Liberal religious tracts?

“The Internet is the tract publishing venue of the 21st century.” Thus spake Chris Walton, editor at UU World magazine and, as well as the author of the blog Philocrites. Chris was speaking to a meeting of ministers this morning at the Braintree, Mass., Unitarian Universalist church.

Unitarian and Universalist denominational organizations began as tract publishing organizations in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The two organizations continued to focus on generating and disseminating ideas through the 19th C. and into the 20th C. “We’ve lost that momentum,” said Chris, over the past few decades. Today, we’re neither generating nor disseminating many religious ideas.

Chris also noted how the number of publishing venues for Unitarian Universalists has been dropping — UU World magazine, for example, is down to a quarterly schedule –and he urged us to find new ways to disseminate our liberal religious ideas. “Sometimes what you have to say has a much larger audience” than your local congregation, Chris asserted. The Internet could be a good vehicle for distributing this writing to a national or even international audience.

Chris summed up by saying that currently the religious right is focussing on ideas. But that’s not happening on the religious left, and it’s time we got back into the world of ideas.

A great, thought-provoking presentation. At lunch afterwards, I happened to wind up talking with two ministers about blogs, the Internet, and liberal religion. One of my lunch companions said that all this technology is fine and good, “But who’s our William F. Buckley of Unitarian Universalism?” — in other words, who’s the writer whom people will read, and who will excite people about religious liberalism today?

I said, “He’s got red hair and he’s sitting two tables over from us — it’s Chris Walton. He was in the right place at the right time with his blog, he’s a darned good writer, and he stays abreast of all the current debates about Unitarian Universalism. Because he’s at the center of things, people keep sending him their ideas, and so he becomes more at the center of things,” I continued, waxing eloquent. “I got introduced to his blog by a minister in her thirties who said, ‘Do you read Philocrites? I find it to be the one essential Unitarian Universalist publication I read.’ And I think she’s right, especially for people forty and under. It’s partly by luck and partly through skill, but whatever the reason, his is the one blog you have to read.”

It’s all true, and I’ll go further than that. If you’re looking for something to give to friends whom you think should be Unitarian Universalists, send them to Chris’s blog ( So far, it’s the best example of a 21st C. Unitarian Universalist tract.

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