Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Life in the Comments Section

I have been spending an inordinate amount of time online in the comments sections of several newspapers this week.

Packing for yet another hospital visit, I am effectively housebound. I can't plan a service, attend a vigil, lead a forum.

But I can visit comments.

"Not worth it," is something we frequently say in my house, when referring to a benefit, or a lesson learned, that sprang from Little Warrior's cancer. Not worth it, but Unitarian Universalism has gotten more nationwide press this week than in ... how long?

Articles have been written, both about the horror of someone killing us for our beliefs, and the heroism of those attacked.

At the end of many of these articles were comments sections. Much of what was written were comments of sympathy. Occasionally, there would be a comment critical of our religion. And here and there, one could find a comment that said, "I don't really know anything about this church."

It was because of the latter that I did something very new to me. I registered as a user, and I began commenting. I explained our religion. I refuted some of the claims made by those who don't know us. And I kept running into other UU's, doing the same thing.

For so long, we have been defined by others. I wanted to do my bit to straighten out any misunderstandings.

I rarely got into arguments. I greatly admire those UU's who do. If you want to see great examples of this, read Rev. Matt Tittle's newspaper blog. Every week, he politely, firmly, addresses misconceptions, arguments, and even nastiness about our religion.

I don't have the emotional energy for that right now. So a big thank you to the UU's who do that work.

It is work. To be metaphorically screamed at, have bible verses thrown at you, over and over, is wearing.

So why do it?

Because there's an invisible audience for these discussions. Every once in a while, they speak. This week, I have seen at least 10 comments that said, in one form or another, "I didn't know anything about Unitarian Universalism. But these folks sound like me. I think I'm going to check them out."

I will not be surprised if we have an upswing in visitors during the next month. Because the killer didn't write that he hated Unitarians. He wrote that he hated liberals. And there's a lot of people beyond our doors who identify as such. And they felt attacked too.

And it's not just their imagination. The comments sections that I was visiting were from mainstream newspapers. Things were apparently even more hateful elsewhere:

Right Wing Weighs In On Shooter

More on this topic later ...

1 comment:

Rivka said...

Me too. I've been "uu_in_baltimore" on http://www.knoxnews.com, at least to the extent that I could stomach it.

The thing that hurt the most was the guy who sympathetically said that he was tolerant of UU beliefs, but then went on to ask, wasn't it going too far to bring children to such controversial, non-mainstream meetings? Knowing, as we apparently do, that we're putting them in the line of fire?

*sigh*