Thursday, May 31, 2007

The point less mentioned

I can't stand it; I have to jump in on the great BB debate.

I don't have an opinion about the racist implications of the phrase or the story which is told about it, except that I think Mummert's point is a good one and has been largely missed. Of course, I can't count the number of times someone has said to me, after a sermon, "wow, I really got to thinking when you said thus and so". Of course, I didn't actually say "thus and so", but they heard it. I guess that's what happened here.

What I do want to comment on is something I painfully learned as a rookie minister/aspirant, back when I was in my early years. I needed to learn that it is unprofessional to criticize a colleague publicly; I saw other ministers doing it, sometimes not very kindly, and though it wasn't my style, I learned that it was okay to do it, especially if one minister had perceived power or prestige over another one. I saw one well-known and previously-respected-by-me minister lacerate a student in a cluster meeting with a few words.

We all felt free to criticize the colleagues we didn't like or whose opinions we didn't share; the older ministers did it in my presence and I did it with groups of fellow students and sometimes with an older minister. We set aside the common sense rule of "is it kind? is it true? is it necessary?" in favor of "can you believe what s/he just said/did?" and the dubious pleasures of gossiping and pulling rank.

I see that going on here and I'm uncomfortable with it. I think we should be modeling better collegiality for our aspirants, not pulling rank or telling them they're overly sensitive or too PC.

12 comments:

Earthbound Spirit said...

Amen. And thanks.

PeaceBang said...

No colleagues were mentioned in my piece. An ideology was being critiqued. Ain't no guidelines against that and I hope to God there never will be.

I believe that it is deeply loyal to name dishonest, damaging behaviors when I see them.

Speaking of which: how about writing derogatory things about your friends and family on your blog, as I've frequently seen you do? There's probably no guideline against it, but some of us find it to be disturbing.

Plank in your eye and all that, Kit.

revsean said...

Ms. Kitty,
This is a good reminder. Thanks. It's sometimes hard to sort through what is the issue and what is the person. Calling someone's idea "stupid" is awfully close to calling them "stupid." (No one here has done that directly, it's just an example of how hard it can be to notice the difference...)

It's NOT the same thing but sometimes saying "what a stupid idea!" is easy to misconstrue as "you believe stupid things."

I'd love to have a deeper discussion of what our collegial covenant means in practice, especially in this day and age of instant and public comments.

Christine Robinson said...

Great post title.
Ministerial Boundary discussions have not caught up with blogging, have they?
Ouch on the comment.

Steve Caldwell said...

Peacebang wrote:
-snip-
"An ideology was being critiqued. Ain't no guidelines against that and I hope to God there never will be."

Of course, this comment opens up the question what's an ideology and what's a sincerely held religious belief?

Since an ideology is just a term to describe an organized collection of ideas, the term would include most religious belief systems (e.g. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Paganism, Humanism, etc).

Do we want any ideologies to be off-limits from criticism in UU circles?

For example, would a "Dawkins" or "Harris" criticism of belief in God and traditional religion be OK or would that be off-limits in UU settings?

If religiously-grounded ideology is given special status and immunity from criticism, would this immunity extend to religious-grounded anti-oppression work?

Why or why not?

ms. kitty said...

Point taken, PB. Sorry you've cancelled out of the blogger dinner. I hope it's not related to this conversation.

ms. kitty said...

I do think sarcasm is hurtful, whether it is mentioned in the UUMA guidelines or not. It is an implied/inferred criticism.

However, I didn't mention you by name, PB. You have inferred that I meant you. Andy was directly named. And as a student, he deserves good modeling from us. Otherwise, how will he know what is appropriate collegial behavior?

I agree with the loyalty of naming dishonest, damaging behaviors. Doing it tactfully is a kinder, more effective way of getting the point across. To skewer someone publicly is to arouse anger and resentment, which does not encourage civil discourse.

Jeff W. said...

Sean, do you think there are ever times when it is acceptable to call someone "stupid"? How about saying someone "believes in stupid things"? Why or why not? Is this out of bounds? Is it worse to say something is stupid or to allow stupidity to fester? Your comment raised these questions for me. I mean this abstractly, not really in relation to the brown bag discussion (though I'm guilty of using the word in relation to the incident).

Joel said...

PeaceBang, the only family member Ms. Kitty has posted anything even vaguely negative about is me, and I'm not bothered in the least. Honestly, she's one of the mildest, kindest-spoken people I know, and it takes a lot for her to criticize even as gently as she does. Anybody who spends much time reading religion blogs(or, God help us, political ones) develops a thick skin fast.

I had to go and read your posts about the BB thing, and I think I agree with you. Finding something offensive in that phrase is silly even by PC standards. (Of course, I may not be someone you want agreeing with you, but still...) :)

revsean said...

Jeff--
I think "stupid" is probably not a word I'd use, but that's a cultural thing...like Ms. Kitty I was raised to soft-pedal conflict.

I think some beliefs are harmful, some are inaccurate, some are dishonest, etc. I'd probably challenge myself to come up with a better word than "stupid" since it comes across closer to name-calling than I'm comfortable with.

If I did call a belief stupid, I'd try to be ready for the consequences and not get upset if people thought I was being judgmental or mean or if my words were hasty and intemperate.

I am trying to think of a belief I'd call stupid and can't come up with one. Though I can think of a few I might call misguided...

One of the things I would love to get into more deeply is the preference given to "rationality" when even what we consider "rational" is a cultural construct--it differs from time to time and culture to culture.

But then, I really am a postmodernist and that drives many of my colleagues crazy. Unitarianism is firmly rooted in modernity...

Sean

Chalicechick said...

(((One of the things I would love to get into more deeply is the preference given to "rationality" when even what we consider "rational" is a cultural construct--it differs from time to time and culture to culture. ))

I'd like to request a blog post on this, with examples.

CC

Jeff W. said...

Thanks for the reply, Sean.