Monday, January 09, 2006

A fair fight, or finding the right words

Dilemma: speaking truth to power and living to tell about it. Or maintaining one's dignity.

Remember my dream about all the stained glass windows being replaced by plaster and bits of colored glass at my church? Well, that's what's happening. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Some really lousy things are happening in my wonderful community of faith. The clergy, staff, and vestry are completely disconnected from us regular parishioners and are making horrendous decisions on our behalf. (And no, this doesn't have anything to do with gay bishops - we're a progressive parish and settled that issue long ago.) If I didn't know better, I'd say the Bush administration had taken over my church.

So, how to take a stand through a letter or email that spells out my repugnance (I'm beyond "concern")? I stewed about it all weekend because the time had come to speak up. Though it's hard for me to keep my emotions from rising to the top, I formulated a letter that I thought struck a balance between calm, rational thought and vehement indignation and sent it on its way electronically.

And of course I received a quick response (anytime you yank money away from them they sit up and take notice, doncha' know). Another thing I've noticed is that whenever someone dares to go up against the people at the top, the PTB have several predictable slap-down strategies:
  • The We-Value-Your-Comments Tactic: "Thank you for sharing your ideas and feelings. We appreciate where you're coming from (but we're about to hit you in the head with a 2x4 for even questioning our decision-making capabilities.)"
  • The You're-Blowing-This-Way-Out-of-Proportion Tactic: "Calm down. I know you said you've thought about this for weeks before contacting us, but obviously you're just not thinking straight." Did the words "calm down" ever make things better? Ever?
  • The Aren't-You-A-Little-Dummy? Tactic: "You don't seem capable understanding our decisions, oh, ye of little brain and influence. Let me refer you to my article/letter/sermon on thus and so. I'm sure if you spend time studying it - dictionary and thesaurus in hand - you'll come around to our way of thinking."
  • The You-Shoulda-Read-The-Fine-Print Tactic: "We did publicize this information in small print here, here, and here. The fact that the wording was so obscure or outrageous that you ignored it is not our problem." (See the progression of tactics here?)
  • The You-Just-Don't-Like-Change Tactic: "I see you're afraid of change. We don't particularly care that the change is detrimental to the community or just a plain ol' bad idea. We're gonna do it anyway, so there!"
  • The We-Have-Numbers-To-Back-This-Up Tactic: "We have all sorts of irrelevant facts - er, sort of facts, er, or something that maybe we can make you think are facts - to razzle dazzle ya' with. Maybe you won't notice that they don't really apply in this case. And they're our facts, dammit, so we'll stand by 'em!"
  • The You're-Not-A-Patriot-If-You-Don't-See-It-Our-Way Tactic: "You're not a true-blue part of this church/community/organization if you don't go along with our self-serving agenda." This has worked very well for George Bush, of course.

Aaargh! I knew all of these tactics before I sent the letter, but it's still frustrating to see the same shallow stuff thrown my way. And this from a person I like. "Just following the company line, dear." I expect responses like these from insurance companies or the IRS or Georgia Power, but I would've hope that people of like faith would make some effort to listen, to honor the community's strengths and gifts. Nope. Unh-uh.

How do I fight these ridiculous power-play tactics without sinking to the them myself? I just want to be heard and considered.


Nobody said...

I'm sorry for your frustration. Institutions exist first and foremost to perpetuate themselves, however good the intentions of the individuals who comprise them. I hope you get through to them, though, enough to give you some satisfaction.

MaryB said...

Thanks for the support, Nobody. Luckily, I'm in the company of other good folks fighting the good fight, so it's not so lonely. At any rate, I've said what I feel needed to be said and will just have to wait for the fall-out.