How Do You Answer This? (restored)

The Fifth Principle Project has never posted an email we received via our Contact Us webpage. We are making an exception regarding an email we received on January 8, 2023. The email was in response to the Discussion Forum held with Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof regarding the organizational activities of the North American Unitarian Association (NAUA).

The email (see below) unfortunately is an example of the personal animus that all too frequently is now found in UU correspondence. How does one respond to such an email?

We were inclined to simply ignore the correspondence. However, with the author self-identifying as a “3rd Gen UU religious professional,” we re-evaluated our initial inclination. How has a third-generation UU drifted so far from the Principles that defined a Unitarian Universalist? “Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.” “Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.”

We were also concerned that as a “religious professional” a new generation of UUs is being exposed to models of interactions with fellow UUs that erode core values of acceptance of one another and tolerance for differing views.

We concluded that this email could not go unaddressed. Simply “yelling back” did not seem appropriate or even fruitful. How does one open a dialogue?

We solicit your ideas and comments.

Contact Us Email

Topic: Do you even understand UU theology or are you just a charlatan?

Message: 
Todd, You are a joke.

You don’t even understand UU theology, but act like you do. How did you get ordained? I want to see you go toe to toe with someone who grew up UU and knows the faith and theology.

You’re just another old dude trying to make it what you want it to be. So, let’s talk. Livestream it.

I’m estranged from UUism and I’ll still trounce you, because you are a limp balloon filled with nothing but stale air. Sadly trying to lift yourself up while you just slowly deflate.
Seriously, let’s go. I’m always down for a good laugh.

Bart, 3rd Gen UU religious professional

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Maureen McConaghy
Maureen McConaghy
27 days ago

This is another attack from someone who obviously has not himself read anything written by Rev. Eklof or listened to anything Rev. Eklof has said. Perhaps the writer could be invited to quote some specific statement from Rev. Eklof that he finds to be theologically in error.

Tim Bartik
27 days ago

Although I think this is an unfortunate email, there are people on all sides of any debate who send hostile emails/post hostile things on Twitter or Facebook, etc. There is a lot of hostility everywhere. I think a more major issue is debating what people in some position of authority say and do, for example officials in the UUA, or on various UUA Boards and Committee, or UU Ministers. I would urge more of a focus on that, and less on what some random person says in a hostile email. As the old XKCD cartoon said, we shouldn’t be on… Read more »

Julie Hotard
Julie Hotard
27 days ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

I totally agree with Tim on this.

Barbara Warren
Barbara Warren
27 days ago

I would think that a third-generation UU professional would have much better critical thinking -> writing skills than this person possesses. This email is not worth responding to, it’s uncivil and doesn’t present an inviting way for any kind of serious dialogue.

Sasha Kwapinski
Sasha Kwapinski
26 days ago
Reply to  Barbara Warren

Agreed. If this e-mail is what passes for UUA “critical thinking skills,” then I guess my leaving the UUA several years ago was not a bad decision. And is there even such a thing as “UU theology”?

Bruce Zalneraitis
Bruce Zalneraitis
27 days ago

In my opinion, this is a trolling email without substance and designed to elicit a return attack. Nothing is gained from engaging in ad hominem attacks of a person. Maybe the email author could take a breath and offer specifics that could then be addressed.

Carol Reich
Carol Reich
27 days ago

I am aware of the contradiction of words in this fairly brief list of grievances. Fatigue, defeat, sense of abandonment. I have thought about ‘the aggrieved,’. Aggressive grief, verbally condemning, name calling, and all, it has the feel of our ‘current’ global dialogue. Assuming the worst, not much true questioning, no real invitation to discuss. It is a mix of nihilism-I left UU, and grief.? Does this person seek compassion, conversation, shoulder to shoulder support from the herd? Adulting is hard, designing own faith amidst the contradictions, channeling kind open growth can seem to reach an impasse. I find the… Read more »

A. Anne Holcomb
A. Anne Holcomb
27 days ago

Bart, the Emailer and alleged 3rd generation UU stated he was estranged from UUism. So, it seems he doesn’t represent the UUA or any other body other than himself. Given this, my suggested response is silence (not to respond). As disrespectful as his email was, hecklers and haters abound everof us (not just in UU circles). Nothing we do or say will change his mind and it’s likely that any response we provide would merely encourage him. What Bart wants is to get a rise out of us. Let’s respond with silence

Mark Perloe
Mark Perloe
27 days ago

Agreed. As he has not described what sort of professional he was or why he is estranged or what specific writings Todd has made are of concern, this post does little to address our grievances with the UUA, UUMA and other minions. This should not have published.

Julie Rector
Julie Rector
26 days ago

I agree, giving this irrational person, who is no longer a UU, any fodder for continuing the fight is a waste of our time and energy. I hurt for anyone with so much hate in their heart.
Julie

Karen Winter
Karen Winter
27 days ago

This would be my response (on a good day).

You mentioned that you are estranged from UUism. I’m interested in hearing your story about why. What caused you to leave?

Rev Dr Don
Rev Dr Don
27 days ago

I would not have posted this email here. Trolls should be ignored. Posting it just feeds the online culture of outrage. None of us need to be shown examples of how the UUA’s defenders treat others in online forums; we have all been attacked there. This was just a childish attempt at provocation. If it were me, I would take it down.

Rev Dr Don
Rev Dr Don
26 days ago
Reply to  WebMaster

I hear ya. Not critical of your decision, especially now that Frank has outed the guy. Just makes me sad I guess. Waiting for a real UU leader to stand up and start talking about reconciliation within our badly broken denomination.

William J. Parkhurst
William J. Parkhurst
27 days ago

Perhaps one could respond to “Bart” in the following manner: Dear Bart, Given your rancor and intolerance, it is unlikely that you have anything of substance to offer in helping to address and resolve issues regarding the current state of UUA governance and policy. These concerns do not involve faith or theological issues which, as you should know, are largely matters of individual conscience. You should also know that although Dr. Eklof has taken on a leadership role in the Fifth Principle Project and NAUA, he is but one of many UUs questioning the path which the UUA currently finds… Read more »

Eric Schuman
Eric Schuman
27 days ago

“You’re just another old dude trying to make it what you want it to be.” Ageist comments are common in the “New UU.”

Kathleen Reeves
Kathleen Reeves
27 days ago

This person is estranged from UU? What’s his motivation for this? There is nothing of substance and it’s rather embarrassing for him to represent himself this way.

Frank Casper
Admin
27 days ago

Those of you who think that this post is inappropriate for this page are right if this post was from your average run-of-the-mill troll. If it were we would have done what yall thought we should, ignored it. No response is the only legitimate response. But we posted it because the author was, until 2019, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

(https://www.uua.org/offices/people/bart-frost)

I regard the post as something of a window into the attitude of people working for the UUA. That’s why we’re giving it the attention it does not deserve.

Becky
Becky
26 days ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Thank you for this explanation, this whole thing was making no sense until I read it. Could you perhaps bump this up to the top of the page so that everyone can understand your intentions here?

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
26 days ago
Reply to  Becky

I’m sorry, Becky, but I cannot move the post up. You are right, though, clarity would be improved if I had posted it earlier, or included the outing in the OP.

Tim Bartik
26 days ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

OK, I understand your reasoning better.

However, he says he is “estranged” from UUism. So, there may be a whole backstory here that involves personal issues, and which may not have any strong connection with the UUA.

David Willkomm
David Willkomm
26 days ago
Reply to  Frank Casper
  1. Yes, I think it maybe alright to post Bart’s challenge to give an example of provocations we have & may face in the future. However, this does not look like it would be fruitful to honor his debate request, as I expect little movement in Bart’s negative view of members refusing to accept UUA’s current theology. I put energy in my UU fellowship serving on the Sunday Service Security Team & also plan to restart our Arts/Crafts Discussion Group, on site, to nurture ourselves to make it a better place for those who participate.
Robert Lamb
Robert Lamb
27 days ago

I doubt that “Bart” is a UU of any sort, much less a “3d generation religious professional”. Note: He doesn’t say “religious education professional” as the OP seems to assume.
He is a simply a troll, the kind of sick personality that occasionally pops up in any social media discussion. Block him and move on.

Jim Aikin
27 days ago

That’s profoundly ugly. You would think most UU’s would have enough self-awareness to understand when they’re angry and check themselves before lashing out … but apparently not.

What I generally do on Facebook when I encounter ad hominem attacks is, first I point out that it’s an ad hominem attack, and then I ask the other person to provide a substantive statement of exactly what their views are, so that we can have a civil discussion. I very seldom get a coherent response to this. My approach is really aimed at demonstrating that there’s an adult in the room.

Burton Brunson
Burton Brunson
26 days ago

Real or alleged credentials mean nothing. If a fifth generation mathematician says two plus two equal 517, it’s still nonsense. Ignore and delete the letter due to its lack of significant content.

Mary Paynter
Mary Paynter
26 days ago

Trying to get Bart engaged in a productive conversation is a futile effort. His email should be ignored. We could ask him questions about his estrangement from UU, we could ask him for specifics regarding his criticism of Rev. Eklof, we could show him compassion, we could do a lot of things. But nothing we could do would likely lead to anything helpful. The fact that he was in a leadership role for many years does not justify publishing this.

Viv monahan
Viv monahan
26 days ago

“Your post is so mean spirited, we return it to you without comment.”

Bennett Stark
Bennett Stark
26 days ago

Ask the individual to discuss something of substance within the UUA belief system and then discuss.
. For example, fighting oppression is the essential theological mandate of UU A. (Appendix ll, Widening the Circle.

Should fighting oppression be the centerpiece of our faith system?

Stephen Polmar
Stephen Polmar
26 days ago

My response after reading Bart’s e-mail was profound sadness. Sadness that he was motivated to write something like that and that he appears to be an individual who has difficult managing his anger for which I expect he is not receiving adequate psychological or psychiatric help. I too believe that it would be futile to respond or attempt to engage in dialog with him. Moreover, I feel great sadness that Rev. Dr. Eklof received this e-mail. I expect he has received many similar ones after the distribution of the Gadfly papers. I also feel sadness for those of us who,… Read more »

John Shea
John Shea
26 days ago

I’m ok with publishing this letter, given the background of the speaker. For me this letter furthers my sense that part of what we are dealing with is a generation gap. Younger UU’s who have a humanities degree and/or went to seminary have been fed a steady diet of post-modern, post-Marxist “critical thinking”, so it’s not a surprise that they regard Rev. Eklof as just another Old White Oppressor. Debating them is pointless, because their worldview is a closed epistemic system, immune from criticism–for instance, if you point out that they are making an ad hominem argument, they will dismiss… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
26 days ago
Reply to  John Shea

Yes. I’m more inclined to attribute this attitude to what this person was exposed to in whatever school gave him the credentials to be a religious professional, and to the environment at the UUA. I don’t attribute it to some psychological problem. It seems likely to me that his attitude was nurtured at the UUA, which is why I outed him. It it important to know the culture from which this animosity originates.

Bart
Bart
26 days ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

The correct term is doxxing. And, again, I’m lifelong. I grew up in UUism. And there’s only one Bart and folks know who I am. The animosity comes because I don’t suffer ignorance or people playing MAGA-lite. Unitarian Universalism is not Unitarianism or Universalism or the sum of the two. When the two denominations merged, it became something new and different. This is literally UU History 101. But again, thanks for the doxx. Yep, I spent 8 years in youth leadership, was the youngest ever chair of the General Assembly Planning Committee, served as a Director of Religious Education, and… Read more »

Chuck ea2627@aol.com
Chuck ea2627@aol.com
26 days ago
Reply to  Bart

Hi Bart,
As a Humanist, I am sending you thoughts and prayers for your healing and to overcome your anger. With all of your credentials as demonstrated by your eloquent comments, perhaps what has happened to you is just another example of the injustice of the current cancel culture.
Happy wishes to you.

Julie Rector
Julie Rector
26 days ago

Nice response !!!!!

Adrienne
Adrienne
26 days ago
Reply to  John Shea

That is the exact same reason I left my UU congregation. I’m hopeful that Rev. Eklof will start a movement I can again be proud of.

Robert Lamb
Robert Lamb
26 days ago
Reply to  John Shea

I don’t think rudeness and ad hominem attacks can be attributed to any particular generation or philosophy. This is a character flaw.

Bart
Bart
24 days ago
Reply to  Robert Lamb

What rudeness? I’m literally speaking the truth. What attacks? I attacked no one. Y’all are the ones speculating here. You can read my publications and make your judgements just like I’ve read what your leaders have posted and made judgements. It’s not like I posted where any of y’all live or your spouse’s name. Why don’t y’all drop that? Let’s make it fair. I called Todd a charlatan, because that is who he is. He has no substance. All y’all are preaching MAGA-lite libertarianism. But that’s not UUism, no matter how much y’all try to connect it to Unitarianism. And… Read more »

Edith Mayfield
Edith Mayfield
26 days ago

Frank Casper has outed young Bart.  I agree with Frank that the only value of this email being posted is to give us a window in the hateful attitude of the people working for UUA.  We have one more window into their hateful tactics, against anyone who disagrees with them.  If we are not able to defeat the Article II proposal at GA 2023, then I think more of us will be ready to fully embrace Todd Eklof’s work with the new North American Unitarian Association. I do not see Rev. Eklof ‘s work as siphoning off support from our work; his… Read more »

Bart
Bart
26 days ago
Reply to  Edith Mayfield

Oof. Ageist much?

Fred, put up a quick poll. What’s the average length of UU membership here?

Chuck ea2627@aol.com
Chuck ea2627@aol.com
26 days ago
Reply to  Bart

To quote a POC fellow worker I once worked with “We’ve been doing this (UUs) “before you were shitting yellow shit’.

Bart
Bart
24 days ago

With an aol.com email, that sounds like it might be right…but your understanding of UUism makes me question what UU religious education you have engaged in. Did you grow up UU? Have you attended religious education classes? Or are you one of the Humanists that treats the mention of Jesus like someone threw acid on you, instead of being able to find the common ground. The fact that you called yourself Humanist and not Unitarian Universalist tells me all I need to know. You have no Unitarian Universalist identity, because real UUs don’t need to qualify their identity. They are… Read more »

Peter Aitken
Peter Aitken
26 days ago

I agree that this email is not worthy of any attention. If it were up to me, I would just have ignored it, and perhaps this whole thread should be erased?

Teresa Goodell
Teresa Goodell
26 days ago

Just another rude man venting into the void – they’re everywhere, and no reason UUism should be an exception. It’s too late now to ignore him, but how about just not responding?

Rebecca
Rebecca
26 days ago

The only way to respond is simply with a smiley face emoji.

David Wadleigh
David Wadleigh
26 days ago

The minute I saw the signature “Bart” I just knew this must be the former youth leader from here in New Orleans. Now he’s twenty-something and so full of himself that he thinks he knows it all even though he is estranged from UU. This is what can happen when we cherish and dote on youth for speaking out “for youth” for a number of years but then they get older and lose that crown in favor of someone more “with it” and younger. He’s suffering from ageism in his 20’s because we now don’t put up with the attitude… Read more »

Bart
Bart
26 days ago
Reply to  David Wadleigh

Thanks David. I wish I was still in my 20s. It’s not ageism, it is experience. When folks that convert to UUism have to do a yearlong program and present a credo to their congregation before being considered a member, we can talk. I mean they say wisdom comes with age, but the reality is that wisdom comes from experience. I’ve been there and done that in UUism. The real question is are you progressive or conservative? Because the UUA by-laws require revision and change, progress. To conserve what exists now and fighting change is the opposite of UU theology.… Read more »

Cynthia Wright
Cynthia Wright
26 days ago

I followed the link Frank posted in the comments and clicked through a little farther to an article containing some of Bart’s own criticisms of Unitarian Universalism (https://www.uua.org/blueboat/faith/5-things-i-learned-almost-5-years), especially youth ministries. I think some, perhaps all, of those critques have some value, such as not using acronyms in order to be more hospitable. He also talks about embracing innovation and then talks about having a cohesive faith for the youth to embrace. For me, the potential loss of the 7 Principles from the most important documents of the UUA, is like uprooting the closest thing to a cohesive faith that… Read more »

Last edited 26 days ago by Cynthia Wright
Bart
Bart
26 days ago
Reply to  Cynthia Wright

Cynthia, The UUA by-laws explicitly state that the principle should be reviewed and revised every 20 years. If they weren’t revised in the 80s, then the 1st principle would still state that congregations affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every man. Not person. The principles should have been revised in the 2000s. It’s a living document, which means it needs to change with the times. And instead of worrying about my “pain”, you should be questioning why it’s okay to drop my personal information in a forum and then Frank telling me “we hope you engage.” In… Read more »

Mark
Mark
26 days ago
Reply to  Bart

Dear Bart,
Apparently you are seeking to live stream yourself in a debate representing the need to revise the principles in favor of what precisely? Do you represent a group within UUA or a faction of those that have left UU over a lack of change within your experience at your last position within the UUA?
I would like clarification on what you hope to achieve as your current tenor seems rather antagonistic within this discussion. Your experience certainly does matter, however the experience of others on this forum may be broader and more diverse than you know.

Bart
Bart
24 days ago
Reply to  WebMaster

The principles were changed to its current format in 1985. Led by the UU Woman’s Federation and the youth and young adults.

Notice how you changed the conversation from the Principles to the Sources. The Sources should remain, the Principles should be adjusted every generation to reflect the current needs and priorities of UUism.

Could you elaborate as to why the review was rejected in 2009? And the vote count?

Cynthia Wright
Cynthia Wright
25 days ago
Reply to  Bart

Bart, I won’t correct the inaccurate numbers you posted because someone else already has. Bart, are you in favor of the proposed revisions in Article II, assuming you’ve read them? I’m especially interested in your thoughts both for and against the replacement of the principles and sources. Why should we support it? It seems counter to our religion’s identity. I can understand some minor tweaks, or even some sort of 8th Principle (I’d rewrite the one being proposed but that’s another conversation), but removing the whole list seems harmful to UUism to me. Was your letter to this organization? I’m… Read more »

Frank Casper
Admin
24 days ago
Reply to  Cynthia Wright

Just one thing. It wasn’t “doxing.” That’s a word Bart used to make himself the victim here. It fits with his narrative, such as it is. As others predicted, he simply doubled down on his insults, then denies he’s made them. As I said yesterday, I am shutting down comments to this thread. It’s outlived whatever usefulness it might have had. Again, my apologies to those who thought this post was inappropriate. Perhaps you were right. It won’t happen again because clearly there is no need.

Dave Phifer
Dave Phifer
26 days ago

I would offer a different suggestion. While Bart’s email is, yes, extremely rude, and low on content, I think we should always strive to live up to our own ideals, being, in this case, free speech. For me, that means more than passively letting people run their mouths, least of all ignoring or silencing them. So I would invite Bart to participate in a structured dialogue, if he wants it. Otherwise we’re no better than anyone else. Of course we will say – but he’s doing xyz, obviously, and that’s unacceptable. But that’s exactly the kind of thing they say… Read more »

Roger Brumley
Roger Brumley
26 days ago

My guess is that this is a prank. This is deliberately provocative and rather
juvenile. I would recommend not responding,

Azure Forte
Azure Forte
26 days ago

My answer to the question, “How do you answer this?” is simple: This comment invites no answer at all. The 5th principle project is offered for discussion and the pursuit of further understanding of the 5th principle. The message in question here is not offered for discussion. It makes no inquiry regarding the application of the 5th principle. It has applied the 5th principle project as a weapon and an attack. This is not a discussion, nor is it an inquiry, or a shared thought. If a shared thought is intended, with whom does the author imagine they are sharing?… Read more »

Kate Rohde
Kate Rohde
26 days ago

I think this is trolling and the guy is not what in the past was called a “religious professional”, at least no certification is indicated and certainly no seminary training. May I ask why you didn’t post my own essay of several months ago lifting up some more discussable ideas, not unlike those that Todd shared more recently? How about discussing some of the ideas for developing support for democratic, non-ideological, UU’s who want to keep our key traditions in tact. That is of some urgency.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
26 days ago
Reply to  Kate Rohde

Kate,

I apologize but I don’t really know what happened with your essay. If you’re willing, please send it to me again.

John Richards
John Richards
26 days ago

Don’t feed the troll….. you’re being played.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
26 days ago

Friends, We did not start this thread expecting to have a debate with Bart. It was posted to highlight an attitude that we encounter often when crossing paths with supporters of the UUA’s current direction. When it was discovered who this person is, or was, we paused to ask ourselves if going forward silence is always the only or wisest approach. While we are aware, as most of you seem to be, that replying directly, no matter the tone, is generally an exercise in impotence, we feel this begs the question of whether there is a better way to respond… Read more »

A Unitarian Universalist
A Unitarian Universalist
25 days ago

I don’t know what estranged him from the church, but Bart’s obviously not doing well. This angry, bitchy nonsense isn’t even trying to seem normal.

Patricia J Moore
Patricia J Moore
25 days ago

That email is beyond rude. I carefully read everything people have written here. I still don’t understand the point of publishing the email, or his name and old job title here. How is someone who doesn’t work for the UUA anymore and has some sort of grievance representative of the attitudes of the UUA? In all my years I have never experienced a UUA staff (whether district, region, or Boston,) be rude like that. Frankly, with that attitude he wouldn’t work for me either. But I sure would hate to be blamed for something he said three years later. Pat… Read more »

Bart
Bart
24 days ago

Doxxing is when you drop information about people’s personal lives like where they live and their spouse’s name. The Principles and Sources are supposed to be a living document. I don’t want to drop the Sources, but changing the Principles is important. As the world changes, we need to change how we covenant and interact with it. I think you and I have different understandings of respect. I don’t suffer fools. I don’t play games with ignorance. I tell it like it is. The Gadfly Papers made allegations against my friends and family, and implied them against me. If anyone… Read more »