Monday, April 17, 2006

Somebody's Listening, But Keep Talking!

Our very own Navy UU Chaplain Cynthia Kane recently e-mailed the higher echelons of the UUA (President Bill Sinkford and Moderator Gini Courter) about our recent challenges, as well as some of hers. In part, she wrote:
Transitioning back [from deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba] has been quite a challenge, mostly from fellow UUs who've taken issue with the fact that I was there & also that I am not joining the UUSC "Stop the Torture" campaign. I was the guest speaker at the Pacific Northwest District annual meeting, which proved to be quite controversial...and regrettably my message was overshadowed by presence in uniform & in GTMO... Another example of our continued need to educate our comrades in faith and help them make our congregations more welcoming.
Sound familiar? Anyway, she got this reply from Gini Courter...
I've been thinking on this for a long time. I'm frustrated, too. I keep remembering when the images of two uniformed military folks (I think one was you!) were shown on the "big screen" during the GA closing last year. The applause was loud and sustained. I believe that the "center" of Unitarian Universalism is proud and supportive of our UU members of the military, but they don't get (create?) the same air time that the anti-military (usually presented as pro-peace or anti-war) folks get. I'll continue to be mindful and be more vocal.
... and this from Bill Sinkford:
This breaks my heart. I know how how hard it is to feel that you are not welcome in the religious place that you know is your home. You are living in that space which people of color know so well.

I promise to continue to raise this issue with our congregations as I have been doing in my preaching. It is a central spiritual issue for our religious community. Whether it be people in the military, Republicans, working class folks...anyone who doesn't fit the predominant demographic...we need to take to heart the words of the hymn, "Come, come, whoever you are." Its not just a nice tune.
Rev Sinkford's comment about inclusion really hits the nail on the head. It mirrors what I have noticed about the "selective acceptance" among UUs of those who are "not like us" - especially political conservatives and military members.

His reference to "that space which people of color know so well" is particularly compelling. It certainly puts things in a different perspective if you think about how most UUs (warning: huge generalization coming) would rather die than express any kind of anti-minority sentiment. But how many people of color are in our pews on Sunday morning? How many military?

Maybe we UUs need to learn to see ALL colors as "us," including khaki and camouflage.


Bill Baar said...

A good start, which has nothing to do with the Military by the way, would have been if Rev. Sinkford could have avoided ,this comment,

"We are also called to acknowledge that racism has blinded most Americans [my emphasis] to what takes place in our own kitchens, workshops, and fields. For our nation to be whole, we must acknowledge that our lives of privilege are supported in thousands of ways by people whose labor is invisible and whose suffering is hidden."

I alone can be of many minds on this issue depending on the moment; and people of goodwill can be on many sides.

It's just not good to demonize folks we disagree with on so many political issues, and I wish someone would get the message accross to the man.

Vince Patton said...

Most certainly we MUST continue on...

This actually is the first time in about 30+ years that I've been trying to get someone in UUA to even remotely pay some attention to military issues. It's been quite disheartening over the years, especially given the fact that we have a significant number of flag and general officers, as well as senior enlisteds within our membership. And should I mention that we have two former Secretaries of DOD?

Most importantly, the membership of UUA is not well informed of the fact that the military chaplains' corps (which the Navy first started) was run primarily by Unitarian ministers. So whether they like it or not, this is a part of our faith's history -- and they must pay some attention to the needs of UU military members.

Peace to you all!


Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the Beacon Curriculum Disagreements That (Which?) Unite Us? Maintaining a sense of civility is an ongoing problem brought up in antiquity. It's easy to be open and accepting when one agrees; it is in opposition that we must learn to practice civilty. Our churches should now be considering the problems of armed conflict from the point of view of the combatant as well as the civilian. The American and, indeed, world, literary tradition is rich with examples.