I was out of town when metro area Unitarian Universalist ministers began their online reaction to Lisa Miller’s March 22 “On Faith”column in The Washington Post. The headline assigned to her piece would have stopped just about anyone turning the pages on that Saturday morning: “Many Unitarians Would Prefer That Their Polyamory Activists Keep Quiet.” Whether you read her opinion or not - and especially if you were unfamiliar with Unitarian Universalism - your understanding of us might have been shaped in just the few seconds it took to absorb the announcement made by that ten word headline. One of my colleagues and two UU members from area congregations had their letters to the editor published the following week (WaPo, 3/30), but common wisdom is that letters of this sort never leave much of an impression on readers.Besides being poorly written and researched and - in several places - simply wrong, I’ve been wondering what the point of the column was. What was her goal? Was there purpose to her shoddy journalism? What was she trying to accomplish? This was the kind of opinion writing I expect from a Rupert Murdoch publication, not The Washington Post with whom I don’t always agree but generally maintains a reputation for good journalism. Yes, it was disappointing especially when there was so much more that could have been said about Unitarian Universalism that would have been accurate, provocative and stimulating! As I said, I was out of town when the column appeared and when the call went out for a response. But also, other things needed my attention. If I had not been consumed in my ministry with you, I might have written about one sentence in particular with which I took exception:
“The debate [over polyamory] makes the whole denomination look silly.” Silly as in “foolish, stupid, unintelligent, idiotic, brainless, mindless, witless, imbecilic, doltish, irresponsible, mad, erratic, unstable, childish, empty-headed, weak-minded, crazy, loopy, screwy ...” (Oxford Dictionary). You get the point. Our faith is silly? Here’s just one of the objections to her declaration: There is no debate, at least not one that I or any of my colleagues know about. I know of no UU congregation that is debating the issues of which she speaks. One of her sources is a six year old sermon given at the UU Fellowship in
That same week saw your ministers praying with and sharing healing words of affirmation and courage with 25 people who came forward during the Tuesday AWAKE service. On Thursday night, twenty UUCA members and friends concluded a four week conversation on “Life and Death,” in which the personal authenticity and vulnerability was moving beyond words. On Saturday evening, UUCA opened its doors for our annual Passover Seder, the traditional meal shared while remembering the liberation and exodus of Jews from political and spiritual oppression. This Saturday, we will host another memorial service for former church members whose fifty year old daughter succumbed to cancer after fighting it for several years. So you see, it was hard for me - and others of the Ministry Team - to get too worked up about Lisa Miller’s column suggesting we were “silly.” UUCA was deep into the ministry and meaning that shapes and sustains life.
If you detect a slight edge to my words, you’re right. I’ve grown quite tired of outsiders - and insiders, as in our own members and friends - whose misunderstanding of Unitarian Universalism leads them to conclusions and then utterances that are at best wrong and at worst offensive. My hope and prayer is to see the day when we no longer must endure the silly ignorance of the uninformed.
Take care and see you soon,