Monday, June 30, 2014

A Practical Case Study in Standing on the Side of Love

Conventional liberal approaches to homelessness have been practiced for decades -- since the beginning of the present housing crisis in the 80's when the emerging rightwing hegemony over policy dismantled public housing programs and cut community based mental health programs as too costly. 

Homeless people and families were provided social services, and as they proved that they were ready, they became eligible for subsidized housing programs.  The policy was driven by mercy, but also by the fear of a moral hazard. The fear is that if help is given to the undeserving poor; the help will reward socially undesirable behavior. The fear is that social policies will create dangerous temptations by being too generous. 

Housing FIrst breaks with the fear of the moral hazard. In cities that are implementing "Housing First," chronically homeless people, as they are, are given keys to apartments. They don't have to get sober; they didn't have to get mental health treatment and be stable. Mercy, so to speak, is unconditional. Surprise, formerly homeless people will deal with their underlying issues when they have a home, an address, and a more secure living situation. Doesn't that make sense? It's easier to solve real problems when you have a roof over head than when you sleeping in the alley.  It even costs less, which is not the point, but interesting. 

The opposite of love is indifference. The old policies were based on the threat of indifference. If you, a homeless person, don't shape up, the rest of us will be indifferent to your situation. You can sleep in the alley for all we care. All social policies that reflect some sort of "tough love" threaten indifference, the conscious withholding of resources or support, as a punishment for not doing the "right thing" or exercising your "personal responsibility." 

Love is engaged caring. It's tactic is not withholding, but caring. It is meeting people where they are and helping them with the resources to address their most pressing problems. 

The present rightwing ideology that still shapes public policy in this country (despite being a minority political position) is based on withholding assistance in order to force  people to "exercise their personal responsibility."  We've cut unemployment benefits, "reformed Welfare", reduced food stamps, restricted Medicaid, let the banks profit on the education of the young. We now face a retirement crisis that is the direct result of such "tough love" policies. Social Security benefits have been kept low in order to make sure the workers save enough for their retirement.  They think that we must avoid the moral hazard of letting people think that they will have secure retirement no matter what. 

When religious liberals say that we are standing on the side of love, I believe that we are calling for the institutionalization of love as the basis of social policies.  Social policies should work on the basis of engaged caring that meets people where they are. Our social programs should not threaten to withhold resources to force bahavioral  changes.

If that seems too abstract, or pollyannish, to explain to your friends and family, point to the example of Housing First. 

Over the Edge -- Brave Souls

Having deep seated fears about heights, fires and drowning, the recent UUA GA in Providence was a bit of a challenge for me.  I did not rappell off the side of a building, because of an earlier traumatic experience with a Ferris wheel. I stayed well back during the Waterfire witness. The fear that I might fall in and be swept down the swift flowing river bouncing off one giant red hot flaming chalice of death after another deterred me. 

But a brave faith takes many forms, so I tried to hear of other stories of courageous witness from participants at GA.  Some unverified stories:

I heard of a minister who changed the Christmas Eve order of service.

Another recently settled minister told the largest donor that no, they did not get to veto decisions of the Board.

Someone told a UU Republican that just because no one agreed with them, it didn't mean they were oppressed. 

A whole congregation somewhere stepped up to the plate and took up clapping during hymns. The steeple stood. 

A congregation had a contested election for an important office. Somebody lost and somebody won, and but both agreed to stand by the congregational covenant. 

100% of a church's made a monthly pledge that matched or exceeded their cable bill, thus risking a lifetime of perpetual poverty.

Myself, I called some people I didn't know on the telephone. I wasn't even wearing my robe. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Optimism, Hope, Hopeless Hope and Radical Hope

When I observed that "the world is unfair, but it gets better", some people were uncomfortable with that.  On the VUU (episode 64), we got into discussion about various types of hope.

There is a distinction made between hope and optimism.  Optimism is a belief that things will work out for the best.  Optimism has been proven wrong so often that it doesn't carry much weight. I am optimistic that it won't rain on Saturday. I am optimistic that the Democrats will hold the Senate in the fall. I could be wrong about both, and if I am, I will be mildly chagrined. No crisis of faith.

Now when it comes to Hope, a much more substantial emotion. Hope is the conviction that things will improve. It is a belief about the nature of the world and progress. St. Paul says that hope is one the three things that last forever, along with faith and love.

People point out that it is hard to hope, what with the disastrous turns history makes, as well as seeming permanence of some people's conditions. It is hard to hope for progress on a planet which is being poisoned and cooked. Some question Parker's statement that "the arc of the Universe bends toward Justice." They see in it a presumption of privilege, or an excuse for sitting back and letting the inevitable do the work of justice for us.

The Michigan Labor Legacy Monument --
the incomplete arc
But saying that objective conditions do not merit hope is like saying the every person is not worthy of love. These are not statements of scientific fact, where a single counter-example disproves the theory. (It would only take one time for the sun rises in the West to disprove our understanding of the solar system.)

The fact that history is so often tragic leads some to what they call "existential hope", or what I call "hopeless hope." Hope is a moral obligation, and even a psychological compulsion, in the face of almost certain failure. Hope is a mental state, disconnected from material reality.  It is like "love" in the face of violent rejection, or "faith" in the face of what seems God abandoning you. It is mustering the will to act "as if" there is hope in a hopeless situation.  For me, I think it is a kind of vanity, a heroic pose, which is off-putting. In a world in which almost everybody struggles on their daily lives for something better, it seems odd for sophisticated philosophers to say that there is no real basis for hope. What does that say to the family in Central America who sends their children North? Or the single mother minimum wage worker who is works 3 part time jobs? They hope for real things.

For me, our hopes must be rooted in some understanding of a real process, beyond our will. While I do not think our hope for justice is inherent in the movements of the stars above and the tectonic plates below, I think that our hopes have a material basis in human beings and in the process of human cultural evolution.

It is said that "Oppression breeds resistance".

A wall mural in Belfast 
Why is that true? It is true, not in the direct "water freezes at 32F" way, but across history and cultures, it does seem true that oppression breeds resistance. Maybe, you can say that human beings will overthrow the social system that they live under when their survival seems at stake. That process is real, and doesn't work on my command, as much as I would like to call up rebellion with my words and deeds. I have hope because human beings are made in such a way that oppression does breed resistance.

The other material process upon which I base my hope is in the directionality of human cultural evolution. I have been influenced by Robert Wright, "NonZero" on this. As much as human beings are prone to resolving differences with violence, they also tend to end violence with the creation of more complex systems which rely on less violent means to resolve differences. Somehow, violence ends with an "win-win" cultural elaboration. The secular state resolves the European religious wars. More complicated, less violent.

Oppression breeds Resistance; Rebellions force accommodations and increased social complexity. There is a human element here. The more clarity about oppression, the greater the resistance. The more resistance, the greater the rebellion. The greater the rebellion, the larger accommodation and the more progress. Humanity advances through the push and pull of contending forces.

I call this "radical hope." It is hope that is born of a dialectical view of history. I believe both that "the arc of the universe bends toward justice" with Parker, in that processes beyond our simple human wills are at work. I also believe with Obama, that we have grab that arc and pull it hard toward justice.




Thursday, June 19, 2014

Love Reaches Out

Core Statements of Liberal Public Theology

Four key learnings that guide liberal public theology
Unitarian Universalist public theology is now expressed in our aspiration that we should "stand on the side of love." That hope expresses the first principle we affirm: that we promote the worth and dignity of each person. That principle restates our historic Universalism. For if God intends the salvation of all, then doesn't it behoove us to treat each person, whom God holds redeemable, as worthy and possessed of dignity?  After all, if God holds them worthy, who are we to be choosier?

We rarely fail to love because we hate. Yes, there are people who do terrible things, arouse us to great anger and are difficult to love. We test ourselves against our Universalism by trying to imagine those we could not love. But Adolph Hitler and Ted Bundy are not the real test of our Universalism. Our failure is that we regard so many with indifference. We just don't know their story.

Respect for a person's dignity, loving them, is not abstract and general. It is specific and particular. Once we know a person's story, we cannot still remain indifferent or hate them. Why? Because we then see them as a person, like ourselves, trying to do their best for themselves and those they love, in their circumstances, with their history, with their material conditions, with their family history, with their brain chemistry, with their culture. It is humbling.

Our first principle, the worth and dignity of every individual, is not just linked to our seventh principle, the interdependence of all life. It is its dialectical twin. To love somebody is to hear their whole story, to see them whole against the wider sky. And then we see them, the individual, as one node in a network of interdependence, part of the systems and structure of our social life and history together. Everything causes everything else.

Finally, our public theology follows from our embrace of Darwin and the principle of evolution. Just as God did not create all the species of plants and animals at one time, fixing them forever, God did not create human society and its hierarchies of power. Just as important, human society was not created by a 'social contract' voluntarily created by free and equal human beings during some unknowable pre-history.

Most human social institutions were created by the imposition of power by the strong over the weak. But they are changing and evolving. There was no golden age in the past. There was no original or natural intention for human society. There is no going back, and the future has not happened yet.

Humanity could move toward greater equality, greater justice, greater love. It could also end in disaster, war and misery. But liberal public theology is based on hope, and a faith in human agency to make a better future.






Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Public Theology

People ask me what I mean by "public theology".

Public theology is the explanation of human society, social institutions and governments. If you a theist, it explains the existence of governments, nations and social institutions in God's plan. Even if you are not a theist, it explains the fundamental moral foundations of social life

Here is a statement of public theology that you may have heard before: 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.


From the Declaration of Independence, of course. It is a statement about the nature of humanity (that it is men, that they are equal, and that they are given rights by God.) It is also a statement about the origins and purposes of governments (that they were "instituted among Men" through voluntary agreement, to secure those rights.)

The public theology of the Declaration of Independence, or the Enlightenment as a whole,  is a decisive break with prior understandings of humanity, social institutions and government. Just saying that governments are human creations, rather than the work of God is a break. 

It is predicated on a theory of a "social contract", the voluntary creation of a superior power through the agreement of free men.  If you think about it very closely, the story of the social contract is as much a myth, a fairy tale, as the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. 

The evidence is that small group structures, the extended family, the band, and clan are as instinctual in us as prides are to lions and hives to bees. But beyond the small group, larger forms grew, not from mutual agreement, but by the demand of the powerful that the weaker submit.

[Side Note for future exploration: the story of the origin of our churches and congregations is also  rooted in a myth of voluntary agreement among equals. Just sayin'] 

Contemporary liberal public theology is now breaking from the liberalism of the past, which has always pointed back to a time of freedom before the social contract was made. The old liberalism asked the question: how do we limit this power we 'have instituted among' us so that each of us are maximally free. The old liberalism is the new conservatism.

MSNBC's Chris Mathews poses in Independence Hall where
the Declaration was adopted. 
To us, human history is not a story of a fall, but is a story of evolution. We are  moving from a cruel, oppressive, hierarchical, and deprived past towards a future when more people have agency,  more people are treated equally, more people have what they need, more people live in safe and secure societies of peace.  We advance as a whole, as a species, through increasing cultural complexity. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

David Brat's Public Theology


Michelle Boorstein, in the Washington Post writes a 
long, not very astute article about David Brat, comparing and contrasting him to Pope Francis, without really understanding either. Does David Brat? He describes himself as a Calvinist, who goes to a Catholic church. 

But this is what jumped out at me. A statement by David Brat in 2011
“Give me a country in 1600 that had a Protestant-led contest for religious and political power and I will show you a country that is rich today,” Brat wrote in 2011.

Well, that convinces me.


Friday, June 13, 2014

How Did You Become a Unitarian Universalist -- Report Back

Thanks everyone.  I got 124 responses, most with thoughtful answers to open-ended questions. I will be sorting through the data and scheduling some interviews for next week. I won't be able to interview everyone who said that they were willing to talk; my apologies if anyone is disappointed.  I never thought I would get this level of response. Again, Thanks a lot.


Getting Arrested at Moral Monday

A Methodist Seminary professor has written an article explaining the reasoning for not submitting to arrest in North Carolina's Moral Monday protests. The article has been taken down, and I respect that. I have, therefore, removed the now-dead link to the article, and taken the name of the person out of this blogpost.

But, as I read argument, I think the professor probably should be arrested. Not because I think that Methodist seminary professors should go to jail. But because I think their arrests could add to the moral power of the movement.

The political situation in North Carolina is like that of the whole country.  If you look at the polls on issues, it seems that the public is much more progressive than the election results indicate. There are lots of folks who are in favor of increasing the minimum wage, granting equal access to marriage, restricting carbon emissions, and not making it harder to vote, but who are voting for the Republicans who are implementing the very opposite policies.  Or they are not voting at all.

Why? It's always hard to tell individual motivations.

But, voting has a tribal quality; that is well known. People inherit political preferences from their parents and absorb them from the surrounding community and loyal for a long time.  It feels like "People like us vote for our party."

What that means, practically, is that there are many white Christians who continue to vote for the Republican Party out of habit and out of emotional identification, even though they don't particularly agree with the positions of the candidates.

White, suburban, Christian voters see the GOP as people like them, and the Democrats as a coalition of the others: multi-racial, blue collar, intellectuals, poor.

The Moral Movement in North Carolina mades the fundamental argument that what is going on is moral; it transcends our customary political loyalties and asks each of us to make an uncomfortable moral stand, to reconsider our alliances, and to follow the leadership of people we don't usually follow. Even after the re-election of Barack Obama, many white progressive people still don't grasp the level of sophistication and skill of African American political leaders. Rev William Barber has done something in North Carolina that no one else has done anywhere else in the country; galvanize a multi-racial, multi-issue progressive coalition to confront the ultra-right GOP. He's done what Robert Reich, Elizabeth Warren, Rachel Maddow and Bernie Sanders can only dream about.

Some people change their minds because of arguments and evidence and persuasion. Many more change their minds because they see people they trust, and people like them, move, and take new positions. Religious leaders have that power. When white Christian religious leaders align themselves with multi-racial progressive movements, they give permission to many other White Christians. We have the power to challenge conventional wisdom about what is moral. Haven't we just seen this written boldly in the struggle over marriage equality?

 There is a middle in the United States right now, and much of it is progressive on issues, but votes for reactionary extremists.  Progressives will advance as we win over that middle. Sometimes, you win over the middle by moderating one's demands. (Been there, done that.) But more often you win over the middle, by persistently asking the question: which side are on? When white Christian religious leaders choose to get arrested, they answer that question.

Which Side Are You On?  The middle hates that question. They want everybody to stop asking it. They want middle ways and compromises and third ways. They want "civil unions" rather than "marriage equality." They agree with "the goals but not the tactics".  They agree with "the ends, but not the means". They like the movement but want different leaders. They want love over division. They accuse those who ask the question of selfish and devious motives. They want to do the same thing, but get a different result.  But in the end, most of the middle, inspired by the examples of people they trust and admire, will step up for justice.

I know, I've been there.







Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How Did you become a Unitarian Universalist ?

I am taking a preliminary survey about how people became a Unitarian Universalist.  The survey is screening people for a more in-depth interview.  I you are a UU, please take the survey and let me know that you are interested in a longer talk.  Even if you are not willing for the interview, I would appreciate the general anonymous information.


Please goto the following site:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5NJJ6L7


Thanks.
Tom Schade

Eric Cantor and White Nationalism

It surprises me how much commentary on Eric Cantor dances around the full implications of his defeat. Candidate Brat accused him of being an apologist for "amnesty". Leader Cantor did everything he could to refute that charge. He still lost by 11 percentage points despite outspending his opponent.

Why is this so hard to figure out? The competitive nature of the game of cable news commentary sometimes obscures the obvious. Nobody wants to stare into the unblinking eye and repeat the same thing that everyone else has already said. So all kinds of other theories are being floated. But Eric Cantor was defeated because he become viewed as unreliable on the issue of white nationalism. And white nationalism is at the core of today's conservative movements.

The anti-immigration reform tendency is a pure expression of white nationalist ideology: the preference for a country in which white Europeans dominate, and others are kept to the margins. White nationalism explicitly drove our immigration policy for most the country's history. It was only during the 60's that explicit quotas based on present proportions of US population were dropped from legislation. But white nationalism is still deeply embedded in popular consciousness.

Picture "Real Americans" in your mind; if you are white, you know who shows up: white people. Yes, you know better, and will rapidly revise your picture to make your snapshot of "Real Americans" more accurate. But your first association of whiteness with the national identity shows the grip of white nationalism in popular consciousness. That is pretty understandable: whites have been steeped in white nationalist mythology all our lives. We had to unlearn that Columbus discovered America. It took a while to discover that comparing African Americans to "other" immigrant populations was a false comparison. We are still learning that it is the white residents of Arizona and New Mexico (even though they are our parents and grandparents) are the invaders. The patterns of housing segregation have perpetuated an unrealistic perception of who Americans are in most white people.

We would like to think that if we do not actively dislike and demean people who are not white, then we are not racist. Leaving aside for the moment the whole argument about power and privilege, I would remind all that you don't have to be a bigot to be a white nationalist.

The sense that the United States is supposed to a white nation is what is threatened by simple fact that immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa are outnumbering immigrants from Europe. The USA is getting to be less European with every passing year. On a national level, the country is already run by multi-racial voting coalition.


White nationalists are fighting back by trying to prevent comprehensive immigration reform.  They're not stupid; they understood that Eric Cantor was going to play a key role in immigration reform this year. So he was defeated. Why we don't want to look that in the face is beyond me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Revolution in Las Vegas

Conservative Public Theology will not be challenged by the Las Vegas revolutionaries. It won't make a dent.

Conservative Public Theology is based on a vision of fixed, stable, traditional social order where everything works as it should. The old school bases this vision on religion; the new school on the invisible hand of the market. When the world doesn't work as it should, it is because individuals have failed to live up to it. They have sinned.

According to conservative public theology, the Las Vegas insurrectionists became bad people. Yes, they were good people a while ago, when they rallied for Cliven Bundy, but since then, they became bad people. It is good that they died. They are responsible for what they did; no one else.

Liberal Public Theology is based on an understanding of society and cultures as growing, evolving entities. They have the capability of progressing. When cultures progress, the behavior of individuals change. So liberal public theology is concerned about structures and systems more than individuals. So when liberal public theology looks at these Las Vegas commandos, they ask where did their ideas come from? what difference does it make that guns are so available? What are the systems and structures that lead to young people declaring war on this government and becoming cop-killers.

Liberals will ask conservatives to take responsibility for setting the stage for this deadly skirmish in an imaginary rebellion. Conservatives will be shocked that they should take any sort of responsibility for the actions of others, even some of their own. After all, they will say, "I didn't shoot anybody. I don't think the police are Nazis. Just like I didn't own slaves, nor did I lynch people, nor do I rape women, nor do I harbor ill will toward the poor people I know". The very essence of conservative public theology denies the very concept of social responsibility for anything.

Liberal Public Theology, especially as articulated by Unitarian Universalists, is based on three fundamental points -- each of which is denied by conservatives.

One is that every person matters, has worth and dignity, and can therefore never be discarded.  No matter what they do, or didn't do, we still have to care about them.

Conservatives believe that those who do not exercise personal responsibility deserve whatever they get. The rest of us do not need to think about them again. Send them to jail; make her have that baby; let them die in the emergency room if they didn't buy insurance; let them starve if they are not working.

The second point of liberal public theology is that everything causes everything else. Everything is interconnected and interdependent. Everything is in a context, part of a system and structure.

Conservatives believe in individual personal responsibility and individual judgement. To them, some people are bad, demonic, in the grip of the sins of lust, or sloth, or greed. They have no one to blame but themselves, and they must face the consequences. None of the rest of us are responsible for what happens to them.

Finally, liberal public theology is evolutionary. The world was not in balance before human sin screwed it up.  Humankind is advancing from a past which is cruel, exploitative, violent, and profoundly unjust. The world has never been fair, but it gets better.

For conservatives, humankind is miraculously self-correcting because it is innately functional. God set it up, and all we have to do is follow God's laws and all will be well. The secular version of that places the market in the place of God; everything will work out and come to balance if we do not interfere too much with the natural workings.

It matters what we believe.


Saturday, June 07, 2014

"PopUUlism" and Processes

I posted the following on Facebook this morning. 

Reading about SKSM, I am convinced again of the wisdom of our recommended processes of our ministerial search and settlement processes. It would NOT be recommended for a Search Committee to announce the names of the final three pre-candidates. Nor would it be recommended that they collect recorded feedback on the candidates by congregants. Why not? Because those steps would imply a democratic process when the final decision is being made by a committee, which is (and should be) free to choose to not follow what seems to be most popular course. The result of such a bad process is that the new minister is burdened by a self-conscious group that would have preferred another actual and viable candidate. Instead starting out with 95% -- the new minister/President would be starting out knowing that up to 2/3 of the people would have chosen another candidate, if they would have had a vote. I know nothing about the specifics of the situation beyond what has been reported. But I can't imagine a church or a congregation choosing such an ultra-democratic process.
I thought it needed a little elaboration:

I am not concerned with the proper way to get student and faculty input on the choice of a new President of a School for Ministry. It's not that I think it is unimportant, but that sort of checking in with the rank and file is already given too much emphasis in most liberal religious institutions.
What does not receive enough emphasis is fidelity to our tradition and to our mission/purpose. Asking the question: "Given the wisdom that we have gained, what are we called to do and be in the future?"  We need to bring these two concerns into balance.

I especially worry about processes that imply a democracy when none really exists. To say that there are three candidates, and then to collect people's opinions of them, implies that people's opinions are going to have a great weight. Even though it may be explicitly stated that this is just input and not votes, it gives an impression of an election. But then, the final decision is made by a Board, or a Search Committee, or some smaller group. As it should be, I believe.

Regarding SKSM, my reading (and I don't really know) is that the documents were leaked because they showed that rank and file evaluations didn't match the final choice. Where did that expectation come from?

I have called the pervasive mistrust of leadership that affects UUland: "PopUUlism" -- the belief that a shadowy insider elite manipulates our processes. PopUULism feeds on itself. It doesn't matter how 'democratic' our processes are made, the mistrust continues. Because the mistrust is not in the processes, but in the people.

We, rank and file UU's, have to make the decision that we are going to extend more trust to our leaders. It's a personal decision that will affect how you view your minister and everything that other UU's do. (Do even bother to make any comments to this post that characterize what I am saying as "getting in line" or "following blindly" or "giving up critical thought": I am talking about "more trust".) It's a decision to let the UUA staff choose a logo. It's acting as though your minister might know more than you do about the real meaning of Unitarian Universalism. It's letting a school that prepares UU ministers choose its President.

Why would we do that? Because Unitarian Universalism is a healthy influence in our culture and in the lives of people, and it should  be stronger and more effective, and it should be embodied in strong institutions.

(Extra Bonus Digressive Rant: Another example to prove my point. General Assembly.
I think the business of the Association would best be done by elected delegates from congregations and ministers in fellowship. That would balance the need for accountable democracy and authority held by those invested in and knowledgable of the UU tradition. Given our persistent mistrust of leaders, GA has become more and more open. Anybody can go. But the opening of GA does not really mitigate the mistrust of leaders. Not everybody can actually afford to go. It's still only congregational delegates who can vote, yet we are moving 'beyond congregations.' If you are so inclined, you can still see GA as obscuring an elite run system. My question is 'Is there anything that would end your choice to be so inclined?'

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Transparency, Confidentiality and PopUUlism

Believe me, I know nothing about the Starr King situation beyond what everybody else knows. I have read the same public statements  by the incoming President, the Board Chair, and the attorneys representing the students whose degrees were granted conditionally.

I am aware, though, that I don't really want to know more. I have an actual fear of knowing more. I suspect that if I find out more, I will find that somebody I respect, admire or have hopes in will have behaved badly. I don't want to find that out. It will shake up my little world.

Many express pain and sorrow over the situation.  Is that an anticipatory grief over a feared loss of innocence?

Turning from this particular situation to a broader view:

UU institutions, down to the level of individual congregations, want to have "transparent" governing processes.  It's part of being democratic. Yet many of the biggest decisions being made are personnel decisions: searching, hiring, evaluating, firing people. It is obligatory that those processes are kept confidential.

So, you end up with confidential transactions in the center of a transparent process: a glass box containing a black box.

If there is not overall trust in the institutions and in the leadership, it doesn't work. But when in UULand, is there ever that kind of trust?

There is a persistent anti-authoritarianism in UU culture (I hereby dub it "PopUUlism")
that believes that an elite manipulates our process somewhere inside that black box of confidentiality, no matter how transparent the rest of the process is.

While knowing nothing about the particulars of this case, I suspect that the larger issue involved is the conflict between transparency and confidentiality in the poisonous UU atmosphere of distrust. Whatever comes of this story, I suspect that we will see it again and again, even in local congregations.