Friday, September 22, 2006

Where CC draws the line between religious and political activities

Obviously, this line can be drawn lots of places.

As a general principle: If it’s about YOU doing something for someone else, it’s fine. If it about you trying to get the government to do something for someone else, it’s political. If you are educating people on an issue, the focus should be on what the people can do themselves, not what the people can force the government to do. And such education should not be a lay service.

Political Activities-- All of which are just fine if done as individuals. Please try not to do these as/within congregations or in the name of UUism. (e.g. Your banner that says "Unitarians for Peace" will not be nearly as effective as the same group marching with a banner that says something more like "Mainstream folks for peace.")

Handing out petitions at Coffee Hour

Speculating about what religious figures would think about politics today, especially from the pulpit

Organizing trips to protest marches or letter writing campaigns.

Donating money to political groups lobbying for specific legislation (yes, there are shades of gray here, but be reasonable. The Sierra Club does some lobbying but is probably fine. MoveOn does some charity work but we both know it isn't.)

Talking about specific legislation or candidates from the pulpit.

Forming a group so that the Unitarians can work on an political issue that dozens of other groups are already working on, almost always more effectively.

Spiritual Activities -These are fine

Preaching about general principles (taking care of the poor, the sanctity of freedom) without mentioning specific legislation or specific candidates.

Raising money to help people in need (or food, medicine, clothing, school supplies, it’s all fine.)

Building habitat homes

Educating people about what they can do to protect the environment and cleaning up a stream yourself.

Forming a group so the Unitarians can take care of some people in need who aren't being taken care of.

Recall Joel's story about how while the hippies protested that the government should clean up a certain stream, his ROTC guys went and cleaned up the stream.

Don't be the hippies in that story. Be the ROTC guys.



Anonymous said...

CC, if I may condense your point down, in the hopes that I understand it:

People helping people - usually okay

People helping movements - sometimes okay, depending on context

movements helping people - okay only if agenda-neutral

movements helping movements - politics as usual

I wish I could better articulate this in sentence form, but my brain is tired. I need to get my linguistic lobes back in shape.

LaReinaCobre said...

I can understand a lot of these things.

And maybe what I am thinking about has nothing to do with UUism, and doesn't have any translation within UUism. For example, are Muslims in a mosque acting spiritually or politically when they attempt to respond collectively to a piece of legislation that disproportionately negatively impacts them? Were black folks mixing church and state when they organized in churches to march against Jim Crow laws?

Maybe these things have no equivalents in UUism.

I am for moderation, and eliminating all things political from a religious congregation doesn't strike me as moderate.

Jamie Goodwin said...

I believe they do have equivalents in UUism.. and I think many issues out there fit in well with UUism.

My concern is much the same as CCs. To often we say but seldom do we do.

My other issue is not about the presentation of an issue from the pulpit.. that is fine from my point of view.. the issue is the assumption that anyone who is a good UU must agree with this issue, and that is a tough one.

I am doing a service in October about Fair Wage.. why? Because I believe in it, too many who live on my side of the tracks are working their literal lives away for pennies. To me it is unacceptable that so much of the wealth in our country is centered in too few people. Many of whom are making money on the backs of people who find it hard to feed their families.

We are not asking they all make a hunred billion dollars, but they are paid a real fair wage.

Now here is my problem, how do I present this in a way that respects those who may disagree and without the stipulation "we who are so well off" argument that I cannot stand. While at the same time trying to inspire people to actually do something about it.

Its not easy, when your passionate about an issue, and that is where many of us cross a line

Joel Monka said...

You might start by addressing the question of whether the fair wage would in fact help those who you are passionate about. I believe- and history shows- that it would actually make things worse, not better; I have written about this and can discuss it if you like by email. And this is the real secret of how you present an issue without disrespecting those who disagree- by understanding that they want to help just as badly as you do- they just think your methods are less effective than theirs.

Anonymous said...

Joel -- What history shows that? My impression is exactly the opposite: history shows that increasing wages stimulates the economy.

Joel Monka said...

Kim- it does provide a temporary stimulus for the economy, followed by a round of inflation, and the permanent loss of jobs. There are entire classes of jobs that no longer exist because of minimum wage laws. When the round of inflation levels off, the cost of living will have increased to at least the level of the new minimum wage, and usually beyond, leaving them worse off than before- in addition to those jobs that were permanently erased.

Anonymous said...

But were all of the ROTC guys there the next time a stream needed cleaning?

People protest to have the government do things because that institutionalizes responsibility. Unless the ROTC guys said that they were going to keep cleaning streams, come hell or high water, I'm not going to say that the "hippies" were wrong to lobby the government to take the responsibility.