Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher
Yesterday a bunch of liberal religious people of varying denominations and walks of life were arrested in Washington for a civil protest against Bush's 2006 budget, which they say favors the wealthy and shortchanges the poor.
They're right, it does, but that's not what I want to talk about.
What I want to talk about is the nature of the UUA's participation in all this. There's a press realease up at www.uua.org bragging about our support for the cause and the fact that three UUs were among those arrested. It says, in part:
Rev. William G. Sinkford, UUA President, issued a statement in support of today's witness . Sinkford said, "Following the 2004 election and the national discussion of moral values, I issued a statement that said, in part: "Moral values grow out of our calling as religious people to work to create the Beloved Community. Moral values instruct us to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves' and always to ask the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?' They are fundamentally inclusive rather than exclusive, and they call on generosity of spirit rather than mean spiritedness. I urge our elected representatives to consider the morality of ignoring the poor to give even more tax cuts to the rich." He continued, "I urge all Unitarian Universalists to stand with other people of faith and goodwill in demanding a moral United States budget -- a budget that directs resources towards those who need them most."
Among those arrested during today's witness were Unitarian Universalists Robert Hardies, senior minister at All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, DC, who represented President Sinkford; Jennifer Brooks, minister of the Second Congregational Meeting House Society, UU in Nantucket, MA; and John McCarthy, a seminarian studying at Harvard Divinity School. Hardies, Brooks and McCarthy were arrested for blocking the door to the Cannon House Office building; the maximum fine for this act of civil disobedience is $250 and/or ninety days in jail.
Today's witness was the culmination of a yearlong effort to protect services to low-income families in the budget, but the movement is not ending.
Way to go, Bill! You da man! You issued a statement! Meanwhile, as the culmination of a yearlong effort exactly three of us -- but not you -- managed to participate? Whassup with that?
Maybe your statement can explain. Let's see what it says.
Uh, it says that you couldn't attend because "other duties" required you to be in Boston, but that Rob Hardies "has agreed to be present on my behalf". Excuse me? Are you so overcommitted that there's no chance to schedule a day in Washington even with a year's lead time, Bill? Or is this a liberal version of Dick Cheney's oft-mocked reasons for avoiding service in Vietnam?
And if this has been planned for a year, what does it say about us, or UUA leadership, or both, that out of the whole denom with over 1,000 congregations only three of us knew enough and/or cared enough about it to participate? There were over a hundred others arrested. Why only three of us? Where was the advance work that 25 Beacon or UUAWO could have done to bring us out in greater numbers? Where was the UUA representation at the table when other denoms were planning the event and fomulating common statements of conscience? Why, in particular, did nobody from the vaunted UUAWO even manage to find the time to attend the demonstration, given that they're right there anyway?
And I don't really get this "represented" thing. I can understand if Rev. Hardies represented himself, or even his own church, but you? Don't you represent us, Bill? So why, if representing us would have been the purpose of your own presence, didn't he represent us, rather than you, in your absence?
And what gives with asking some local minister rather than the UUAWO to represent either you or us, anyway? Isn't representing you and us in Washington just about their only function? If they can't even do that when the occasion requires it, why are they there at all?
This really stinks of false piety and unearned self-congratulation. We look like the flip side of the GOP's chickenhawks. I mean, if the UUA didn't have the resources to make this particular project a priority, but we applaud the efforts of others who really did put themselves and their denoms on the line, we should be honest enough to say so. If we can't, no wonder other denoms think we're such a bunch of aimless, self-absorbed, self-righteous, self-justifying, empty hats.