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What Happened at GA 2019?

If you missed GA this year, we hope you’ll spend some time going over some of the amazing worship and other events that took place this year. You can find all of the recorded events at https://www.uua.org/ga/off-site/2019

We would like to recommend the Ware Lecture, and The Service of the Living Tradition. We also would like to highlight the events below. Watch Alex Bates-Lamparella and Stevie K. Carmody lead the worship elements of opening ceremony. Though not from GA but from Ministry Days, you also don’t want to miss Rev. Leslie Takahashi’s Berry Street Address. All links follow:

Opening Ceremony. https://www.uua.org/ga/off-site/2019/worship/opening

Sunday Worship. https://www.uua.org/ga/off-site/2019/worship/sunday

The Berry Street Address: https://www.uuma.org/mpage/MD19BSEVideo

Also, at GA 2019, the minister of the Spokane Church distributed a copy of a self-published book that directly harmed members of our community. He was invited to return to covenant by engaging in conversation with other ministers and, especially, those hurt by his actions and he refused. If you feel the need to know more, you’re encouraged to read the statements released by various organizations as well as individuals. We are including the links below:

Public Statement: UUMA People of Color and Indigenous Chapter, Regarding The Gadfly Papers https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-4HvVMVT1pC3FkOZR0iIFd2XyMjYrt3z_egd8EAiNus/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR1fqtfUfUngy6bRaFiUMUrsi3orL6n59vpn6XhsLTpFf3PsiM5sxT7JrNQ

The time you sowed the wind and left others to reap the whirlwind by Theresa Inés Soto https://medium.com/@titasoto/the-time-you-sowed-the-wind-and-left-others-to-reap-the-whirlwind-bdbc67f83ce6

Telling Our Stories: The Failure of The Gadfly Papers by Chris Rothbauer https://medium.com/@crothbauer/telling-our-stories-the-failure-of-the-gadfly-papers-44b08351ed07

DRUUMM Statement in response: https://www.facebook.com/DRUUMM/photos/a.165860406803228/2215621331827115/?type=3&theater

LREDA Response: https://www.lreda.org/lreda-board-response-to-harmful-book

Open Letter from White UU Ministers: https://www.muusja.org/reprint-an-open-letter-from-white-uu-ministers/?fbclid=IwAR3teniL24HrzSluTB4heojfhC1E9Ou2q1TWHLaISCnQIOw1RPD_TOA-fLU

14 comments (Add your own)

1. Greg Lawler wrote:
In fairness to the author, if you are going to read criticisms of the book, you should also read the book itself. It is available on Amazon, The Gadfly Papers, by Todd Eklof.

Here is another link on comments https://www.revscottwells.com/2019/06/23/the-gadfly-papers/ . Included in the comments are Rev. Eklof's comments (and those of several other people) about the events at GA.

I know very little about this controversy other than what is written on the web, but I believe that fairness requires giving both sides of the debate.

While I do not think this is a great book, and there is much I disagree with, I believe that it an honest attempt by a minister to reflect on actions in the UUA, and characterizations of it as harmful and/or racist are misguided.

Sun, June 30, 2019 @ 7:32 AM

2. Richard Wachterman wrote:
Reverend Eklof's thesis that honest civil debate within Unitarian Universalism is being suppressed is being proven by the responses to his treatise. Those responses describe his statements as full of hate, including transphobia, ableism, and sexism. But they don't quote the statements. Unitarian Universalists are smart enough and strong enough to read a book themselves. If every harsh word about Eklof's treatise is true, readers won't be killed by it. They won't even be harmed by it. They will have made their own decision about a controversy rather than blindly accepting someone else's view. I believe that a fair reader of his treatise will not find it to be full of hate, transphobia, ableism, or sexism. But, don't take my word for it - read the book.

Tue, July 2, 2019 @ 6:10 PM

3. Finley C zcampbell wrote:
The basis of the Unitarian Universalist Association of congregations is the fourth principle and its violation will damage and destroy our efforts to be an alternative to fundamentalist religion. identitarianism is a form of religious fundamentalism.

Fri, July 5, 2019 @ 6:22 AM

4. Joan Staples wrote:
I have a copy of the Gadfly Papers and have read parts of it. In addition, I have read on the Scott Wells blog responses from others, including the author, about what really happened at GA. The Spokane minister's history contradicts the criticisms of the 500 UUA white ministers' letter. Having read the UU World for a long time, including some of the events referenced in the Gadfly (and the response) I believe that the UUA needs to consider what it is doing very seriously. It is becoming more like the fundamentalist religions we say we are against. We are talking about original sin and heresies like the faiths we say we are against. The ideal, I believe, is our seeking mutual power to defeat racism.r9

Fri, July 5, 2019 @ 7:29 AM

5. Carolina K-G wrote:
Are any of the above commentators attendees of First Church and/or residents of San Diego... ?
... because it's kinda creepy how people keep popping up everywhere to promote this book and defend Todd Eklof. It almost feels like some sort of a coordinated effort.

Fri, July 5, 2019 @ 8:55 PM

6. Greg Lawler wrote:
Carolina, This is the first time in my memory that I have seen UUA churches on their public web pages unfairly characterize someone who was honestly expressing a reasoned opinion (not one that I agree entirely with by any means). The totally unfair accusation of racism and harm to someone who does not deserve it has caused me to post. This is part of being a witness for the principles of the UUA. I have coordinated with nobody.

And just for the record, I have not been promoting the book. I have responded to inaccurate posts about the book to promote the principle of fairness to individuals.

Sat, July 6, 2019 @ 5:51 AM

7. Marian Hennings wrote:
I am not from San Diego but I am from Spokane and know Todd Eklof is not a bigot. I have read his book and, if it harmed anyone, it was only because they have huge chips on their shoulders and are looking for bigotry where none exists. Todd has been heavily involved in community efforts to combat mass incarceration, stop fossil fuel shipments, and promote gay rights. He refused to perform marriages for anyone until all people had the right to marry in our state. Meetings to support the Standing Rock protests were held at his UU church. He does criticize Robin Di Angelo, which I believe is the cause of much of the venom directed his way. I have read two of her books. I also criticize her theories and have been attacked by her acolytes for so doing. Todd believes we should emphasize our unity rather than engage in identity politics and safetyism. I think safe spaces are play pens and adults do not need them. Trigger warnings and censorship should not be needed by UUs, who are supposed to be seeking truth and heeding the guidance of reason and the results of science. The idea that logic and objectivity undergird white supremacy culture is incredibly stupid; in fact, they do the opposite. Read the book. It threatens no one.

Tue, July 30, 2019 @ 5:57 PM

8. Marian Hennings wrote:
I wish to modify my above comment by saying that some people who claim harm may be suffering from PTSD. They have been harmed in the past so they are overly reactive, perceiving possible threats where none actually exist.

Fri, August 2, 2019 @ 10:26 AM

9. Rev. Dennis McCarty wrote:
I signed the Clergy letter disavowing the Gadfly book, based on parts of it I could access on the Internet. I then bought and read a copy--and my only regret is that I couldn't sign the letter twice.

Eklof is a really poor writer who obviously suffers from Dunning-Kreuger effect. (I have met him, and have no doubt he actually thinks he wrote a GREAT book. He's way wrong.)

His writing style is disorganized and disjointed, full of "tells" on what's really motivating him. Yes, he has done some excellent social justice work, and deserves credit for that. But close reading of the book reveals that marginalized groups need to realize they're characters in HIS heroic story. He is unnerved by the possibility that non-members of the dominant culture (binary, Euro-American males) might *demand* to be able to control their own destinies.

His knowledge of Unitarian Universalist history is superficial at best and non-existent at worst. He betrays some real ignorance of the forces that formed this tradition, yet holds himself up as an "expert." He also holds himself up as an "expert" on logic, yet his arguments are full of logical fallacies.

Close-reading of his text quickly reveals that his promotion of a "religion of humanity" is really about a religion where white, humanist males like himself continue to call the shots. He's all for social justice as long as it doesn't bring actual change.

He mocks trans people openly. (I note that so far this year, 20 trans people and counting have been murdered simply for being trans. All through General Assembly as the book was being discussed, trans people and people of color were being cornered and hassled about its accusations--mostly by older, humanist white men. (I say this as an elderly, atheist male.)

The book was irresponsible in the manner of its distribution (which Eklof now admits.) It's irresponsible in its content. And full of white fear of real change.

And, oh, by the way, saying that "identitarianism is a form of religious fundamentalism" requires acceptance of a white nationalist (i.e. racist) definition of the word, "identitarianism." I'd be a little more careful about that. Eklof plays right into the hands of white nationalist recruiters. I don't think he does it intentionally, just heedlessly. But it's problematic.

Sat, September 14, 2019 @ 7:19 AM

10. Dan Reidy wrote:
Dennis, where in the book does he mock trans people openly?

Mon, September 30, 2019 @ 9:23 PM

11. ou812 wrote:
Some excerpts from the open letter signed by Rev. McCarty:

"We recognize that a zealous commitment to “logic” and “reason” over all other forms of knowing is one of the foundational stones of White Supremacy Culture."

"All politics are identity politics, and when the default is white supremacist patriarchy, we must trust the experience of those who are targeted."

"Ideas and language can indeed be forms of violence, and can cause real harm...The predictable “freedom of speech” arguments are commonly weaponized to perpetuate oppression and inflict further harm."

Thu, October 3, 2019 @ 9:11 AM

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