Monday, February 20, 2012

Responses to Questions for the Unheard Voices of UU Conservatives

Responses to questions for the Unheard Voices of Unitarian Universalist Conservatives for GA this year.  

1. I personally understand my political affiliation to be:
Tea Party Republican

2.A. When asked by fellow Unitarian Universalist in my congregation or beyond, I describe my political affiliation as:
Tea Party Republican (but I’ve never been asked)

B. Do you see a marked difference between your self-identified political affiliation and how you present your political affiliation in your congregation? How and Why:
No, but then I’ve never been asked either, so I’ve never had to contend with how I presented myself.

3. Who shares your political perspectives and positions in your congregation?
At least four or five people I know at Church are political conservatives. We don’t talk about politics though. There may be more.

I was asked to join the Church’s gun club but I’m not really a hunter or gun enthusiast. The person asking assumed all conservatives were also gun enthusiasts. She was a politically liberal gun enthusiast by the way.

4. Do you feel “at home” in your Unitarian Universalist congregation? How about district or national Unitarian Universalist events? What makes you feel “at home”? What prevents you from feeling “at home”?

Yes, I feel at home.  I’ve served on the board for two years.  Have been active on the Social Justice Committee and have volunteered for the Church at our Community’s homeless shelter for many years now. Participated on a group from Social Justice that drafted a statement on Creating Peace that was unanimously approved by the Congregation at our annual meeting.

I feel less at home at Regional events.  I participated in a workshop on creating Peace at Meadville Lombard not long after I returned from Iraq.  I was a civilian employee with the Army Corps of Engineers in Baghdad working on reconstruction projects.  I made some people there uncomfortable until the final evening when Dr. Welch and others sponsoring the event endorsed President Obama’s Afghanistan Surge.  She sucked the wind out of the chapel in First UU with that.  Many in the group had expected the meeting to plan demonstrations instead.

I’ve been labeled an anti-Arab racist by the moderator of the National UU Peace listserv after forwarding an email from a US Congressional Representative as an FYI to the group.  I received an apology from UUA’s Social Witness Office on that.  A comical charge since the majority of my blog readers usually Arabic speakers, and not UUs.  I’ve had four virulent emails over things in my blog, and three of those four were from UU Ministers.  Emails reflecting a lot of anger.

The GA has twice now voted down resolutions recommending near immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.  The SOC on Creating Peace included language from Dr. Welch that was consistent with President Obama’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq (I’d argue with President Bush’s too).

I recommended an Action of Immediate Witness on President Obama’s Libyan intervention and lack of compliance on the War Powers Act, and received a response from a Leading and Published UU Pacifist author that it would be impossible to get UU’s to vote against Obama. I had mixed feelings on the War Powers issue but supported what President Obama did.  I just wished he had gone before Congress for Approval (as had Bush on Iraq and Afghanistan) as important steps towards rallying the American people.  The UU experience with Obama though was pure Romance and UUs as the Pacifist explained weren’t going to turn on him.

Getting back to the original questions: Yes, I feel quite at home with my Church but the National and Regional experiences have been less comfortable.  Oddly, the issues have gone my way, but clearly many of the participants at those levels unhappy, and a few have blasted me behind the scenes over it.

5. My current job is: Program Analyst, US Dept of Veterans Affairs

6. I give my time, energy and/or financial support to: Family and Church mostly.  Have served sometimes on local boards.  I blog often on politics, Chicago, Trains and UUism.

7. I am __57___ years old.

8. I have ___3______ children ages ______20 , 25, and 27_______________________.

9. If I was asked in a friendly way, why I am a Unitarian Universalist, I would explain:

We usually know how to run a Church. That’s never easy and that much harder with UUs who are often a hard headed bunch.  My young son-in-law said he doesn’t see a reason to congregate but I think as time passes he’ll realize the importance of marking events in life, and of opening up a spiritual life to our grand daughter.  A well run Church offers that.

Unitarian Universalism seems the most American of Religions to me. A quick read of our history, heritage, and heros shows it.  I suggested once on the UU Peace Making listserv that we were more often than not discussing the positive or nasty nature of the United States, and our obligations as citizens; rather than the ethics of engaging in war or the mechanics of creating peace.  I suggested we talk about what we thought America about, and drop the complicated Just War v Pacifist debate. That was voted down (to the extent we vote) but some readers found merit in that. 

I see the dilemma for many UUs is we’re the most American of Religions, and a lot of UUs (especially Ministers) haven’t sorted that out.  I don’t share their discomfort.  Friction’s important to me to help winnow out ideas.  UUism’s an American Religion for a country always reinventing itself, always redefining, always critical and self-critical (at least when were at our best –read the willing suspension of disbelief  on Obama and the War Powers at Q4 when we're not.  No friction there please say UUs).

10. Explain what you love about your faith community:  Children and Youth are at the center of my Church.   This is more than having a vibrant youth program.  The congregation loves, cares, and shows concern for the kids and young adults.  It had a powerful impact on the two Children my wife and I raised in the Church.   I don’t think this should be a requirement for a UU Church by the way.  I think there’s a need for some Churches for communities not focused on kids.  As a single person once in another UU Church, I really appreciate the need for Churches that address singleness.

11. Explain what you respect about the Unitarian Universalist tradition
Independence, self-reliance, contrariness: we’re very much a religion for square pegs unable to fit in round holes.

12. If you preached a sermon next month, what would the topic be?
The justice created by our social justice work is far exceeded by the spiritual growth we gain doing it.  Spiritual growth and health the first statement in any SJ mission statement.  My SJ colleagues go blank when I say that and the response is go write a testimonial for the Church News Letter if you feel that way, but it’s sure not our mission.  I think that’s a real error.  They get the spiritual benefit though, to the extent they participate in our work. I preach that whenever I can.
To be continued…..

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