Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Seeing Through New Eyes

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.


Chuck B. said...

I guess the question I would pose to you is this: How do you define conservative?

Are you talking about someone who believes in fiscal responsibility? Is this a person who's political views are inclusive, but not effusive? Do they demand an end to racism and homophobia, but also demand the country do it in a way that is studied and economically appropriate?

Or are you talking about someone who wants to limit, restrict, or in otherways repress the rights of minorities? A person who always has a ready excuse not to lift up or support those who have suffred for thier priviliage. Those people who really are racists, chauvinists, homophobes and or bigots, but hide behind the pc term "conservative" because they know they are wrong but lack the guts to even define themselves?

Those people who embrace the evil of their thoughts and claim victimhood when called on the carpet.

If the latter then my next questions are these:

After decades of being oppressed and harassed for centruies by the privilaged majority when do the minorities get the right to a safe space? And why can't it be us? Also, when do we as a people of a liberal faith finally demand respect from those who would thwart the hopes of these historically oppressed masses?

When is it right to respect the perpetrator over the victim?

Also, again it you mean the latter, then how global is your request? I mean should we support UU holocaust denier's? Should those who are proud of their ancestor's SS past be given room to express their repugnant views?

If not, then are you aware of the possible hypocracy of your position?

These are not, as racist apologist like to say, complex issues.

Again, I am only asking if you are talking about those who define their conservative values in terms of the restriction of the hopes of groups of peoples base on race, religion, sex, or gender.

One religion has to have the courage to say that it is time to demand positive treatment of all and that we must cease the coddling of those who would still wallow in the filth of evil intolerance.

Those are Moral decisions. That is one the purposes of a faith to set a moral compass, as opposed to a philosophical society.

go figure said...

Me thinks you are missing her main point.

I do not believe she is saying we should be quiet if our IDEAS upset people. Heaven forbid we should not speak out LOUDLY against oppression, lies, and injustice. My take on what she is saying is that we sometimes are unloving and alienating in the WAY we (do or do not) conduct those discussions and that we sometimes are disrespectful, indeed even sometimes mean, to those who might have differing opinions.

PEOPLE should always feel welcome. Some IDEAS and BEHAVIORS should not.

Early Riser said...

Chucky - I think she's jotting about the former. The problem is that there a those how turn every policy disagreement into latter. Can I agree with the 7 principals and still dislike the estate tax? Or support 'The Surge'? Or want to drill in ANWR? Many of my fellow congregants would say "no" and I find that unacceptable.

Chuck B. said...

With all do respect, I think you didn't carefully read what I wrote and are missing MY point.

I was asking her to define what she meant as conservative and her terms. "Differing Opinions" is vague.

Are we talking school prayer? Segregation? Interracial Dating? LBGT rights? The right for UU's to be intolerant or stereotype?

If you read my post a little slower you will see I actually discussed 2 different types of conservatism.

Joel Monka said...

How about this for an example, chuck b.: I was told that there are no rational arguments against the living wage or in favor of a border fence; the only motivation for those positions is racism. Therefore they would not hear those arguments; they had no obligation to listen to hate speech. Is that a valid creating of a safe space for minorities (none of whom were present), or political discrimination?

Chuck B. said...

Thanks for reading my full post Early.
If she's talking about people with the opinions you cited then I have no issues as they are in the first group. While I can understand a passionate argument, I get her point.

But then, that's why calling a racist a conservative is such a PC crime.

Anonymous said...

So here's my attempt to move this discussion in a more productive direction, since I hear (and see) that pain of which you speak:

How do we create a space that is (rightly) welcoming and affirming of people with different political views and still stay true to our call to create a world based on radical equality and love (from God or not), the use of reason and freedom of thought, and a respect for the Earth and our place in it?

At some point, I think we need to stand up and say that we, as a religious movement, have opinions on the moral issues of our time (thank you James Luther Adams). Those opinions tend towards the politically-liberal side of things (marriage equality, universal health care, the right of women to make choices regarding abortion and their own bodies, and comprehensive sexuality education, to name only a few).

How do we express those moral views in the public arena and still create a loving home for politically-conservative folks?

with love,

Will said...

Chuck B, does one have to provide definitions of one's political views to be welcomed? Are you suggesting there be some sort of filter, that some conservative thoughts are ok but others are hateful?

I'd like to find a place on Sundays that's filter free.

Will said...

P.S. Thanks, AJots for bringing this up.

Lea Setegn said...

If I were to look at the cars around our church, I would definitely feel like I needed to have money and be liberal in all senses to attend our church. I'm less offended by the political stuff -- because I'm a liberal -- but the money stuff hits hard. Someone did a sermon a while back, perhaps a visiting minister, that was going to talk about how homogeneous UUs are in their liberalism / it takes money to live and work toward social justice. I didn't get to hear the sermon, but as a new member of the church, I definitely feel like having a good deal of money is necessary.

DAS said...

I absolutely stand behind Alane on this subject. Let me give you a first hand account of whence she speaks (and Chuck B. before you jump to conclusions, read MY entire posting,)

I am a fairly new congregation member and new to UU. I was given UU info from my best friend and we both went to services to get info. Before become members, I mentioned to her about the UUA website and a 300 page historical position whitepaper. Even though we enjoyed the congregation, I told her it was important to understand the religion as a “whole”.

The next time we met for coffee, she mentioned that she agreed with it all 100%. I questioned her about the specifics of certain items and mentioned that I didn’t agree with everything. My friend mentioned since she was a “card carrying, 100%, no question about it” LIBERAL DEMOCRATE. Moreover, that it was a REQUIREMENT to be a UU because it was a LIBERAL RELIGION. I mentioned that I was a Republican and always had been (ok, I have registered as an independent over the years, but decided to stick with one line or the other for a number of reasons.)

Well my best friend called me a fascist (and still does today and continues to introduce me as such to people). She stated that I COULD NOT become a UUer because of my political beliefs. I stated that I believed in the Pillars and stood behind most of the UUA whitepaper positions. I would like to know how many UUs have even read that, stay informed on those positions, and would be in total agreement 100%. The Position paper even states in the header that not every member nor every congregation has to agree to every line item.

I spoke with the minister before I became a member about the above situation. She assured me that the RELIGION WAS LIBERAL and that it WAS NOT A POLITICAL PARTY and that being a Republican had nothing to do with membership. She let me know that not all congregants would feel that way but not to let that be demoralizing.

Well… I became a member a few months after my best friend. I am highly involved in the church and partake of all I can (Service is our law). Nowadays I don’t have the finances I once did (Yea... I was a corporate executive and made more money a year than most people dream of making. Being in that top percentile does tend to influence your political beliefs). My friend hardly talks to other members and never comes to events. I do not talk about my political beliefs in church and won’t... Republicans aren’t all as conservative as some liberals think; and not all Democrats are as Liberal in acceptance as they would like to think.

Well... those are my rantings…Oh just one other thing for clarification. Some people have a right to be proud of their ancestors SS background. Not every SS member joined willing, some did it to protect their family, their JEWISH FAMILY. The times were difficult and dangerous. People should be careful about making ALL Inclusive statements (before I am jumped on about this being an all-inclusive religion; again, we would not accept mass murders, bigots, or the like. So again “all-inclusive” statements are a dangerous thing.