Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Observer

Fourth in a series of posts about the April 2010 UUA Board meeting

I moderate posts to my blog, and other than the daily "spam" about wonder drugs and adventurous women that clog blog comments as much as they do your email, there are very few I do not publish. But clearly my comment about an observer with a "single minded pursuit of justice" hit a nerve. I am not going to publish the comments in response from bloggers who have been his target. I would like to explain why.

This blog is not about his claims, and will not include any judgment from me about their validity. I do not publish his comments unless they are relevant to my posting. If I publish the comments protesting my description, it does not seem fair to ban his inevitable response. It becomes a very long rabbit trail.

The Board typically meets in working groups on Friday -- when "the observer" showed up for the Board meeting, a helpful person directed him to one of those groups, which happened to be the "Excellence in Ministry" Working Group. He attended the meeting, and by all accounts was respectful and relevant to the conversations at hand, as he was at the Saturday and Sunday board meetings. He was accorded the same hospitality as any observer would, including recognition to speak to the Board, which he did concisely and in my opinion with respect and relevance to the topic(s).

Those of us who blog know him as a person who posts inflammatory comments on UU blogs about his treatment by a minister many years ago, condemning most of us (and Unitarian Universalism) with strong words. I have learned to check innocuous comments for hyperlinks to his own pages. Yet I thanked him after the meeting for the dignity he showed throughout the weekend.

What all this brought to mind was the powerful John Murray Distinguished Lecture at General Assembly last summer by the Rev. Nate Walker. Walker is the minister at First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, which was at the center of a storm over the church's rental to a "racist, homophobic, [anti-immigrant], hard core band". Local anti-hate groups and Unitarian Universalists all over the country demanded to know why the church would allow the band in the church. But rather than unilaterally banning them, Walker met with them. After a fascinating discussion detailed in the lecture, the band decided to cancel the show: "You have shown us respect so we’ll respect the church.” Walker goes on to say:

We use our imaginations to picture ourselves in another person’s shoes. We observe how misperceptions are born and how fear is fueled. We imagine the pain that has built up over time with those who have been in conflict for over a decade... Imagine but a simple truth: “hurt people hurt people.” To imagine is to empathize, to sympathize and to understand. And while understanding need not imply agreement, understanding is necessary in order to heal the poison found in a heart bound by fear and to heal the poison found in a mind bound by judgments. The discriminatory mind is healed when we imagine ourselves as the other, which leads me to close by reflecting upon the nature of pride and to pose a final question.

You would need to read Walker's lecture to fully understand his question:

Who do you save from the fire? Everyone. Why? Because we are all worthy of being saved from the fires, even the ones that we helped to create.


John Blevins said...

Linda, thank you for this helpful and informative post.

First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia said...

Linda, thanks for your kind posting. I'm thrilled to hear that you're continuing to use your imagination as a spiritual practice. With admiration, Nate

ms. kitty said...

Thank you, Linda, for your remarks. I have the same policy with regard to "the observer's" comments on my blog. If they are relevant and respectful, I print them. I prefer to err on the side of kindness and he has become much less strident and more appreciative in his comments. I deplore his actions and words toward some of my fellow bloggers but I will continue to be respectful toward him. I think this is a more fruitful approach than the "Sucks" blog or other techniques that have been used to try to convince him to stop his hurtful behavior.

David G. Markham said...

Thank you Linda for your generousity and hospitality and openness and courage.

Are you the person of courage I have been looking for? Robin pointed me to you.

All the best,

David Markham

Linda Laskowski said...

Probably not. It should not take that much courage to act on our first principle -- that all people have inherent worth and dignity. I do not claim more than that.