Saturday, August 2, 2008


While I was out of town at UU Church Camp, I had a few quick thoughts about a few things.

There was a shooting at a UU church. I'm late to the blogosphere for this, so I'll leave the guttural reaction to webcomicer Jeffry Rowland. Also, he provides this handy link. There's a lot to read through (and in a dark humor sort of way, the "fanny pack around his waist that contained extra shells for his shotgun" is kind of priceless), but the major point is that violence is unacceptable. Just last week I said that all ideas and opinions should be allowed on the table, and I stand by that. But that only goes so far as ideas - murder because of ideological disagreement is always the step too far. Disagreement polarizes, but the fastest way to lose support for a cause is to make your own side appear crazy, disconnected, unreasonable, and dangerous.

Assuming the man had just been discontent, unemployed, and angry at liberalism (and not violent) the appropriate response would be to try and find what is so threatening about the church, and why he felt it was so dangerous. The church's affirming stance towards homosexuality was known, and the article quotes a gem of a phrase from the church website:
The church's Web site states that it has worked for "desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women's rights and gay rights" since the 1950s. Current ministries involve emergency aid for the needy, school tutoring and support for the homeless, as well as a cafe that provides a gathering place for gay and lesbian high-schoolers.
In affirming the diversity and the strength of the churches mission, they hit upon an interesting conundrum. They speak to the disenfranchised, the multitude of those who are not historically well-off or empowered in this nation. There is nothing there which reads as sympathetic to the unemployed, angry, down-and-out white male, and that's a shame, because he needs (or needed, before his actions invalidated all hopes of sympathy) a chance at some human dignity, like everyone else the church is adamant about advocating for and helping. The fundamental role of a UU church is, as I see it, to work for human dignity, and we are really good about the historically disenfranchised. We've just got a bit of a problem where it comes to the poor white male, who is angry because talk of privilege is meaningless for him, and there is no way for him to understand how power in his favor could leave him in the state he's in. It's a confusing thing, a frustrating thing, and it is a serious issue that needs re-examination.

But not because the church did anything wrong. We do not need to scour our souls with victims guilt, and we do not need to stumble about deadened by the unfairness of it all. The positive action that can be taken is to see where we can better serve the cause of human dignity. After all, the shooter went after the church not because we had done anything to demean him, but because we have such a strong and visible legacy of advocacy for others. I think we, as a denomination, have the power to take this on as well.

I'll end the blog post unusually, with a reading from a worship at camp:
"Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow."
-Dorothy Thompson

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