Steinke Stuff and Cold Feet…

I’m not sure what to say.  I’ll be leading a discussion (more like a feedback session) at All Souls Church this afternoon called for as part of the Action Plan in the Bridgebuilder Process.  I’m feeling a bit ambivalent.  Of course, I’ll do what I can, but I’m not sure that things are as clearly stated as they might be.  Also, I wonder, will these meetings help to clarify the mess?  As I see it, we have a real problem with 1) accepting that there is a problem — some of those who were the most vocal in attacking Lee Devoe seem to feel (or at least so they say) that she was the problem, which I think is a lot of hogwash.  She may have been less politic than the situation called for, but no one coming in for a couple of years can substantially change a group, unless the group wants the change.  They also seem to blame the UUA and Prairie Star District for our problems — they are not as sympathetic to humanism as seems to be called for.  To me, it seems that such people should simply state that they want a church that is humanist based, and that any spirituality is not welcome, nor are those who espouse such a position welcome.  That would be honest and closer to the truth.  What I don’t get, though, is why they are so defensive.  In my experience (and I’ve been defensive plenty of times, and witnessed it in others), defensiveness comes in to play when people are afraid, and are unsure.  Rather like when an angry dog starts snarling at you — you’re going to go into defensive mode and fight or flee.  There may be a way to settle such a dog down, but you don’t think of that, as your defensive side has taken hold.  You get that way because of fear.  But what have humanists to fear?  Are they afraid that humanism will die?  Why would that be so?  Surely a good idea (even if it is one that one cannot accept personally) will not suffer from someone else’s POV.  There is no danger of humanism dying at All Souls, even if a majority of the congregants were of a theistic mind.  The views of a theist cannot demolish those of an humanist, so why be afraid?  I just don’t get it.  It reminds me of orthodoxy battles in RC when I was a member — push too hard with questions or concerns, and the other side reaches the point when it can no longer creatively answer, so you get some variant of “Because I said so.”  Of course, the person who is questioning a belief should do so (at least in a Unitarian church) from a desire to learn or clarify, or to help the other person clarify his/her beliefs.  It should not seem like an inquisition — that’ll call for “shields up.”  But I cannot recall any theist attacking humanism at the church.  I can recall some pointing out that they felt left out because of the sense of a “humanist only” club at the church.  But that’s not attacking humanism, only the exclusivity and presumption of dogma, isn’t it?  Isn’t that what Unitarians are supposed to be good at?  So why are some so defensive?  Fear’s the only thing I can think of.  How do you answer fear?  The only way is with love, but it’s tough feeling love, and demonstrating it meaningfully when it seems you’re under attack.  How to get past those defenses, so that there can be a real discussion, engaged in with love and not suspicion?  And, rather like the Argument Skit in Monty Python — “we’ve got a problem.”  “No, we don’t.” “Yes, we have.” “Nope.” and so on — I’m not sure I see a way past this.  How can one translate the cost of intransigence in a way that the intransigent don’t see it as an attack?  Such dogmatism is hurting the church (I would maintain) and yet, those who are dogmatic don’t see their dogmatism as a problem and see any other approach as an attack.  Tough to get past that.  Well, it’ll take a lot more thinking and wondering…

2 Responses to “Steinke Stuff and Cold Feet…”

  1. January 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    I think a lot of the fear is more fear of losing power. I think a lot of the most defensive people have a lot of their self-esteem tied to their position in the church. If the theists outnumber the humanists, the humanists may lose their positions of power and this will be a blow to their self-esteem. Not that that makes their behavior okay of course!

    • 2 Bernard Norcott-Mahany
      January 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      What power? Hurting people is pretty easy — doesn’t seem to indicate power to me. And I’m reminded of the line uttered by Thomas More in “A Man for All Seasons” — “it would little profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his immortal soul — but for Wales!” and he shakes his head.

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