Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A demonstrative anecdote

I was challenged by a friend to show an example of theists actually suffering a hostile atmosphere in a UU setting, as opposed to just the odd comment from a rabid atheist speaking only for himself. An incident sprang immediately to mind, as it had shocked not only me, but the minister as well.

I don't remember the exact date, but it was perhaps five years ago. Rev. Clear ran a program on Wednesday nights called "something for everyone", which involved a pitch in dinner and philosophical discussion. One of those evenings we were split into two work groups with separate and secret instructions. The group I was put into was tasked with listing adjectives to describe the arts. The other group was tasked with listing adjectives to describe religion. The point of the exercise was to show that when we got together, there would be considerable if not total overlap of the lists, demonstrating how both speak to the human spirit.

Except it didn't work the way the way the little book of exercises Rev. Clear took this from had said it would go- there was no overlap whatsoever! There was not one single positive adjective from the group discussing religion; the list was full of things like "intolerant", "judgmental", hateful", "inquisition", "smug", "patriarchal", and on and on and on, for a full page.

I nearly quit that night. Here was a group, not just of Easter and Christmas I-feel-like-some-company churchgoers, but a group active enough to be there on a Wednesday night; well fed, given a half hour in which to work with soft music playing in the background... And they literally could not come up with a single positive word to say about people of faith. For me, the atmosphere felt very hostile indeed that night. For me, their acceptance of me personally felt worse than rejection would have- I understood emotionally how it must feel to hear "You're not like other Blacks."

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