Sabbatical Blog

...chronicling some of my projects and learnings during this time apart from parish ministry

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Coercing "Discussion"

I’m the kind of person who likes to buy light bulbs or cookies or whatever the kids are selling door to door. Really. It’s good for kids to earn some cash to support their activities, and activities help kids grow up to be happy, productive citizens. So I buy cookies. But would I buy cookies from a kid who said, “Buy my cookies or you’ll be sorry?” I would not. Even though I probably would be sorry.

I’m the kind of person who likes discussions about values. I think that one of the roles a church plays in society and in the lives of its members is to offer opportunities for people to talk about their values. Values like when, if ever, it is right to go to war, for instance. I’m all for discussions like that. But do I participate in discussions that start, “If you don’t talk about this with me, you’ll be sorry?” I don’t. Even though I probably will be sorry.

That’s why I hope my congregation will vote “NO” on the Study-Action Issue submitted for this year’s GA agenda called “Peacemaking”. Not that I’m against peace or the discussions of peace that the authors of this resolution apparently want. What I am against is the extreme lopsidedness of the discussion starter, which is, (I kid you not) “Should the Unitarian Universalist Association reject the use of any and all kinds of violence and war to resolve disputes between peoples and nations and adopt a principle of seeking just peace through nonviolent means?

The authors admit that this extreme kind of pacificism has never been a part of UU life, and that by and large, UU’s have taken a Just War position, often using Just War precepts to protest particular wars. And their suggestions for study questions range from the astounding, “Should we, the member congregations of the UUA reject violence in any form?” to the ho hum global, “What are the hallmarks of a peaceful culture?” to the interesting but unresolvable by discussion, “To what extent do gun control and gun possession reduce violence?”

What’s painfully clear is that the no doubt good-hearted UU’s who submitted this proposal don’t really know what makes for a good discussion, but they wanted to have one so badly that they threw out the most extreme statement anyone could think of on the general topic to, they would no doubt say, “stimulate discussion.” And if you don’t get your tail in gear to go to their discussion, and they decide that you have to reject violence in all forms then it’s your own fault for not participating. So There.

It is also painfully clear that the process by which these proposals are proposed does not have enough mentoring in it.

That’s where I don’t buy any cookies.

Invite me to a discussion by offering me a chance to reflect on my values and hear yours, I’d like to come. Force me to a discussion by intimating that you’ll change the direction of my denomination to fit your theology or philosophy or social theory if I don’t, I might feel like I have to come, but if I do, I’ll come mad.

Which doesn’t make for good discussions.
We have until April 15th to vote this one down. If we don’t, the GA delegates will have to debate this in a body of 2,000. (Also not a good discussion.)

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