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Loehr, Davidson 1942-

Loehr, Davidson 1942-

PERSONAL:

Born 1942. Education: University of Michigan, B.A.; University of Chicago, M.A., Ph.D., 1986. Hobbies and other interests: Music, photography, woodworking, wood turning.

ADDRESSES:

Office—First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, 4700 Grover Ave., Austin, TX 78756.

CAREER:

Unitarian Universalist minister, 1986—; First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Austin, TX, minister, 2000—. Worked as a combat photographer in Vietnam and as a professional musician. Military service: U.S. Army, 1964-1968.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Best Minister/Spiritual Leader, Austin Chronicle, 2005.

WRITINGS:

The Legitimate Heir to Theology: A Study of Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1988.

America, Fascism, and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher, Chelsea Green Publishing (White River Junction, VT), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS:

America, Fascism, and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher, according to a critic for the Nimble Spirit Web site, is an "intellectually rigorous, historically informed, passionate cry for religion, government, and economic systems to be honest, to put people before profits, to respect the environment, and to be faithful to the highest human ideals." The book is a collection of sermons that Davidson Loehr delivered to his Unitarian Universalist congregation in Austin, Texas, between 2000 and 2005, and covers such topics as capitalism, corporate greed, fascism in American government, and fundamentalist Christianity. Loehr, who openly claims the title of heretic and reminds his readers that the term derives from the Greek word meaning "to choose," takes a decidedly progressives stance in these sermons, railing against what he perceives as the pernicious and evil influences that have shaped contemporary American culture. He points out, for example, that fundamentalist Christians share the same hatreds as Islamic fundamentalists; in another piece, he denounces the pursuit of profits as a form of idolatry. He writes that the American form of government has become fascist and that this circumstance is "rightly regarded as terrifying."

As America, Fascism, and God makes clear, Loehr writes from a perspective shaped by broad experience. Though he is now a pacifist, he chose to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1964 and spent the final year or so of his military term in Vietnam as a combat photographer. "I was shot at, mortared, and have as a souvenir the live bullet that was aimed at my head when the North Vietnamese army officer squatting fifteen feet in front of me was killed by the two men beside me," he writes. Though often afraid there, he tried to do his best in his role as a soldier, and explains that "my time in Vietnam … is sacred time for me. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

After his discharge from the military, Loehr established himself as a photographer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and studied music theory at the University of Michigan. Though successful as a musician and photographer, however, Loehr felt dissatisfied, and in the late 1970s contacted John Wolf, a Unitarian minister he had met more than a decade earlier in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Wolf encouraged him to study theology at the University of Chicago—a place that Loehr hadn't even known existed. Between 1979 and 1986, Loehr earned a master's degree in methods of studying religion and a doctorate in theology, the philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of science, writing his thesis on Ludwig Wittgenstein. He began his work as a minister in 1986, serving Unitarian parishes in Michigan, New York, and Minnesota. In 2000 he was called to serve the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Texas, a congregation of some 650 members. In 2005 the Austin Chronicle gave him its Best Minister/Spiritual Leader award.

In America, Fascism, and God, Loehr urges readers to move beyond immature concepts of God and to embrace the root of religion in scripture and traditional teachings. He tells his audience that those who proclaim to know what God says or wants are using God as a hand puppet, to further their own agendas. Heretics, he says, are branded as wrongdoers because "some arrogant little groups declared that the choices were closed, because they had this ‘God’ business all figured out." Refusing to cede his intellectual and moral free will to these groups, Loehr insists that individuals should have the right to forge their own serious relationships with god and religion.

Loehr's writing draws not only from theology but also from history, economics, and the social sciences. The Nimble Spirit Web site contributor found this perspective well-informed and passionate, concluding that America, Fascism, and God "rings a bell of warning that is neither panicked nor self-righteous."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Loehr, Davidson, America, Fascism, and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher, Chelsea Green Publishing (White River Junction, VT), 2005.

PERIODICALS

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2006, review of America, Fascism, and God.

Tikkun, January 1, 2006, review of America, Fascism, and God, p. 81.

ONLINE

Chelsea Green Publishing Web site,http://www.chelseagreen.com/ (March 16, 2008).

First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin Web site,http://www.austinuu.org/ (March 16, 2008), Davidson Loehr profile.

Nimble Spirit,http://www.nimblespirit.com/ (March 16, 2008), review of America, Fascism, and God.

Unitarian Universalist World Web site,http://www.uuworld.org/ (March 16, 2008), author profile.

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