This is from a sermon I preached on Sunday, November 9, 2008, to the UUs in River Falls, Wisconsin. I was preaching about how we include and exclude people in our congregations, in a sermon called “Invisible Fences.”

I want to take a moment to welcome a specific group who, if this congregation resembles every other UU congregation I have visited, are always present but usually silent about their existence. They feel that if they share who they are, they will be judged as immoral, or stupid, or perhaps—though we don’t use the word much—evil. I am talking, of course, of UU Republicans.

We laugh. And yet I am completely serious. Within this congregation, within every one of our congregations, are Republicans, who weekly brave the sight of bumper stickers such as the ones I saw in the parking lot today, “Save the world. Vote democrat.”

I want to say two things to those of you who are here. First of all, thank you. Thanks for being here. Especially this week, you embody courage by showing up, and I hope that this service holds healing for you. Second, I want to tell you that we need you here, now more than ever. Your faith needs you. Unitarian Universalism needs you. Our congregations need to include smart, kind, thoughtful, respectful people from both political parties, who are willing to engage in civil discourse with one another about how to move our country forward. We can’t buy into the media traps that have been laid out to cause us to stop thinking and questioning and learning from everyone around us. We need both parties in order to have hope.

As I preached, I saw one man with tears running down his face. He did not speak with me after the service. As I drove home, I thought about something Jim Wallis, from Sojourners, said after the 2004 election. He said that the media kept calling him and asking something to the effect of, “How does it feel that you lost the election?” His response was, “Prophetic religion was not on the ballot.”

I feel the same way about this election. Many of us were elated with the change in American values symbolized by Obama’s election and broken-hearted by the dehumanization emanating from ballot initiatives designed to deny the worth and dignity of gay and lesbian relationships. But it’s important to remember that Unitarian Universalism was not on the ballot. Unitarian Universalism will never be embodied in any candidate, initiative, or political party. Unitarian Universalism, rather, will always be that deep calling which causes us to align ourselves with the life and love within people of all political parties, and to repudiate the smugness, self-righteousness, and certainty which exists within people of all political parties.

Rev. Meg Riley

About the Author
Rev. Meg Riley


  1. Alex Winnett

    A few Weeks ago, political scientist and UU seminarian, Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell spoke on the radio about candidates and political positions.

    She said that, while she was excited for many of the stances of Sen. Obama, other positions of the candidate made her sad or frustrated.

    Ultimately, she realizes that she has never seen a candidate fully represent the myriad positions she wishes a candidate would take. “I have never seen myself on the ballot,” she announced.

    Ultimately, I believe this is the disappointing fact we must acknowledge everyday. I have never seen myself on the ballot. I have never seen my movie in the theater. I have never seen my book on the shelf. I have never seen myself in a clerical collar.

    That being said, we should also acknowledge and honor that community is made better by our differences as well as our similarities. While we don’t always see eye to eye, we have come together to share, learn and grow. This is the healing and saving grace of community.

    Thank you, Meg, for your wonderful words reminding us that we are made better because we are not all the same.

  2. Bill Baar

    Unitarian Universalism will never be embodied in any candidate, initiative, or political party.

    Well, we’re coming pretty close to a sizable chunk of UU’s feeling otherwise.

    My SJ committee began our Sunday meeting with all of use backing off on volunteering to talk minutes, followed by a member talking about how she had given up getting people to volunteer to do social hour, followed by what amounted to a prayer for Obama and than what can we do to answer his call followed by a bewildered member say she had yet to receive an email telling her what to do…

    …I said wait for Rahm Emanual’s Civilian Conservation Corp which the rest of the room thought would be a great idea.

    No minutes, no social hour…hope they know how to chop trees.

    Thanks for noting not all of us have fallen for Obama.

  3. Joel Monka

    I fully understand the man with the tears running down his face. Imagine the devoutly Christian homosexual, one who truly loves Jesus with all his heart, soul, and mind, who goes to church because that is what Jesus told him to do, to be in fellowship with others who are born again… imagine what he feels like when he hears condemnation from the pulpit, and the causual homophobia that is the underlying basis in every conversation in the social hall afterwards… that is sort of how a Republican UU feels.

  4. Bill Baar

    Take minutes I meant to write above by the way…it was too early for me.

    Well Joel, I do tell Gays in mainline Churches they really should consider a UU Church instead. They almost never do. (If some UUs think GLBT represent a marketing opportunity, I think they’re mistaken. My experience is we don’t appeal).

    Same goes for GOP voting UUers. It’s not like they should be surprised by partisan liberal Democrats. If you can’t take that, you need to find another Church.

    Just like all of my Gay workmates in Oak Park who would never thing of leaving their Catholic and Lutheran conservative Churches, we Bush supporting UUers go to Church for reasons quite beyond politics.

  5. eliseo

    We UUs of Clearwater are a loving community that is very accepting of (almost) all regardless of economic status, sexual orientation, race or nationality. The majority of members in my fellowship are political (ultra) liberals. It is amazing to me that a congregation that is welcoming and respectful to others with few reservations can be judgmental and condemning of others, because of their political views. As a Puerto Rican, I have experienced firsthand much discrimination and prejudice in my 50 year of life. My instinct is to get away from the people that have a mentality of discrimination and prejudice. The most effective way to counteract/neutralized discrimination and prejudice (in my experience) is to spend time with them. Ignorance can only be eliminated by knowledge. As a Conservative UU, I find myself in a misunderstood minority. A small group of UU of Clearwater conservatives have decided to come “out of the closet” in a loving attempt to educate our congregation. We will not debate or attempt to persuaded/change others political views. We just want to be a part of a completely welcoming & accepting community and this is our way of contributing to the common good.

  6. Robin Edgar


    I have been meaning to commend you for writing this blog post for some time now but had a few too many other U*U “distractions”* and just plain forgot to.

    I did mention this blog post on Rev. Christine Robinson’s blog a while back, and mentioned it again today on my blog that cannot be named ;-), but I none-the-less will try to get around to doing a proper blog post commending it soon. I would like to take this opportunity to suggest that you should post your whole “Invisible Fences” sermon to the internet, not necessarily here though, so that other U*Us may read it verbatim. I would be quite interested in reading that full sermon of yours myself so if you could email me a copy at robinedgar59 at I would appreciate it.


    Robin Edgar

    * If you know what I mean. 😉


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