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It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. — Audre Lorde, writer, poet, and activist

The idea of tolerance has always been central to the Unitarian Universalist faith. This is true as early as 1568 with King Sigismund's Edict of Torda, which was one of the earliest expressions of religious tolerance. Today tolerance has evolved beyond tolerating differences to celebrating them.

Although celebrating pluralism is central to our faith, it is one of the hardest values to live out in the world. This workshop explores this challenge through one difference among us: that of race. Our history is full of people and institutions taking on racism and working to end it in the greater world and within our own faith community. However, our history is also full of stories of falling short of this ideal and falling down in opportunities to support the rights of others. This experience of successes and failures in living up to ideas is very human. We can do something great and then do something awful, but our hope in this workshop is to show that we keep moving forward. In order to do justice to this topic, the story is longer than usual.

One caution as you get ready to lead this workshop: Issues of oppression can be difficult and emotional. This is especially true for people who have faced oppression in their lives or who harbor some guilt for past actions. It is important to be aware of those emotions and be supportive. In Find Out More there is a link to the website of Teaching Tolerance, a helpful resource in leading this workshop.


This workshop will:

  • Explore the historical roots of the Unitarian Universalist theology of tolerance and how it was radical for its time
  • Explore our prophetic history of striving for equity for all people as well as times we have failed to live up to this ideal
  • Explore current meanings of tolerance, its limits, and its expression in our daily lives.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Understand the historical roots of the theology of tolerance and how that term was radical for its time
  • Learn that Unitarian Universalists have had both successes and failures living up to their ideals of justice
  • Identify how tolerance is expressed in their own lives and their religious communities
  • Develop tools for interacting with others with diverse identities and learn strategies for being themselves in intolerant environments.

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