A Conversion to Unitarian Universalism

Before you read this, read my earlier critique of A Conversion to Mormonism.

Now I will share a story about becoming a Unitarian Universalist (UU).

https://www.uuworld.org/articles/search-truth-meaning

A search for truth and meaning

I would not be the kind of person I am today if I hadn’t kept searching.

Aneesa Shaikh | 6/1/2019 | Summer 2019

I discovered Unitarian Universalism around age 13, after a long and unsatisfying search for a spiritual community that matched what I felt I needed. I was newly separated from the faith I was born into and had never been more confused about what I believed.

My parents met at Baylor University, my mom a first-generation college student from a very poor Missouri family and my dad a first-generation immigrant who had just arrived in the United States after growing up in India and spending a few years in Nigeria. They were an unlikely match. My mom was raised Southern Baptist and my dad Muslim, further adding to their differences. When they got engaged, my mom converted to Islam so she could marry my dad. She had always been a religious woman and found herself quite liking the community that came with the Muslim faith, and once my sister and I were born, it seemed a given that we would be raised as Muslims. And so we were, and I have many fond memories of Ramadans, Eids, and Jum’ahs from the first thirteen years of my life. I never really had any problems with the principles of the faith or their manifestation in my life and in fact felt very connected to the Five Pillars of Islam and was proud of my faith.

A common feature about converts to Unitarian Universalism is that they come from families that are already interfaith (or at least the parents come from different religious backgrounds) and thus are already open-minded about religion even before they come to a UU church. I was raised a Southern Baptist too, BTW.

But at some point shortly after my maternal grandmother passed away, I started to question whether or not I believed in God, and I knew I needed to look within a bit more. I slowly started to accept that the belief in God was so central to Islam that I didn’t feel I could continue to practice it anymore. I told my father, who was understandably upset to hear his 13-year-old daughter make such a decision. Things were awkward between us for a short while, but at some point he came to me with words I’ll never forget: “Aneesa, I realize that in this situation, I can either be angry that my daughter has made a choice I likely won’t be able to change, or I can be proud that I’ve raised a daughter strong enough to think for herself and make her own choices.” Both my parents ended up supporting me in this journey, and I am eternally grateful for their willingness to let me search freely and responsibly for truth and meaning.

Assuming my theory about “spiritual orientation” is accurate, it is clear that hers was NOT Muslim at all and instead she needed to find a different religion to fit her needs. But if she had lived in a theocratic state like Saudi Arabia or Iran, she might have been given no choice in the matter. Indeed, in some Islamic states, leaving Islam can merit the DEATH penalty!

So began my journey to find something that suited me better. I went with a friend to her synagogue but didn’t quite find what I was looking for. I went to different churches with a few other friends but couldn’t quite get behind that either. I read about Buddhism, the Bahá’í faith, United Methodism, and almost everything in between. But nothing felt right.

The reference to the Baha’i Faith leaped out at me, for obvious reasons. I’d love to contact her and find out in more detail her impressions about it.

One day, while surfing the web in a last-ditch effort to find something I felt connected to, I haphazardly Googled “liberal faith community Bellevue, WA,” and stumbled upon a blog post about Unitarian Universalism. The author was reflecting on their first experience at a Unitarian Universalist congregation, and their description of the community seemed exactly what I’d been looking for. I found a UU church just a few minutes from my home and decided to check it out the next Sunday. One of my parents dropped me off, and I went in by myself. I was greeted immediately by a somewhat confused-looking member of the congregation who was wondering who I was and why I was there all alone. She asked me what I was looking for, and I said, fully expecting to be met with a weird look, “Well, I’m kind of Muslim, kind of atheist, and really confused, so . . . I guess I don’t really know what I’m looking for.” To my complete surprise, she put her arm around me, smiled, led me into the sanctuary, and said, “I think this is just the place for you.”

Can we bury forever the assumption that children below a certain age are incapable of making decisions on their own about things like religion or politics? Chances are that if she had entered a more conservative church, she might have been forced to deal with the police and then Child Protective Services. Only because she went to an UU church where children are clearly expected to think for themselves from the start was this teenage girl treated with the respect she deserved.

It was, indeed, just the place for me. I kept going back every week after that, and eventually roped my sister into joining me. She liked it, too, so we started going together, and at some point my mom joined us. One Sunday, timidly, my dad joined us as well and found himself enjoying it. Within about a year, the whole family was going, and I think it was a really good thing for us. We still keep Islam very close to our hearts, and it will always be a part of our mixed-up, complex family culture. But we are all very different people, and Unitarian Universalism gave us the freedom we all needed to develop our deeper beliefs and figure out what worked for us as individuals. It significantly changed the way I live my life. It made me more mindful and reflective, taught me to think more inclusively about the big picture, and opened doors to otherwise inaccessible opportunities.

I was recently shocked to learn that there were Islamophobes among UUs trying to drive a wedge between UUs and Muslims. I don’t think any of us should be tolerating those stunts after reading this story about people from a Muslim background becoming UUs.

One of these was Thrive, the UUA’s youth and young adults of color multicultural leadership school, which taught me about cross-cultural leadership and opened my eyes to several new aspects of my own identity. I co-led a workshop at the 2014 General Assembly in Providence, Rhode Island; have given several mini-sermons; and have a huge, incredible network of friends, mentors, and teachers within the UU community. I have also been forced to confront the reality that no institution is exempt from institutionalized systems of oppression. It was disillusioning at first to realize that even within something as seemingly perfect as Unitarian Universalism, white supremacy and other oppressive structures are not only present but prevalent. But this understanding has enabled me to more holistically work toward justice and liberation in all aspects of my life.

In a cult like the Baha’i Faith, criticism of the leadership would be forbidden and the critics would be expelled. No one has been expelled from the UUA as a result of controversies over racism or transgender issues that have cropped up recently. Instead, we work out those issues, openly and with an genuine effort to find inclusive solutions. And the leaders themselves openly admit to being wrong occasionally. Censoring dirty laundry is never good because it then never gets washed.

I wear a chalice necklace every day to center me and remind myself of what is important. I think often about how different my life would have been had I not discovered Unitarian Universalism, and I always find myself thinking that I would not be the kind of person I am today if I hadn’t kept searching until I found what felt right. Unitarian Universalism has truly changed my life and continues to do so—it challenges me, frustrates me, teaches me, informs me, calms me, and transforms me in ways I never expected.

I salute this beautiful young lady for her courage, intelligence, and dedication. I hope this story gets shared everywhere!

Aneesa Shaikh

Aneesa Shaikh

 

A Critical Mistake in the UU World

The UU World is the official magazine of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), the religious organization I belong to. About two years ago, a controversy erupted over the embarrassing fact that despite its stated commitment to racial diversity, the UUA was far too white dominated and people of color were being passed over for positions in it that they were indeed qualified for. When this became too obvious to ignore, it forced President Peter Morales to resign.

Now, two years after that blew over, another problem has emerged: the disrespecting of transgender people by the magazine itself!

It started with this article published in it:

https://www.uuworld.org/articles/after-l-g-b

From a mainstream American point of view, it seems like a progressive article about advocating for the rights and dignity of transgender people. But from the point of view of transgender people themselves, it was a complete FAILURE! Reason: the article was written from a strictly cisgender perspective, which is as pointless as writing an article about blacks only from a white person’s point of view, instead of allowing the blacks to speak for themselves.

https://transuu.org/2019/03/06/putting-the-t-first/

Putting the “T” First: Public Statement on This Week’s UU World Article

Nothing We Do Will Be Perfect. The irony of the cover of the print issue of the spring 2019 UU World has not been lost on the membership of TRUUsT and our greater trans* community.

The UU World’s article titled “After L, G, and B” frames the trans experience by centering a white, heterosexual, cisgender woman’s experience. By doing so, it reduces trans people to objects—something that happens far too often in society and in our UU communities. The use of harmful slurs, the conflation of intersex and trans experience, and a repeated focus on surgery, hormones, and pronouns perpetuates stereotypes around trans experiences that devalues the gifts we have to bring to the world and Unitarian Universalism.

The impact of this article will have long-lasting effects. While the UU World has a vital role in communicating issues of importance to Unitarian Universalists around the world, often representing the leading edge and the best in our UU faith, it is that trust and faith in this magazine which makes this article all the more harmful. Well-meaning people who have no other known relationship to or interaction with trans lives will now believe that these words and actions are acceptable. They are not!

Soon after that was published, the UU World editors themselves admitted their mistake.

https://www.uuworld.org/articles/apology-spring-2019

Our story hurt people

Acknowledging that we have fallen short, UU World is committed to sharing in appropriate and respectful ways the inspiring and powerful stories of trans and gender nonbinary people within our faith community.

Christopher L. Walton | 3/6/2019 | Spring 2019
The “Progress Pride Flag” by Daniel Quasar adds new stripes to acknowledge the push for full inclusion by transgender people (with the white, pink, and light blue stripes) and people of color (with brown and black stripes).

Transgender and gender nonbinary leaders in the Unitarian Universalist movement, along with their allies and other UUs, are expressing alarm and sharing their pain at reading an essay in the Spring 2019 issue of UU World, “After L, G, and B” by contributing editor Kimberly French. I am profoundly saddened and deeply sorry to have caused pain to people who matter to me and whose dignity and worth I had thought we were promoting with the piece. As the magazine’s editor, I was wrong to decide to publish this essay and I apologize for the pain it has caused.

In consultation with the steering committee of TRUUsT (Transgender Religious professional UUs Together, an organization of trans leaders), we are keeping the essay on our website rather than taking it down, but are adding a preface that points to and quotes from this apology. My apology will appear in the original essay’s place in the online Table of Contents.

Many have asked why we published this article. My intent was to model, through a personal essay about one family’s experience, ways for the majority of our readers to engage respectfully with trans and nonbinary people; the impact, however, was to hurt and alienate trans and nonbinary people. I can point to three editorial mistakes: I planned an approach to the important topic of trans and gender nonbinary experiences within Unitarian Universalism without enough input from people who identify as nonbinary or trans. We did not model respectful engagement. Additionally, it was hurtful to put a straight, cisgender person’s experience in the foreground, especially as one of the first major articles in the magazine on this topic. We should have developed another kind of story in such a prominent spot that centered trans and nonbinary voices. Finally, when we reached out to Alex Kapitan, a leader in the trans and gender nonbinary community, while researching the story and ze urged us against the approach I had picked, I erred in failing to grasp the important cautions ze offered: a story told from a cisgender perspective would cause harm. I believed, falsely, that we could address the concerns within the framework of the story I had commissioned. It was a mistake to disregard this caution, and I apologize.

Several readers have also pointed to specific language in the article that is painful if not traumatic to encounter in the magazine of the Unitarian Universalist Association. These include a reference to jokes at a high school in the 1970s that involved a homophobic slur, a reference to “so-called corrective surgery,” and alarming statistics about violence against transgender people that one colleague told me felt “grim without hope.” As editors, we did not have enough experience with trans issues to notice the microaggressions throughout the essay that our trans readers are calling to our attention. These specific editorial choices added pain to injury, and for that I apologize.

If you can’t hire an actual transgender person to write about their own experiences, don’t bother with the topic at all. Seriously!

I can say that with conviction because the UU World already had a great article about the transgender experience back in 2017. It didn’t need that bogus article that came out with the current issue!

https://www.uuworld.org/articles/emptying-my-shoe

People are far more comfortable allowing the messy business of a gender transition if it is presented by storytellers as a foregone conclusion from the start.

But reality is nowhere near that neat. I spent the first fifty years of my life with no earthly clue I might be transgender. An observer might have found my teenage preference for female friends unusual, but I did not. Teenage gender norms and those of the liberated era in which I was raised allowed anyone to be friends with anyone else, and I put together a rich social life.

Things changed after graduation. People began pairing off, and social overtures toward single women were generally interpreted as romantic. Finding friendship among females became more challenging. However, I made the best of my opportunities, getting married and raising two children. I was mildly uncomfortable with my role as husband and father, but since I had never really felt like I fit in anywhere, that seemed unsurprising and certainly not an indication of anything unusual about my relationship with gender.

As a married man, I found that developing friendships with women was nearly impossible. I couldn’t come up with any way of approaching women socially without looking like I was interested in an affair. Luckily, my wife and I were great friends, keeping the loneliness of my married years partially at bay. I had family and career to keep me busy, so it was not until age fifty that I turned my focus toward the gaping holes in my social life.

<snip>

My wife supported my explorations until the clues began to suggest I might be transgender. “If you transitioned, I’d probably leave you,” she told me one night, and I did not object. I certainly would have been upset to find myself suddenly married to a man, and I understood why remaining in a marriage with a woman would not be her choice.

So I was cautious. I tested the waters, first presenting as a woman in public and then joining a transgender-friendly women’s reading group. A realization took shape: I was far more comfortable as my female self. Female social interactions seemed “right” in a way that male interactions never had. I began to see my female life as the “real me,” while the prospect of spending the rest of my days as a male looked unbearably dreary. I was conscious of a part of my being that demanded I be true to it by living as a female. I could no more change it through an effort of will than I could my height or eye color.

However, many whom I took into my confidence urged me to save my marriage by remaining in my male life and avoiding disrupting my family. I had survived a half-century as a male, surely I could survive the rest of the way.

After much soul searching, I still couldn’t agree. Imagine you are on a long hike, feet throbbing with discomfort. You soldier on, because everyone on the hike is complaining. But then you all take a break, and you find that your shoe is full of pebbles, while everyone else’s shoes are clear. You realize that, though no one’s feet feel fine, it’s been far worse for you than for others. A simple solution exists—remove your shoe and empty out the pebbles.

What would you say to those who remind you that you’ve hiked this far, surely you could hike just a little farther? That the hike is more than half done, and you’d inconvenience everyone else, who would have to wait for you to untie your shoe and then lace it back up again? What would you do? Would you just finish the hike, knowing that every step will hurt, or would you beg their indulgence while you emptied your shoe?

In the end, I reluctantly and with much trepidation decided that, while I wished I could have remained as I was for the sake of my marriage, it was asking too much of me to insist that I spend the rest of my life pretending I was someone I’m not. I needed to change, and if my wife left me because of it, I couldn’t control that and shouldn’t try.

That decision shattered our marriage. After months of vitriolic wrangling we decided she would buy my half of the house. My daughter, then a junior in high school, remained living with her. I moved into my own place, my wife furious that I’d chosen transition over her. My son was away at college by then, so for the first time since getting married I was living alone.

<snip>

Fast-forward to the present, and nearly every friend I have I met at UUCC. I never miss a chance to hear Getty preach if I can help it, and I look forward all week to the lazy lunches after services, discussing the sermon, current events, and what’s going on in our lives, or just kicking back and enjoying our food. I teach religious education classes every week, have helped lead services, and have participated in reflection groups, fun feasts, game nights, and other events too numerous to name. When I had gender-confirming surgery, I came out as transgender to the entire congregation during the sharing of joys and sorrows. I spoke of my excitement and fear, and I was met by an outpouring of support and a promise from a lay member of the Pastoral Care Committee to call me frequently during my recovery period. 

As I write this, I have just returned from three days at a spiritual center after participating in the annual UUCC women’s retreat. During one of the fascinating workshops there, it occurred to me how amazing it was to bask in the love and support that warmed that all-female space. And how unremarkable it felt that no one had ever questioned whether, as a transgender woman, I belonged there. The subject simply hadn’t come up.

I can’t imagine where I’d be had I not found UUCC. My life would certainly lack much of its richness. The dark, lonely period after my separation now seems a distant memory.

That is what we should have stuck with, and it will always be what we need, now and forever.

UPDATE: I found this comic that spells out the problem with that first UU World Article I linked to, but refused to copy any part of here:Image may contain: text

A Positive Interaction with a Baha’i on Facebook

Ever since I defected from the Baha’i Faith, my only dealings with members of my former religion have been through the internet and most of them have been battles that tended to leave me angered and even a little sick of their arrogance and nonsense.

Some of those battles are seen or described on these blog entries:

Baha’is must reject the Guardianship!

My Battle on Amazon with a Haifan Baha’i

Another Battle with a Haifan Baha’i, this time on Blogspot

Treachery of Baha’is @ reddit

Muslim-bashing and Libel Against Ex-Baha’is in Reddit

A series of ludicrous comments on YouTube and Facebook

But last month a totally different encounter occurred on Facebook, one that gives me hope for the future.

In the following conversation, the Baha’i who contacted me will be referred to as L B (for Local Baha’i) and his words will be in red italics. My words in the actual conversation will be in blue italics, while additional notes I add here for commentary will be in green. To protect his privacy, all specific identifying information will be withheld.

First, L B sent me a friend request, which I rejected, not even recognizing his name at first. I then asked who he was.

Have we met before? I see you sent me a friend request.

Yes, you used to come to feast at my house in (city). I’m (mother) and (father)’s son

That was enough to jog my memory. This young man had been only a child when I knew him.

I remember them. But I haven’t been a Baha’i since 2005 and am now a Unitarian Universalist.

I know, I saw your blog
I just thought of you randomly and wanted to say Facebook Hi
Are you still in Haltom city? I work at (medical job).
Ok, no harm, no foul. I looked at your profile and worried you were trying to harass me.
Like a scammer or like a malignant Baha’i?
your profile is open, so I saw your screenshots of responses to scammers
His using the words “malignant” and “Baha’i” in the same breath was the first indication to me that he wasn’t as loyal to the Faith as I thought he’d be.
Yes, I live here with my elderly parents. You say you saw my blog? You must know then that I’m one of the most hard-core critics of the Faith now. But that doesn’t mean I hate Baha’is. I cannot hate what I used to be.
At this point, I thought he would end the conversation. But he continued.
Oh no, I saw the basis of your criticisms and your recommended conversation or cooperation tactics with Baha’is for other Universalists
As for scammers, I enjoy busting them and then warning others about their tricks.
I admire a person who investigates the truth and is dedicated to the truth, so I admire your spirit
Thank you.
I guess he really takes seriously the supposed Baha’i idea of “Independent Investigation of Truth”.
Do you or your parents ever come to (my workplace)?
I don’t think so.
Honestly, I never thought I would see or hear from any of you again.
I’ve thought of you a few times throughout the years
I searched for you once maybe a year back, but I didn’t find anything
then last night my sister was telling me about a meme her friend had referred to that was anti-Baha’i
and in the course of finding this unrelated meme, I saw a blog that had posts critical of the Faith by someone named Dale Husband
and I was like “No way!” and I looked at your blog and found you on Facebook
His sister was only a baby when I knew her. She would be a teenager now.
I’m all over the internet. Also, my essays have been copied and cited by many others.
well, I found the ones in your reasoning thinker blog
Anywhere you see a red, white and blue Circle H logo, that’s me. It’s my trademark.
You are welcome to ask me questions.
where is there a unitarian universalist church near here?
is the following large?
WOW!!! So he is not even trying to defend the Baha’i Faith, but goes straight to the other big issue of mine in religion. I was elated!
There are several UU churches in the Fort Worth area. The oldest one is First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church. Google that name. The total number of UUs in the Fort Worth area is about 400.
There are an estimated 250,000 UUs nationwide.
The address for First Jefferson is 1959 Sandy Ln. in east Fort Worth.
Since you seem to respect me despite my defection, I invite you to come visit me at the aforementioned church in the interest of having a dialogue between us. It would be very helpful for you to see what UUs are like and what they might offer you.
What service do you attend?
Sunday service is at 11:00 AM, but you can arrive as early as 9:00 AM if you want to be given a tour of the place and then attend one of the gatherings that start at 9:30 AM such as Adult Forum or Adventures in Religion.
I can’t make it this Sunday, but it would be nice to check out the church on a Sunday soon
my work has me working weekends many weeks, so it might be a struggle for a bit
thank you for the invitiation
OK. Just let me know if and when you plan to visit so I could meet you there.
For the record, it never occurred to me, because of his Persian background, that L B would likewise defect from the Baha’i Faith. All my blog entries I wrote against the Faith were not about making people leave it, but about showing non-Baha’is what it is really like so they would not be so easily deceived by Baha’i propaganda as I was. But if my blog has made him quit believing, then I have scored a stunning victory far beyond my wildest dreams!

If your Spiritual Orientation is PAGAN…

wiccan symbol - pentacle

Paganism used to be a catch-all term for any religion in the world, past or present, that was not one of the “Abrahamic” religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam or the Baha’i Faith). Today it is used among various people to mean any religion that is “earth-centered” in its worship rather than worshiping a deity that is not associated with nature. This would include Wicca, Druidism and other varieties that are polytheistic, though some forms are monotheistic.

Because the gods of modern Paganism are directly associated with nature, Pagans are likely to be dedicated environmentalists. I myself wrote about a form of Pagan worship I am sympathetic to:

Sun Worship

Those who see Paganism as the right path for them can find fellowship here:
http://www.cuups.org/  as well as any Unitarian Universalist church or fellowship with a Pagan group. These Pagans, in turn, might lead you to explore and contact other pagan groups that may not be affiliated with UUs.

 

If your Spiritual Orientation is BUDDHIST…

Image result for buddhist symbol

Buddhism is a religion that originated in India and is considered a direct offshoot of Hinduism, much like Christianity is descended from ancient Judaism. Unlike Hinduism, however, Buddhism is non-theistic, with no reference to gods at all in its teachings. Instead it is a totally human centered faith, much like Humanism, and thus may be considered more a philosophy than an actual religion. But it includes the Hindu concepts of karma and reincarnation, which Humanists reject. Once stripped of its Indian centered cultural references, Buddhism spread throughout most of southern and eastern Asia.

Keep in mind that while the Dalai Lama is an international celebrity, it would be inappropriate to consider him the eastern version of the Roman Catholic Pope. It would be more accurate to think of him being more like the current President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Steve Gaines. Not quite mainstream compared to larger Christian groups, but still representative of Christian teachings. The main reason the Dalai Lama is so celebrated is because of him representing the struggle of his homeland Tibet against Chinese oppression.

Like Hindus, there are relatively few Buddhist temples outside Asia, so Buddhists may also find a spiritual home for themselves among Unitarian Universalists. Indeed, Buddhism is so popular among UUs that they even have a community for themselves: http://uubf.org/wp/

I know personally a Unitarian Universalist minister who is also a Buddhist: Rev. Alex Holt, who was interim minister at Westside Unitarian Universalist Church (Fort Worth) and later moved to Seattle, where he became interim minister of……Westside Unitarian Universalist Church (Seattle). He wrote an essay for a book about UUs who are also Buddhists:  Buddhist Voices in Unitarian Universalism.

It is interesting to note that in India where Buddhism originated, the Hindu priests won back the loyalty of the people there not by denying the Buddha, but by proclaiming him to be an avatar of Vishnu, one of the Hindu gods, even though the Buddha never claimed that for himself and Buddhists themselves don’t believe that either. Likewise, Baha’is claim that the Buddha is a “Manifestation of God” which is also a concept foreign to Buddhists. It should be noted, however, that there is nothing in Buddhism that requires rejection of theism; that idea is simply irrelevant to Buddhist practices.

 

Stop whining about “censorship”!

With the controversy boiling over last year about white supremacy in the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) remaining unaddressed for far too long, we also must confront another thorny issue: freedom of speech.
Read this:
https://trulyopenmindsandhearts.blog/2018/02/03/sticks-stones-and-names/

We children were taught to love our country especially for its freedom of religion and speech — the freedom to be different. After all, our parents or grandparents left their homes, often in the face of persecution, to come to a new home that accepted minorities who practiced a religion other than the majority Protestantism.

In my family, just three or four years before I was born, Nazi firing squads and gas chambers had taken the lives of my father’s sister and brother, their spouses and their children. If someone occasionally called us a name, well…

Sticks and stones…

This was the land of free expression, after all.

Another phrase more elegantly sums up what I was taught about how thongs [sic] should be in the United States:

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

There was one flaw then in that freedom of expression. Many of our lansmen — our fellow Jewish Americans — were being denounced as Communists. Just an accusation was enough to ruin someone life. My parents and neighbors in the 1950’s hated and feared McCarthyism. Aside from war, there wasn’t much we hated and feared as much. It was another form of persecution.

Democratic ideals and common sense ended McCarthyism, at least as it then existed. Liberals and moderates of both parties despised it.

When I entered college in 1964, my cohort was beginning its rebellion against the slow pace of civil rights and, for a minority of us, against the Vietnam war. It would be a few more years before the Vietnam protest movement went mainstream, so I had a lot of angry fists shook in my face, and I was called names. My mother worried that I was setting myself up to be a victim of a revived McCarthyism.

But I persisted. I didn’t break any laws. I didn’t commit civil disobedience. I marched in protests and spoke out, because after all this is a nation where freedom of expression prevails.

That’s why the frog in me didn’t notice the water heating up over the last 60 years until it bubbled around me last April.

I wrote a blog post objecting to the way big decisions are made by the Unitarian Universalist Association. The case in point was a controversy over the pace at which the UUA was hiring and promoting persons of color, but I didn’t express an opinion on that. Nevertheless, a lay leader of the Black Lives movement in UUism made an 18-minute video condemning me for my “fuck-shot behavior” and racism, her white ministerial ally wrote that my “abhorrent BS” was a “thinly veiled cry that the colored folks are getting uppity and need to be put back in their place, ” and that was just the beginning.

My inner frog still didn’t understand, though, how much the water had heated — how much our norms had changed. I reacted not by asking that my critics be silenced but by writing in reply. Surely, in this land of free speech and opinion anyone could read what I and my critics had to say and support my freedom of expression.

That’s when the water boiled over. The UUA removed from its Worship Web a litany I had written in 1999, which had been used as a worship resource since then. Only after I discovered it was missing did I get a reason:

Your submissions were removed because your recent public comments made it difficult for these pieces to be interpreted in the way they had been before. As our Association struggles with the nature of whiteness’ supremacy, we have to reexamine past assumptions, such as the assumption that a piece of writing can be interpreted independent of its source.

Thus spoke that most liberal of liberal religions. Words I wrote in 1999, with no reference to race, needed to be expunged so that the UUA in 2017 could have a “hard and honest conversations about racial inequity in Unitarian Universalism.” My opinions in 2017 invalidated my words of 1999.

In the 1950’s and ’60’s, it was the left that stood for freedom of expression, even if that expression might to psychological harm, like burning a draft card. Today, it’s the left that wants to stamp out micro-aggressions, like asking someone with an accent where he or she (another micro-aggression against neutral-gender folks) is originally from.

It’s the right now standing for freedom of conscience over the possible psychological harm to one group, like a baker’s option to refuse to bake and decorate a cake specifically for a gay wedding. The roles have reversed.

What really happened was that Mel Pine freely expressed his opinions about a sensitive and controversial issue among his fellow UUs, others responded in anger to him because they found his opinions offensive, and the UUA, a private religious organization, removed a piece of his writings from its website because it no longer saw a benefit to having it there, which is what it is legally allowed to do! Pine was not sent to prison, arrested by police, or even given a ticket by the police for his expressions. His blogs are still up and he is still allowed to post his ideas on Facebook too. NO ONE had his rights violated in that case. Pine doth protest too much. So do right-wing assholes like Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart.com infamy. He hasn’t been punished by a government either.

When people actually get fined or imprisoned for their words by the government they live under, then we should worry about freedom of speech (and the press) being denied.

free_speech

I have the right to throw off my property people who come on it making racist remarks, don’t I?

The Baha’i Faith, Mormonism, and Reddit

Two weeks ago, I made an account on reddit, yet another social media site. I immediately dove into battles with the Baha’i bigot and backstabber Scott Hakala (who was using the false name DavidbinOwen but was exposed anyway), until I got so sick of his arguments and self-serving bullcrap that I finally blocked him. He was infesting the Ex-Baha’i forum, which as a Baha’i propaganda minister he certainly had no business being in.

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