Symposium 2024: “Bravely Facing this Moment”

Symposium 2024

This year we continue our experiment in offering multi-locational, hybrid education, structuring a program that supports the full participation of persons who may gather either online or at one of two locations on opposite ends of the country. Instead of having a singular “Honored Teacher” to headline Symposium, the program will feature a variety of contributing presenters and workshop leaders.

The Symposium schedule will begin with program sessions on the evening of Monday, August 26, and continue through the morning of Wednesday, August 28. Program elements will include shared worship, critical analysis of recent political developments, community conversations, and ideas for practical action. The program is still in development and details will be added to this page as they are confirmed.

Bravely Facing this Moment: Answering the Call to Protect Democracy

2024 is a critical year for American democracy. The intertwined forces of right-wing authoritarianism and Christian nationalism are engaged in an all-out effort to reverse progress toward a more inclusive and pluralistic society. These threats are not new, but they have taken a more insidious form as advocates reject democratic norms to achieve their goals. This year’s Starr King Symposium will feature a timely, up-to-the-minute analysis of the critical dangers confronting us, as well as tangible proposals for how, together, we can both defend and strengthen democracy in the service of beloved community.

Three Attendance Options

Symposium participants will have three options for program attendance:

Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists


The main public transit system for this region is Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). The network of BART trains provides direct transportation from the San Francisco and Oakland airports to destinations throughout the area. You can also create a Clipper account and, with a smart card or your phone, access other regional public transit services.

The Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists is located just 0.8 miles from the Downtown Berkeley BART station. The route is walkable but can also be partly traversed by AC Transit bus lines 7, 18, or 79.


There is no private parking lot at BFUU. Please note that street or garage parking in Berkeley is subject to various stipulations or conditions. The residential neighborhood where BFUU is located has free parking limited to 2-hour intervals.


The following are some hotels located near BFUU. Please consult map/transit services for bus options. You may also wish to explore homestay rentals available on AirBnB or VRBO.

SenS Hotel
1538 Shattuck Ave. (0.3 mi)
No onsite parking.

Nash Hotel
2045 University Ave. (0.5 mi)
No onsite parking.

Sather Hotel
1820 University Ave. (0.6 mi)
Onsite parking.

Quality Inn University
1781 University Ave. (0.6 mi)
Onsite parking.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Montclair, New Jersey


Regional public transportation is provided by NJ Transit, with train lines providing direct service to Penn Station in New York City and Newark Liberty International Airport. Tickets can be purchased and displayed on the NJ Transit phone app.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair is located just 0.8 miles from the Walnut Street station. The route is walkable but can also be partly traversed by bus lines 34 or 101.


There is no private parking lot at UU Montclair. Please note that street or garage parking in Montclair is subject to various stipulations or conditions. Street parking in the immediate vicinity of the church is metered. You may purchase a visitor’s single-use permit that will allow parking in municipal surface lots, such as the nearby Valley Road lot, or in front of residential homes.


The following are some hotels located near UU Montclair. Please consult a map service or NJ Transit for bus options. You may also wish to explore homestay rentals available on AirBnB or VRBO.

The MC Hotel
690 Bloomfield Ave. (0.2 mi)
No onsite parking. Students may contact Dr. Chris Schelin about participating in the group discount.

The Wilshire Grand Hotel
350 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange (3.4 mi)
Onsite parking.

Courtyard by Marriott
8 Rooney Circle, West Orange (3.5 mi)
Onsite parking.

This will include online-specific community sessions as well as hybrid engagement with cross-modality sessions. We are planning for some elements of the program to be asynchronous to help accommodate working schedules.


Registration information coming soon! If you are a Current Student planning to attend Symposium for course credit, please make sure to register for the Symposium course during Early Registration (April 15-26) or General Registration (June 3-14).

Accommodation Subsidy for Students

Starr King students registered for credit for Symposium are eligible to apply for a subsidy reimbursement in support of accommodation expenses. Each student may receive up to $125/night or $250 total. Information on applying for the subsidy will be provided at a later date.


The Psychology of Christian Nationalism and How to Talk Across the Divide

Based on her most recent book The Psychology of Christian Nationalism, Dr. Cooper-White will address these questions, which are of pressing importance to the future of American democracy and the evolving character of American Christianity. Who are Christian nationalists and what do they believe? Why is this movement so dangerous? How do people we think of as “good people” get drawn in to the irrational beliefs held by this movement, including outright lies and conspiracy theories? What are the conscious and unconscious motivations that draw people into this movement? And are there strategies to help us to talk across a widening political and religious divide?

The Christian Nationalist Threat to Democracy and the Church: A Theology of Supremacy

Where did Christian nationalism originate? How has it taken an authoritarian turn in the last decade? What can we expect in the months leading to the 2024 elections? In this presentation, Dr. Bradley Onishi answers these questions by tracing the ascendance of contemporary Christian nationalism from the 1960s to the present, with a focus on race, xenophobia, and national image. Drawing on his work as a historian and his training as a theologian, Onishi will demonstrate how Christian nationalism threatens both democracy and the Christian church.

Featured Speakers

The Rev. Pamela Cooper-White, Ph.D.

Union Theological Seminary, New York

The Rev. Pamela Cooper-White, Ph.D., is the Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology and Religion, Emerita, and Dean and Vice President Emerita for Academic Affairs, at Union Theological Seminary, New York. She recently completed 8 years as Assisting Priest at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York. An award-winning author, she has published 10 books, including most recently The Psychology of Christian Nationalism, which was awarded the INDIE independent publishers’ 2022 gold award for social and political science. She was the 2013-14 Fulbright-Freud Scholar of Psychoanalysis at the Freud Museum in Vienna; is an Academic Member of the American Psychoanalytic Association and honorary Member of the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis (NPAP New York). She is Past-President of the International Association for Spiritual Care in Bern, Switzerland; on the Board of the Freud Foundation U.S. (Freud Museum Vienna); the editorial Board of the Journal of Pastoral Theology; and former Co-Chair and currently on the Steering Committee of the Psychology, Culture & Religion program unit of the American Academy of Religion.

Dr. Bradley Onishi

University of San Francisco

Brad Onishi is a social commentator, scholar, and co-host of the Straight White American Jesus (SWAJ) podcast. He founded Axis Mundi Media in 2023 in order to provide a platform for research-based podcasts focused on safeguarding democracy from the threats of extremism and authoritarianism. His writing has appeared at the New York Times, Politico, Rolling Stone, NBC News, HuffPost, and many other outlets. Onishi is a frequent guest on national radio, podcast, and television outlets, including “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross and MSNBC. His podcast, SWAJ, ranks in the top 50 of Politics shows on Apple’s podcast charts – ahead of programs from NPR, the NYT, and other national outlets. He is the author of Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism – And What Comes Next.