Religion & Politics
I'm a bit of an oddity. I'm a politically conservative Unitarian Universalist. No one really knows how many of us exist, but we're surely on the endangered UU species list.
Our Board of Directors recently passed a resolution that stated that our Church has taken a formal stand against a proposed amendment to Virginia's Constitution that bans same-sex marriage or any legal approximation thereof. It's a poorly written amendment and, I believe it is bad law: it limits private contracts. The Board resolution, however, had several debatable findings of fact (like equating same-sex marriage to the civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s).
I don't want to write about same-sex marriage... I doubt I can come up with any position or argument that hasn't already been made. Rather, I want to discuss the wisdom of individual Churches and Denominations taking 'official' stands on divisive issues.
This topic was bantered back and forth yesterday on my Church's discussion board and I have a few choice quotes to share.
It all started when one member simply asked, "How many individuals at church actually voted to oppose HJR 585?" Seems like a valid question since the Board resolution states that 'the Church' opposed the amendment.
Next, there were some clarifications that the Board unanimously voted for the resolution, and that the Church had voted overwhelmingly to become a welcoming congregation. I made the observation that I didn't like when our Church or Denomination makes 'Single Voice' pronouncements about divisive issues and, if we do, we should offer opponents the chance to offer their dissenting opinion. Well... that opened-up the flood gates of comments from other members:
What is a legitimate 'dissenting view' on this issue?
...true forces of darkness, having lost the ability to persecute people on the basis of religion (for the most part) or skin color still feel safe in persecuting homosexuals.
But do we offer a justification of racism -- to prove our intellectual diversity -- or justification of economic exploitation and coercion of the poor when speaking on other social justice issues? I hope not. Similarly, I don't see the need to offer the "other" view on homosexual marriage.
And what does it say about our ability to be a moral force in a world in which right-wing fundamentalists (whether Christian or Muslim or Jewish versions) feel no limitations on their action in the public arena and are actively working to take over governments and kill off the opposition?
Wow! I think I touched a nerve. I offered the following:
I have no problem, what so ever, with a group of concerned UUs aggressively lobbying for social change. I struggle with those people using the Church (the church that I consider a second home for me and my family) as their communication vehicle. I think the family analogy is a good one. How you you feel if you disagreed with 90+% of your family on a given issue and your family made a public statement that said, "Our family believes x". Would you feel welcome in your own family? This family estrangement is what many UUs feel when the Association or individual Churches make sweeping pronouncements concerning divisive issues whether it be political or theological (remember when Sinkford made his god comments a while back? How did that make humanists and atheists feel?).
If you don't want dissenters in the family, do what other religions do and proclaim that you have discovered the One Truth. If you want dissenters in the family, encourage members to organize in the larger community to fight for what they feel is important - always knowing that they can come home and be with their family.
Then, my friend offers:
You are faced with the a common dilemma, one that most everyone faces at one time or another ... if they are involved in a pluralistic organization or society. You disagree with a position, or policy, or a statement made by that group. Everyone in this situation must then ask themselves if this problem is significant enough to require that they no longer be associated with the group. If it is, they leave, but if they can live with it, they either choose to accept things and let go and/or they fight to change the group.
Great point. This is what I have been doing for the last four years when I'm in the minority at Church. I, however, came up with, in my un-humble opinion, a convincing counter argument:
The group also has a decision to make. Which is more important: making a statement as the group on an issue that does not have unanimous support and risk alienating some members of the group -- or -- refrain from making 'group' comments and encourage sub-group and/or individual comments.
In a business or political party setting, I would certainly choose the former due to the need for a single, strong voice.
In a family, religious or social situation, I would choose the latter - family and friends (for me, at least) trump economic, political and policy issues every time.
Let me know your thoughts on the matter.
PS - I'm 90% recovered from my illness and the regular posting schedule has resumed.