Letter from Rev. David Carter

November, 2015
Dear Members and Friends of UUFM,

Warm regards and best wishes to all.
Over the last few weeks, having corresponded productively with several UUFM congregants to discuss their concerns regarding my references to autism in my sermon of Oct 25th, I now believe that additional good will come from my sharing with the larger community of congregants the value I received from those exchanges.
First, because I didn’t make it sufficiently clear in my sermon, please let me clarify an important point. I do not believe, nor did I intend to convey, that autism predisposes a person to antisocial behavior. Neither do I believe that persons with autism pose a threat to society.
Rather, I intended to convey a value I hold. Namely, that restorative practices and best therapeutic interventions should be the standard for all troubled persons who behave in destructive and/or antisocial ways. Moreover, even if and when persons are discovered to be obsessively contemplating or preparing to carry out antisocial acts, the response ought to proceed along lines of due process and be centered in restorative practices aimed at healing.
Therefore, my argument was/is that whenever and wherever possible, compassionate and just interventions, restorative practices, and therapy ought to be the universal response to antisocial behavior. Of course, that standard should not be reserved for a privileged few. And, in my sermon, I averred that Black Lives Matter is a critically important response to the odious double standard that has been cruelly applied to people of color in America for centuries.
Nevertheless, brought about by the necessity of carefully reviewing my sermon to understand why people had expressed misgivings, I had a breakthrough, an “aha” moment. Here is my realization:
People seemed to accept my passionate declaration that gross incomprehension of other people’s intrinsic worth and dignity does not excuse or condone crimes of violence against them. But important questions were raised as a result of my not adequately disambiguating two very different phenomena upon which I touched in my sermon.
The first is what I perceive to be “learned” incomprehension; i.e., white supremacist ideologies that inculcate “incomprehension” of the fact that black lives matter by demoting people of color to insensate chattel and thereby “justifying” acts of atrocity against them. The second is the incomprehension of social cues associated with autism, a complex neurological condition that runs along a spectrum; a phenomenon about which, admittedly, I know little. Of course the two are worlds apart.
Sadly, though, my awareness of that distinction and my sensitivity to its significance was not made sufficiently clear to my audience when I spoke, ergo, the justifiable concern expressed by several in attendance.
Naturally, I regret any and all unintended distress or confusion my words caused. And I am deeply grateful for the dialogue. Through it, I was able to move beyond egoistic defensiveness rooted in fear and wind up inhabiting the space in which learning occurs. I finally “got it.” I realized why there were objections and misgivings and feel grateful for the dialogues that ensued and brought understanding. Of course, if any think that further dialogue is necessary or will be helpful, that is most welcome.

Yours in the faith we share,
Rev. David Carter

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