Trouble in Paradise

I’m in receipt of an email from another in the small but passionate group of dissenters from what has become the prevailing orthodoxy in Unitarian Universalism. This individual has written a couple of pieces online, which I’ll link to below. He uses the byline “Veritas Curat” (that is, the truth cures).

And by the way, I use the term “orthodoxy” advisedly. What we’re seeing in the UU denomination is very definitely a swing in the direction of one-size-fits-all doctrine. Dissent is no longer welcome. Since I have no official position in the UU organization, I’m immune to the pressure to conform that is being wielded against ministers who dare to stray from the party line. Also, I’m such small fry that nobody cares what I think, write, or say.

I haven’t verified every detail in his two essays. In particular, I’m not familiar with what Rev. Southworth did or didn’t do. I haven’t heard that part of the story before. At a couple of spots, Veritas slides past points that I would have preferred to see articulated more fully. All the same, I feel these pieces are informative.

Certainly, nobody expected the Unitarian Inquisition, but there are grounds for using that as a metaphor (complete with the Monty Python photo) in The UU Inquisition. The UUMA response to Southworth’s letter, which is linked to in that piece, is a pathetic joke. Inter alia, the UUMA Board asserted, “The UUMA has processes and procedures for holding people accountable when harm is done.” And yet, for some reason the UUMA failed to adhere to its own processes and procedures, or anything like them, when the time came to censure and expel Todd Eklof. The tale of how that process unfolded is told in his upcoming book, The Gadfly Affair.

You’ll have to wait a month or two to read the gory details. Suffice it to say that in the end he was expelled for “failure to engage,” when in plain fact it was the UUMA that had failed to engage. Todd’s Good Officer, Rev. Rick Davis, sent the UUMA Board a list of 22 questions about their process. They refused to answer the questions. And then they accused him of failing to engage. The mind boggles.

The review by Veritas Curat of the book Centering quotes a number of passages in the book and asks pointed questions about them. Now that I’ve read the first part of the book, I think my reaction to it is a bit different from his. Some of the passages exhibit the kind of muddled thinking that is all too common in the UU community these days, but other passages are revealing and seem quite fair.

The important point, I think, is that the book isn’t intended to present a coherent diagnosis of the ills from which Unitarian Universalism allegedly suffers. It’s intended as a forum in which UU ministers of color can talk to one another and share their experiences. That’s an important thing to do, and it would be a mistake to censor the various authors’ opinions on the grounds that they lack balance or clarity.

The thing that worries me, as I sit here in my easy chair, is that while the UUMA has put its imprimatur on Centering, if a group of white UU ministers were to gather together a collection of essays in which they criticized the anti-racism efforts of the UUA and UUMA, the white ministers’ book would not be embraced or promoted by the UUMA. Quite the contrary! We’re still in a situation where the UU higher-ups are not interested in being even-handed or respecting divergence of opinion. And that’s a base-level problem.

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4 Responses to Trouble in Paradise

  1. Veritas Curat says:

    The UUMA has an easy, and lazy, out re the charge of “promoting racism.” As outlined in “White Fragility” (and other such tomes) it is not possible to be racist against white people. Basically the possibility is assumed away from the get go by saying POC can be “prejudiced” but not racist because only those with power; as in all white people (even opiod addicted, unemployed Appalachian coal miners) have this “power” that makes them uniquely capable of racism. And, in spite of the fact that that construction, itself, is racist, it cannot be racism because it is directed at white people…And if you object to that and you are a white person, then you are a “fragile” racist because your denial of racism is, voila, proof of racism.

    • midiguru says:

      Like other self-absorbed cults, the Social Justice Patrol sometimes redefines words to suit their purposes. George Orwell wrote about that. So did Lewis Carroll, in a way. It’s a common tactic of gurus such as L. Ron Hubbard. Once you buy into their lingo, they have an easier time controlling your thought processes.

      • vc says:

        “The mind should develop a blind spot whenever a dangerous thought presented itself. The process should be automatic, instinctive. Crimestop, they called it in Newspeak…Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.” -1984

    • Tom Clowes says:

      “White privilege” doesn’t mean a White person doesn’t have problems. It means their race isn’t one of them. It means that a White person will have advantages over a person of color in the same position, with everything else being exactly the same. A White, opioid-addicted, unemployed, Appalachian coal miner is advantaged relative to a Black, opioid-addicted, unemployed, Appalachian coal miner. Think of it this way: if you are homeless and begging for money, would you rather be White or Black as you do so? Who would be more likely to get more money from begging? Or maybe even a hot meal, or even a job offer from a kind-hearted passerby?

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