Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Dogmatic and Authoritarian?

I have been asked to explain why I say that the UUA has taken a dogmatic and authoritarian turn.

At least six ministers/lay ministers I know of have been disfellowshipped, censured, unseated, or otherwise sanctioned for sharing their opinions in the past five years. These opinions are nothing extreme, in fact represent views that are quite common among UUs. Most UUs of my acquaintance may not agree with everything (or even anything!) these ministers have said, but they still believe in their right to speak their conscience. There are a variety of philosophies that are under discussion these days, for example, questions of whether speech is violence, whether we should treat each other differently based upon various identity labels, etc., along with all manner of questions around political and social policy. These ideas are important and should be discussed freely, without threat of punishment.

My campaign has two main areas of focus: improving democracy in the UUA and improving diversity of thought within the UUA. The fact that for over a decade, only a single UUA Trustee has been subject to voter choice between two candidates, is a situation that I claim is not very good democracy. The fact that ministers are being punished for stating their philosophical and political views is a situation that I claim is a direct attack on freedom of conscience. This is what my campaign boils down to. 

I recently sent an email (see "Newsletter Insert" below) to every UU congregation, asking them to put a notice in their newsletters about my campaign for Trustee. I believe it is newsworthy that there is a real election at GA this year for two Trustee seats. Some said "yes," some said "no," some probably just ignored my request ... all well and good. However, I also received this email: 

"Rebecca,You recently contacted the office administrator at my congregation, _________ UU, with a request to put your ad in our newsletter. I want you to know that our congregation supports the marginalized in our community and fully believes in the direction our UUA is leading us towards a world that is more just, equitable, and compassionate.  We do not believe in your fake and thinly veiled platform of hate and exclusion. I will say this directly, do not contact my congregation again for this or for any other reason.

Warmly,

Rev. ___________ "

 

This is an example of what I mean by dogmatism and authoritarianism. 




41 comments:

  1. Rebecca,

    In addition to election choice for board positions and improved representative structure, you seem to have based a lot of your campaign on your disagreement with the UUA about actions taken against six unnamed ministers and lay leaders, could you be more specific about who the six are and what specific actions the UUA has taken against each of them?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Didn't mean to be anonymous. Don Manning-Miller

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don, thank you for bringing this up. I am concerned about what Rebecca Mattis referred to about ministers and lay leaders. I am eager to here details. Various delegates I have spoken with as we research GA business want to better understand what occurred to these clergy, and what actions may need to be taken to address this problem the candidate refers to. Thank you Rebecca Mattis for hopefully shining a light on what is happening with these ministers.

      Delete
    2. Hello Don and Susan, Rebecca here. Thanks for the opportunity to provide some clarity. Don, my campaign is not based on my disagreement with actions taken within our faith against some ministers. It is based on concerns about democracy and freedom of thought within UUism. However, the actions you ask about do provide very important examples.
      After he attempted to distribute a self-published book at GA 2019, Rev. Todd Ekloff was publicly condemned by hundreds of UU ministers in direct violation of the UUMA ethical guidelines to speak about colleagues respectfully and honestly, using descriptive rather than judgemental language. He was later disfellowshipped by the UUMA and then the UUA.
      After he asked questions about "current UU racial-justice ideology" in 2018, Richard Trudeau was censured by the UUMA.
      After he wrote a blog post complaining about what he thought were undemocratic events in the UUA, Mel Pine (a lay minister as I understand it) was verbally attacked by a UU leader who called his post "f---sh-- behavior" and who cruelly mocked a poem of his that had been on the UUA Worship Web (but was subsequently removed).
      A minister I know who was seeking support for Rev. Eklof asked other ministers to sign a letter of support, and many said, "I would love to sign, but I am afraid."
      It is not only the individual injustices, therefore, that I am pointing to, but the culture of fear in which people stay silent because they are very understandably afraid to risk career hits and social exile.

      Delete
    3. I am familiar with the Rev Eklof. Though many involved have described it differently.

      Who are the other five people and what happened? This is worrisome.

      Delete
    4. Apologies Ms Mattis I hit publish too soon. I have heard mention of Eklof, Trudeau and Pine. What are these other cases you refer to? Please give specifics to back up this claim and help us understand your concerns. Thank you.

      Delete
    5. I too would like to hear more about this claim of “at least six” people who have experienced the consequences described in this post. Making such a claim without evidence is disturbing. If it’s true, please be specific.

      Delete
    6. Hello Anonymous, Rebecca here. True, claims require evidence. Rick Davis and Finley Campbell are the other people I am talking about. I am not at liberty to name the sixth. Again, I am not here to champion their causes, only to claim that punishments aimed at them by people in positions of authority have created a culture of fear among UU ministers and others who question current orthodoxy.

      Delete
    7. I agree that a culture of fear would be counter-productive, and also that it is important to get facts right when making claims. I don't know anything about Finley Campbell's story. I am aware of others' stories from Kate Braestrup's blog and others' recent books. I have cited on the 5th Principle page some contrasting views to Todd Eklof's story.

      Re Rick Davis, Todd Eklof's Good Officer, are you referring to him being removed from the Good Officer program? As far as I recall, that was the only "disciplinary" measure taken, or are you aware of others? Also, he has continued to share his views openly and widely and doesn't seem intimidated. While these views are strongly expressed, I appreciate I haven't heard from him the intention Todd Eklof stated (in an excerpt posted to the 5th Principle page) to "take over" and make others leave.

      However, it's my understanding that his open advocacy position was deemed incompatible with the role of Good Officer. I know that if a Good Officer was involved with ministerial-congregational conflicts at my own church, and I was someone who disagreed, I would be astonished and demoralized if the Good Officer gave a sermon at my congregation taking the Minister's side.

      Delete
    8. Hi K., Yes, there is all kinds of room for disagreement on this matter. But the culture of fear is real. I have heard from many UUs who are afraid to disagree with any orthodoxy for fear of social shaming.

      Delete
    9. I do believe there is fear, acrimony, conflict, and social stress but do not believe it is only on one side. The COIC report(s) summarize the difficulties encountered by many UUs who are real people also with a need for acceptance, belonging, agency and understanding. Too often, I see this reality dismissed by self-described "non-identitarians" or liberals, and one way this is done is by citing disagreement with so-called CRT language or "ideology," as you have done. If you have not read the COIC reports/Widening the Circle of Concern, is this something you plan to do before the election is complete, and if you have, can you comment on your response?

      Delete
    10. Hi K, Rebecca here. I read Widening the Circle of Concern when it came out. But I am puzzled, and frankly a little bothered, by your suggestion that I have ever dismissed anyone's need for acceptance, belonging, agency, and understanding. To my knowledge, I have never done so, and my most dearly held beliefs require me to cherish those needs in all people.

      Delete
    11. I would be happy to try to explain that impression or concern, but perhaps you could also share what your impressions of Widening the Circle of Concern were, whether your quotations some have collected and shared about "CRT" are accurate and represent your views (some are shared on this page), and what you understand to be "CRT." Thanks for responding.

      Delete
    12. I'm confused. Why are you not at liberty to name the other person you are referring to when you claim that at least six UU leaders have been sanctioned etc? This lack of transparency raises flags for me.

      Delete
    13. Rebecca, to hear you affirm that "claims require evidence," then continue to proceed without any is deeply concerning -- especially from someone who aspired to the highest leadership of our tradition. Repeating here-say of "a culture of fear," and "many ministers are afraid" is, itself, rumor-mongering -- and antithetical to healthy and accountable leadership.

      Delete
    14. Anonymous, Rebecca here. I am not at liberty to name the other person because I have been entrusted with that person's trust not to name them. You can believe me or not. I will uphold the trust placed in me.

      Amy, it is not true that I have "proceeded without evidence." I have given my evidence, and people can choose to ignore it, or not. As to the culture of fear, I have lost track of the number of people I have met who are afraid to speak up - who have told me in those very words. I am not going to stop speaking the truth.

      Delete
    15. To Anonymous: Yes, for someone seeking to be trusted by our Association to make provacative statements, then profess no liberty to support them is like the old axiom “to throw the rock, and hide the hand.”

      To Rebecca: You have not given evidence for a “culture of fear” you claim is pervasive in our Association and related organizations. Though, you really can’t be expected to know what the culture in our Association is, given, as you say, you’ve not been involved with it at all before now. And while not being a minister is absolutely no problem (faithful lay leadership is integral to us!) claiming to know about, and cast aspersions on, the culture within our professional organizations, when not involved with those either, *is* a problem. It’s just not possible to “speak truth” about governance, organizations, and people with which and whom you are not and have not been involved.

      Delete
    16. Hello Amy, Rebecca here. I have been a UU for fifteen years, and as a UU, I claim to have a sense of the culture of the UUA as transmitted through the UU World magazine, emails from the UUA and UUA president, and through my interactions with other UUs, including UU ministers. When I hear people say they are afraid to speak up, that is a great indication of a culture of fear, especially when people who do speak up are punished.

      Delete
    17. It is sadly telling that you double down on unsupported, hear-say mis- and dis-information about organizations with which you have no direct experience. I'm glad you've been a UU for 15 years, but still don't see evidence of involvement with leadership in those years. Have you been involved at the district/regional/state, or volunteered on committees or task groups of the greater UU, or had any direct conversations with current leadership, or been involved with UU leadership? I and many others read the same magazine/s and emails and interact with many many many other UUs beyond our own congregations, but know that that alone does not qualify one to presume to lead.

      Delete
  3. The Reverend Chris Bauer offers this response:

    https://crothbauer.medium.com/on-boundaries-and-association-a-reply-to-rebecca-mattis-7992c22391ef

    ReplyDelete
  4. Rev. Rothbauer does not see what is dogmatic or even objectionable about the "mild" (his words) letter that Rev. Mattis received. Perhaps he didn't read the sentence "We do not believe in your fake and thinly veiled platform of hate and exclusion." I see nothing hateful or exclusionary about any of Rev. Mattis' materials, unless one subscribes to the extremely dogmatic and authoritarian version of Social Justice ideology that holds that all disagreement is inherently racist, sexist, homophobic and hateful. So, yes, Rev. Rothbauer, the letter that Rev. Mattis received was dogmatic and authoritarian and is a perfect illustration of the poison that has taken over Unitarian Universalism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, John,

      No, I don't think that's inherently dogmatic unless you can prove that the author of the letter refuses to listen to other points of view, and there's not enough room there to indicate they are.

      The definition of dogmatism is:

      "the tendency to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others."

      In order to prove the statement is dogmatic, you need to prove that the author has never considered Mattis's point of view. The only way you could get that from this email is to assume what they believe and why they believe it. There's just not enough information here.

      The only thing I can really say with one hundred percent certainty is that they are setting a boundary that they want no more contact from Mattis's campaign.

      You also lay down that all disagreement with social justice principles is inherently hateful without any evidence to your assertion. I see disagreement all the time, especially within social justice movements. The fact that someone disagrees with a particular point of view and believes it to be one that spreads hate does not mean there is no disagreement allowed.

      Unfortunately, Mattis's fellow candidate has literally suggested that marginalized people leave the UUA. Unless Mattis shares this point of view, she should distance herself from her fellow candidate since they are both being sponsored by the same organization.

      Delete
    2. John, Rebecca here. Just to clarify, I'm not a minister.

      Delete
  5. It's troubling to me that Rev. Eklof's situation is being put forward as one in which he was "publicly condemned" for "attempting to distribute a self-published book." The truth is that he *did* distribute his book (I was handed a copy, which I read, with increasing horror, during GA). When folks read what was inside it--including personal attacks on lay and professional BIPOC leaders in our faith, among other mean-spirited things--he was invited into conversation with chaplains. He refused to even have a conversation with his peers who saw the harm his book was causing. As a minister in our faith community, he is accountable, and being in conversation when one has committed harm is the absolute bare minimum. He was unwilling to do even that. That was just the beginning of the challenges with Rev. Eklof. Misrepresenting what happened with him makes me curious as to why you champion him. Do you agree with his positions? Do you believe that people with marginalized identities deserved the treatment they received in his book? I read the book at that GA--one of the free copies that he handed out. It brought tears to my eyes to see the mocking tone he used about trans* people and using people's correct pronouns, as the parent of a non-binary child. I can only imagine what it would feel like to be someone in his congregation whose identity was used as fodder for his campaign to split UUism. Rev. Eklof has never engaged in any process of accountability around his actions, and there were consequences for that. I, for one, wholly support those consequences and view them as an act of integrity and care for the wider community.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rachel, Rebecca here. I do not champion Rev. Todd Eklof. I merely use his story as an example of what I see as an attack on the right to freedom of conscience and of expression. I read The Gadfly Papers a couple of years ago, and while I remember thinking that I didn't agree with everything that he said, and acknowledging that there is always more to any story than what I can perceive, I also didn't see anything in that book I would have called mean-spirited.

      Delete
    2. Thank you Rebecca. Well said.

      Delete
    3. Oops! I put the wrong name in my comment. I meant to say thank you *Rachel*. Well said. Thank you for bringing up the very problematic situation with the Rev Eklof. As was as a glimpse of the negative impacts of his actions.

      My heart goes out to your child, and to you as a parent, in light of the hostility toward trans and non-binary people.

      Delete
    4. Thank you, Karen. We have been very fortunate to have lots of support for my amazing kid!

      Delete
    5. Rebecca, as someone who wants to lead our denomination at the highest level, do you think our "freedom of conscience and expression" are accompanied by any responsibility to one another? When we are in a covenanted community like UUism, do our words and actions have any consequences, and are we accountable to one another?

      Delete
    6. Hi Rachel, Rebecca here. One could probably write a book on the responsibilities that all people have to each other! One of my most sacred responsibilities that I put into practice as often as possible is the principle of charity - which I describe as taking a person's views, words, actions, etc, in the best light possible, as a starting point for human connection. I do not always remember to do this, and sometimes it is very difficult to do. But I have never regretted doing so. Every word, every action, has consequences, far beyond what anyone can ever know. That's why it is important for me to make human connection (love, curiosity, patience, etc.) the foundation for interaction, and not blame, recrimination, or resentment. Again, it is difficult, but not impossible. Most importantly, it works, and that is why I believe in it.

      Delete
    7. You describe viewpoints of fellow UUs who support what you call "critical race theory" as "deeply immoral", a "double evil", "deeply cynical", "inhumane", "perversely white-supremacist", and making a "grave mistake" and "taking us down some very dark paths".

      How does this reflect charity, love, curiosity, patience, and taking others' views in the best light possible?

      It seems to me like this reflects the blame, recrimination and resentment you want to avoid in your interactions.

      Delete
    8. Hi Anonymous, Rebecca here. You are entirely mistaken. I have never, ever, ever described any person as immoral, evil, inhumane, etc. I do believe that racism is immoral, evil, and inhumane, and I will stand by that belief until the end of time.

      There is a huge difference between naming an evil and pointing the finger at someone and calling them evil. I have never done that. When someone is being racist, I do not say, "You are an evil person!" Instead I say, "Hey, I think what you just said was racist, and this is why." And I do that from a place of a desire to connect with that person, not blame or punish that person.

      Delete
    9. As stated, you were describing viewpoints, not people themselves. Still, it seems quite divisive. Have you considered how it might make it challenging to work with diverse perspectives and experiences, including those directly targeted by racism who support what you criticize as “identitarianism” and “Critical Theory”?

      Delete
    10. Well, since I consider racism to be a subset of identitarianism, I don't see any difference, aside from scale, between identitarianism and racism (as I define them). I have always been able to work with all sorts of people of different perspectives and viewpoints, including people who disagree with me about very important topics. I don't consider expressing common philosophical thoughts to be particularly divisive ... not in a setting of charitable discussion. - Rebecca

      Delete
    11. Do you believe then that UUs organizing communities around racial identity - such as DRUUMM and BLUU, two organizations of UU people of color - are engaged in racism?

      Delete
  6. If I properly understand, you are new to General Assembly, and new to UU anti-racism undertakings. I believe you are also a strong public critic of what you level as “Critical Race Theory”. You also describe our UU Association of Congregations being “dogmatic” or “authoritarian”.

    As I was first learning about our UU history and its long-standing, democratic commitment to racial justice - which our General Assembly has reaffirmed many times - this document was really helpful. I encourage you to learn more about the history behind where we are now:

    https://bit.ly/3z8UBia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Karen, Rebecca here. Thank you for posting that document; I am sure I will find it very helpful!

      Delete
  7. Rebecca is a model of integrity and courage. I wish her all the best in her campaign to improve democracy and diversity of thought within the UUA

    ReplyDelete
  8. Here are helpful and transparent facts about the Rev Eklof situation:

    https://revdennismccarty.com/the-gadfly-molehill/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In the above comment on removing Rev. Eklof from fellowship, Rev. Landrum says the Fifth Principle Project is "dedicated to changing the course of the UUA." This would be true if "the course of the UUA" were already to make it less democratic. I don't think this has happened -- yet. Articles that have appeared in UU World and some of the documents sent to GA Delegates do indicate that some want the UUA to be a top-down organization rather than the time-tested bottom-up organization that primarily exists to serve its members. I'm thankful that such an official course has not been set yet, however, and that people like Rebecca Mattis are doing their best to honor our Fifth Principle, encourage respectful inquiry, and maintain the integrity of the UUA.

      Delete
  9. In the above comment on removing Rev. Eklof from fellowship, Rev. Landrum says the Fifth Principle Project is "dedicated to changing the course of the UUA." This would be true if "the course of the UUA" were already to make it less democratic. I don't think this has happened -- yet. Articles that have appeared in UU World and some of the documents sent to GA Delegates do indicate that some want the UUA to be a top-down organization rather than the time-tested bottom-up organization that primarily exists to serve its members. I'm thankful that such an official course has not been set yet, however, and that people like Rebecca Mattis are doing their best to honor our Fifth Principle, encourage respectful inquiry, and maintain the integrity of the UUA.

    ReplyDelete