Vulcan’s Peak

Being intolerant of the intolerant(so much for the moral high ground)

June 1, 2007 12:50 am

In the latest of a series of court cases that have come to resemble a game of Whack-a-Mole, Laura Mallory’s quest for the banning of Harry Potter from Gwinnet County schools has been thwarted once again. A short article in the Chicago Sun-Times quotes her as saying “I maybe need a whole new case from the ground up.” Ya think? Whack!

Which reminds me of the white bearded madman sitting in front of the Unitarian Universalist church in Harvard Square. He had set himeself up in a lawnchair with a couple of signs, handing out fliers that accused UUs* and specifically Cambridge’s UU First Parish Church** of anti-Semitism.

Understand here that UUs tend to value tolerance, acceptance, and understanding very, very highly. The first time I walked by, I laughed. Around places like Boston Common and Harvard Square, there’s always someone promoting a pet cause. A few weeks ago there was someone making similar accusations about and in front of an Episcopal Church, come to think of it. Might have been the same guy. At any rate, when I walked back by, I gave into morbid curiosity and took a flier.

The gist of the accusations center on the conflict between Israel and Palestein, asking questions such as “Why has First Parish UU been silent about the one million Jews who have disappeared from Moslem countries?” and “Why does First Parish UU characterize Moslem efforts to annihilate Israel as a morally equal Arab-Israeli conflict?…Why won’t First Parish UU call a Palestinian terrorist, a terrorist?” And so on.

While Unitarian Universalism does have a history of activism that dates back to abolitionism, I have no idea whether the UUA has “a stance” on Israel, but if there is one, I think I can safely say that it would revolve around humanitarian efforts (for all who need it) and support for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. And yes, that’s idealistic. But what other sort of stance to you want a church to take? I have huge problems with religion-condoned wars, which I think I can safely say is not limited to the UUs. (Crusades are so last millenium, dude. /flippancy)

The flier’s final paragraphs conclude that UUs must either be ignorant of the situation or be anti-Semitic. In some masterful sleight of hand, Harvard Divinity School, the Boston Globe, liberal Christianity, and basically anyone who doesn’t have “I heart Israel” on their bumper sticker is guilt-tripped for the lack of world peace.

While I have nothing against Israel, my shaky knowledge of Israel, Palestine, and their neighbors leads me to color the whole region in shades of grey: no one’s hands are completely clean. I do take objection to equating a lack of pro-Israel action with anti-Semitism, but that would require having a sense of proportion. Of course it is what it seems: a outrageous and insulting statement made for attention. Way to go, asshole.

And yes…I hate that the world is so screwed up. I hate that there are no easy answers, and I hate that there’s no Superman to sort out the Middle East. And Africa. And inner-city slums. Yes, tell me how I can help, how I can make it better. But don’t have the arrogance to think you can gain my support by insulting me.

If I were some really cool character — Mal Reynolds, perhaps, — I would have walked off with the flier, then walked back five minutes later. Flier in one hand, lit match in the other, I’d stand in front of him and light it on fire, completely deadpan. Put out the fire with the toe of my boot and walk away.

*Actually, he keeps referring to the UUC, or Unitarian Universalist Church. There ain’t no such entity: it’s the UUA, or Unitarian Universalist Association (of Congregations). Do a little research, dude. Put UU Church into Google and the first entry is the UUA.

**See the linked website for how First Parish refers to themselves. It’s the only UU church I know of that refers to parishes, just for note; I assume it gets to be special because it had a front row seat for the Transcendentalist movement. Nonetheless, the confusingly long name makes me twitch…and I grew up in a church that gets abbreviated UUFEC, so that’s saying something.

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