Re: Bill Sinkford's meeting with the Iranian guy a week ago and duly noted at UUA.org plus the online journals of UUism.
Bloggers have apparently been slow to take note of this historic meeting but once they did, there has been a lot of discomfort with the fact that Sinkford did this.
I am somewhat uncomfortable with it too, but I think that comes from my own unwillingness to put myself into situations where I intensely dislike the behavior of someone else and disagree with it morally and yet need to say something directly to that person.
I recall a meeting with our chapter's Good Offices folks a few years ago when I needed to call a colleague to account for behavior I had witnessed. I said what I didn't like, the GO person gave my colleague a chance to explain, I rebutted, the colleague responded, and after some further exchanges, we each mouthed words of collegiality and a desire to work together successfully. Little changed, but I had had my say, even though my meeting with the colleague did not change anything in that person's behavior, as far as I could tell.
But it was the right thing to do, to meet with someone with whom I was relatively sure I would not become BFFs. It was scary as hell. Some other colleagues did not see the point and were not encouraging, as the power differential was great and could have been a factor.
But here's the question, at least about Sinkford's meeting with the Iranian guy (whose name I can't spell without looking it up and I don't want to take time to do that right now):
what would Jesus do? or Gandhi? or Martin Luther King Jr.? or Michael Servetus? or Francis David? or, to throw in a few women, what would Joan of Arc do? or any of the myriad of incredibly courageous women who struggled so hard for abolition, suffrage, labor laws, you name it?
I think what he did was incredibly courageous. The Fellowship of Reconciliation is not a fly-by-night operation; it is a well-established Peace Fellowship and it is right in line with our belief in the need for world community.
Sure, whatshisname probably lied through his teeth. I would be very surprised if the delegates truly believed his protestations. But world community is not going to come about if we refuse to talk with those we disagree with, if we are rude, if we are dismissive or call them liars and engage in open conflict with them.
During this time of year, when the Jewish community begins the Days of Awe, leading to the Day of Atonement, it is important to take steps, it seems to me, to address the conflicts we are in and to make a good faith effort to resolve them. It can't happen, in this case, without some real courage.
The greatest danger Sinkford faced, in this situation, was (IMHO, at least) the displeasure of his fellow UUs. Those other guys---a lot of them died for their courage. But in some ways, the displeasure of peers is the hardest thing to take. He stuck his neck out, trying to get to know and understand the other side. It might look foolish to some but I think it was worth trying.