Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Feeding the Troll?

For the first time (ever, I think) I've gotten a comment on my blog from someone who's name I don't recognize. I don't know for sure if this is someone from my community, or just someone connected with UCCtruths. I suspect that it is the latter, canvassing the internet for blogs making reference to the IRS investigation of the United Church of Christ, and slapping a rather nasty comment onto those that side with the UCC.

Which isn't to say that there isn't some truth to what "Drew" pointed me towards. He attached this link to the the comment, and if this letter is indeed accurate and legitimate, I'll have to slightly revise my position. As I said (and "Drew" ignored) at the end of my post, I reserve the right to be wrong. I am not an IRS lawyer, so I don't know for sure if the position held by either side is correct.

Assuming, for the moment, that this letter completely accurate, then elements of Sen. Obama's speech crossed the line. As I pointed out in the last post, he was hardly the first to cross that line, but there it is. I remember the general excitement that Sen. Obama would be speaking at General Synod, but I honestly can't remember one way or the other concerning the UCC pushing the idea that a presidential candidate would be speaking to Synod. As to the rest of it, UCCtruths sums it up better than I could:
Obama was not a candidate for office when invited, Obama only slipped twice in his speech in reference to his candidacy and that volunteers were campaigning outside the Civic Center and could not be controlled by the UCC.

Even though UCCtruths makes some interesting points that should be considered, I have a difficult time wading through their tone. There's something terribly absolutist about the way they say things that just sets my teeth on edge. Then again, perhaps I'm guilty of reading their blog with the tone of "Drew" still ringing in my ears.

Here's the comment "Drew" left on my blog:
Before you drink the punch on this, you should read the actual complaint that outlines the rules and specifically how they were violated:

So, what do I know about "Drew"? He or she wants me to look at the link to UCCtruths, which I have done. He or she wants me to carefully consider his or her point of view, which I have done. He or she wants to win me over to the position of the IRS. This, he or she has not accomplished. To be quite frank, "Drew" is lucky that I went so far as to click that link this morning. Because his very first words are such an egregious and disgusting attack that I very nearly deleted his comment out of hand.

"Before you drink the punch..." is an obvious reference to the Jonestown Massacre. Evidence and eye-witness accounts of the very few survivors of that tragedy show that most, if not all, of the 909 people who died were, in fact, murdered. Referencing such a horrendous event in such an off-hand manner is not a good way to start with me.

I have been a member of the United Church of Christ my whole life. I was ordained by the UCC. I have worked as a delegate for two different General Synods, and I have seen first hand how our denomination is made up of an extremely diverse group of people with different theological emphases, different cultural backgrounds and different political ideals. What makes them special is that they are willing to come together, pray together, worship together, and openly work together on some very difficult issues. They respect—no—they treasure being exposed to new ideas and opposing viewpoints. As one columnist for the Hartford Currant wrote, "Really, sending the IRS after these people is like having the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms kick down the door of a bunch of nerds playing Dungeons and Dragons."

Seriously, though, I know these people, and even when I don't agree with them, I trust them. I am deeply insulted that "Drew" decided to make an anology between the United Church of Christ and Jim Jones. I hope, for their sake, that "Drew" is not one of the UCCtruth people, because he or she is not doing them any favors.

As for UCCtruth, I'm glad they're there. Their site says that every denomination should have one of these, and they have a point. If we are never challenged, never criticized, we never grow. However... they refer to the UCC's argument against the IRS allegations as if it were simply a tactic to get the UCC out of trouble. Is it really so shocking to consider the idea that the UCC is arguing that "that the spirit of the IRS rules are to prohibit churches from endorsing a candidate and the UCC went to great lengths not to endorse a candidate," because that's what they believe?

So, revision time: I personally believe that those laws are on the books for the purpose of keeping religious organizations from endorsing candidates. I know for a fact that we went out of our way to not endorse Sen. Obama. If every letter of the law was not followed, then yes, there should be some consequences. I do not, however, believe that yanking our tax-exempt status is a punishment that fits the crime. I believe in the separation of church and state, but I do not believe that means that church and state should not be in communication. And I believe these things strongly enough to provide a link to the Legal Defense Fund again, just in case you feel moved to contribute.

Make up your own minds,
and be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

1 comment:

UCCtruths said...

Hi Rev. Josh!

I'm the guy responsible for UCCtruths and I apologize if someone enthusiastic about the site is bugging you. I was just doing a blog search for 'ucctruths' and found your site which is pretty cool.

UCCtruths is intentionally irreverent and within the context of the web site, you kind of expect this but it's not acceptable when it's projected onto other sites and people.

God's peace my friend.