I feel like I just got a new prescription for my glasses.
I had some mighty long comments in response to my brief post in which I asserted that the pro-Democrat election fervor in UU lobbies and events was doing us harm. I only posted the one that was not anonymous. I will, however, respond to a few thoughts.
One comment objected to what I said about bumper stickers. I should have been more clear. I meant campaign bumper stickers. And I was referring to real concerns I have heard from people who did not feel welcomed because they look in the parking lot and think they should not reveal their political beliefs when they talk to others, or maybe should not enter. (Thank you for commenting on my fuzziness there.)
Everyone has a right to their bumper stickers. I'm all for that. I'm also all for the realization that the bumper stickers do not capture all of who we are and send a mighty strong message. In an effort to be welcoming, we spend so much time looking at our land, our entrance, and our facilities. We also need to recognize that our parking lot speaks for us, too. That's all. No guerilla bumper sticker stripping.
Another comment asserted that Republicans would be perfectly welcomed in our or any UU congregation. For years I have heard from many that they felt rejected and attacked by individuals, groups, ministers, and the UUA. I have heard from far more Republicans and conservatives than any other group who did not feel welcomed at UU congregations.
The number one complaint: some of our self-described Democratic congregants did not enter into compassionate, open dialogue and were defensive and accusatory when that perception was brought up. The number two complaint: people identified them only as Republican. Not agnostic parent of teens, not young adult who lives in Northside and likes Alan Watts, not fiscal conservative or libertarian- just Republican.
There are multiple examples in churches all over the country that some people who are not registered, yellow dog Democrats do not feel welcome and that naming that feeling in a healthy, respectful way gets them further isolated. They say that they are expected to defend themselves and state their case in a way that Democrats are not.
They also tell me it gets way worse at election time.
Let me be clear - not all UU democrats are insensitive. Not all UU political conservatives are looking for authentic and respectful dialogue. I am speaking about hearts, not just ideas. I'm speaking as a pastor. Some of the political discourse in our lobbies and groups is disrespectful and hurtful. People say it hurts. Some who have told me this read this blog. A few sometimes come to church. Some are loyal members. Some have given up on us because their experience has led them to believe our faith is hypocritical. And many say it is not safe to reveal these feelings. The response to revelations of feeling attacked and rejected are accusations of not being committed to justice, being selfish, or being overly sensitive and stupid.
Not historically; not in theory - now.
I have spoken out on this periodically for several years now. It was a big deal in my first ministry and was revealed in a different way five years ago. The feedback is that this year it is worse than ever for UU conservatives.
Mine is an interesting role for a person who cannot find a candidate liberal enough. But the conversations I have had with political conservatives who are also religious liberals have been some of the deepest talks of my religious life. I am grateful for the honesty and trust in which these conversations occur. When conducted in gentle, compassionate, and honest ways these conversations usually reveal a deeper connection than any political differences.
And every time I speak out on it- I see more clearly what has been described to me. It is not a flattering view.