How to Respond to a Bully
CynthiaAstle printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed May 29, 2013 at 05:50:32 PM EST
We are honored to welcome Cynthia B. Astle as a guest front pager. She is project coordinator for United Methodist Insight, where this post first appeared. Astle was the first woman to be named Editor of the church's national newspaper, United Methodist Reporter, and went on to edit The Progressive Christian magazine. She is a certified spiritual director and a member of the United Methodist-founded monastic association, the Order of Saint Luke. -- FC

I often find myself uncertain of how to balance my twin vocations of spiritual director and journalist. For example, right now I'm struggling with the best way to deal with a bully -- in this case, the Institute for Religion and Democracy, known by its initials IRD.

Here's the scoop: On May 25, John Lomperis of the "Methodist Program" of IRD published a commentary on the demise of UMR Communications and the United Methodist Reporter. In said commentary, he saw fit to cast aspersions on two prior Reporter editors by name: my esteemed successor Robin Russell, and me.

Lomperis tied his critique of Robin directly to an article she had written about a documentary, "Renewal or Ruin," produced by the Rev. Steven Martin about the IRD's effect on The United Methodist Church. However, his critique of me comprises a toxic mix of unfair generalities and false assumptions.

Herewith his entire criticism:

Before Russell, the Reporter was edited by Cynthia Astle, who is hardly shy about her disdain for many evangelical United Methodists. Astle moved on to coordinate an online news project which promotes her liberal biases while including some token moderate and conservative guest contributors in an apparent attempt to attract a wider audience.

Since I don't read the IRD's website, my colleague Frederick Clarkson of Talk to Action alerted me to Lomperis' smear. Fred urged me to respond in the spirit of a book published some years ago, "Hard Ball on Holy Ground," written and edited by another colleague, Stephen L. Swecker, a Reporter co-worker and my former boss at The Progressive Christian magazine. Fred's approach, which I deeply respect and admire, is that calumnies like those produced by IRD should always be debunked and discredited.

Unfortunately, in balancing my roles as spiritual director and journalist, I had a problem in this instance. For all Lomperis's demeaning tone and aversion to the truth, he has one thing right: I have a bias. My bias is for the full gospel of Jesus Christ, which demands that we love God with all our heart, mind and strength, and that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves. I fully and freely confess that I regularly fail in the second part of this teaching because I have a very hard time loving those who perpetrate the kind of misinformation that is IRD's bread and butter. So yes, Lomperis is right that I am biased, but he got my bias all wrong.

Otherwise, Lomperis is wrong about everything in his attack. To set the record straight, United Methodist Insight isn't "my" online news publication; it's an educational project sponsored by a local congregation, St. Stephen UMC of Mesquite, TX. Its prominently displayed mission is to serve as a forum for the entire denomination to discern collectively God's will for the future of the global United Methodist Church. I do my best to select content from a range of viewpoints, but I do look more for people asking questions and identifying problems than for those retracing old conservative-liberal polarities. That's where I think the Emerging Church movement gives us a good example, because those old tit-for-tat battles obscure the world's profound needs that Christians are called to serve.

This educational forum benefits from some extraordinarily good United Methodist thinkers including many younger clergy such as the Rev. Jeremy Smith, the Rev. Becca Girrell Clark, and the Rev. Ben Gosden. Many of these folks have given UM Insight blanket permission to use their writings at will. And I do test their contributions using John Wesley's theological method to assess their interpretations of scripture by means of tradition, experience and reason. Were I to do otherwise, I am convinced that the spirit of Spurgeon M. Dunnam III, late Reporter editor who was schooled by Albert C. Outler himself, would visit like the ghosts of "A Christmas Carol" to terrify me into mending my ways.

John Lomperis' attack on me contains one outright misstatement: I don't hold "evangelicals" in disdain. Instead, it's IRD I hold in disdain in much the same way that Jesus disdained, even condemned, religious leaders of his day who misled people. I put the word "evangelicals" in quotes because in the past three decades it has come to mean something quite different from what it meant when I was growing up in the Methodist Church. I've always thought of myself as evangelical, since I am "hardly shy" about telling people that I think, speak, pray, and behave in certain ways because I follow Jesus, the Christ. Had Lomperis asked, I would have been glad to tell him this good news. But because of previous writings, I can't help wondering if he would have acknowledged that he had been wrong in his generalization?

These things said, I do have serious disagreements with the views of many people who wrap their divisive and harmful right-wing politics in the mantle of evangelicalism, as if all evangelicals think and act as they do. I also have theological disagreements with the interpretations of some who claim an evangelical identity, particularly as those views pertain to women's reproductive health and the acceptability of covenantal same-sex relationships. But I resist employing the kind of ad hominem attacks that IRD seems to prefer.

Now that I have fulfilled the urging of some friends and colleagues to reply to Lomperis' screed, I plan henceforth to regard IRD according to the spiritual counsel of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his book, "Healing Anger: The Power of Patience from A Buddhist Perspective."

If you know that someone is speaking badly of you behind your back, and if you react to that negativity with a feeling of hurt or anger, then you yourself destroy your own peace of mind. ... There is a Tibetan expression that one should treat such things as if they were wind behind one's ear. In other words, brush it aside.




Display:
It turns out, to borrow from Mark Twain, that the death of the United Methodist Reporter has been greatly exaggerated.

Cynthia Astle reports that UMR has a new digital life and new, Methodist owners who happen to be entrepreneurs in the digital age.

The new digital Reporter won't have a central physical location, but will be operated "from wherever we are with our computers," said Rev. Voorhees.

"One of the reasons we think we can make this work is because we don't have the kind of overhead that UMR Communications had, being anchored in printing," Rev. Voorhees told UM Insight. "It's sad that UMR is one of the casualties of the downfall of the print industry, but that's the fact."



by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 05:13:07 PM EST


WWW Talk To Action


Mario Cuomo's Memorable Lesson on Challenging the Political Authority of the Church
It is never too late to remember. Here is a reposting of a column I did following the death of former New York Gov.......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Legacy of Francis Bellamy
"We assemble here that we, too, may exalt the free school that embodies the American principles of universal enlightenment and equality; the most characteristic......
By wilkyjr (1 comment)
The Inquisitional Urge Gets the Better of Bill Donohue (Again)
Bill Donohue is at it again. The Catholic League president went apoplectic over President Obama’s seemingly innocuous comments at the February 5th National Prayer......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
John Dorhauer Recommended to Lead United Church of Christ
I am very pleased to report that John Dorhauer, who joined us early on at Talk to Action has been recommended by a national......
By Frederick Clarkson (3 comments)
Terms, Definitions & Glossaries for Writing about the Religious Right
One of the challenges in writing about the Religious Right and what to do about it is the matter of terms and definitions. That's......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Day We Won One for Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson wanted to be remembered for three things, which he had carved on his gravestone: Here was buried Thomas Jefferson Author of the......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Judiciary According to the Religious Right
Judicial Tyranny, compiled by Mark Sutherland, is a book that appears to represent what Religious Right types proclaim is the final word on the......
By wilkyjr (3 comments)
Beware Of Mormons Bearing Gifts: Why The LDS Gay Rights `Compromise' Isn't Useful
The leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) made quite a splash last week when they announced they would support......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Priebus' RNC Israel Trip Organizer: "Wage War To Restore a Christian America"
image, right: Pastor David Lane, screenshot from Right Wing Watch video "Where are the champions of Christ to save the nation from the pagan......
By Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
The Theocrats' New Clothes: A Naked Call for Political Dominion
Like the monarch in Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale, The Emperor's New Clothes, the theocratic ambitions of the organizers of the big Christian Right......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Republican Diversity Program... Is Working
The Washington Post recently underscored the larger point in this post, which goes far beyond the issues of the GOP diversity program. So I......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Unholy Alliance for Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety
When I obtained a post from a private email listserv of gun control advocates, I wasn't sure what to do with it. Then I......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Bobby Jindal's Big Rally for Christian Right Dominion
There is a big Christian Right rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Saturday, January 24th. The event, called The Response, is intended to, among......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
Dominionism, Gov. Rick Perry and The Response Rally of 2011
The David Pakman Show recently rebroadcast this "Classic Interview"  with Rachel Tabachnick in which they discuss her groundbreaking work on the New Apostolic Reformation,......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Religious Freedom as Revolution
In which I discuss Religious Freedom Day on the David Pakman Show. I said, among other things, "The idea of religious freedom was one......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)

Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (1 comment)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (0 comments)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (5 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (5 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (1 comment)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.