Reviewing “The Gadfly Papers”: part 2

Table of Content

I don't want to make this controversy my full-time job, so this post and done (if I can help it.) Here are my earlier articles the subject: introduction and part one.

My first instinct was correct; this is a work of controversy and while there are parts I do agree with, its style and form wouldn't have convinced me.  That and it's so blisteringly Unitarian, which is a pet complaint. The biggest plus is directing me to the work of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, whom I'll add to my reading list.

I'm imagining where the harm claims are coming from. I see forms of argument that could remind people of other arguments that were abusive. Some terms Eklof uses, such as political correctness  and safetyism, are used by other authors to dismiss or belittle critics, and the fact they show up in the title of the first essay ("The Coddling of the Unitarian Universalist Mind: How the Emerging Culture of Safetyism, Identitarianism, and Political Correctness is Reshaping America's Most Liberal Religion") surely put examiners into high alert. I also see discussions of controversy — in particular, the district executive hiring crisis of 2017 ― that could be embarrassing to those who had thought the narrative was conclusively set. The tension around the publication itself (General Assembly is a strange time) could inflame old trauma. I still don't see the viciousness ("vitriolic rhetoric" introduction to reposted white ministers letter;"aligned with alt-right ideology" Allies for Racial Equity letter; "dissemination of racism, ableism, and the affirmation of other forms of oppression, including classism and homo- and transphobia" UUMA POCI chapter letter; "toxic history and theologies" DRUUMM letter) its denouncers claim.  And fiat isn't good enough; you have to show your work, if not to me, then to the laity commenting online, who seem to be at a different place.

Some writers, mainly on Facebook, speak of portions floating around, or selections that confirm their decision to condemn. I think this is a mistake, not only because that's the oldest rhetorical trick in the book, but because Eklof has a theme that's woven through his book that gets lost with excerpting: an ecclesiology of the free church based on universal human experience. That's important because he doesn't condemn those who would condemn him, but tries to re-direct the discussion to what we might have together.  It's a basis for unity because we need one, and this necessity is what the rest of the book relies on. (His ecclesiology leave me cold, but that's besides the point.)

The less said about the second essay the better. The "divorce" in the title is a call to redivide the Unitarians and Universalists so they could be their true selves. I'm not sure if that's Swiftian fancy, or simply romantic misreading. But his examples ignored the economic reasons, not to mention the social realities, that lead to consolidation.  I think you can make a good case for breaking up or restructuring the UUA. For one, it's too small to be efficient but too big to be nimble. Also, without another similar peer organization, when people leave, they're gone. UUA1 and UUA2 could specialize, develop their own styles and volley ministers and churches back and forth, and I bet it would be bigger in aggregate than the UUA today. A little competition is good, too. But that's not what Eklof suggests.

Yet I think both Eklof and his accusers suffer that common affliction of wanting to be right more than being successful. It might surprise non-readers that he has ideas for dismantling racism, and to continue to work on not being racist, and talks about his bona-fides at in the epilogue.  You might think them hogwash (or wonderful) but they're there. That is, if you can make it through his argumentation, especially the extended section on logic. God help me, but he might have been a graduate of the Vulcan School for Exquisite Logic and that still would have been the wrong approach. An appeal to rhetoric (a personal favorite) wouldn't have been any better. Where he's sermonic, he's stronger. So third and largest essay was a convoluted slog, and if I had been anxious or angry or good ol' loaded-for-bear going into the book, it would have amplified my feelings greatly.

I finally finished the book, but half-way through started taking notes in earnest, and so details from the front third aren't as fresh in mind. Plus my blasted Kindle copy resists cutting-and-pasting. But I have to put this down. I'll keep the comments open for a while; so far everyone has been civil, which makes me happy.

If you are interested in reading the book to understand Eklof's points, read the epilogue first, the beginning and end of the third essay and then the first. You can skim the second essay for the ecclesiological themes.

43 Replies to “Reviewing “The Gadfly Papers”: part 2”

  1. I appreciate your coverage of this controversy. When I learned of it Sunday, I immediately downloaded and read Eklof’s book. My opinion of it is not entirely the same as yours — I rather liked the parts about logic, for example. I’m not a minister, by the way, just a member of a UU congregation.

    What disturbs me is the willingness of several hundred UU ministers to condemn the book (in their open letter) without engaging in any way with the ideas in the book. It seems clear to me that these ministers, for all their good intentions, are in violation of the 4th principle. They explicitly care nothing for a free and responsible search for truth. On the contrary, they’re quite ready to condemn a book and, implicitly, to urge others not to read it, without engaging in any sort of dialog or analysis of the book’s contents.

    I don’t know how you feel about linking to other blogs, but if you’d care to keep a link to my discussion of the problem, perhaps a few people will find it thought-provoking. My piece is at https://midiguru.wordpress.com/2019/06/24/shut-up-youre-not-liberal-enough/. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about whether my views are appropriate fare for your readers.

  2. I mean to be honest, I don’t think we can ignore the ways this was designed to intentionally create controversy.The title and book jacket alone are outright inflammatory. He talks about logic with all the condescension of right wing pundets like Ben Shapiro. He evokes The way he chose to introduce this at GA was disruptive. He is not a lay person with whom the assumption of positive intent can be used to further discussion. He is a minister, and a hosting one at that, speaking from a position of authority. Heck! He is even handing out a book that specifically calls for the division of the UUA at a Massive UU event. That is almost a garuntee of backlash. These actions are at best profoundly naive and msicalculated. At worst they are a deliberate choice to recieve as much bsckalsh as possible (and thus allegedly ‘proving his point’.

    I don’t understand why anyone thinks they need to read beyond all of this to see how this is bad and why it ought be condemned. Before opening single page of this book and Rev. Eklof’s actions havr been divisive, hurtful, and inflammatory.

    The 4th principle calls us to a responsible search for truth and meaning and so much about his actions here are specifically iresponsible. I am glad and heartened DRUUM, ARE, UUMA POCI have made the statements they have.

  3. I think a coordinated campaign to tamp down the discussion is more interesting and damning.

  4. I mean I think that reaction is a totally fair one for something that so directly and specifically breaks covenant. I actually think the medium piece above specifically goes well into how this is book launches accusations rather than opens a dialogue.

    I think the ARE letter frames this well when it calls it a retalliation.

    Its not about ‘silencing free speech’ (although for the record free speech has limits and breaking convenant seems like a reasonably fair one in this context).

    I understand the morbid curiosity, the ‘scoop’, the desire to analyse a situation, one might even go so far as to say gossip. But sometimes a persute of knowledge is little more than a slowing down traffic to get a good look at an acciddent on the side of the road. This isn’t a search for truth and meaning. It is congestion. And in this particular case it is comgestion that causes those hurt by this to repeatedly have to answer to ut and see it overtake discourse.

    To this end, i will simply quote what I find to be a particularly moving line from that ARE letter to emphasize why dwelling on these things is not productive.

    “What, we wonder, would be possible if the creative energy of our leaders were freed up from reacting to instances of resistance and harm, and instead were channeled into imagining, building, and experimenting with practices that embodied the kind of liberation and wholeness that is the core yearning of our faith?”

  5. I’ve found over the years in UU circles that accusations about “breaking covenant” are slippery, and need to be processed with great care and discernment. I’m not confident that I am seeing that kind of discernment right now.

  6. I wasn’t at the General Assembly. I’m just an ordinary UU church member. But the arguments by those who are upset by Rev. Eklof continue to worry me.

    Consider this, from Astrid Moon (above): “He talks about logic with all the condescension of right wing pundets [sic] like Ben Shapiro…. The way he chose to introduce this at GA was disruptive. He is not a lay person with whom the assumption of positive intent can be used to further discussion. He is a minister, and a hosting one at that, speaking from a position of authority. Heck! He is even handing out a book that specifically calls for the division of the UUA at a Massive UU event. That is almost a garuntee [sic] of backlash. These actions are at best profoundly naive and msicalculated [sic]. At worst they are a deliberate choice to recieve [sic] as much bsckalsh [sic] as possible (and thus allegedly ‘proving his point’.”

    These are arguments *ad hominem*. That is, they are attacks on Todd Eklof; they are not a response to or criticism of anything he actually said in his book. This is the same problem that utterly sinks the Open Letter. The Open Letter contains not one word of honest dialog with any of the ideas in Eklof’s book. His ideas may be right, or they may be wrong. Most likely, they’re a mix of right and wrong. But it _cannot_ be right to disparage him as a human being while studiously ignoring everything he said.

  7. Let me echo my appreciation for your sound coverage of these events. It is perhaps the lone attempt at a reasonably constructive approach to what may be a historic schism in the making. And thanks too for your sound advice about how to read the book.

    When I first heard of all this on FB, I knew from the vociferous opposition that I had to read the book for myself. I’m so glad I did, and I will go back and tackle the essay entitled “Lets’ Be Reasonable, because it appears from glancing through it to be a intellectually rigorous analysis of the language of white supremacy as currently employed by ideological movement that has invaded the UUA, and establishes, if his profession and academic credentials weren’t enough, his intellectual bonafides. I think this may be part of the reason that the condemnations have been so many and so swift.

    If I had to summarize his main argument, it is that PC culture poses a direct threat not only to democracy as we’ve known it, but to the tradition of religious humanism that he sees as having been the ground of UUism throughout most of its history. It is a persuasive and powerful argument, in my view. I’ll have more to say about why in a subsequent post. Again, thanks for providing this space.

  8. So what’s the problem with “creating controversy?” Unitarianism & Universalism are both heresies for Christ’s sake, and we seem to be on the forefront of many social change movements. We can’t tolerate a little controversy internally? That’s hypocrisy of the highest form.
    Beyond that, Eklof’s book doesn’t so much “create” controversy, as give visibility to a long-standing & simmering controversy among our ranks.

  9. Just to clarify on Jim Aikin’s criticism of my comment.

    He is write. I am not criticizing his ideas, Before I can even get to his ideas I see things that tell me I am not welcome in his discussion.

    I wrote how his use of language was troubling and that he used language used by consevative right wing pundits. This is language that these pundits use specifcally to target people like me, a transgender woman, and ridicule our existance. I have experienced plenty of harassment using almost exactly these words.

    It is deeply troubling seeing a UU minister mirror that ugly divisive language. His actions are also troubling. All of this speeks to me to both be in direct violation of the first principle and of the convenant he agreed upon when going to GA.

    I am not however accusing of acting in bad faith. I think he may be (and that being a possibility is itself is concerning) but I agree it is just as like he is not. Regardless this is a poorly chosen and wildly inappropriate way to express his ideas.

  10. Accusations of “breaking covenant” are really bullying. This is SJW stuff, and needs to be ended. As UUs, we discuss ideas. I am quite frankly shocked by those who advocate, without reading, that the essays are “harmful” (itself nonsense) and that people should not read it.
    As to the first essay, the points made by Eklof are spot-on, correct, and echo those that many of us who are not enthused about the current UU incarnation have made. The idea that these “echo right-wing ideas” is straight-out guilt by association, and this is a pernicious and inappropriate logical fallacy. When something is to be critiqued, it should be done on the merits, or demerits, of the work itself.
    I read the first essay twice, and will soon read the 3rd essay again. Both are good and I think the suggested order of reading (given in the text by Scott Wells) makes sense.
    The most shocking aspect about the whole matter is the casual, matter-of-fact elimination of the 4th principle – the free and responsible search for truth and meaning – by UU clergy. That 300 clergy would call something “harmful” is a refutation of 400 years of UU experience. We read. We think. We are UUs.

  11. I would like to say that I was shocked that so many ministers would condemn a book they probably haven’t read and would avoid discussion on this matter., but I was not surprised in the least. I was however, disappointed. I have been watching UU change over time to become dogmatic. UUs are leaving, some quietly but they are leaving. I hear UUs shaming each other for not falling in line. Allies are being attacked for not helping in the “right” way.
    I don’t go to church for this. I’m headed out. I hope someone stops this madness before all the allies walk out. I’m not complaining about the social issues UU is supporting, I’m complaining about how they go about it.

  12. Sophia: I am very interested in your comment. I too am EXTREMELY disappointed and UNINTERESTED in the current climate of intimidation, shaming, bullying, and PC nonsense in the UU faith. How many people do you know that have left for this reason?

  13. As in the standard safety speech given on airplanes, I am noting the exits and my path for them, but I’m not leaving my seat just yet.
    I still find value in the faith as practiced in congregations and other groups in which I serve, but I am starting to see the UUA as becoming more harm than benefit.

  14. I would be lacking in candor if I did not say that I feel the same way, and am keeping my options open.

    My home church, of course, and colleague-friends I love.

  15. I know of one minister applying for fellowship who backed out. I know of two other ministers who are unhappy with the current situation. One is keeping quiet, the other has been carefully vocal at times. I know of about 5 people in my small congregation who are not attending. One person on the worship committee shamed a white member who grew up poor, starving at times, because she should acknowledge her privilege. She is on her way out the door. I am not turning in my pledge card. I threw it away last week. That will knock me out of membership

  16. To be honest I’ve been on my way out the door for years. And how the Eklof-problem has been handled only furthers to reinforce why I have steadily been moving away. Although I miss so many specific people that I served with in UU circles (ministers, lay leaders, religious educators, etc.)

    I’ve kept my UU membership at the local, small, rural UU church that has been part of my community since the 1850’s. I still pay a financial pledge, although I rarely attend. I pay the pledge mostly out of loyalty to a community of (now) rather elderly people who sustained my spirit and hope beginning in my mid-20’s. They even bought me leather dress shoes for a job interview, back when I could not afford new shoes. But those dear people look at the UUA, and see an organization/hierarchy that is less and less relevant to their ministries and struggles in a rural, Mid-Western community.

    More often than not, these days, I participate in a Quaker congregation. The Quakers have their own flaws, but at least their efforts on behalf of peace and justice, attempt to be concensus building, and devoted to grass-roots processes of mutual discernment. I can live with their imperfections.

    The further I get away from the UUA denominational structure/hierarchy (not my local UU church) the healthier I have become emotionally and spiritually. I have experienced alot of harsh judgments from people in the denominational structure: judgments about my Humanistic Christianity being insufficiently UU, judgments about my rural UU congregation being backwards.. The free and responsible search for truth and meaning was a UU gift to me, and brought me to these places (and others that I cherish). But for years I beat myself up for not being good enough for the UUA officials. Or, alternately, I would get angry at them and verbally lash out.

    Most of me is out the door. I think I have become a better person for distancing myself from the denomination. I feel more peaceful, more at home in my own skin, less anxious, and with a greater reserve of compassion. And I feel very sad that distancing myself from the UUA denominational apparatus is what enabled this growth to take place. The principles and the reality just have not been matching up.

  17. Sophia said, “I’m not complaining about the social issues UU is supporting, I’m complaining about how they go about it.” That’s exactly right. I would guess that 100% of UU’s want to combat racism, sexism, heterosexism, cisgender bias, and so forth. The problem I’m seeing is the rhetoric and tactics of some of the people who are active in this effort.

    What I sense (and I’m on the periphery here, not in the middle of it, so please take my comments with a big grain of salt) is a tendency for activists to say, implicitly or explicitly, “Unless you fully endorse our approach to solving these problems, you’re covertly supporting the other side.”

    I guess I can understand that people of color may feel they’re not being listened to, or are being marginalized, if someone white says, “You know, there are other ways to look at that.” But sometimes there ARE other ways to look at it.

  18. Thanks for an excellent series of posts. I am a retired UU minister and see little hope. The way 300 ministers jumped on this bandwagon without reading the book is amazing, but probably not surprising in our current UU culture. The way you were attacked for your letter was equally amazing. Good grief, now logic and reason are attacked as part of white supremacy culture. This has become a farce.

  19. I posted this on Chris Rothbauer’s blog in reply to his critique of Eklof.

    So, let’s examine your very first substantive criticism of Eklof’s book, ie, the Milo story, which you say you are delving into it’s intricacies “because it really illustrates a major problem in Eklof’s essays: his telling of stories lacks nuance, fact checking, and just presenting all sides fairly.” That is, had Eklof included the fact that Milo was set to out vulnerable students, it would have undermined the one thing Eklof did say, that “1500 demonstrators surrounded a building to protest the presence of right-wing provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos, with the goal of preventing him from speaking.” You say that this is an example of Eklof presenting “the side of the story that most clearly supports his conclusions.” But there are no real “sides.” That Milo might have intended to do what you say does not in any way obviate the fact that the 1500 demonstrators were there to prevent him from speaking. So, it is not in any way necessary for Eklof to provide the whole story, because the whole story in that case does not change what actually happened.So, Eklof was not, as you suggest, deliberately omitting facts in order to support his argument.

    I suspect there are other examples of this in your critique. Your piece should be examined more thoroughly to ascertain whether in each case Eklof’s use of the stories you sight do in fact, if all the details of each had been supplied, undermine or even invalidate his entire argument.

  20. That a person feels it’s appropriate to say “I didn’t call for a book ban; I just suggested ways of keeping people from seeing the book” is sad.

  21. I find it extremely problematic that people are coming over to a completely separate blog and critiquing MY article out of context. It’s sad that we’re now at the point that we’re all so far in our bubbles that we would be willing to do such a thing. I responded to Frank on my blog. Since his critique is here, I will post my response:

    “No, Frank, but Milo provoking people into a violent response undermines Eklof’s (as well as Haidt and Lukianoff’s) thesis that the Berkeley protests were examples of safetyism in action. I’m not sure where you got that I was giving the information Eklof left out to refute the information he left in; I never said I was. It simply complicates his thesis in an inconvenient way.”

    And Stourley, I find it inappropriate that you and others are continuing to insist that I want a book ban after I have flat out said multiple times I do not want one. You don’t seem to be following Eklof’s own exhortation to give the most charitable possible interpretation to people’s words. By continuing to insist I am for a book ban, you are essentially calling me a liar and shutting down all dialogue. I won’t be gaslit.

    I’ve tried to be as honest and fair in my arguments as I possibly could. It is the way people are reacting to me.

  22. Well , it was you who chose the Milo story as the first by way of illustrating what I take to be your main criticism, that Eklof fails to include details of the stories he uses because they undermine or contradict his main argument. And your addition here, that Milo was set to encourage violence and that is why 1500 protesters showed up is unsubstantiated. Perhaps you could supply a bit more of that.

    And as to the inappropriateness of critiquing your essay here, I disagree. I posted a link to your article here earlier without critique and suggested it to readers here as an alternative point of view. I supplied my comments later, first on your blog and then here. I don’t see a thing wrong with commenting on your piece in a related blog so long as a link to your piece is included for others to read for themselves.

  23. You mean like the source I quoted which quotes its own source, an Independent article?

    This is why it’s inappropriate to have this discussion here, Frank. You imply I just pulled it out of thin air when I quote a source that is readily available through every major book dealer, which quotes stories in major newspapers.

  24. This is not a bubble but they do exist.
    “Bubbles” are the result of shaming and attacking allies and people who have good intentions within an organization. UU is separating itself into individuals rather than trying to be unified in love. Those who are left alienated are forming bubbles. People really want to be part of a community but what is happening as a result of UUs bad approach to good causes is separate bubbles. In UU there are two options, either for us or against us. That was clearly evident by the reaction to Eklof’s book. UU will never accomplish its goals by attacking it’s own membership
    There are more bubbles and private groups commenting on the UU “my way or the highway” attitude, than you can imagine. It’s shocking but not surprising. UU can heal the cracks forming within by adopting a more loving approach and encouraging dialogue.

  25. Sophia, I didn’t mean to imply everyone in the comments of this blog is in a bubble about this per se, my apologies if I came off sounding like that. I’m more frustrated that people are talking about what I mean by my words away from where I said them. I don’t think that everyone is acting in bad faith; I certainly want to extend good faith whenever possible, but it’s becoming apparent to me that some of the people who are running with Eklof’s words are definitely not acting in a way that encourages dialogue while simultaneously accusing others of the very thing they’re doing.

  26. Chris Rothbauer feels it would be more appropriate for people to comment directly on his piece on medium.com. Unfortunately, that site is not open to people to make responses without signing up. I find that policy objectionable. Chris, if you’d like responses directly on your piece, please put it on an open blog, not on a restricted blog.

    I wrote a long piece this morning in which I analyzed Chris’s piece, but I can’t link to it on his piece without agreeing to the Terms & Conditions, whatever they are. So here’s the link: https://midiguru.wordpress.com/2019/07/01/the-perils-of-advocacy/.

    Just to be clear, I’m not a UU minister, just an ordinary UU church member. I’m disheartened that so much of the dialog on this subject (including, I would say, Chris’s critique of the book) is about the process. Like others, Chris seems happy to criticize Eklof’s procedures and research (or lack of research) without in any way addressing Eklof’s basic criticism of safetyism and identity politics within the UU community. If Chris is not ready to address this topic, I don’t think anybody needs to address his writing any further than I already have.

  27. Hi, Jim, first thanks for being one of only two people so far who has done a critique of my article without ad hominems or posting a paragraph and thinking that’s it (the other person being a random reddit user who largely inspired my follow-up). I’ll read over your article and give some thoughts on it on your blog. For the record, I feel this is how dialogue gets started.

  28. Dialogue is the most important thing because through dialogue we can find our way back to a loving approach to social issues. Dialogue was discouraged at General Assembly through the letter signed by “300 white UU ministers” in opposition to Eklof’s book along with some other coalitions. I am watching my religion fall apart but so many people are unaware. That is the larger issue and we need to address it and we need to dialogue buy not fight.
    I am interested to know if we can survive as a religion
    Eklof, through his imperfect book, sheds light on issues within UU. We can talk about his book or we can talk about the issues.

  29. Yes, I can see how it’s a bother for you to provide that source here, and that, for some reason, that’s why it’s inappropriate to discuss here. I would suggest, therefore, that you simply stop discussing here.

  30. Jim,

    That is a first rate analysis. Excellent. Thank you. Would you mind if I linked to it from other discussions, particularly on FB?

    Regards
    fjc

  31. I’ve offered a pretty wide berth for this comment thread. All contributed comments have been posted: none withheld, none edited. I even allowed the cross-posting of comments because I have a low opinion of walled-garden commenting, as on Medium.

    But your comment stepped close to the threshold of rudeness, which often happens on old threads. This is the time for front-parlor manners. If not, I reserve the right to disallow commenters, or to close the thread after allowed the target of the offending comment a final word.

    Chris Rothbauer: you are at liberty to continue, should you wish.

  32. Calling people garbage was also defended by some who said the remark was taken out of context.

  33. First I want to thank Rev. Wells (and Chris Rothbauer, in his medium) for actually reading the book and providing informed critiques rather than the ad hominem attacks we saw from various ministers’ groups.

    I have been troubled by developments in the UUA and in my congregation in the last two years like to see a well-reasoned analysis and critique of what has gone wrong with UU discourse.

    Unfortunately I don’t think this book quite gets the job done, although it is better than no book at all. It is not well written–too many run on or convoluted sentences, too many unnecessary commas. The first chapter is unnecessarily tendentious in its reliance on the Lukianoff-Haidt framework to critique current UU discourse. Railing against safetyism, PC culture and identity politics sounds like Fox News. There are better, more accurate ways to articulate the concern that UU has become too dogmatic in suppressing dissent. The second chapter is a non-sequitur, providing zero evidence or even intuition for its assertion that the UU merger is the reason that UU no longer tolerates dissent. The last chapter was belabored, but I thought it’s indictment of current UU dogma of white supremacy and white fragility was clear and convincing.

    Nevertheless, while this is a flawed book, the UUA’s response to it is far more flawed, and proves Eklof’s main point that the UUA has become dogmatic and intolerant of criticism. The accusations that this book is vitriolic, white supremacist, homophobic, etc. are totally unfounded, unless you adopt an all-encompassing view that says that any critique of the current UUA view of (say) white supremacy is itself white supremacy.

    There’s been a lot of debate about this book at my church. One argument that the Eklof denouncers keep making is that “the book caused pain, so it’s bad and you shouldn’t read it.” This may be the most dangerous ad hominem argument against dissent yet invented, because of course people don’t want to cause harm, and it’s not possible to interrogate or invalidate someone’s claim of pain. The problem is that in a world where some people experience harm any time they are exposed to ideas they disagree with, shutting down all debates that cause pain is a recipe for shutting down all debates, period…which may be exactly what the UUA wants.

  34. If you are looking for a well researched book that explains what is happening in UU try : The Coddling of the American Mind
    https://www.amazon.com/Coddling-American-Mind-Intentions-Generation/dp/0735224897

    I just finished it and it has actual examples and psychological explanations, a dive into the possible causes and advice for the future. The examples are mostly from college campuses but the situation could very well be descriptions of UU or what is to come in UU. The situations and reactions will be so familiar that it’s shocking.

    I hope the UUA will recognize the cracks forming before things start to crumble.

  35. I am from Spokane and know of Todd Eklof’s work in this community on behalf of progressive causes, to include support for gay marriage, opposition to oil pipelines and support for the Standing Rock protests, defense of smart justice initiatives, and opposition to new jail construction. I have also read The Gadfly Papers as well as the book he criticizes, Robin Di Angelo’s “White Fragility.” His assessment of her book is more charitable than mine. He says it is unsupported by research. I say it is secular huckstering to guilt trip white people and make money as well as being unsupported by any demographic research data. The fact that so many UU ministers condemned his book without having read it appalls me. Group-think at its worst.

  36. The argument that “words cause harm” is a terrible one. They do not. Of course, if words are uttered in a court of law, that is one thing.

    But we are discussing words between friends and fellow parishioners who subscribe to UU ideas and consider themselves UUs. Words of concern about the direction of UUism are not harmful. The words of Eklof are those which have crystallized the ideas of many, myself included. I would have written what he wrote, but been far more critical and concerned.

    I am pretty sure that I am the anonymous reddit person that Chris Rothbauer references. I have commented on his discussion, which I consider incorrect in some ways. I made the comment on reddit, I made the comment in direct response to him on his own blog. So, I’m not sniping. Like many here, I have chosen anonymity.

    Essentially, Chris mistakes the argumentation tradition that “Gadfly Papers” lies within. GP is an essay within the “argumentative essay” tradition. Eklof makes a case for his position, and he does so fairly and without distortion. He does not fully defend nor develop the arguments of the other side. He does not, in fact, need to do so. If his essay was from the “expository essay” tradition, even-handed development of both sides is needed. But that is not his intent, so criticisms that he fails to do something that he was not trying to do, nor that he needed to do, are mistaken.

  37. I finally got a comment that was more personal than substantive and I disallowed it.

    I think it’s time to shut down the comments on The Gadfly Papers posts.

Comments are closed.