Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Poly and UU: Where's the Connection?

(Four people who never made the Famous UUs list)

I've weighed in at several other UU bloggers' polyamory discussions, but one point I've tried to make seems to be getting lost elsewhere so I'll raise it again here.

I get that there are disagreements about the merits of polyamory (or lack thereof).

I get why some people think it is a sociological issue.

I get that people who make polyamorous life choices find themselves outside a monogamous social convention.

I get that it is fair to debate whether they find themselves there as a result of their own willing choices or as victims of unfair social prejudice.

What I don't get is why anyone would consider it a Unitarian Universalist issue.

I submit that it is totally absent from our denominational and theological history (except for a brief, disastrous experiment in the 1960's and '70's), that there has never been a GA resolution or similar consensus among UUs that the social convention of monogamy is morally oppressive or even problematic, and therefore, that Unitarian Universalism has no compelling religious or moral interest in the cause.

Who says otherwise, and why?


At July 11, 2007 at 11:17:00 AM EDT, Anonymous hafidha sofia said...

Until I saw the photo in your post, when I heard "bob and ted and alice" (or however it goes) at CC's blog, I thought folks were talking about the parents and the maid from the Brady Bunch.

I had no idea there was a movie called Bob and Ted and Alice (and whoever it is I'm forgetting).

As for why this is a UU issue - I don't know that it particularly is. Maybe I don't understand your question (which is highly possible), but it seems that lots of things we talk about wouldn't be particularly UU related.

At July 11, 2007 at 11:53:00 AM EDT, Blogger fausto said...

Yes, lots of things we talk about aren't particularly UU related, but the discussion of polyamory got started because of a particularly UU related issue -- namely, the suspicion that the reason the UUA severed nearly all its independent affiliates was to eliminate the ties between the UUA and the UUs for Polyamory Awareness without having to give a specific justification.

What I'm challenging in this thread is not whether all the IA disaffiliations including the UUPA were handled poorly, and not whether it's appropriate for UUs to discuss polyamory at all, but whether there's any valid institutional reason for an officially recognized polyamory advocacy group operating under UUA auspices or for an express UU endorsement of the lifestyle. (FWIW, IMHO, they were all handled poorly, and there's nothing wrong with UUs discussing polyamory, but there's no valid UU connection or need for one.)

At July 11, 2007 at 12:01:00 PM EDT, Blogger Joel Monka said...

I imagine the connection would be whether a UU minister would be willing to perfrom a group wedding.

At July 11, 2007 at 12:59:00 PM EDT, Anonymous hafidha sofia said...

Okay, I get it now.
Hmm. I don't know that there's any reason there Must Be an affiliated PA group for UUs. Then again, I am very uncertain of what it even means to be an affiliated group vs. a group.

At July 11, 2007 at 2:52:00 PM EDT, Blogger Steve Caldwell said...

One possible connection between intra-denominational polyamory awareness work done by UUPA and Unitarian Universalism is helping ordained, professional, and lay leadership in understanding and providing ministry to the family diversity that exists in our congregations.

This falls under the "ministry to families" umbrella.

At July 11, 2007 at 5:00:00 PM EDT, Blogger Joel Monka said...

By the way, Hadifha, don't be embarrased about missing the movie connection- as the film dates from 1969, only those of us of "a certain age" would have recognised it right away.

At July 11, 2007 at 7:18:00 PM EDT, Anonymous hafidha sofia said...

Joel: Oh, those whacky 60s! But I was surprised - Elliot Gould and Natalie Wood?!

Steve - good point. I did go to the uupa's website and read their mission or purpose statement, and it did seem their main effort was to help congregations serve poly families more. Others allude to ulterior motives. Not being part of that community at all, I just can't speak to those.

I am still really surprised that the ministerial misconduct stuff back in the day came out of the poly movement. I just assumed it was a boys' club mentality combined with abuse of power.

At July 16, 2007 at 8:12:00 PM EDT, Anonymous e. isaacson said...

Where's the connection?

I guess we have suppressed any recollection that Mary Wollstonecraft, a member of the Rev. Richard Price’s Unitarian congregation, made waves with her 1792 tract on the Vindication of the Rights of Women, by denouncing monogamous marriage as an oppressive patriarchal institution, which she characterized as “legal prostitution.”

It seems we have suppressed as well any memory that Wollstonecraft’s lover, William Godwin, expressed remarkably similar sentiments the following year, writing in his 1793 Enquiry Concerning Political Justice that “marriage, as now understood, is a monopoly, and the worst of monopolies. So long as two human beings are forbidden, by positive institution, to follow the dictates of their own mind, prejudice will be alive and vigorous. So long as I seek, by despotic and artificial means, to maintain my possession of a woman, I am guilty of the most odious selfishness.”

It’s best to forget as well, I suppose, that Mary Wollstonecraft died shortly after giving birth to Godwin’s daughter, leaving him to raise the girl – and that their daughter in 1814 eloped with the notorious polyamorist and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Never mind that in 1818, as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, she published her own novel, which she titled Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus.

It’s best to forget that the government took Percy Bysshe Shelley’s children from him, reasoning that one who believes people should be free to love one another – without legal restrictions – cannot be a fit parent.

Who could think that the polyamorist Unitarian radicalism started by Mary Wollstonecraft, which attacked the very foundations of England’s patriarchal social order, might be tolerated? And who among us would fault Edmund Burke for denouncing Wollstonecraft and the Unitarian Society as “loathsome insects that might, if they were allowed, grow into giant spiders as large as oxen”?

So – let the secular world remember our Unitarian forebear Mary Wollstonecraft as the founder of modern feminism. Let the secular world praise her lover William Godwin as an influential and enlightened social philosopher. Let the secularists honor Percy Bysshe Shelley as a great romantic poet, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley as the author of one of western literature’s most important novels.

But ask twenty-first century UUs what these people stood for? Well, we're not really interested in the connection.


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