Monday, March 27, 2006

UU World Article Ignores Military UUs (Updated 3/29)

How's that for an inflammatory title? I just couldn't resist. :-)

A couple of weeks ago UUMilBlogger Jamie Goodwin let us know about an upcoming UU World article about the third anniversary of the Iraq war. I dutifully contacted the author, and he interviewed me by phone for about 30 minutes. I told him my opinion about how military UUs are viewed by the "average" UU - either with ignorance or antipathy - and some of my experiences. I also told him how in every case when I've encountered someone with a negative attitude about military members, once that person got to know me as an individual, the reaction was always the same: "wow, I had no idea there were people like you in the military!" Sound familiar to anyone else?

The author seemed very interested in what I had to say, so I was really looking forward to an article that would acknowledge and honor military UUs. The end result, however, was a compilation of UU war protests and other events marking the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion, with one brief mention of military UUs. I was pretty disappointed.

I don't blame the author - doubtless there are valid reasons why no UU military voices were included in the article. ** But as I told him in an e-mail this morning,

... I think that we UUs in general are actually pretty intolerant when it comes to people who aren't "like" us. This seems to include military members, Christians, political conservatives, and doubtless others. We talk the talk of inclusion and acceptance, but we don't always walk the walk. I wonder if this has influenced the editorial policy of UU World?

This e-mail was in response to his very gracious note to me. He offered his apologies for not being able to include my information in the article, and indicated that they (presumably UU World) will be revisiting the topic of UUs in the military. We can hope.

The upside of this whole episode is that it's reenergized me to continue working toward a military UUA affiliate, as David Pyle introduces here. David, sorry I've dropped out of the picture on this for so long.

We can't rely on others to do our work, so if you value being heard and raising the awareness of the "average" UU about the unique circumstances and challenges of military UUs, please join us.

** UPDATE 3/29 **

After my original post, I got another e-mail from the author, explaining that my one voice was not enough to "bend the story" in the direction of military UUs. So next time UU World solicits input from us, let's give them more voices!


Jeff Wilson said...

That's too bad that they didn't respect the fact of UU military involvement. I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that this is a phenomenon concentrated within convert UU circles. Growing up UU I always knew that there were UU servicepersons (and that many of our major historical personages were Unitarians). It seems like people who convert to UUism thinking we're some sort of pacificist denomination aren't aware or don't want to admit what the rest of us already know. Likewise, I grew up with pro-life UUs, etc, so the denomination has always seemed diverse and I've never taken political or military views as granted for any given UU or the religion on the whole. Anyway, some of us know y'all are out there and can offer our respect even when others don't.

Steve Caldwell said...

Greg wrote:
"I think that we UUs in general are actually pretty intolerant when it comes to people who aren't 'like' us. This seems to include military members, Christians, political conservatives, and doubtless others. We talk the talk of inclusion and acceptance, but we don't always walk the walk. I wonder if this has influenced the editorial policy of UU World?"


My personal experience as a military UU congregation member has been very different. The intolerance I've experienced has not come from my military involvement (20 years and 3 months, currently in retired status and working for Air Force as a civilian).

I've been attacked by members of my congregation and by other leaders in my district for my support of the Welcoming Congregation Program, the Our Whole Lives lifespan sexuality education program, and promoting youth empowerment in Young Religious Unitarian Universalists.

I would suggest that UU liberalism isn't that pervasive in my congregation and my district.

Jamie Goodwin said...

I was stunned.. shocked even.

Don Skinner, the head writer of the UU World contacted me via email a couple of weeks ago. He was specifically looking for UUs who had served, or where currently serving Iraq for an "upcoming" article.

I had no idea that said article was going to be presented online in only a coupld of weeks, nor that I was the only one contacted. I assumed that other veteran and military UUs where also sent notice so that we could round up the UU Iraq veterans.

I posted a message here, contacted Greg and even put a blurb on my home church website. I even once or twice searched for other notices of the same.

Don emailed me today apologizing that "one voice was not enough" meaning Greg. He said though that a minister had been included in the article who preached a sermon promoting military member inclusivness.

Turthfully, I was saddened by the article, in it's one dimensional highlights of peace rallies and demonstrations. But here is the really, really odd part. I am willing to bet that there where Retired military, veteran, possibly even current military members at these peace rallies! Why is it so difficult to understand that soldiers, airmen, and sailors can do their job.. what they are asked to do but still be able to form their own opinions and ideas.

David Pyle said...


I am so sorry that this worked out this way... I also had high hopes for the article.

I have been distracted with my own ministerial formation issues, and so I too have "dropped the ball" a bit.

But this goes to show the reason why we need an organized voice for Military members, veterans, spouses, and DoD employees. Simply put, we have alot of work to do.

Simply put, those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that are on active duty in Iraq are a little busy... and they are also taking a big risk if they "come out" as religious liberals within their military communities. They face the opposite problem within their congregations.

To expect them to "out" themselves in an article in UU World about their opinions of the war is asking way too much... I think it is amazing that he found one or two "out" UU's at all who had served in Iraq.

From my experience, I know the flak I would have caught if I had been quoted stating my opinion in a magazine about Bosnia while I was serving there, or right after my return.

This is one of the reasons why we need an independent affiliate organization, that can provide a voice for military UU's... including those who are in the closet as religious liberals within their military communities. Or in the closet as veterans within their congregations.

Ok, I've started to preach... sorry about that... Hazard of my schooling. Greg, lets schedule a phone call sometime and lay out some strategy...

Yours in Faith,

David Pyle

David Pyle said...

A Thought....

It is just as hard to be a military member in religious liberalism as it is to be a religious liberal in the military.

Yours in Faith,


Anonymous said...

I'm a UU, and I have no problem with the UUs in the militray. (Or any of our troops of any faith.) I may not like this war, but I would never, ever dishonor our troops. My father and uncle served in Vietnam and that same uncle was in Desert Storm. One of my brothers (not a UU though) will be enlisting shortly, and will probably be in combat not too long after that. So maybe that gives me a different perspective. Or maybe some UUs need to be reminded of our first principle: the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

And they should have included UU military personnel in that article.
Even when you don't agree with the war, you should always honor the warrior.

David Pyle said...

Ok, what UU World needs to do is an article about what Military and Veteran UU's think about the war, not just those who served in Iraq.

As a veteran and a former paratrooper, I understand war and combat in a way many others will not, but because I am not actively serving, I have a bit more freedom in what I can say.

When UU World limited their call to only those who were serving or had served in Iraq, then they should not have been surprised at a low response rate.

Yours in Faith,

David Pyle

Bill Baar said...

I'd hate to see UU's in service get dragged into a debate on the politics of the war.

In that sense, you're fortunate to be left out.

A friend of mine is a LTC in the reserves and reopened the first Womens Hospital in Afganistan. He found it one of the most fufilling things he's done. (He's late 50s so he's done a bit).

I'm not sure that's the kind of story UU World want's to hear; and if that personal kind of story doesn't fit UU World, and it's politics instead... you're best out of it I think.

Unless you feel like going political one way or the other...then join in in that spirit.

Lou said...

I'm Lou Portella, active duty at Untiarian Church of Norfolk, and founder/co-chair of UUniforms, UCN's military support group.

Times have indeed changed a bit here.

Writer Don Skinner from just took inputs from several UUniformers for an upcoming article on the requested troop surge to Iraq. I expect the article to be posted within the next week.

David Pyle said...

Lou and everyone,

Times have indeed changed, and I will give credit where credit is due...

UU World interviewed myself and Maj. Seanan Holland this past month for an article in the upcoming UU world on my commissioning as a Second Lieutenant and an Army Chaplaincy Candidate, as well as the Great Lakes RTC Ministry Program which will be beginning at the end of this month.

The also included Rev. Lisa Presley, who is heading a committee to evaluate and re-draft how the UUA endorses and supports military chaplains.

So, it sounds to me that there will be two articles on UU's and the Military in the same issue of UU World...

What great news!

Yours in faith,