Doing this good work on the cheap

I’ve been very touched by the comments, here and on Facebook, on the previous posts (one, two, three) on the theme of changing Unitarian Universalist public engagement. A thought or two now about resources.

The title, “Doing this good work on the cheap” has a few meanings:

  1. Recognizing that we tend to support this work as secondary and contingent, and thus not supporting this well at all. Thus, trying to do it cheaply.
  2. Recognizing that to start this work, it will have to be accomplished frugally, as its  value will not be established within the congregation, or will be a rival to our current, dominant witness mode of social engagement.
  3. Recognizing that church finances are likely to change radically, and accustomed levels and sources of funding may not be available to fund any church activities.
  4. Recognizing that people’s time is at least as valuable as a financial contribution; both are needed.

Of course, cheap has a moral value, too and I introduce the word as a warning against cheapening this work by ceding its moral dimension. As I wrote last time, much of what we bring as religious people is an orientation to the eternal.

Let’s turn to a couple of actions, both related to information. Information to choose what actions fit best with one’s talents and current need. Information that leads to the preparation of public policy. Better information that confronts misinformation that might be used to stifle a well-chosen course of action, or that might lead to a false compromise.

Here in Washington, anyway, we lean on subject content experts: their writing, their reputation and their services. But they’re not always right, their conflicts of interest aren’t always established and “good” ones don’t come cheap. And an expert may not exist for the problems that exist in your area.

Or, rather, may not be recognized. As I wrote before, I bet we have in Unitarian Universalist congregations more expertise than we appreciate. And if not in the pews, perhaps just one degree of relationship removed. And if we don’t have the talent yet, perhaps there exists someone (or more than one) who have the will and ability to learn. (I’m gathering some training links.)

The Unitarian Universalists I know tend to be tough-minded. (Some may say pig-headed: fine.)  Surely we have the charism to take on wonky policy analysis, propaganda busting and democratizing expertise. Might not cost much, and dearly balance the talking heads whose interests may neither be ours or the most vulnerable members of society.

There’s nothing cheap about that.


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