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Monday, April 14, 2008

This week in Unitarian Universalist contrarianism.

Might I draw your attention to Jeff on General Assembly, PeaceBang on the UUA's new Time ad, and David on military chaplaincy and Unitarian Universalism?

Copyright © 2008 by Philocrites | Posted 14 April 2008 at 7:10 AM

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April 14, 2008 10:57 PM | Permalink for this comment

Hi Chris, namaste.

While I appreciate you drawing our attention to these noteworthy posts, I am not sure why they count as examples of UU "contrarianism." In particular, I don't understand how David's post is contrarian. Merely because he's not anti-military when so many UUs are? I felt that he very thoughtfully asserted his view of the role of military chaplaincy rather than simply critiquing the majority view.

Question: If UUs are generally contrarian, and I agree with often are, then if someone runs contrary to the contrary, what does that make them?


April 15, 2008 07:01 AM | Permalink for this comment

It's true that David's post isn't contrarian so much as it simply lays out a viewpoint that, in my experience, runs against the UU grain.

If someone runs contrary to the default UU contrariness, I'm inclined to say they're probably right! ;) My own contrariness insists, however, that I do not necessarily endorse anyone else's contrariness, even the counter-contrary!

Patrick McLaughlin:

April 15, 2008 10:57 PM | Permalink for this comment

Speaking as one of David's classmates -- David expressed a view which is supported by some, opposed by some, and others have conflicted feelings about. I think what's "contrary" is merely that it's an expression of a position that isn't heard a lot. It's relatively easy in UU circles, because of our (not universal, but very widely shared) disapproval of the use of the military, to be hostile to those serving in it. It's an error--it's burdening someone who is serving with the moral and ethical questions and conflicts that they're not usually in a position to do anything about. The real objection is at a policy level. My perception is that true pacifists are not even a plurality of UUs. Most of us can and do appreciate the idea that there are people who will (and do) put themselves on the line in our service, in our names--firefighters, police, military personnel. The problem lies with the fact that there are powers--authority--involved. Firefighters get to (have to) make decisions about whose homes are going to be abandoned to major fire, and which ones will be fought for. The opportunity for abuse is there. Police... it's even more obvious. And both groups are absolute necessities.

History tells us that militaries are, too. UUs object to the misuse of that force, and the abuses of those serving in it (in our names, too!). I'm certain David would as well.

The point is that there will be a military.

We, those of us who are or will be ministers, can either minister to all who need us, or not. Failing to minister to a group that needs us seems like a severe failing, to me. Those in the military are living lives which have many stresses and traumas. There's a need for ministry there.

We either make ourselves and our saving message available, or we don't.

But someone else will. So before we wrap ourselves in the samite of self-righteousness, we'd better recognize the practical reality that if we don't, others will--and there will be consequences, such as a military chaplaincy that is severely and disproportionately extremely conservative both religiously and politically.

Given the potentcy of military power and the possibility of its misuse... I think it's the worst sort of cutting off our noses to spite our faces to refuse to minister to people who need us... because they're legally and oath bound to do what they're told to... by the government we elect.

Our responsibility doesn't evaporate just because we didn't win an election, or just because we disapprove of a president or a policy.

I live close to a major military facility. We see troops (and their families) show up fairly frequently. Clearly what we claim to offer is something that some of them feel the need for. Some of them are coming home bearing pain. So do the veterans within our congregations.

I'm not entering the chaplaincy, but I've the highest regard for those who have and are, and they have my sincere and heartfelt support.

If that's contrarian... well, I've been called contrary before, and even reveled in it.

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