Another fight in reddit over Rev. Todd Eklof’s publicity stunt of 2019

For some background, read these earlier blog entries:

https://dalehusband.com/2019/07/12/reopening-old-wounds-among-unitarian-universalists/

https://dalehusband.com/2020/02/25/a-debate-in-the-uu-subreddit-over-the-2017-hiring-controversy/

https://dalehusband.com/2020/07/19/another-call-for-unitarian-universalists-to-stop-fighting-for-consistent-racial-justice/

In reddit, my primary focus has always been debunking and opposing the Baha’i Faith, but I am also dedicated to promoting Unitarian Universalism, despite issues like that above. The occasional hypocrisy that crops up among UUs, unlike that other religion, is not a direct product of its contradictory teachings.

In a UU subreddit, I decided to ask a simple question.

For the most part, the responses were appropriate and productive to the discussion. But then someone decided to drop a rhetorical bomb into the place.

https://www.removeddit.com/r/UnitarianUniversalist/comments/im9845/question_if_unitarian_universalism_didnt_exist/

harrietwhimsey
I’m about to find out. I discovered the details about what happened at GA last year and I feel so sick about how the UUA and its kin organizations acted that I can’t stay – after 40 years. I don’t know where I’ll go.

I immediately suspected what she was referring to, but I decided to play ignorant to get her to open up and thus give me an opportunity to discredit her.

Seeker_Alpha1701

What do you mean? What happened?

Unfortunately, her subsequent comments were not preserved at all so I will have to make do with what I quoted from her in my own comments.

 
Thanks for explaining. I had a feeling you were referring to that.

Personally, I find the expectation of a self-confession of complicity in racism to be degrading and contrary to the first principle which is the inherent dignity and worth of every person. I object to post-modernism in general, and find it very creepy to see it used, in violation of UU princples and history, to degrade people, silence people, and choke the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. In my UU lifetime, we have NEVER been told what to believe and now we are.

I honestly don’t see it the way you do. The discomfort you feel about it is nothing compared to how people of color have been made to feel all their lives.

He’s done anti-racism work his entire career

No, he hasn’t. He used to be a Southern Baptist minister and that denomination was founded on racism in 1845 and its leaders opposed the civil rights movement in the 1960s. I myself used to be a Southern Baptist too, so I know its history and ideology all too well. And even some UUs are STILL racist in their views. My ex-wife is a sad example. She joined the UU church I did after we married, but she never abandoned her Baptist views or her racism, as I found out later. Doing anti-racist work is meaningless if you aren’t willing to admit as a white person that you DID benefit indirectly from past racism. If you fight to make blacks have about 80% of the social power of whites when previously they were at only 20%, and refuse to go the remaining 20% that is left, you are still part of the problem. The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency, a whole generation after the 1960s, shows the civil rights movement failed. It failed because most white Americans deluded themselves into thinking they had done enough.

This was a response to that incident.

Eklof wasn’t punished merely for writing a dissenting book. That was absolutely his right. However:

Reopening Old Wounds Among Unitarian Universalists

With the election of a new President of the UUA at the 2017 General Assembly (GA), it seemed like we could start to move forward to heal the racial divisions. But then came the GA of June 2019, which was held at Spokane, Washington. Imagine the shock among the attendees when the minister of the UU church at that city, Rev. Dr. Todd F. Eklof,  backstabbed the rest of them with a book he had written and was trying to distribute at the GA without prior notice. This book, titled The Gadfly Papers: Three Inconvenient Essays by One Pesky Minister, attacked all the efforts to solve the racial problems, angering many non-white UUs. When the UUA leadership tried to talk to Eklof about what he was doing, he refused to meet with them, putting them in the awkward position of expelling him from the GA itself! (Emphasis mine)

The betrayal was felt so strongly because Eklof’s congregation was supposed to be HOSTING the General Assembly, which was expected to continue dealing in unity with racial issues. Eklof’s stunt would be like me as a known critic of the Baha’i Faith invited to a meeting of mostly Muslim people and after arriving instead of giving a speech criticizing that Faith, attempting to give attendees there copies of this:

Contradictions of orthodox Islam

No, I wouldn’t do that! That would only get my @$$ thrown out of there. You can’t force people to listen to a message they didn’t expect to hear and are not receptive to. Eklof should have known better!

People of color were tired, after all the decades of the UUA giving lip service to anti-racist views, of it sliding back time and again to the “good old boy” attitude of favoring white men for leadership roles and positions, even while being willing to elect a person of color to the UUA Presidency. Window dressing for the sake of appearance simply wasn’t enough.

To understand this, imagine what it must have been like when Vanessa Williams became the first African-American woman to win the title of Miss America…..only to have that title taken from her a few months later because of a manufactured scandal resulting from her appearing in a few nude photos (that were NEVER supposed to be published) long before she entered the Miss America contest. She was set up to be humiliated by racists who still ran the Miss America pageant. Today, there is no such stigma and black women routinely compete in, and win, such beauty pageants. So progress has been made against racism……but Vanessa Williams was still humiliated by what was done to her. It was wrong and recently even the Miss America pageant organizers have apologized and admitted they treated her badly.

What happened in the UUA with a white male minister, who didn’t even live in the district he was appointed to be leader of, should ABSOLUTELY have gotten the leaders involved in the hiring practices FIRED for not doing the right thing. Now perhaps Rev. Peter Morales shouldn’t have resigned from the UUA Presidency, but he wasn’t helping matters either. Despite being hispanic, he had totally fallen into the white dominated pattern of thinking we really should have abandoned in the 1960s.

logic has been used to oppress people of color in the past. In other words, logic itself is now politically incorrect.

Not exactly correct. Logic without empathy and ethical consistency is what’s wrong. I refer you to the classic Transformers character Shockwave, who is obsessed with logic……but is still evil and hungry for power. Logic alone solves nothing.

Eklof criticized the complete lack of evidence that this strategy actually helps reduce racism (as its predecessor failed 20 years ago)

So what would have been a better solution? Did he offer one? Because the status quo before 2017 was no longer acceptable. If we failed in the past, does that mean we should GIVE UP and just accept white supremacy forever?

there was an Open Letter signed by several hundred UU ministers who could not possibly have read the book yet

It wasn’t really about the book, but about Eklof trying to ram it down everyone’s throats at the GA, without any prior notice. Had he not been stopped, by the end of the GA there would have been a massive uproar right then and there that would have ruined it for everyone.

Sometimes you have to cut off a finger to save a hand.

_________________

I don’t see the point of shaming the man who told me I wasn’t being hired because I’m a woman, much less shaming and degrading EVERY man.

I don’t feel “shamed” or “degraded” by what happened in the UUA after 2017. If you do, that says more about your feelings than about the actual principles involved.

Eklof did offer alternatives in his book.

What were they? Whatever they were, they clearly didn’t seem acceptable to people of color that were involved. So they were not going to work.

Honestly – these people would slam MLK. I’m just waiting to hear that he was a sellout.

Why, because he was a Baptist minister and not a UU? No one in the UUA has said you have to be a UU to do anti-racist work. Methinks you engage in hyperbole. Stop that.

The truth is that most of us, I believe, agree with Eklof, and are voiceless, just as he has been made voiceless.

LOL! Isn’t he still minister at the Spokane, WA UU church?

https://uuspokane.org/WP2/our-church/our-minister-and-staff/

And he is perfectly free to continue selling his book on Amazon and to offer it to anyone. And to blog and argue with others on Facebook, reddit and other online communities. And to write letters to the editor of his local newspaper. VOICELESS?! You don’t know what that means!

So where are all these “most of us”? I haven’t heard from any of them among the UUs in the churches I have attended in Fort Worth, Texas. I think you are mistaken. You assume because you have such strong views as a white person that most other white UUs MUST somehow agree with you. I’m white too, actually.

As I just noted, no one was “silenced”. You exaggerate. He just wasn’t allowed to disrupt the 2019 GA. He could have invited a member of those he disagreed with to have a debate with him in his church before the GA was over. Instead, he made a sneak attack.

Being surprised at someone’s point of view and actions is no excuse for silencing someone. And they were acting viciously, long after they had plenty of time to get used to the fact that he didn’t agree with them.

And cutting of a finger to save a hand is the most repulsive, immoral thing I’ve ever heard from a UU. It violates the very essence of who we are – and of common decency and humanity.

Those are your OPINIONS. Stop confusing them with absolute principles that all UUs must follow.

__________________

I directly confronted Mel Pine, a former UU who sided with Rev. Eklof and left the UUA over the controversy, in Facebook with these statements:

It is unfortunate that people like Mel Pine and Rev. Todd Eklof are too attached to the past to evolve with the rest of the UUs that are trying to make a real difference for the future.

Just because you say you are not racist doesn’t mean you are pure hearted. There is NO excuse for tolerating, let alone defending, the past status quo if it leaves certain people at a disadvantage compared to whites, to men, to Christians, to English speakers, to natural born Americans, to straight and cisgender people or to the massively wealthy. I expect such ignorance among Republicans and whites in general; I was actually shocked to find it among my fellow UUs in the spring of 2017. And I really have had enough of it.

The reality is….you [Mel Pine] were not silenced. You LEFT the UUA, by your own admission. You can still post things here and on your blogs. You can do whatever the hell you like. You have NO CLUE how it really feels to be arrested, jailed, fined, tortured, exiled by a government for your opinions. You are NOT anyone’s victim. No one here is. You failed to adapt to changing cultural and moral patterns in the UUA and when others objected to you, your response was to double down on the arrogance instead of listening. As a white person….and even a former Southern Baptist, I have learned to listen to the truth…..and to change. Will you someday?

I later discovered that harrietwhimsey had deleted all her own comments there. Was this because I somehow convinced her that her views on the matter were wrong? Unlikely, because in that case I would have expected her to contact me directly and apologize, as I myself did willingly when I was proven wrong about a serious moral issue.

Her deleting her comments like that was an act of cowardice. Of course, it would have been far worse had one of the moderators deleted them instead, because they would have only reinforced in her mind the tendency of UUs to show intolerance for dissenting views.

Plus, because she was not directly involved in the case we were debating, I was actually quite gentle with her, Had this been with Rev. Todd Eklof himself, I would have been a HELL OF A LOT HARSHER in my tone, because in my mind, he is damned TRAITOR to what we as UUs are supposed to stand for! Why the hell did he even leave the Southern Baptists and join the UUs?

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