Letter: Another account of the Agenda 21 meeting
Most, if not all, of us are upset, dismayed, dispirited and angry by the actions, talk and manner with which our elected members of Congress interact with one another. Formerly, I regarded such action to be the product of the loss of civility in public discourse. I have come to believe that this issue contains dynamics that are more insidious and dangerous. In my opinion, the lack of civility is emerging from the absence of curiosity and humility on the part of many of our elected leaders. Each party seems to believe, deeply, in the absolute rightness and the truth of its position. Curiosity and humility are unneeded virtues because "the other" is simply wrong and that "other" is dismissed, often with arrogant disdain. In my 40-year career as a pastoral counselor, this dynamic was often the core of the trouble for the couples who came to me for marital counseling … "I am right, you are wrong and you need to change."
Sadly, I experienced this situation at the Oct. 24 anti-United Nations Agenda 21 forum presented at the Cornerstone Fellowship Church. I attended the forum because, as an advisory member to the planning commission of Mathews County, I was a part of the process that developed Mathews County’s Comprehensive Plan.
I estimate 150 persons were present for what was a rally for the cause to listen to a guest speaker from outside of Mathews County. Donna (the guest speaker) was passionately clear about the evil nature of U.N. Agenda 21 that was negatively influencing the education and planning processes internationally, nationally, in the Commonwealth of Virginia and in Mathews. Agenda 21 was presented as a direct threat to our individual and property rights. The Mathews Comprehensive Plan was lifted up, paragraph by paragraph, as an implementation of these threats and was characterized as a "communist document" in need of repeal.
Time was allotted for questions and comments. I took my turn and invited the audience to consider Agenda 21 in a different light. Identifying myself as a pastor who is familiar with the document, I suggested that Agenda 21 is not the evil document as presented because it calls us to think and act on our own behalf in the context of the global and local communities in which we dwell. Its emphasis on community is an important calling that is part of the essential message in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.
My comments were interrupted by "boos" and groans. Neither the moderator nor the speaker intervened. Thankfully, a woman from the audience called upon the group to extend to me the courtesy of being heard. Later, when the forum adjourned, a woman, perhaps the same woman, thanked me for having the courage to speak as I did. She politely informed me that we were in disagreement. She was a bright light in the context of this evening.
When I took my seat, a man in the row in front of me turned and informed me, with what seemed to me to be arrogant disgust, "You are a fool!"
The next day, a friend in the Mathews County government forwarded to me an e-mail from Tricia Stall of the Agenda 21 group. The e-mail was sent to the members of the Mathews Board of Supervisors, Governor McDonnell, Attorney General Cuccinelli and others. Someone had taken the time to find out that in June of 2010, I (proudly) signed a letter to Senators Warner and Webb. Together with 103 Virginia pastors, priests, bishops, rabbis and imams, we implored the Senators to move forward effective climate legislation on the basis of our mutual moral responsibility on behalf of the most vulnerable of our world … the poor who are already victims of climate change. Ms. Stall assigned to me the label of "sustainablist." Another writer added the comment that the words "community" and "communist" flow from the same root word.
It is troubling to me that there are persons in our Mathews community who "boo," seek to label and/or discredit me simply because I have a different point of view regarding U.N. Agenda 21 and climate change. The actions at the forum and the content of the e-mail are dynamics deeper than the loss of civility. They are illustrative of the loss of curiosity and humility and these losses are far more insidious and dangerous than Agenda 21. Every person, group, movement, religion, government and nation that regards itself as the exclusive possessor of "the truth" is, in varying degrees, a dangerous entity to its larger community.