Z-History of Social Justice Theologies in UUism 113 (Fall 2016)

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We begin with the basic UU theology of social justice, but quickly branch out to explore how specific Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist-based social movements were informed by specific theological ideas even as they evolved new ones. Our focus will be on what it takes to be a theologically inspired agent for change in emerging historical circumstances.

Module One: Universalist Theologies of Social Justice.

The Universalist theology of radical inclusion and just community: from the vision of complete equality in the afterlife, to utopian communities, to Clarence Skinner’s progressive call for the worldwide equitable distribution of resources.

Module Two: Unitarian Theologies of Social Justice.   In this unit, we cover how much of the early Unitarian theology of social change was formed out of the complicated experience of liberal religious persons with abolitionism and the Civil War. We also examine the Unitarian commitment to a theology of radical democracy, a consistent commitment traceable from the very beginning of our movement through to the 20th century’s great ethicist/theologian James Luther Adams.

Module Four: U, U and UU Women’s Movements. Looking at various women’s movements (suffrage, the women’s peace movement, temperance, and contemporary anti-sexism), we explore how the presence of women in religious leadership changed not only our culture, but our theological stance, especially in relationship to questions personal agency, class, and direct social action.

Module Five: Civil Rights, Black Empowerment & Institutional Anti-Racisms. These Unitarian Universalist experiences both necessitated, and were based on, new theologies of privilege, power and agency.

Module Seven: Sexualities & Genders. From “About Your Sexuality” classes for youth, to marriage equality and LGBTQA+ rights beyond binary thinking, most contemporary Unitarian Universalist social actions have been based on specific theological assumptions about the progressive qualities of education and relationship.

Module Eight: New Horizons.   How justice issues currently engaging Unitarian Universalism (specifically Black Lives Matter and Climate Change) connect to our past even as they point out to us the necessity of developing new paradigms.

Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie is well-published on the topic of Unitarian Universalist history and identity, most recently in the Journal of Unitarian Universalist History, the Journal of Liberal Religion, the Journal of American FolkloreSeasons, the Journal of the Zaytuna Institute for Islamic StudiesEveryday Spiritual Practices, and Religion in Ohio.  Her work has been translated into Hungarian and Turkish. Rev. Ritchie holds a PhD. in Cultural Studies from the Ohio State University and a Masters of Divinity from the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

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