by Rev. Joan Van Becelaere
Ohio-Meadville District Executive
When Is a Unitarian Universalist most like Rush Limbaugh?
Mr. Limbaugh has lately been notorious for his remarks about Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke. He has a long history of vilifying those he does not agree with. but this recent incident seems remarkably hateful and vicious even for Mr. Limbaugh. I am confident that most Unitarian Univeralists find Mr. Limbaugh’s remarks about Ms. Fluke and his broad verbal attacks on women reprehensible.
As Unitarian Unitarians, we know that reactionary, disrespectful, unthinkingly derogatory language violates the inherent worth and dignity of all people. We recognize it as a deep violation of our essential interconnectedness in the web of existence.
And yet, as our election year begins to heat up, I have heard members – good members – of our congregations engage in reactionary and rude language in regard to those with whom they politically disagree.
The language, thank heaven, has not been as vicious as Mr. Limbaugh’s, but it is reactionary and disrespectful nonetheless.
To hear some folk talk during coffee hour in our churches, you might think only members of the Democratic or Green parties are allowed to join our congregations. But I know full well that our liberal religion appeals to Republicans and Libertarians and Independents, too. They are there in our pews on Sunday mornings, but few make their presence known in the face of bad jokes and ugly comments about political or fiscal conservatives.nonetheless.
When is a UU most like Rush Limbaugh? When we engage in unthinking and reactionary language in regard to those with whose political (and religious and social) views we disagree.
In the book of Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus preaches: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
We can and should engage in dialogue with people who have different political and religious and social views. That is how we humans continue to learn and grow as thinking beings. We should welcome the diversity often hidden in our own congregations and engage it in our greater society. As religious liberals and people of covenant, we should celebrate our ability to be different together!
But celebrating our differences together requires us to give up reactionary, unthinking language. Instead, we need to learn to articulate our own beliefs and ethical commitments while staying connected to others. We can make a case for our view of the common good while respectfully listening (and even learning) from those whose views differ. We should be clear and confident enough about our own personal sense of purpose and commitment that we are not threatened or anxious if someone offers a different argument or a different view of the common good.
We also know that what is true in political discussion is also true about religious discussion. We are all in this together!
As we move into what will likely be a highly emotional political campaign, let’s remember that we have the ability to be different together. And we can reject any temptation to emulate the style of Mr. Limbaugh.