UU Films
Films for
Unitarian Universalists
by Ron Cordes

Reading List to Accompany Long Strange Trip film series
Here is a list of some of the books that I have read in researching this project. I have tried to provide a brief description and some idea of the density and readability of each book. I am intentionally not including the books written by the actors in the film series, as many of them are mentioned in the companion time-line. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
In addition to these books, I extensively used a lot of material available on the internet, especially the incredible resource that is the Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society's "Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography" at http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/.
  Items of General Interest
  Unitarian Universalism - a narrative history –
  David E. Bumbaugh, Meadville Lombard Press
  If you're only going to read one book on Unitarian Universalist history, this should be the one. It covers essentially the same time-span as the film series, while providing more depth on some of the issues I covered, and a few issues I did not have the film time to cover (the film series could easily have been a Warhol-esque 24 hours long!).
  Prophetic Encounters –
  Dan McKanan, Beacon Press, 2011
  Sub-titled "Religion and the American Radical Tradition," this is a well-written and enjoyable journey through the radical reformers from the early abolitionists to the present day, with a peek into what the future might hold. Dan does a great job of tying together both the religious reformers and the secular reformers who have helped shape our present-day Social Justice movement. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and quite readable book. I recommend it highly!
  Universalists and Unitarians in America - A People's History –
  John A, Buehrens, Skinner House, 2011
  John's focus in this book is people, not events. It truly is a grass-roots look at the people who kept our movement alive in this country. Yes, it contains sketches of The Usual Suspects, but also of people you have never heard of - as Dan McKanan describes them in his jacket notes, "forgotten feminists, rural radicals, and faith-filled capitalists." It is a very good, and at times a spell-binding read. And at only 200 pages, would make a good summer-by-the-beach book. I strongly recommend it.
  The Epic of Unitarianism –
  David Parke, Beacon Press, 1957
  A good collection of Unitarian writings throughout history. It was interesting to read some of the works that others refer to in their books, but in the original author's own words (or at least their translator's words).
  The A to Z of Unitarian Universalism –
  Mark W. Harris, Scarecrow Press, 2009
  This book contains 400 biographical entries for notable Unitarians and Universalists, and important organizations and institutions that have played a role in the denominations' historical development. This is a truly indispensable reference for anyone interested in the history of Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists. This is the paperback version. The hardcover version was previously titled "Historical Dictionary of Unitarian Universalism."
  An Introduction to the Unitarian and Universalist Traditions –
  Andrea Greenwood and Mark W. Harris, Cambridge University Press, 2011
  This book offers a unique look at International Unitarianism and Universalism. The first half of the book is an historical survey. The second half, most interestingly, is divided into thematic chapters which cover polity, theology, worship, science, education, social action, architecture, etc. An interesting arrangement that you're not likely to find anywhere else.
  Stream of Light: A Short History of American Unitarianism –
  Conrad Wright, Skinner House
  This is a collection of writings by several authors covering the period from 1800 up to the merger in 1961. Wright is much more a proponent of the we-invented-it-here school of American Unitarianism, as opposed to Earl Morse Wilbur, who, I think, gives proper credit to the European Unitarian influences on American Unitarianism.
  Part I – In the Beginning ...   (0 c.e. – 1553 c.e.)
  When Jesus Became God –
  Richard E. Rubenstein, Harcourt Books, 1999
  This is an incredibly well-written, readable book that looks at the events surrounding the First Council at Nicaea (325 c.e.) from an historical point of view, not the usual religious point of view. Rubenstein discusses the ministry of the monk Arius, one of the first to deny the trinity, and how the controversy he fomented caused the Roman Emperor Constantine to call what became the first Council at Nicaea. Plus, of course, it has probably the most unforgettable book title ever!
  Out of the Flames –
  Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone, Random House, 2002
  A good, casual read of the life and death of Michael Servetus. I was very surprised when I got to the end of Servetus' life - his so-called "trial" and execution at the hands of John Calvin in Geneva, that I was only half-way through the book. What's the rest about? When Calvin had Servetus killed, he ordered all copies of Servetus' masterwork, Christianismi Restitutio located and destroyed, as had the Inquisition. The second half of the book traces the history of the three copies that we know of that survived. It makes a really good and unusual detective story.
  Christianismi Restitutio - The Restoration of Christianity –
  Michael Servetus.
  English translation by Christopher A. Hoffman and Marian Hillar, Edwin Mellen Press, 2007
  This is the English translation of Michael Servetus' masterwork, the book that got him burned to death, inspired the entire Liberal Reformation, and that led Dávid Ferenc to formulate the original Unitarian faith in Transylvania. The book can be dense in places and, at over 400 pages, is a serious read. But well-worth-while if you really want a peek into the mind of Michael Servetus. I especially enjoyed the dialogues between St. Peter (who Servetus used to represent the Roman Catholic church) and St. Michael (who, of course, represents Servetus himself).
  Part II – The Birth of Unitarianism   (1553 – 1794)
  A History of Unitarianism (Vol. I and II) –
  Earl Morse Wilbur, Beacon Press, 1945, 1952
  OK, this one is heavy lifting (literally - together they are over 1,000 pages). But it is an essential read for any serious student of Unitarian history. Volume I discusses the pre-Reformation instances of anti-trinitarian thought, the life and works of Michael Servetus, and the history of the Polish Socinian Unitarians. Volume II covers Unitarianism in Transylvania, England, and America.
  The Radical Reformation –
  George Hunston Williams, Westminster Press, 1962
  Speaking of Heavy Lifting - Ouch! At over 1,500 pages, this is one serious read. It is a rich, dense, academic work, but remains one of the most essential reference books on the 16th and 17th centuries. No, I have not read it from cover to cover, but I sure did thumb through it a lot looking for details that I was otherwise missing!
  For Faith and Freedom –
  Charles A. Howe, Skinner House, 1997
  This book covers the same ground as the Wilbur and Williams tomes, but in only 200 very readable pages. If you only read one book on European Unitarian history, this should be that book. It is actually the first book I ever read on European Unitarian history, and is what started me on the path that eventually led to this film series. Howe paints a good, broad-brush picture of how Unitarian (or at least anti-trinitarian) thought flowed from Michael Servetus to Dávid Ferenc and Faustus Socinus, and eventually to the English Unitarians such as Theophilus Lindsey and Joseph Priestley. A picture, I might add, that is largely ignored by those who refuse to acknowledge the effect European Unitarianism had on American Unitarianism.
  Joseph Priestley - A Comet in the System –
  John Ruskin Clark, JPH Publications, 1990
  This is primarily a biography of Priestley, focusing mostly on his life in England prior to emigrating to America in 1794. It is a good book with a lot of details you won't find in many other places.
  Part III – American Unitarianism   (1620 – 1860)
  Joseph Priestley and English Unitarianism in America –
  J. D. Bowers, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007
  This is clearly my favorite book about Priestley. It is extremely well written and comprehensive in scope. Bowers discusses in depth the Eastern European influences on English Unitarianism and, later, in great detail about the internecine battles between Priestley's Socinian Unitarians and William Ellery Channing's Arian Unitarians.
  Channing, Emerson, Parker: Three Prophets of Religious Liberalism –
  Conrad Wright, Beacon Press, 1961, 1986
  Wright compares and contrasts three great prophets of early American Unitarianism, drawing heavily on their signature sermons: Channing's 1819 ordination of Jared Sparks in Baltimore, Emerson's 1838 Harvard Divinity School address that introduced the Unitarian world to Transcendentalism, and Parker's 1841 sermon, "The Transient and the Permanent in Christianity" that helped move mid-century Unitarianism away from its Biblical roots. Some of Wright's insights in comparing the three are fascinating, although I regret his omitting Joseph Priestley's 1798 sermon, "Unitarianism Explained and Defined" which defined Unitarianism for at least the next 20 years.
  American Heretic: Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism –
  Dean Grodzins, University of North Carolina Press, 2002
  This is far and away the best thing ever published about Theodore Parker. It is a good read while doing a most thorough job of discussing the early influences on his life, his embracing of Emerson's Transcendentalism, and his relationships with Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Bronson Alcott.
  The Lives of Margaret Fuller –
  John Matteson, W.W. Norton, 2012
  This is a recent release which came into my hands after I had done most of my research on Fuller. But I enjoyed it immensely. The author clearly has a great affection for her and treated her with due respect and dignity.
  Part IV – Universalism   (1600 – 1860)
  Universalism in America –
  Ernst Cassara, Beacon Press, 1971
  I would say this is probably the definitive book on Universalism in America. It contains a series of reprinted period documents by the various Universalist actors throughout history, framed by Carara's own insightful comments. A very unusual - but very effective - narrative style that brings the historical figures right into the work.
  The Larger Hope (2 volumes) –
  Russell E. Miller, UUA, 1986
  Often cited as the definitive work on Universalism, this book is perhaps more suitable for academic research than casual reading. Volume 1 chronicles the movement's origins and its phenomenal growth prior to the U.S. Civil War. Volume 2 continues the story of the Universalist Church through its long decline to its merger with the Unitarians in 1961.
  The Life of the Rev. John Murray –
  John & Judith Murray. Available in reprint.
  John Murray's autobiography written with his wife, Judith Sargent Murray, and published by her after his death. If you look at the citations of other works on Murray, they all eventually cite back to this book.
  The Universalist Church of America –
  Clinton Lee Scott, Universalist Historical Society, 1951
  A good narrative of the span of Universalist history all the way up to World War II written by one of its most gifted writers.
  Part V – Evolution   (1861 – 1961)
  Henry Whitney Bellows –
  Walter D. Kring, Skinner House, 1979
  The definitive biography of Bellows. Very good and very complete. It is obvious that Rev. Kring has a special respect for Bellows in the way the book is written. I think the book is out of print - all I could find on the internet are second-hand copies, although the one I got was in pristine condition.
  Julia Ward Howe – 1819-1910 (Vol. I and II) –
  Laura E. Richards and Maud Howe Elliott, Houghton Mifflin, 1915
  While there are a couple of superficial "biographies" of Julia Ward Howe out there that focus almost entirely on her writing of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and ignore all the rest of her life, this is the only work I have been able to find that does justice to the entire life of this remarkable woman. It is surprisingly readable considering its length (two volumes) and the amount of detail the authors were able to amass. Although the book is out of print, the University of Pennsylvania makes a downloadable copy available on their web site – http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/richards/howe/howe-I.html
  Prophetic Sisterhood: Liberal Women Ministers of the Frontier, 1880-1930 –
  Cynthia Grant Tucker, Indiana University Press, 1994
  A good account of some of the pioneering women ministers in the late 19th century. My only complaint is that I wish Tucker had extended her time frame back fifty years to include some of the very earliest pre-Civil-War women who have largely been forgotten.
  Freedom Moves West: A History of the Western Unitarian Conference, 1852-1952 –
  Charles Harold Lyttle, Beacon Press, 1952
  A good account of the formation and history of this important organization that had a strong liberalizing effect of the American Unitarian Association.
  Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist –
  Adrian Desmond and James Moore, W.W. Norton, 1991
  I have read several biographies of Darwin in my life, and this is clearly the best one. It goes beyond the names, places, and dates of his life into the cultural and familial influences on his early development, as well as the internal struggle over whether to publish his new theory, knowing that the reaction of a conservative society might bring danger to him and his family. Their treatment of the Unitarian influences on him is especially well done.
  The Social Gospel in America –
  Edited by Robert T. Handy, Oxford University Press, 1966
  This is a classic collection of the writings of the major players in the Social Gospel movement: Rev. Washington Gladden, Professor Richard T. Ely, and Rev. Walter Rauschenbusch. It gives a very good picture of why the movement began, what its goals were, and how it affected American society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The book focuses almost exclusively on the mainstream Protestants in the movement, without a single mention of Unitarians such as John Haynes Holmes or Universalists such as Clarence Skinner, who brought the Social Gospel into their respective movements. But it's good background material nevertheless.
  I speak for myself: The autobiography of John Haynes Holmes –
  John Haynes Holmes, Harper, 1959
  I am such a John Haynes Holmes fan that I favor his own autobiographical account of his life over those written by others. Probably it is his wonderful mastery of the English language. I only wish I could have heard him preach.
  Clarence R. Skinner: Prophet of a New Universalism –
  Charles A. Howe, Skinner House, 1998
  Charles Howe - who also wrote "For Faith and Freedom" mentioned earlier in this list - has put together a fascinating biography of Skinner interspersed with some of Skinner's own writings. The result really feels like a personal account of his life - almost an autobiography. This is the best look I have found about this important, but heretofore almost inaccessible man who has rightly been called "the most important Universalist of the twentieth century."
  Part VI – Unitarian Universalism
  The Unitarian Universalist Merger –
  Report of the Commission on Appraisal, 1975
  The definitive document on the merger, although sketchy on some of the more controversial elements. It really is a shame no one saw fit to do an oral history of the merger while most of the major actors were still alive. There is so much human drama in the events leading up to 1961 (and shortly thereafter) that publications like this one simply cannot cover.
  Unitarian Universalism and the Quest for Racial Justice –
  UUA, 1993
  This is simply the following two publications combined into one volume. I used this heavily for fact-checking the oral histories that went into my 2002 film "Wilderness Journey."
  Empowerment: One Denomination's Quest for Racial Justice 1967-1982 –
  Report of the Commission on Appraisal, 1983
  A thorough litany of the events surrounding the so-called "Black Empowerment Controversy." A go-to reference for the people, places, events, and times of this crucial part of our history.
  The Black Empowerment Controversy and the Unitarian Universalist Association –
  Victor H. Carpenter, The Minns Lectures, 1983
  Victor's account of the same period is so much more readable than the Commission on Appraisal report, yet contains essentially the same material along with quite a number of first-hand quotes.
  Black Pioneers in a White Denomination –
  Mark Morrison Reed, Skinner House, 1994 (3rd Ed.)
  This book gives a good, broad background to our anti-racism work, written by a man whom I consider to be one of those pioneers. This book is a re-editing of Mark's 1979 graduate thesis.



 Last Update: December 13, 2013