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Elite

Elite

Uncovering Classism in Unitarian Universalist History

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Author: Mark Harris

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Eugenics and social control aren't the first words that come to mind when Unitarian Universalists recall their proud progressive heritage. This provocative and critical look at class in Unitarian Universalist history reveals that today's largely middle-class and educated congregants are descended from an elite cultural establishment. The wealth, standing and religious conviction of these forebears converged in actions and ideas that would be appalling by modern standards. Mark Harris eloquently argues that this history needs to be known in order for the denomination to envision a broader, more inclusive future. Elite is a crucial new resource for the historical understanding of Unitarian Universalism and a call for greater economic diversity.

Listen to an interview with author Mark Harris

Additional resources for this title are available at no charge on the Skinner House Companion Resources page.

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Introduction

The British Challenge and American Beginnings

Brahmin Culture for the Masses

Universalism and a Classless Heaven

Scientific Salvation

A Faith for a Few

Afterword

Praise for Elite

"If our congregations are to find a way forward in addressing issues of class, Mark Harris will have helped pave the way. Elite captures our present quirks, strengths, hopes and anxieties in the context of an eye-opening account of past realities."

—Gordon Gibson, president, Unitarian Universalist Historical Society

"Mark Harris has given us the gift of a well polished mirror and challenged us to look deeply into our class-bound history. Insightfully and crisply written, Elite reveals the limits of our vision and the length of our class bias. With compelling clarity, historic heroes and heroines, social reforms and denominational leaders come alive to ask us if we can break out of our class ghetto and become the universalist faith we profess."

—Stephen Shick, author, Be the Change: Poems, Prayers and Meditations for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers

"Unitarian Universalists have long been committed to a faith that is diverse, multicultural, open and welcome to all. Despite these high aspirations, many congregations have struggled to attract new members who don't replicate their existing membership, which tends to be largely white, well educated and prosperous. We have struggled to have open and constructive conversation around social class and privilege. In his new book, Mark Harris offers a different approach to understanding this conundrum. By lifting up our hidden and rarely discussed history around class, we learn about the historical forces that have significantly shaped up as a religion. Perhaps the reasons why we find ourselves so separate from others can begin to become clear, as do new opportunities for connection with those whom we would seek to join."

—David Pette, Ministerial Credentialing Director, UUA

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