Saturday, August 09, 2008

open doors, hearts, windowblinds

I'm troubled by this ad, which our UUA is printing in the New York Times, USA Today, and the Knoxville News Sentinental. The message, "Our Doors and Our Hearts Will Remain Open" is a good one, but there is just a hint of exploitation here, to me. My wife thought the text would be a good letter to the editor, but the pictures make it exploitative.

I myself have spoken of the Knoxville tragedy as an opportunity to walk our talk, to in fact keep our doors and hearts open. I have strategized how best to honor the victims and survivors, and use this as a teachable moment--to strengthen the bonds within and among our congregations, *and* to raise awareness of our UU movement. I respect this attempt, and I appreciate all who worked on it. I just wish it had stopped at "we mourn...we celebrate...our prayers are with..." Once it gets into "Unitarian Universalists know..." it feels unseemly.

Perhaps I'm old-fashioned. Maybe, in the 21st century, people accept (or expect) self-promotion.

In the aftermath of the shootings at the Amish school, a few years ago, the survivors responded "we forgive the shooter, and ask that others do, too." They did not continue, "and services are at 9:30 and 11, with religious education at 11, at the corner of First St. and James Avenue."


At 9:49 AM, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

That ad is more than just a little bit exploitative and it is not just the pictures that make it so. The text alone is quite exploitative. Strangely enough, several days ago, I commented elsewhere that some U*U bloggers and writers of follow-up letters to the editor (including some U*U clergy) seemed to be trying to capitalize on the Knoxville shooting in a manner that made their blog posts and letters to the editor seem like adjuncts to the UUA's national marketing campaign. It now seems that the UUA has decided to go one better (or indeed one worse IMO) and actually capitalize on this tragedy in official UUA produced advertising. That is indeed very unseemly.

The ad is also quite more than a little bit hypocritical when one knows how the UUA and individual U*U "churches" have responded to completely non-violent verbal criticism of various U*U injustices, abuses and hypocrisy. People who have had good reason to criticize the UUA and-or a U*U "church" or two have been ostracized and punished in various ways but the UUA, U*U "churches" and individual U*Us. This ad pretends to wish peace and reconciliation for a murderer yet U*Us, including UUA President Bill Sinkford himself, obstinately refuse to do what is necessary to move towards peace and reconciliation with people who have been harmed by U*Us, including victims of clergy sexual misconduct committed by U*U ministers. From where I stand this ad reeks of two-faced hypocrisy and I expect that others who have been victimized by U*Us in various ways will agree with me.

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an acquaintance of Linda Kraeger and a member of Westside UU Church, I believe that this ad reflects the tenderness that we all feel. Tennessee is the redest of the red states, and UUs have long felt maginalized here. For the first time ever people are asking about our beliefs without telling us that they are wrong and that we are all going to hell. Knoxville is square in the middle of the Bible Belt. I can't begin to tell you many people told me that they were on their needs praying that Jesus would come into my heart. I can't tell you how many times I was pressured to be saved by fellow workers and supervisors.

For the first time, the local news media are asking us what we are all about. We believe that we have something good to offer our community, Perhaps something good can come out of this tragedy.

At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

UUs will always have a dozen different takes on issue like the new advertisement ranging from prideful “we’re too good to proselytize” to beat the drums, sound the trumpets UU evangelization types. Personally, I found the ad both tasteful and appropriate. My main issue was the peculiar notion that by taking a very expensive ad out in the NEW YORK TIMES, we were somehow communicating with America. Too many of us assume that the TIMES really is “the Paper of Record” and that real folks follow it with the breathless enthusiasm we hold for “All Things Considered.” It just the kind of thinking that re-enforces the notion that we are just a bunch of elitists. Better—and probably cheaper—would have been to place the ad in a half-dozen of the nation’s leading regional Dailies. The USA TODAY placement was better in that it really does have a national readership, even if the bulk of that readership seems to be business travelers looking for something familiar and easy to read.
In response to Robin’s comment, to paraphrase my great aunt Myrtle, exploitation is as exploitation does. Robin scours the blogs looking for opportunities to attack the UUA and its leadership. He has a grievance. He will be glad to tell you about it. At length. This is just another opportunity to grind his ax. Some might consider that exploitation.

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Publicity is publicity good or bad. It is bad that a killed in a church but it has brought UUism to the dinner tables of Americans. It may be a bit exploitative to run the ad but it is bringing the topic to the greater public.

I wonder how many people visited the UUA website after the shooting to learn what UUism is and why we are important to the shooter.

If there is any good that may come out of this, more people will be educated about the religion and that is a good start to getting the message out and growing its members.

At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the anomymous, a member of Westside UU Church who posted comment earlier. I see nothing wrong with telling the public who we are. It's not a secret. Compare the ad with the constan stream of visitors from the Mormans or the Jehovah's Witnesses.

We need more exposure in this area. The attack a fortnight ago wasn't the first against the Knoxville church. About 30 years ago, someone blew out the church's windows with a shotgun. The children were inside, fortunatly in the basement. Then, no one in the community had any sympathy with UUs. After all, we were treating gays as though they were human.

At our small church in the town of Farragut, there have been several occasion when, after church, we found flyers under the wiper blades of our cars telling us that if we want to be saved we must give ourselves to Jesus, etc.

Some of the children in RE are harassed in school, being told by their classmates that they are going to hell because they have not accepted Jesus.

This incident brought us a little understanding for the first time in local UU history. We should not squander the chance to help our neighbors know ho we are.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Cynthia L. Landrum said...

My own editorial ran today here, and of course I felt like it was an appropriate response, yet I see what you're saying about the ad. Perhaps the line I would draw between them is in the "join with us" bit at the very bottom for me. That's when, for me, it becomes less of a statement about who were are and letting the world know our response, and more about recruitment. I don't have problems with the pictures if they were approved by the people in them, or problems with the UUA doing an ad such as this, if TVUUC was in support of it.


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