Saturday, March 03, 2007

CC responds to the LT

On a post on the CRAP on Sundays blog, the Lively Tradition has an interesting comment on conservatives in UU churches.

He writes:

If you want UU's to be apolitical, that's OK. One way to reduce the amount of politics in our common life is to refrain from taking up political arguments.
If you want UU's to be pro-business conservatives, that's OK, too. Speak up and join in.
But you can't argue both positions. Conservatives in the UUA have been doing that for years -- arguing for an apolitical other-wordly church, one that exists only "to provide comfort and happiness to its members" when really, they just disagree with the majority's politics. As a strategy, it hasn't worked, mostly because it is so transparent



Ummm... Wow.

First off, Conservatives are not alone in arguing both sides. How many times have you heard the basic "Religion should be kept out of the schools, except, you know, when we want OUR version of sex ED taught" or "On this Sunday before Election Day, there are a lot of churches where there is campaigning going on. Not here, because we don't believe in preaching from the pulpit. Which isn't to say that there isn't one party that cares about the poor and another party that's full of greedy, evil bastards, because we all know there is..."

God knows I've heard both sentiments, albeit expressed more subtly, enough times.

And by the way, keeping silent doesn't work. People genuinely do not get that, say, passing out bumperstickers that say "W is for War" in YRUU is not cool until it is pointed out to them.

People don't understand that crowing about election results in Joys and Concerns isn't cool until a family stands up in the middle of Joys and Concerns and walks out.

The irony is, I'm not particularly conservative by any but UU standards. I didn't vote for Bush and find nothing to admire in him, though I don't have the urge to express my distate in button form on the jacket I wear to church.

When a Republican kid quits youth group because he or she doesn't feel accepted, people finally start to consider these issues.

But not before.

Personally, I usually don't argue the conservative side because I don't believe in it. But sometimes you have to.

Observe:

Liberal at coffee hour: And those EVIL CONSERVATIVES are going to cut Head Start!
Me: Ummm... Could we possibly not talk politics at Church?
Liberal at coffee hour: But cutting headstart is a religious issue! Just like the new highway they're going to build that might kill some bunnies! And tax cuts for the wealthy... and the filibuster... and... and... and...

Liberal at coffee hour: And those EVIL CONSERVATIVES are going to cut Head Start!
Me: You do know that studies have shown that Headstart doesn't really work. Even if you send a kid to the best nursury school in the world, after a few years in the crappy elementary school, they test just like the other kids. I breifly dated a psychologist who was working on the issue. They call it the "fade-out effect." So maybe we should be cutting headstart and putting the money toward a program that demonstrably works better, like lowering class sizes for older kids.
Liberal at Coffee hour: Oooh, snap. My bad.

Ok, it doesn't usually work that cleanly. But my own experience is that politely requesting that we not talk politics in church only makes people declare that their pet issue is religious and go back to talking about it wiht even more self-righteous vigor.

Showing that reasonable people can be on both sides of the issue, is, in my opinion, the properly UU approach*.

And every once in awhile, it actually shuts somebody up.

CC

*I do this more in YRUU in other places. Some of these kids genuinely have never considered that a reasonable person could be pro-life or that one might want to run a major corporation for any reason other than sadism and greed.

10 comments:

kim said...

Is sex-ed religion?

Steve Caldwell said...

CC wrote:
-snip-
"First off, Conservatives are not alone in arguing both sides. How many times have you heard the basic 'Religion should be kept out of the schools, except, you know, when we want OUR version of sex ED taught'"

CC,

By "our version" of sexuality education, I'm assuming that you're talking about the sexuality education as it currently happens in Unitarian Universalist or United Church of Christ congregations.

As an Our Whole Lives curriculum trainer, I would not want our sexuality education that we offer in our churches to be taught in public schools.

This is due to church-state separation and First Amendment concerns. The program that we provide in UU or UCC congregations is explicitly religious because we combine the basic OWL curriculum with explicitly religious materials from the "Sexuality and Our Faith" curriculum supplement. The faith-based supplement is what make sex-ed a religious education program (which answers Kim's question).

However, I would be in favor of public schools using the Our Whole Lives curriculum without the faith supplement.

When OWL is taught without the faith materials, one has one of the best available sexuality education programs available.

The Our Wholes Lives program was created using the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Grades K through 12 that were developed by American Medical Association, the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Education Association, the American Social Health Association, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the National School Boards Association, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. You can read the guidelines in their entirety here:

http://www.siecus.org/pubs/guidelines/guidelines.pdf

Keep in mind that the OWL program and other comprehensive programs are factually accurate and cover the information that medical, educational, and public health leaders think should be covered.

This is an approach to sexuality that is grounded in reality and has proved very effective in Europe. The Western European nations have much lower teen pregnancy rates, teen abortion rates, and teen STD rates. The comparison between the comprehensive medically-accurate approach vs. the medically-inaccurate abstinence-only approach can be found online here:

http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/factsheet/fsest.htm

So I'm OK with keeping religion out of public schools and also providing secular medically accurate comprehensive programs like OWL in our public schools.

This is entirely consistent with the principle of church-state separation and would pragmatically offers better public health outcomes (based on the experience of our European neighbors). This isn't an example of "arguing both positions" that you suggested above.

Chalicechick said...

I like comphrehensive sex-ed.

Said it before, will say it again.

I just don't think it is a religion's place to be pushing the public schools to teach what we want and I think we are crazy, crazy hypocritical to be so offended when other religions push things live creation science and non-comprehensive sex ed.

Again, for me it's about the principal, not about redefining one's own pet issues as "religious issues" to give people carte blanche to campaign on things.

UUs are free too lobby for this as individuals. My county has had comprehensive sex ed forever or I wouldn't be averse to writing letters myself, I just don't think it's a stand UUs should take as a faith or spend UUA dollars on.

Oh and Kim,

Is creation science religion?

Not really, but it is pushed by religions who consider it a religious issue.

Chalicechick said...

OK, clearly, I should have phrased that sentence more like:

"A religion has absolutely no place trying to dictate or lobby for what they believe should be taught in the public schools--unless we're doing it."

Now that we've all had fun nitpicking that one sentence, would anyone like to respond to the entire post?

CC

Steve Caldwell said...

CC wrote:
-snip-
"I just don't think it is a religion's place to be pushing the public schools to teach what we want and I think we are crazy, crazy hypocritical to be so offended when other religions push things live creation science and non-comprehensive sex ed.

CC,

The difference here the UU, UCC, and other liberal faith groups are asking for same type of sexuality education that the secular medical community endorses -- medically accurate information that addresses the needs of the participants.

That may be a "liberal" view, but one needs to remember Stephen Colbert's observation -- "Reality has a well-known liberal bias." Health class should teach facts and not ideology. The same goes for biology class.

Truth (medically accurate and scientifically accurate information) is not morally equivalent with mistruth like "condoms don't work."

-snip-
"Again, for me it's about the principal, not about redefining one's own pet issues as "religious issues" to give people carte blanche to campaign on things."

The "defining" of comprehensive sexuality education as a religious issue for Unitarian Universalists was not a matter of a few individuals "deciding" that this issue was a religious issue for our association of congregations.

This matter was decided through a democratic (and admittedly imperfect) General Assembly business process.

All of this advocacy work is grounded in the work of volunteers at GA who create and enact the resolutions that provide the religious grounding for our social justice work. I have yet to see our UUA folks do advocacy work that isn't supported by the votes and voices of congregational representatives.

Should the UUA staff ignore the votes and voices of our congregational representatives? That doesn't sound very fair or very democratic to me.

-snip-
"UUs are free too lobby for this as individuals."

The resolutions on this topic are very aware of individual freedom and congregational polity. The difference is that our GA votes encourage but don't demand support on an issue like comprehensive sexuality education.

-snip-
"My county has had comprehensive sex ed forever or I wouldn't be averse to writing letters myself"

Actually, Fairfax County hasn't had comprehensive sexuality education "forever." I grew up in Fairfax County (Rolling Valley Elementary from 1969-1971, Washington Irving Middle School from 1971-1973, and West Springfield High School from 1973-1977).

We didn't have a fully comprehensive program like OWL or the earlier "About Your Sexuality" taught in the schools. If something like OWL is now available in Fairfax County, that's great.

However, that really isn't the issue here. Currently, the US government provides funding for only one type of sexuality education -- abstinence only until marriage education. Even if the state law allows for other comprehensive education options, the federal government only funds one type of education.

The Responsible Education About Life Act (REAL) (H.R. 2553 & S. 368) will provide funding to states for medically accurate, age appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education in public schools that includes information about both abstinence and contraception, from both a values and public health perspective.

The REAL Act, if passed, will award funding ($206 million a year) to states for medically accurate, age appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education. The House bill, H.R. 2553, was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-9) and currently has 135 co-sponsors. The bi-partisan Senate bill, S.368, was introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and has 10 co-sponsors.

This will allow states and communities to make decisions without selective funding of one side to distort the decision-making process.

And the lobbying of citizens in progressive areas like your county will help folks who live in places like Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas.

-snip-
"I just don't think it's a stand UUs should take as a faith or spend UUA dollars on."

So how would you suggest that we revise or reverse the decisions of prior General Assemblies that support this work?

I suspect that a majority of our co-religionists are OK with this lobbying and advocacy support work.

If we respect the democratic process, how do you propose making the changes that you want to happen?

Comrade Kevin said...

I remember at GA one year there was a very small subset of GOP Unitarians. Talk about a minority within a minority.

The problem is that our faith, as currently defined, is certainly liberal. We could draw in members of the moderate right so long as we could keep in check our own political musings. But liberal activist politics and Unitarian Universalism, as currently defined, are one in the same. They are synonymous.

And the problem is that each region of the country, if I daresay, each church has a unique and different flavor to it. We are a loose confederation of like-minded individuals, most of which probably identify as Democratic.

The Republican in the Northeast is far different from the Republican in the South. The Republican in the West is far different from the Republican in the Midwest.

Until we can come up with something more uniform and network ourselves together, we are doomed to be our own little private (primarily) blue oasis. Each church is like its own city state. We are not united. We are loosely affiliated with a central organization.

And if you separate politics from it all, then what are we? Or what are we not, shall I say?

LT said...

CC --
I think that the principle that ought guide us is not a bogus argument that the church ought to be an apolitical oasis where news of the outside world never disturbs our meditations, but respect for the opinions and feelings of others.
Certainly there are liberals who express their point of view with a presumption that no one within earshot would ever disagree with them. They should be reminded by one and all that "not every agrees." Perhaps some dialogue might happen.
But to argue that they didn't have the right to express their opinion because "this is the church and church and politics don't mix" narrows the life of the church.
As more and more things become politically charged in a polarized environment, the "no politics in church position" makes the church irrelevant to the most pressing concerns of the people.

Republicans and Conservatives will have to engage in the political discussion in the church, insist on being treated with respect, but cannot close down the discussion as being not legitimately part of the life of the church.

There are no neutral corners anymore. I think that is just the reality of this society right now, whether we like it or not.

kim said...

I think we are crazy, crazy hypocritical to be so offended when other religions push things live creation science and non-comprehensive sex ed.

So, do you think that we should retire from the field and let the right-wing religions dictate what is taught in our schools without a fight because we mustn't dirty our hands with such things? Is that what you are saying?
I would say if we stand up and say we don't want churches to dictate what is taught for sexuality education in schools, we want what American Medical Association, the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Education Association, the American Social Health Association, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the National School Boards Association, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States thinks we should teach in our public schools -- then what we are defending and recommending is not "our version" but separation of church and state. I think we have a right to defend separation of church and state. and, yes, we did pass a resolution at GA one year against Churches being tax exempt. It was a long time ago.

Chalicechick said...

(((So, do you think that we should retire from the field and let the right-wing religions dictate what is taught in our schools without a fight because we mustn't dirty our hands with such things? Is that what you are saying?))))}

Not really.

First off, the most effective way to fight this fight is on an extremely local level. In my church, this is done by a small committee of teachers and retried teachers who serve on school board advisory committees and such. One of these people is a YRUU leader, which is how I know they do since they do it representing themselves as teachers rather than representing UUism as one more religion that has decided they should be dictating what is best.

Secondly, it's not like we're the only ones fighting this battle, and as usual, the non-religious groups better funded and are more effective at it. Why UUism must have a tiny, inferior copy of every issue-based organization in liberal politics is something I will never understand.

Thirdly, I'd say strategically our most effective approach is to stop trying to imitate the tactics of conservatives on a thousand little battles and losing every one of them because the conservatives are better at those tactics. We could then fight the overall war by taking a firm stand for the separation of church and state and not sound like hypocrites when we did that.

A church that is truly non-hypocritical on that issue might actually attract some new members who feel religion is full of hypocrites, not that UUism is ever particularly short of those.

CC

Will said...

LT comments that, "There are no neutral corners anymore. I think that is just the reality of this society right now, whether we like it or not."

I can't disagree more if you consider apathetic, apolitical, or discouraged people to be in the neutral corner. In the political realm, neutral people don't vote. At church, neutral visitors don't come back and members withhold participation either with their time or treasure.