have this idea that African Americans and other non-white persons just aren’t interested in liberal religion.

The first reason is easily disposed of: we can change habits, even old habits, if we are willing to try. We could do some anti-racism training, just to make sure we weren’t being held back by some residual racism; and take a few other pretty obvious steps towards becoming fully multi-racial. Indeed I’m talking with the Board of Trustees about having an anti-racism training here in our congregation this spring, so this is a real possibility. But what about that second reason? What if we decide to become truly multi-racial? Are there African Americans and Hispanics and Cape Verdeans and Azoreans and other non-Anglo persons who would want to come join us here? We are told that African Americans are all Protestant Christians, while Hispanics and Cape Verdeans and Portuguese and Azoreans are all Catholic. If that’s true, aren’t we doomed to remaining an all-white congregation?

Fortunately, that isn’t true. A few years ago, I got to do a day-long seminar with a theologian by the name of Anthony Pinn. Anthony Pinn happens to be an African American, and he happens to be a humanist, that is, he doesn’t believe in God. As an African American humanist, he got a little tired of other black scholars assuming that all African Americans are Christians. Pinn contends “that African American religious experience extends beyond… black Christianity,” and so he wrote a book titled “Varieties of African American Religious Experience” detailing his research into four non-Christian religious traditions within the African American community: Vodou, Santeria, Islam, and religious humanism.

It is that last religious tradition that concerns us most. Anthony Pinn documents that there are now, and have been for years, lots of African American humanists — atheists, agnostics, unbelievers, and others for whom traditional Christian answers appear insufficient. In our first reading this morning, taken from Pinn’s book, he quotes two such African American humanists. He quotes Raymond Knox, who said, “Here they lynching Negroes — if God’s all that good, how come he don’t stop the police from killing Negroes, lynching Negroes, if God is all that just?” And then Anthony Pinn quotes James Baldwin, who said: “But God… God is white. And if His love was so great, and if He loved all His children, why were we, the blacks, cast down so far?” What Raymond Knox and James Baldwin have to say sound to me very much like what most Unitarian Universalists have to say, which is that if God is supposed to be so good and all-powerful to boot, how come we have to suffer so much? Those of us Unitarian Universalists who do believe in God or some higher power go on to say that ultimately it’s we human beings who are responsible for our own destiny, while those of us who are humanists — and about forty or fifty percent of all Unitarian Universalists are humanists — set aside the idea of a higher power.

What Anthony Pinn shows us is that there are plenty of African Americans who think very much like Unitarian Universalists. Pinn points out this very fact in his book, and he documents the fact that a fair number of African American humanists have managed to find an institutional home within Unitarian Universalism since at least the 1930’s. The only problem is that there are only about a dozen Unitarian Universalist congregations, all of them located in cities, that are truly multi-racial — this in spite of the fact that the current president of the Unitarian Universalist Association is African American. The end result is that there aren’t that many African American Unitarian Universalists. But Pinn makes it clear that there is no theological barrier to keep us from becoming truly multi-racial; I would say the only barrier is that we have simply gotten into the habit of being a predominantly white, Anglo religion.

But there is also evidence that we could get over the habit of being white and Anglo. To show you what I mean, let me tell you a little story.

Duncan Howlett was minister of this congregation in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, probably the greatest minister this congregation has had in this century. Howlett went from here to First Church in Boston, and then in the 1960’s he went to All Souls Church in Washington, D.C. At that time, All Souls was a very, very prestigious congregation. The minister who preceded Howlett was A. Powell Davies, who was renowned as a great preacher — he was so good, the Washington newspapers would hold their Monday editions until they could get a copy of his sermon — Davies was so good, he counted several congressmen and senators as members of his congregation. So Howlett wound up in the most prestigious Unitarian Universalist pulpit in the United States, a place most ministers would stay until they died or were incapacitated.

But instead of staying in the pulpit of All Souls forever, Howlett did something far more honorable and far more daring. In 1968, he looked around and realized that his congregation was mostly white, yet the city of Washington was mostly black. So he retired, saying that he felt the congregation needed to call an African American minister and the only way that would happen would be if he quit. He left, and they did call an African American minister. Today, All Souls in Washington remains a truly multi-racial congregation with one white minister, and one black minister.

A similar thing happened recently at Davies Memorial Church in Camp Springs, Maryland. The congregation is ten miles outside Washington, in an area where the population is more than 60% black — yet five years ago, the congregation remained almost entirely white, with a white minister. Five years ago, a young African American minister named John Crestwell began coming to Davies Memorial, and he and the white minister and the lay leaders of the congregation came up with an idea of bringing Crestwell on as an associate minister. Their shared plan and vision was that they would all work together to grow the congregation while increasing racial diversity, and at the end of a three-year period the other minister would resign, leaving Crestwell as the sole minister. Their plan worked — they grew by 50%, more than a third of the members are now black, and their old minister resigned, leaving John Crestwell as the sole minister. And Davies Memorial Church will be honored this June at the annual gathering of the Unitarian Universalist Association as a “Breakthrough Congregation.”

The story we Unitarian Universalists have told about ourselves is that we are a white religion, and that people of color don’t want to belong to our religion. It should be obvious by now that we have been telling ourselves a false story. First of all, we are not a completely white religion, and we do have multi-racial congregations, and there are plenty of non-white, non-Anglo Unitarian Universalists.

Second, given the experience of Davies Memorial Church, and given what Anthony Pinn tells us, it looks to me as if there are quite a few African Americans out there, and probably lots of other non-white non-Anglos, who would love to become a part of our religious tradition. According to the 2000 U.S. census, there are more than 4,000 African Americans in New Bedford — if 40 of those African Americans, less than one percent of the total, started coming to First Unitarian, we would be as integrated as Davies Memorial Church. There are nearly ten thousand Hispanics in New Bedford — if less than half of one percent of them found us, we’d be far more integrated than Davies Memorial Church. And I’d like to think that we’re already headed in that direction. On one recent Sunday morning, I looked around and happened to notice that ten percent of the people in this room were non-white, an additional ten percent were bilingual in Portuguese and English, and an additional five percent identified as non-white. On that particular Sunday, a total of twenty-five percent of the congregation was non-white and non-Anglo. I say we should begin to really embrace that as a central part of our identity — as a central to our core of openness.

The story we could tell about ourselves is that we are a religion that is open to whomever needs it, black, white, Hispanic, Cape Verdean, Azorean, Portuguese, gay, straight, young, old. The story we could tell about ourselves is that an openness lies at our core — that at our core, we are open to more than one theological position, that we are open to different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and ages we could say that, at our core, we are open to openness. Maybe we’d have to be open to giving up some of our traditional ways of running our congregations, by so what.

Rev. John Crestwell says, “The institutional church is still very tribal. Less than 10 percent of all churches in the United States are racially diverse. Unitarian Universalists break down tribalism — with our come-as-you are beliefs.” So says John Crestwell.

Come as you are. Come as you are, no matter what your skin color. Come as you are, with whatever liberal theology you bring. Come as you are, to a congregation of openness.