Reading some of the articles on the blog, you can sense some issues I have with a like minded group. Although Unitarian Universalists are in general supporters of Humanism, there have been problems on some issues. One example came up over the reaction to the invite of Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inaugural of President Obama in January. The other recent issue was in an article about the life sentence given to the killer who shot up a UU church in Knoxville in 2008.
My friend Derrick sent along the following:
Rev. Mark Belletini from First UU [in Columbus Ohio] wrote an editorial for this week’s Outlook newspaper. Here’s a link:
The thrust of the article comes in Belletini’s statement that “I was moved by Senator Obama’s leadership in asking [Rick Warren] to accept this honor” of “leading the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration” (Outlook Weekly, Feb 11, 2009, p. 15).
Nowhere does the article question whether it is appropriate to have prayers at an inauguration. Nowhere does the article question whether it’s appropriate to have someone like Rick Warren to represent our best hopes for change. Instead, the article is a collection of warm imagery, relativism, strawmen, red herrings, and excuse making on Warren’s behalf aimed at shaming anyone who might oppose Warren’s presence. (It’s difficult to politely convey how revolting I find Belletini’s comments to be.)
In contrast, Freethought Today announced on the cover of its Jan/Feb 2009 issue that FFRF has a “Challenge to Inaugural Religion Filed.” We are fortunate to have organizations like FFRF that are willing to reasonably face facts and stand in favor of our basic rights.
Derrick is right. There shouldn’t be prayers at a purely civic ceremony and in the article Belletini glosses over the bigorty espoused by Warren during the Prop 8 campaign. He says:
The Senator knew that this country is made up of people all kinds, including people, like Warren, with distorted and disastrous understanding of people like me. But this guy isn’t going to wake up one morning and suddenly be a pro-GLBT secularist. Picketing his church, writing him excoriating letters, chiding him for his prejudicial biblical interpretations may make me feel good, but its hardly appealing to this man’s humanity.
Rick Warren at the Inaugration? Milk Would Have Approved (Outlook Weekly, Feb 11, 2009, p. 15)
Sometimes people say or think something so vile they need to be called on it and shown their view has no place in a civil society. Inviting the guy to speak at such a prestigious event just ignores that fact.
We aren’t talking about a simple dispute on public policy but plain old fashioned BIGOTRY by people like Rick Warren. You don’t reward it or try to understand it. You freeze it out of the civic arena. You call those people out, shine a light on their hate speech, and make them feel bad for even considering it.
People who gloss those vile ideas over or ignore them give them strength and they will never go away.
There was another troubling thing involving Unitarian Universalists that I read about this past week.
In a liberal blog I read called Crooks and Liars they had an article about the murderer who shot two people at a UU church in Knoxville and how he admitted to the killings in order to rid this country of liberals. He was acting in response to the various hate books put out by Bernard Goldberg, Sean Hannity, and other right wing nut jobs.
In the beginning of the entry was this:
“Progressives around the country can breathe a little easier today: James Adkisson has been sentenced to life behind bars for the deaths of Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger, the Unitarian Universalist martyrs who died during his assault on their church in Knoxville, TN last July.”
“Three: The right wing has, as usual, grossly underestimated our courage and our commitment. The members of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist quickly and effectively disarmed and captured this man within seconds after he opened fire. Adkisson expected fear; what we got was determined resistance. It’s why he’s still alive today, and why more UUs aren’t dead by his hand. The TVUUA congregation should be our enduring example of liberal grace under fire.”
That is a bit of a stretch in my view. The victims were UUs and they were killed in a UU church but not because they were UU’s specifically but because they were associated with liberals and liberal causes.
Wikipedia has listed a few actual UU martyrs:
1529: Ludwig Haetzer – beheaded in Konstanz, Germany; believed Jesus was a leader and teacher, not a God due worship
1553: Michael Servetus – burned at the stake after a prison term because of writing a book criticizing biblical evidence for a Trinity.
1942: Norbert Capek – preached religious freedom (including Unitarianism). Was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, and later gassed to death at Hartheim Castle.
The difference is clear. The victims in Knoxville weren’t killed because they refused to renounce their beliefs, they were murdered for gallantly trying to disarm a deranged person.