Unitarian Universalist History

The course begins with an examination of the (alleged) antecedents to Unitarianism and Universalism in pre-Reformation Europe. We move on to trace the theological and then institutional emergence of Unitarianism out of the Radical Reformation. The Unitarian churches in Poland, Transylvania, and England will be considered in detail with attention to issues of sameness and difference in their development and declines. Special focus will be given to the relationship of these communities to their Jewish and Islamic contemporaries. We will also look at the universalism of 18th century England, and the current state of Unitarianism in Europe. Then we cross the ocean to examine the emergence of Unitarianism from developments within Puritan Congregationalism. We explore the uniquely North American institution of Universalism as response to the same cultural setting. Next: the major themes and developments of North American Unitarianism through its classical age, the Transcendentalist development, and the various crises of identity and purpose that develop into and through the late 19th and 20th centuries. Then we turn our attention to Universalist ascendency, decline, and then consolidation with Unitarianism (perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of Unitarian/Universalist history). Careful attention will be paid throughout to the Unitarian/Universalist social location in relationship to class, race, and gender identities, and how these sometimes enabled and sometimes impaired social justice advances.
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