Good Old Barry Lynn
You heard about it: Pastor Chan Channing Chanster... what was his name? Pastor Chan Chandler threw nine of his members off the church rolls for supporting Kerry in the last election. The AUSCS is thinking this kind of thing won't sit well with the IRS, and perhaps that church ought to be paying some taxes, since it's obviously functioning as a partisan organization.
My friend Chalice Chick thinks we UUs might not want to be dancing around just now, because we might be next.
I think not. On both counts.
First of all, there's no call to dance around when a church is in pain and a pastor's behaving like a dingbat. Nothing fun or funny about that, just like when that winter-addled Lutheran fellow up in Maine poisoned some of his co-parishioners at the coffee hour. That wasn't funny, either. It was just... kind of funny, in that way that makes you hold your hand over your mouth and feel really guilty for having the urge to crack a grin. The grin isn't a laughing at; it's a laughing with. Believe me. It's the "There but for the grace of God go I" grin. Ouch.
Second, church folks are certainly free to comment -- either as a community or from the pulpit -- on their ethical differences with the government of this fine nation, or to give elected leaders the thumbs up if they want to do that. 'Twas always so and ever shall be. Too many Americans (and plenty of them in our own congregations) misunderstand the whole concept of separation of church and state anyway, mistaking it to mean that faith communities should have no truck with issues of the state. That's simplistic and inaccurate. Maybe Barry Lynn can explain it to you; I've got a pinched nerve in my back and I don't have time.
In UU churches, so often at a "default left" setting, the problem isn't that we engage with the various moral indignities of this or that policy or this or that legislator. No, that's not it. Our problem is that we mistake the votes taken by a group of casually-chosen delegates to our General Assembly for the will of the whole "denomination" of us, and henceforth preach and march and organize to support that cause du jour without engaging in the more difficult, real and important work of congregational discernment around social issues.
Our problem isn't that we're too political, it's that we're unbelievably conformist and we can't admit it. We are perishing of a sloppy, weak, pandering interpretation of our own first principle. Everyone's so inherently worthy and so inherently dignified, you've got to appease the opinion of every last crank in every last folding chairs before you can go out and do anything at all.
(This is not at all the case at PeaceBang's own congregation, thank Buddha).
Also, since so many of the loudest Unitarian Universalists have an allergy to theological language, only those with the greatest talent for finding entirely fresh, entirely humanistic language to speak to the urgent moral crises of our time are able to mobilize considerable numbers of us to do anything. We only seem to be too political, because our religious leaders so often totally fail to frame their concerns in moral and theological terms, you can't differentiate their message from the one you get from Harper's magazine. They/We do this partly from fear and partly from forgetfulness and partly because we don't call them (ourselves) on it.
Look at President Bill Sinkford: he spends half of his time making the news and the other half of his time responding to hostile UUs who think he owes them a personal response when they're uncomfortable with the way he frames issues. How exhausting. Can't we just let him speak from his own "language of reverence" and use our own when we evangelize in our own way? How much blood, sweat and tears were shed when so many of our fellow Unitarian Universalists laid themselves down and had a loud hissy fit when Rev. Sinkford called for a language of reverence??
What in sam hill is inappropriate about a religious movement speaking from a place of reverence???
I'm a mystical theist type who digs the Jeez big time, but if the religion-suspicious atheist Emma Goldman was alive today, active in our congregations and wanted to run for president of the UUA, I would so vote for her. I would dig her up and run her if I thought she'd want to work at 25 Beacon Street. Because I don't give a halupke what her Sources of of her conviction are, or if she believes in God or not -- to my eyes she is divinely inspired. I love her vision and her love of the world and her anger, and I'd march off a bridge to follow her (okay, that's going a bit far, but you know what I mean). She made outrageous mistakes and she rejected the God I believe in, and I could care less. We are on the same team; we share the same moral outrage. My conscience, my God/s, the Great Spirit, the ancestor spirits and my free and individual search for truth and meaning confirm this for me. Why would I waste her time, and mine, expecting her to conform to my worldview or trying to engage her in a critique of hers? Bow to the Mystery, pick up the banner, and MARCH, for God's sake!
Do we really think the hungry and naked and bombed of the world care that those who work for their safety and comfort share the same theology, and use the same language to express it??
Maybe we could have a fourth track of ministerial specialization called "Ministry of Translation." These ministers can work 1/8 time for 8 different congregations and travel between them, helping assuage various, common anxieties arising from our theological pluralism, and assuring everyone that we're really all talking about basically the same thing.
I'm not worried that we're going to lose our tax-exempt status. I'm worried that our internal ridiculousness is going to keep rendering us so irrelevant that, in a very short time, no one will give a fig what the Unitarian Universalists have to say about any issue, political or otherwise.
We are fiddling while Rome is burning.