I May Put You Down…But I’ll Never Let You Down (Safety/Security and Things UU)

I have to own a couple of things before I start.

I am a native St. Louisian (and still spend part of the year there). I was in St. Louis when Michael Brown was killed. So when the words safety or security come up in UU conversations, I get defensive; because there has been an actual threat of physical violence against one of the metro-area UU congregations. I have spent the past almost-2 years wishing/hoping/praying this threat never comes to fruition. That doesn’t even go into all the vandalism that has happened to the “Black Lives Matter” banners that have been hung at St. Louis congregations (UU or not).

Until you are in a situation in which the threat of physical violence is ever-present, I am going to ask that you be very deliberate in your use of the words “safety” or “security”. In fact, I’m begging you to.

This does not mean I don’t recognize that there are emotional/psychic/spiritual safety issues. I know there are. But I need you to understand that while physical safety is under threat, it is hard for me to make the jump; partially because if a person’s physical safety is under threat, their emotional/psychic/spiritual safety is under threat too (if not already completely gone).               [end issue #1]


I was in the room in Baltimore when Rev. Peter Morales was asked the question about UUA hiring practices. I was sitting next to the person who asked the question. As far as I can tell, nobody who was in that room, even if they were disturbed by Rev. Morales’ answer, ever called for Rev. Morales to resign. Yet it seems as there is a “poor Peter” narrative that has emerged. I’m not here for that. Rev. Morales made a choice. So for the narrative to turn this into a “faction” essentially going all French Revolution on the UUA and calling for people’s heads makes no sense to me. Everybody in this situation is an adult who made their own choices.               [end issue #2]

ok…to the main…..

Mel Pine writes:

“Mobil at the time was the largest U.S.-based employer in South Africa, so eventually the building where I worked was picketed by the members of my own church. I’d say hello to the pickets and cross the picket line. It made no sense to me that forcing Mobil to withdraw from South Africa would do anyone any good. We were much more progressive in our working conditions and promotion practices than whatever South African company we’d be forced to sell our assets to.”

Remember a couple of days ago when I said cluelessness was nothing new in Unitarian Universalism? Exhibit A.

Saying that Mobil was “much more progressive in our working conditions and promotion practices than whatever South African company we’d be forced to sell our assets to,” is akin to saying that you were a better slave overseer than the overseer at the plantation down the road. You were still an overseer! You were complicit in a system of degradation. How can you not see that?

Mel Pine goes on to say:

“I know that the way I have described the crisis will upset some of my UU friends, but I am in the position of no longer feeling that my religion, at least at the national level, is a safe place. I don’t disagree with much of what the faction in control stands for, but I abhor its tactics. So this time I have decided not to withdraw but to go to this year’s General Assembly and work toward a possible future elected role.”

oh, white liberals. you never fail to continue to disappoint me. you always find evermore creative ways for me to wonder if any of y’all have ever read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”.

And since you never fail to continue to disappoint me, I’m just going to reprint the most striking parts to rebut Mel.

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

“In spite of my shattered dreams of the past, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause, and with deep moral concern, serve as the channel through which our just grievances would get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed. I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshippers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say, “follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, “those are social issues with which the gospel has no real concern.”, and I have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely other-worldly religion which made a strange distinction between body and soul, the sacred and the secular.

So here we are moving toward the exit of the twentieth century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail-light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice.”

I’m done for the moment. I cannot give Mel Pine anymore space in my brain. It’s Maundy Thursday and I have things to prepare for.