Monday, January 17, 2011

A Passing Thought on Pro-Censorship Unitarians

At UU World, Christopher Walton has a short note about a new book that recounts the history of the Watch and Ward Society, which promoted censorship a century ago.

It strikes me that the 1980s movement to fight pornography and other forms of sexually oriented entertainment from a feminist/progressive stance(Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, etc.) -- a movement that I briefly sympathized with, but later rejected -- were the intellectual heirs of that earlier group.

Relatedly, I believe that some Unitarians and Universalists also joined in with religious conservatives in that earlier era to promote prohibition.



  1. "Perfection in Character" has long been a Unitarian pursuit. We haven't been above coercing it.

  2. DSD,

    I don't know if you've seen this blog post by UU church consultant Mike Durrall:


    It sounds like he wants churches to do something to curtail porn usage in this blog post (I'm pretty sure he's not in favor of status quo or increased porn usage).

  3. Steve -- I did catch that... and I liked your response...

  4. i would actualy guess that Universalists (but not Unitarians) were one of the most active denominations in the Temperance movement in the 19th Century. Benjamin Rush, the first noted American to support Temperance was also a supporter of the Universalist Church at the time. I'd have to do more research to see how they stood on prohibition as a denomination.
    Based on anecdotal evidence, Americans drink substantially less now than they did in the 19th Century.

  5. Steven, Universalist support for Prohibition strikes me as quite likely, but as the Times archive story I linked to indicates, there also was a Unitarian Temperance Society.

    In his book "Head and Heart," which examines the repeated pendulum swings between Progressive and Evangelical religion over the course of U.S. history, Garry Wills mentions in that temperance, although thought of mainly as a creature of the Evangelical wing, was also a Progressive (political) cause and refers in passing to support for it from Unitarians.

    (Indeed, one Evangelical temperance leader was criticized by Dwight Moody [as in Moody Bible Institute] because she "shared a platform with Unitarians," whom Moody considered heretics.)


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