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Switch to Forum Live View Was Jefferson District, now Southeast
3 years ago  ::  May 02, 2011 - 6:35PM #1
DotNotInOz
Posts: 6,833

I'm not sure what I think about this, not that it matters since I had no vote, but one of the headlines today discusses the April 30th UUA vote to change the name of the Thomas Jefferson District to Southeast District due to dismay over Jefferson's ownership of slaves and his having fathered seven children with slave Sally Hemings.

blog.beliefnet.com/news/2011/05/unitaria...

On the one hand, I can see how today's UU's consider Jefferson to have acted ignobly in carrying on a longterm sexual relationship with a slave woman he owned, a relationship recently confirmed by DNA tests.


I'm not sure what I think or feel either one about his relationship with Hemings.


Yes, one can argue that slavery always was wrong. However, slaveholding was so much a given in Virginia in Jefferson's time among his social class that I think it somewhat unfair of us to insist that he ought to have freed his slaves when doing so would have created tremendous financial hardship for any plantation owner, Jefferson in particular.

 On the whole, I see this as primarily holding Jefferson to standards that are customary today but were not in his era. I don't think that's fair even though we think we have moral and just reasons for doing so.

As a Unitarian, I myself have no difficulty considering Jefferson a Unitarian--with feet of clay who behaved as did many Southern men of his time. Unlike a good many others, Jefferson wasn't married when he took up with Hemings.

I wonder, too, if this change of name reflects UU's discomfort with the dark side of humankind and human behavior. Wouldn't it reflect better upon us today if we simply acknowledge that Jefferson lived in a manner we have the luxury of thinking inappropriate, indeed immoral? How about not judging him by our standards since we'd hardly find it appropriate for him to judge us by his? And yet, I feel squeamish about answering these questions affirmatively.


Your reactions?

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3 years ago  ::  May 02, 2011 - 9:00PM #2
Jupiter6208
Posts: 2,369

Dot i guess you are right regarding UU's not wanting to face or admit Humanitys Dark side  as you stated on your other post.

"A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person."  Dave Berry



You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. Buddha.

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
Eleanor Roosevelt
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3 years ago  ::  May 02, 2011 - 9:12PM #3
Jupiter6208
Posts: 2,369

Nothing like sugarcoating everything...

"A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person."  Dave Berry



You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. Buddha.

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
Eleanor Roosevelt
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3 years ago  ::  May 03, 2011 - 6:22AM #4
DotNotInOz
Posts: 6,833

I noticed one blog comment elsewhere that expressed suspicion that the name change is primarily a cynical ploy to attract more African-Americans. There may be some merit to that view, IMO, since the denomination has existed for decades with only a tiny percentage of members identifying themselves as blacks.


So, wouldn't surprise me but what that's an underlying motive for the big push to change the name from the very politically incorrect Mr. Jefferson's to an inoffensive geographical one.


I think the fact that it succeeded is somewhat akin to all the uproar over the Monica Lewinsky situation. Is it proportional to condemn Jefferson for this sort of thing when he drafted the Declaration of Independence and a treatise on religious freedom, providing a good part of the foundation for UUism, as well as the basis for the Constitution's separation of church and state?


But then, I'm not an African-American so undoubtedly am more willing to excuse Jefferson than they may be. It's a real conundrum. 

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3 years ago  ::  May 03, 2011 - 8:12AM #5
RevDorris
Posts: 1,807

The UUA in always trying to be 'Politically Correct' has lost its flavor and its uniqueness.  Until it regains a path of its own, it has no path but follows in the wake of many others.  Where are the radicals and heretics who were the leaders and pushed man's awareness to new highs?

With love,

Rev Dorris
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3 years ago  ::  May 03, 2011 - 1:19PM #6
jamlawken
Posts: 75

In my eperience as a (former) UU I found that UUs let go of the teachings of some of the founders of American Unitarianism (particularly William Ellery Channing and Theodore Parker) so perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that UUA let go of the Thomas Jefferson District.

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3 years ago  ::  May 03, 2011 - 3:29PM #7
JCarlin
Posts: 6,677

I suspect (whisper it) that it was more about Sally Hemming's race than her status once they began the relationship.  There was no meaningful difference in those days between a wife and a slave.  Both were the property of men, supported by men, and did men's bidding in bed and in the nursery.  What little has surfaced about the relationship was that Jefferson treated her as a wife, although politically he couldn't admit it publicly or have it blessed by the church.  Shame on the Church and anti-miscegenation laws of the time, not on Jefferson. 


The Unitarian religion owes more to Jefferson politically and philosophically than perhaps any other single person of that time.  Unitarians wouldn't exist if Jefferson had not won his battle with the Black Regiment of New England clergymen who wanted to Christianity to be the state religion of the US.  And it wasn't Unitarian Christianity that they had in mind.  It was the salvation from original sin by Christ Christianity they wanted embedded in the Constitution.  It is too bad the "Politically" correct UUs know neither politics or history.


Philosophically the Jefferson Bible was the foundation of the Unitarian "Creed" right up until the merger:


Unitarians believe in The [parent]hood of God, the [sibling]hood of [people], the leadership of Jesus, and the progress of [human]kind, onward and upward forever.


  [PC edits by J'C.  grrr.]


   


May 2, 2011 -- 6:35PM, DotNotInOz wrote:

April 30th UUA vote to change the name of the Thomas Jefferson District to Southeast District due to dismay over Jefferson's ownership of slaves and his having fathered seven children with slave Sally Hemings.


Your reactions?




J'Carlin
If the shoe doesn't fit, don't cram your foot in it and complain.
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3 years ago  ::  May 03, 2011 - 9:16PM #8
DotNotInOz
Posts: 6,833

May 3, 2011 -- 3:29PM, JCarlin wrote:

Philosophically the Jefferson Bible was the foundation of the Unitarian "Creed" right up until the merger:


Unitarians believe in The [parent]hood of God, the [sibling]hood of [people], the leadership of Jesus, and the progress of [human]kind, onward and upward forever.


  [PC edits by J'C.  grrr.]



Your PC edits reminded me of yet another beef I had with the UU's from the getgo: their tendency to make mealymouthed some beautifully worded traditional hymns by rendering the language gender-inclusive. While I'd have done some years ago as you did with the quote, J'C, I've come to the view that merely adding a qualifier is better, something such as, "Language reflects usage ca. (inserting century or specific year) ." 


Never could figure out why updating the language became so desirable when anyone with a brain--and UU's on the whole are notoriously brainy people--could comprehend that the language of the older hymns was customary usage when the hymn was composed. Use such hymns as an object lesson and benchmark for how far we've advanced socially--great! Or regard them as giving good reason for us to draft new ones with language more acceptable in our day and age, but no, tidying up and consequently ruining historical lyrics is what was done since undoubtedly that's much simpler and easier.


 

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3 years ago  ::  May 04, 2011 - 2:17AM #9
JCarlin
Posts: 6,677

Don't get me started on the hymnal revision.  What they did to Blake he probably deserved, but it sure isn't Blake anymore. 


Early in the feminist movement I argued that they should create a gender specific pronoun for males, (I suggested heman, pronounced hee-man, wonderfully ironic but the feminists wouldn't buy it.)


I was nearly asked to leave a UU church as my son's guest for taking the woman minister to task for screwing up the flow of Jefferson by F-ing with the language. 


I don't remember if you were around then but you might enjoy Disrespect Blunderbuss on the old boards. 


May 3, 2011 -- 9:16PM, DotNotInOz wrote:

Your PC edits reminded me of yet another beef I had with the UU's from the getgo: their tendency to make mealymouthed some beautifully worded traditional hymns by rendering the language gender-inclusive. 




J'Carlin
If the shoe doesn't fit, don't cram your foot in it and complain.
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3 years ago  ::  May 04, 2011 - 2:35AM #10
RevDorris
Posts: 1,807

What would happen if everyone who would like to protest this change started carrying the Jefferson Bible to each church service and meeting?  Better yet maybe even insist that a verse be read from it at each service.

With love,

Rev Dorris
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