The UU Inquisition:

A Tragic Battle in the Culture Wars

Monty Python’s similarly competent Inquisitors

The point is not to burn heretics, it is to create a climate of fear by burning heretics. Fear is the preferred tool of authoritarians everywhere; it creates an environment where everyone, at bare minimum, is compelled to put on at least a facade of obedience. Where the party ideology must be repeated with enough sincerity to get past the Inquisitors. It is fiercely undemocratic; inauthenticity as a survival tool. What has happened to Rev. Todd Eklof has shown us that if you want to remain a UU minister you must not question this process.

This rigid ideology often gaslights as “compassionate concern” for the well-being of the heretic who has strayed. If only they would recant their stubborn heresy and return to the ranks of the Blessed they would be welcomed back joyously by their siblings who are shedding tears of concern for the “harm” their blasphemy has caused.

No one is burning anyone now, of course. But it doesn’t take much these days to create a climate of fear among well-off, nice white liberals who are already highly anxious about their public virtue. A mis-step, a mistaken word choice, an expression of any view that might cause “harm” — these anxieties loom over them like their own personal Inquisitors. (And, if we’re going to generalize and label white people, this is a better definition of “white fragility” — much better than the one proposed by the current best-seller launched by the UUA’s own Beacon Press.)

Unlike real white supremacy, a broadly expanded “white supremacy culture” has been adopted by UU ideologues and applied without distinction to all white UU’s. Assigning character flaws to a racially identified group is pretty clearly racism, in spite of the purveyors of this philosophy gaslighting about a moral crusade against oppression. Oppression is certainly a real thing; it is, sadly, a real thing that humans of all colors and identities can be found perpetrating. Not just white people.

“White supremacy culture” has now been redefined as an all encompassing environment which all white people swim in and are too limited (stupid?) to realize they are doing so. Many anxious white liberals seem only too happy to accept this; to take the word of strangers espousing moralistic labels and slogans as accurate judgements of their interior states — accepting these strangers’ judgements because they are afraid, not because they find them to be accurate. And, so, we encounter public statements like this:

This kind of public self-confession has become a necessary UU ritual expected from people of “historically privileged identities.” This kind of self-criticism sounds like what was expected during the Cultural Revolution of “bourgeois intellectuals;” required to put the Party’s slogans over and above their own perceptions and self-knowledge. Those with “historically privileged identities” must deny their own self- awareness for the accusations of Inquisitors who know nothing about them personally — except for their skin color, gender and sexual preferences. (And, again, what are the terms used for such judging of groups of people based upon skin-color, gender and sexual preference?)

Buddhists who practice metta (loving-kindness) meditation always start with loving-kindness towards themselves. Similarly, self-worth and dignity must also start with yourself; it is difficult to give a gift to others that you do not possess yourself. And one of the greatest roadblocks standing in the way of developing a sense of inherent worth and dignity is shame. As Brene Brown tells us shame is a feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong with you; unlike guilt, which is feeling bad about being a good person who made a mistake — “I’m a good dog, but I do bad things sometimes.” Apologies are great. They are vitally necessary when you’ve made a mistake. Apologies are toxic, however, when you feel you must apologize for who you are.

Under the UU Inquisition it is expected that certain racial and gender categories will apologize for themselves, for a fundamental part of themselves they cannot change — their “historically privileged identity.” If they refuse to do so they are “fragile” heretics and must be watched closely for any “harm” that might arise from their failure to properly enlighten themselves. But, for example, if someone should agree to confess their sin of white supremacy, “decenter” themselves and become born again as allies they will be conditionally accepted. Conditionally because, unfortunately, their skin is still white. So, unless there is a badge or tattoo that can distinguish them from the unrepentant, they must continue to apologize for themselves in order to maintain membership in the True Church, the “anti-racist, anti-oppressive and multicultural community.”

Apologetic white liberals seem to be vulnerable to some pretty insidious manipulation. They make very good marks. In “The Confidence Game” Maria Konnikova lays out the process of conning and being conned. It is a truly engaging book, well worth reading. Here’s some advice from the book:

Let us look at what Rev. Don Southworth was concerned about in his letter to the UUA Board of Trustees which he prefaced with the ritual self-confession quoted earlier:

This “hiring controversy” is something the former President of the UUA, Peter Morales, felt compelled to comment on some time after he resigned his position as President of the UUA. His critique of the same issues as Rev. Southworth led to the assaults upon him that led to that resignation.

After these powerful and valid criticisms did the UUA examine the facts around the “hiring controversy?” Did they examine the narrative that Peter Morales, the recent resigned President of the UUA, said was a lie?


Just the opposite: the UU appointed a Committee of Inquisitors, “The Commission on Institutional Change” which spent two years not looking into the facts of the situation. Instead they accepted, without question a “false narrative” — a lie — and they undertook to defend it:

The analogy to the Catholic Inquisition is, of course, an analogy… but the similarities are very sobering.

Not content with censuring Rev. Todd Eklof, nor with summarily removing him from several ongoing UU programs, nor publicly chastising him from several pulpits — a violation of UU policy — the UU Ministerial Fellowship Committee took the extreme step of officially disfellowshipping him. His crime? Writing a book of “harmful” concerns about the direction of his beloved faith. Rev. Todd Eklof was excommunicated for heresy by the UU Inquisition.

And what happened to Rev. Don Southworth and his concerns?

Consequently, Rev. Southworth apologized and resigned.

Yes, there is only one vision for the future allowed by the UU Inquisition. As Molly Housh Gordon implores us,

This offer is to “allow our beloved UUs of color to claim a central space in our faith.” As Rev. Kate Braestrup says,

The rhetoric is all about love but the impact and the actions of the Inquisition belie that rhetoric. It is gaslighting hypocrisy. The truth is revealed in that drive to “claim a central space” — which certainly looks and acts more like like a poorly concealed drive for power and money.

That “central space” and the power and, yes, money that comes with it will be defined and enforced by the UU Inquisition. And, as far as that “central space” goes, I think those “UUs of color” can declare a decisive victory; the UU Inquisition is now, and will be in the future, functioning as an enforcement agency for their already powerful dominance of UU spaces.

One only has to look at the raw power exhibited in dealing with Rev. Eklof’s book. The immediate letter of condemnation on the part of 500 white UU ministers (in violation of long-standing codes of collegial conduct) almost all of whom had not read the book at the time of signing is a hard testimony to this. Their ready acquiescence to the demands of a tiny group of angry representatives of anti-racist ideologues — most of whom had also not read the book — can only be seen as an acknowledgement of the power and “centering” UUs of color have already attained within the organization.

And this “central space” will only be more solidified if the proposed 8th principle and its “accountability” procedures are instituted. The UU Inquisition will be strongly represented:

The tragedy in all of this is that no one — including myself — in the UU community denies the presence and power of systemic racism. The facts are unambiguous; one only needs to look at the data. Incarceration rates, comparative levels of wealth, hospitalization rates and death from Covid-19, home ownership and many others — the facts of systemic racism are undeniable — only white supremacists would deny this.

Lumping honest, truly concerned, white UU’s in with the same people who wave confederate flags at Trump rallies is a deeply tragic mistake.



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