16. List three of the greatest social justice ills of our time. Explain why you are particularly attentive to these three. If you do or have done any work to correct or counter these ills please note that as well.
The genocides in the 1990s in Bosnia and Rwanda deeply affected me. I hesitate to use the word deep because I was really aware of how removed and distant these slaughters were from me, and how easy it was to be indifferent.
I think globalization’s driving all sorts of social justice issues from War, to Immigration, to Income disparities. What’s the United States responsibility to the people of Syria or Libya? Do we violate those Nation’s sovereignty to protect populations? Does the US suspend our its own borders and sovereignty when we take “illegal” out of illegal immigration?
Health care reform, and technology will force all sorts of bio-ethical issues. We’ve seen that already with the proposed changes to mammography screens during the Obamacare debates, and then more recently with the contraceptives mandate. These issues will only become more complex and contentious. I find UUs, at least the professional thinkers among us, woefully unprepared.
I’m troubled by the huge numbers of single working mothers. Their plight may be the greatest single social justice issue facing us, and I think very few UU Churches offer these women much. Your local big-box Church far more attuned to their needs than you’ll find in any UU Church.
What have I done? Not enough I’m sure. I participated on the UU groups working on the SOC on creating peace. I mentioned the UU draft, and our local draft both lacked any mention of “families”. That sparked a whole sermon from our minister on families and peace.
17. Note and describe up to three experiences at your Unitarian Universalist congregation or at another Unitarian Universalist congregation or event when you realized or felt that your political perspectives or positions were not welcome or respected.
a. On a couple of occasions when I’ve gotten into debates on political issues at church (once on whether the United States was becoming fascist, and another over the Citizens United decision) I’ve had members come up to me afterwards and thank me for expressing my opinions with the follow up that they were open to hearing diverse opinions. That’s always struck me as an odd thing to say. These weren’t shy people, and although they never said much during the debate, I knew they strongly disagreed. I’m never sure what point their trying to make. It struck me as condescension. Unintended, but never the less.
b. At a conference on creating peace at Meadville Lombard participants kept explaining Military Service Members were not dishonorable for serving, but compelled to serve out of economic need. I explained I knew some people who volunteered and served because they thought it the right and honorable thing to do. That I had volunteered as a civilian employee on reconstruction projects in Baghdad in 2008, and had to get the intervention of then Illinois Senator Obama with the Dept of Vet Affairs to release me for the detail with the Army because VA is refusing to let me go. I asked if the group viewed my act as dishonorable and one women had to avert her eyes and say “yes”. Told her that was fine, I had no problem with hearing that, and found that kind of straight-up response better than constructing false narratives about why people served.
c. Early in the Bush administration, a group at Church held a session about overcoming Bush’s divineness and bringing people together. We broke off into small groups. This was probably the first time I had ever discussed politics at Church. I explained I had voted first for George McGovern, and except for a couple of votes for Socialists, had voted for the Democrat right through my votes for Gore and Lieberman. I didn’t think I could do that again.
One reason, (besides the War in Iraq: I had been a hawk on Saddam since Clinton), was listening to Democrats on stem cell research using Human Embryonic tissue. The other was having watched how quickly Liberals (save Rev Jesse Jackson) turned on the Schiavo family. I added the big fissure in American Politics over the past few decades had been abortion. I must have used the words “unborn child” at some point. Otherwise I’m not sure what prompted this, but I have a vivid recollection of the disgusted women who told me, “it’s not an unborn child, it’s a blastocyst”. Besides a hawk, I found myself getting closer to Nat Hentoff’s positions too.
I’ve never in my many years with UUism read or heard a rational discourse on the abortion debate. Rational meaning a UU calmly examining the arguments offered by each side, and drawing on UU history. The good parts defending a Woman’s right to control her body, and the sad parts of UUs and eugenics. My experience has been UUs can’t go there, are surprised it’s still an issue, and surprised I would cite it as explanation of division in American politics.
As a footnote, I’m a graduate of Grinnell College, 76 and my class listserv broke down over the War in Iraq during the 2004 election. Abortion politics was the one issue though where I noted a real rightward trend and especially among women.
18. Who do you expect to vote for in the 2012 presidential election:
Romney but I would have preferred Paul Ryan.
19. Do you expect to disclose your pick to anyone in your congregation, why or why not?
I don’t expect anyone at Church to ask me. I have no problem explaining why to anyone who asks.
20. Why should Unitarian Universalist congregations make an effort to welcome individuals across the political spectrum?
I don’t think they should make the effort if it’s a false one.
Rev Augustus Conant founded my Church in 1843 and served as its first Minister until his abolitionist beliefs forced him to part with a Congregation that was either pro-Slavery, or felt the Union not worth fighting a war over. He served as a Chaplain in the Civil War and died of disease in Tennessee. His funeral was held at the Church at the same time as his infants son dedication. The child held aloof over Conant’s casket. The Church made a commitment then never to let politics again divided it. (Consider that division was over slavery and the congregation chose to set aside!) It’s a story often told in our Church when politics or anything else seems to divide us.
Not ever UU Congregation shares that kind of heritage though, of placing politics down the list of things that really matter. That’s not wrong of Congregations different than mine.
My experience with the Chicago Tea Party shows me a number of people in a Fiscal Conservative but Social Liberal frame of mind. Some of them I think could find homes in UU Churches. They often seem those Square Pegs not fitting into Round Holes I mentioned earlier. Whether UU Churches will seek to expand and change by attracting people a bit outside our self-imposed confines I don’t know. I believe my Church always has, and it’s worked for us. I don’t think that means every Church should though. I know for sure some can’t.