Are UUs a Majority or Minority?

Most Unitarian-Universalists are white; on average they are not poor; the denomination’s roots are Protestant Christian, as are many of their institutional structures, forms of service, and fundamental thought processes about religion.  A great many of them were actually raised in at least nominally Christian households and are fluent in North American Christian language, bodily practices, and perspectives.  Universalists and especially the Unitarians drew on the power elite of American society, and have always enjoyed above average rates of education, literacy, and self-representative forms of media.  Politically most are center-left Democrats, a position with plenty of national representation even in the hardest times, and at intervals actual dominance of national politics.

Most Unitarian-Universalists are not professing Christians; many are not monotheistic at all; the differences between the average UU and the average Christian are often extremely difficult for non-Christians to discern but certainly clear and important to many Christians.   There are Christian groups that explicitly exclude and condemn UUism, books written to catalog the religious heresies of UUism as a “cult,” and plenty of cases of overt discrimination against individual UUs.

Regardless of their individual theology, most UUs can (and in many cases do) “pass” as average, at least vaguely Christian Americans and Canadians.  On the whole they have a much easier time doing so than light-skinned racial minorities, Jews, immigrants, or other minorities who often seek to pass as a dominant group or at least allow themselves to pass in some social situations.

Are UUs part of the majority culture in North America, or are they an outnumbered minority?  Are they safe or potentially endangered?  Are they part of the power structure or disenfranchised?  It is possible to belong to BOTH categories simultaneously?



Filed under Defining Liberal Religion, Unitarian-Universalism

3 responses to “Are UUs a Majority or Minority?

  1. serenityhome

    Interesting questions. I am not convinced that Universalists drew on the power elite of American society. They were often looked down upon by Unitarians for not being as educated, for not being as upper crust as the Bostonian Unitarians. Perhaps that is only in comparison with Unitarians and not with the general population. But that aside, interesting questions.

    In Mississippi I serve two small congregations. The smaller of the two is a Universalist congregation 100 plus years old. This Unitarian Universalist congregation with its 3rd and 4th generation Universalist families will often state that their Baptist cousins will not speak to them. When the church was being formed, they sought to meet in the public school house and were met with a sign stating “Dogs and Universalists not allowed.” Today, members have been met with hostility from christians for not believing in Jesus in the manner that they do.

    So in the south, or at least in Mississippi, Unitarian Universalists are a minority and are endangered. On the whole of North American culture? While the pendelum has swung right, there is still a significant number of liberal thinkers, some of which are Unitarian Universalists. I won’t write off UUism as a shaping influence on America quite yet.

  2. If we are endangered, it is because we are not really walking the talk. I think if UUs began to be known by our actions and behaviors, we would garner a lot more respect from Christians. It is when we are known as white professional intellectuals that we catch (well-deserved) flak, because our status and intellectual prowess should not be first and foremost in people’s mind.

    We’re supposed to be a faith community that works toward justice, acceptance and equality. It would be great if we made this more obvious.

  3. Are we a part of the majority culture? Hmmm… I know some UU’s who are, and some who aren’t. Personally, I tend to define “majority culture” by its ethics and values–not its race or class. Mainstream values that I see prevalent are consumerism, competitiveness, and conformity (despite all that talk of individualism…). I think our UU principles value interdependence and free thinking. Therefore, if we are really living those values, then I would say we would find ourselves standing out amidst the mainstream–in a variety of ways.

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