A general review of the Justice GA

For me, the story of Justice GA begins like this:

We Unitarian Universalists have to reserve General Assembly sites several years in advance, and we incur financial penalties if we break a reservation. The central purpose of General Assembly is to carry out business required by our bylaws, and our bylaws require us to hold a General Assembly each year. All the other activities that take place at General Assembly — the workshops, the lectures, the conflicts and scuffles, the political maneuvering, and so on — are incidental to that central purpose.

At the 2010 General Assembly, a sentiment arose that Arizona’s newly-enacted draconian law targeting Latino and other immigrants was unjust, and that we Unitarian Universalists should observe a boycott against Arizona called by immigrants’ rights groups within the state. However, the financial penalties that we would incur if we backed out of our contracts in Arizona would mean that we could not afford to hold another General Assembly elsewhere; and we are required by our bylaws to hold an annual General Assembly. We needed a compromise. Out of this need of compromise, Justice GA emerged.

That’s the beginning of the story. Here’s how the story continues: Continue reading “A general review of the Justice GA”

Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz

Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, the theologian who was central in developing Mujerista — which can be translated as womanist — theology, died May 13 in New York City. Her obituary in the New York Times notes that Isasi-Diaz preferred the term “Mujerism” to the term “feminist” because, she said, many women in the Hispanic community considered feminism to be “a preoccupation of white Anglo women.”

Many of us are Unitarian Universalists are about to head off to General Assembly in Phoenix, where we will be concentrating a good deal of our attention on the immigration issues facing the Hispanic community. Feminism and feminist theology has been at the center of our identity as a religious community. As we continue to look into issues facing the Hispanic community, it seems to me worth out while to look more closely at Mujerism as it applies to North America. So I’m putting Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz on my reading list for the coming year.

Top ten best things about liberal religion in 2011, pt. 8

2. For two straight years, U.S. Unitarian Universalists have focused a good portion of their social justice attention on immigration reform. I believe some of this focus is somewhat misguided, e.g., on the national stage we should be paying more attention to Alabama than to Arizona. Nor am I particularly interested in immigration myself — personally, I remain most interested in working peace, poverty, overpopulation, and workers rights. Nor do I believe that the so-called “Justice General Assembly” scheduled for June, 2012, in Arizona is change anything.

But c’mon, Unitarian Universalists have managed to focus their attention longer than six months on one issue. That’s incredible. If we could do that more often, we might actually make a difference in the world.

One possible litmus test for “UU culture”

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is in the middle of an attempt to cut the state budget, and at the moment he’s focusing on passage of a bill that will end collective bargaining for state employees. This action sparked protests and a Democratic walkout, and for four days now state workers and their supporters have basically taken over the Rotunda of the state capitol building.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I am fascinated by our religious response to this event. For anyone with a union connection, the events in Wisconsin will be seen as a watershed event — indeed, if Scott Walker’s bill passes, what’s happening in Wisconsin could be as important to union supporters as last year’s anti-immigration legislation in Arizona was to those working on immigration reform. But Unitarian Universalists have been basically ignoring what’s going on in Wisconsin; aside from a blog post by Patrick Murfin, I have seen no UU response.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. When Arizona passed anti-immigration legislation, Unitarian Universalists were furious, and a number went and got arrested in protests. However, Unitarian Universalists generally do not show much support when it comes to unions and worker’s rights. If Scott Walker’s bill passes (as it is likely to do), I do not think we will see a massive upwelling of support among Unitarian Universalists for collective bargaining rights.

This, I believe, reveals something about what Chris Walton and UU World magazine have been terming “Unitarian Universalist culture”. While Unitarian Universalists have a strong tendency to support politically liberal causes, they do not support all politically liberal causes equally, and unionism is one cause that gets little or limited support. Because of this, I predict that we will not be seeing prophetic statements from the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association condemning Scott Walker; I also predict that the Standing on the Side Of Love campaign will not start including love for union workers the way it included love for immigrants in the wake of Arizona.

I’m fascinated by the way Unitarian Universalists pick and choose among politically liberal causes, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on why this might be so. Specifically, why don’t we support unionism (with the exception of Cesar Chavez’s farmworkers union, but then maybe that was more about immigrants than about unions)? Is it because our strong strain of individualism is repelled by collective bargaining? Is it because so many of us are members of the managerial class that we tend to distrust unions? Or what? Maybe this will help better define what “UU culture” really is.