“Gadfly Papers” discussion continues

I suppose it’s a bit obvious to say that “Gadfly Papers” discussion continues because it never ended. But I intend to write here about commentary that is both constructive and public. I have a particular point of view, but I don’t think that keeps me from giving opponents a fair hearing; neither does it oblige me to dignify manipulative rhetoric. Facebook is such shifting sand that there’s little point linking to something. When I find something that passes muster, I may link to it.

I put Dan Harper, Unitarian Universalist minister and writer, into that category. He wrote about The Gadfly Papers, and in reference to my analysis recently. (I’m just now seeing it.) I think he confuses my analysis of Todd Eklof’s work with disapproval, but the distinction isn’t fatal. Yes, I wish the book were better written, but Eklof wrote when others wouldn’t, and that makes it the best of its kind to date.

But we’re past the book itself. Institutionally, the issues have exposed deep fault lines, and whether Eklof’s intent or an incidental development, that’s the real story.

7 Replies to ““Gadfly Papers” discussion continues”

  1. Hi Scott. I’ve also written a book about the UUA embrace of White Supremacy Culture for its anti oppression work. It is called “A self confessed ‘White Supremacy Culture’: emergence of an illiberal left in Unitarian Universalism,” By Anne L Schneider , PhD. It is a critique of WSC and a plea for more effective strategies to reduce racist attitudes, behavior, and the continuing racial disparities in quality of life indicators. Available from amazon on kindle and in paperback (256 pages).

  2. Scott, you are correct that the conversation regarding The Gadfly Papers has not ended. In fact, the publication of the book only started a conversation that the UUA leadership has long avoided. There are now, as you observed, deep fault lines that need to be debated. Anne’s book should be included in that debate.

    Hopefully we can return to a place where justice, equity and compassion define our relations.

  3. Scott, you’re right, I did equate your criticism of Eklof’s with disapproval; if the writing in a book is poor, I tend to assume that the thinking is also poor. However, as a former philosophy major, I should know that is not always the case (Hegel being a case in point).

    What really fascinates me about the Gadfly Papers controversy is how it reveals ways that the lived religion of ordinary Unitarian Universalists differs from the theology of many leaders of Unitarian Universalism. “Lived religion” is a technical term, which comes an empiricist approach to religious history that focuses on how ordinary people actually do religion, as opposed to how religious leaders and scholars theorize about religion. (Some theologians are now incorporating the insights of this empiricist approach into theology.) Robert Orsi writes that lived religion “points us to religion as it is shaped and experienced in the interplay among venues of religious experiences,… in the necessary and mutually informing exchanges between religious authorities and the broader communities of practitioners, by real men and women in situations they have made and that have made them” (“Everyday Miracles: The Study of Lived Religion,” in David D. Hall, ed., Lived Religion in America [ 1997: Princeton Univ. Press], p. 9).

    With this in mind, I think it’s not only interesting to watch various religious authorities (Eklof, the UUMA, UUA staffers, etc.) squabbling, it’s equally interesting to watch ordinary Unitarian Universalists make sense of concepts like white supremacy, safetyism, anti-racism, etc., in their day-to-day religious lives. Some day maybe I’ll write something more coherent about using lived religion to better understand Unitarian Universalism….

  4. I’d like to read Anne Schneider’s new book, but when I (finally) found it on Amazon, the price is for 359.00 of some unstated currency, and that doesn’t seem quite right, lol. Here’s the link I came up with: https://www.amazon.in/Self-Confessed-White-Supremacy-Culture-Universalism-ebook/dp/B07XJZ8CZV/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1568959724&refinements=p_27%3AAnne+Schneider&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&text=Anne+Schneider
    Could Anne or someone else provide a good link to the Amazon Kindle version of the book? Thanks!

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