General Assembly I.D. checks vs. Young UU Defunding, or, UU Protest Culture on the Horns of a Dilemma

There’s a new brouhaha stirring over funding cuts to Unitarian-Universalist youth and young adult programs at the national level.  It promises to be far larger and more divisive than the waves over I.D. checks at the port where General Assembly 2008 is being held.  But there is a possible irony looming here over anti-UUA activism.  UUs have it in their DNA to distrust central authority and to view even their own institutions with suspicion, often interpreting complicated situations in the least charitable possible way in regards to potential motives on the part of authority figures.  This is especially strong among younger UUs, who are raised on an ideology of resistance inherited from the Baby Boomers, yet live within a quite liberal church by any normal American standards and therefore are actually frustrated in their lack of windwills to tilt at.

The irony is this: the same people who are incensed enough to boycott General Assembly over the handful of actual people who may be turned away because of I.D. checks,  are largely the ones who would also be most likely to go to GA and make a big show of protest and resistance over the defunding of continental-level young UU leadership.  Since those most enamored of UU protest culture and least forgiving of UUA actions will have self-selected themselves out of GA attendance, perhaps it will turn out to have been a (probably unintentional) stroke of fortune for the UUA Board that they reached their conclusions over funding in the same year as the I.D. kerfluffle.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Unitarian-Universalism

3 responses to “General Assembly I.D. checks vs. Young UU Defunding, or, UU Protest Culture on the Horns of a Dilemma

  1. “This is especially strong among younger UUs, who are raised on an ideology of resistance inherited from the Baby Boomers, yet live within a quite liberal church by any normal American standards and therefore are actually frustrated in their lack of windwills to tilt at.”

    I think this is very inaccurate, on several levels. One being that younger UUs have a few significant windmills to tilt at, namely lack of support from their congregations once they are old enough to “leave YRUU” – just see Dan Harper’s recent post for more on this issue.

    Also, the way you characterize people who choose not to attend GA this year over the Port Security issue is not really fair, either. You write: “the same people who are incensed enough to boycott General Assembly over the handful of actual people who may be turned away because of I.D. checks,” when almost every opposition I’ve read and heard has expressed discomfort or anger at the *idea* of the government being able to decide who can or cannot attend our worship services. Your words imply there is no principle involved here, and that fellow UUs are just being petty.

  2. Jeff

    Hafidha, I think you’re thinking of windmills in a different way than was intended. Young UUs often want to “fight the power”–not because they’ve been monumentally oppressed by power, but because they’ve been exposed for years to stories about how their Baby Boomer parents marched for this or that and transformed America on the one hand, and have internalized a sense of liberal white guilt over “white privilege” on the other hand. UU ineptness at youth ministry just doesn’t compare to legal segregation, pre-feminist era institutional sexism, or Cold War militancy as a power issue. That urge to practice UUism through radical protest is still strong, but with less overt power structures to attack it has devolved from fighting massive structures of cultural conservatism at large into never-ending internal cycles of purgation and catharsis over nebulous racism and oppression within UUism.

    As for the anti-GA protests, they’re certainly not petty. They are principled, but the principle seems poorly thought out if it is only based on the factor you mentioned. The government has no interest whatsoever in blocking access to religious functions, and the I.D. check, from their point of view, has nothing to do with religion. They are interested in preventing terrorists from attacking the nation’s ports, which are known to be specific targets on interest. What goes on inside a building at the port is immaterial; the goal is to keep terrorists from blowing up those people inside while they are praying, networking, or doing whatever it is they choose to do. Therefore this whole situation carries no threat of governmental interference in religion whatsoever. Just as you’d (understandably) need identification to get into any sensitive government facility, but once there could hold a prayer meeting or whatever if you wished to, the rules governing ports are intended to keep the facilities themselves safe, not to advance some sort of creeping governmental control over religion.

    The *idea* of governmental control over religion should indeed get people angry. But that’s not what is happening at GA 2008. To remain mad enough to boycott and make public pronouncements of boycott after it has become clear that the government couldn’t give a hoot that the meeting happens to be religion suggests that some people are protesting out of motivations beyond simple disagreement over identification checks. Rather, it seems clear that some measure of anomosity toward the UUA as a centralized authority is at work. People who dislike (or at least distrust) the UUA are caught in a dilemma–the desire to protest the UUA by boycotting GA and the need to attend GA in order to protest the UUA. That’s the point this post is trying to bring a little attention to.

  3. young UU

    As a UU youth I have learned to think critically about power in the U.S. and to want to challenge oppression, largely because of people at the margins of the denomination who are constantly pushing the UUA and us all to live out what we believe. To me the argument that thinking that because we are a relatively liberal church we should not be protesting the UUA, but turning our protest elsewhere, does not cut it. The UUA is our community, our home, how we are in relationship with each other, how we choose to be in the world. And it is not somehow separate from the rest of the world, it is squarely within it, and the multiple oppressions that shape it.

    I want the UUA to be building alternative, anti-oppressive ways to be in the world. I do not want to settle for an annual meeting that undocumented UUs cannot attend, or for a UUA that does not include young UUS in decision-making about our communities. I want to be part of the UUA that challenges ways that young people and undocumented immigrants are targeted by oppression. That is not taking it too far. That is being serious about what is going on in our society and trying to get us, UUs, to live in ways that fulfill our beliefs.

    Yes, I learned to be critical and to protest as a young UU. I learned to think about oppression, and yes, white privilege (thank you soooooo much to youth and young adult anti-racism trainers!!!). And I was not somehow *duped* into white guilt. (Also, when you say that young UUs are full of white guilt, it assumes that all young UUs are white and experience anti-racism training as white people, which is not true and disregards young UUs of color’s experience and existence). I want to be part of a denomination that does not only take a critical look at the world around us, but a critical look at ourselves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s