uuworld.org: liberal religion and life

Nurture your spirit. Help heal our world. Unitarian Universalists.

Archives

Interdependent Web edited by Heather Christensen; a weekly roundup of blogs about Unitarian Universalism

A weekly roundup of blogs and other user-generated web content about Unitarian Universalism, collected by uuworld.org. Find more UU blogs at UUpdates. Contact us at interdependentweb@uua.org.

Detroit’s water crisis, worshippers harassed in New Orleans, and more

Water, water everywhere

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum writes about the water crisis in Detroit.

If you scratch below the surface of the call for individual responsibility in this case, it’s easy to see a level of demonization below it, and that demonization has some ugly, racist roots. This water issue isn’t really about self-reliance, it’s about “othering” the people of Detroit, about race, and about class. It’s about making the most basic human need into us-vs.-them. (The Lively Tradition, July 23)

Circle round for freedom

This past Sunday, anti-abortion protesters disrupted the worship service at First UU Church of New Orleans; the Rev. Deanna Vandiver, who was preaching that morning, shares a first-hand perspective on the congregation’s response.

Beloveds, I have never been prouder of my faith community. The youth led the way in circling the congregation together, forming a ring around the sanctuary and singing sustaining songs. Soon it became clear who was choosing to be beloved community and who was trying to destroy it. (Quest for Meaning, July 22)

Bart Frost, the congregation’s DRE, tells how he experienced the incident—and how he calmed his nerves afterward.

I spent the rest of the afternoon as I normally spend my Sunday afternoons, listening to music, writing and reading. The music leaned a little more towards punk sometimes, and Unitarian Universalist hymns at others. I reminded myself that there is good in this world, as I savored the sweetness of ice cream, good that is more powerful than hate and bitterness. (Vive Le Flame, July 22)

The Rev. Krista Taves suggests that other UU congregations can learn from this, and be prepared.

Most of our churches will never face this kind of sacred violation, thank the spirit, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In fact, given the increasing legal challenges to reproductive justice, and the fact that many Unitarian Universalist leaders are publicly active in the women’s reproductive justice movement, we need to be ready. (And the stones shall cry, July 22)

For the Rev. Marie DeYoung, calling this “religious terrorism” is inflammatory language.

There is no question that the behavior of Operation Save America was outrageous, disrespectful, and a harassing form of public speech.

But, while their behavior as described most certainly was disruptive, it clearly was NOT terroristic. We should not inflate the meaning of fundamentalist intruders’ pesky drama to a level that only improves their odds of achieving media celebrity. (About Our Inherent Worth, July 24)

In memoriam

The Rev. Scott Wells remembers a colleague, the Rev. Jennifer Slade, who died last week of an apparent suicide.

I want to express my sympathy to her family, and to her congregations. I am praying for you and her, and for others—including a number of ministers—shaken and feeling vulnerable by her death. (Boy in the Bands, July 19)

For the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, this tragedy renews her commitment to reach out for help, and to ask her colleagues “Are you OK?”

The work of religious leadership is especially demanding in this time of closing churches and anxious laity. . . . We are “making it up as we go along” in a way that previous generations of ministers may be able to relate to culturally or theologically or organizationally, but not institutionally to this extent. The pressure is fierce. This is to say nothing of other life stresses of health, finance, family, community. (Beauty Tips for Ministers, July 18)

Lessons written in stone

Faced with a vocational setback, Claire Curole gets reacquainted with her rock collection, and relearns needed lessons.

I am being slowly reminded of things I used to know—the complex relationship between purity and perfection and beauty and fragility, how the things which are most interesting are not always the strongest or most flawless—and how those which are strong or flawless are not always the most interesting or beautiful. If I can learn from these stones the admiration of complexity, of fragility, of quirky individuality then perhaps I will eventually learn to apply these lessons more broadly.

The other thing of which I have been reminded is that, given enough time and the proper conditions, even shattered stones can mend, become whole—not that which they were, not exactly, but something more, something different. (The Sand Hill Diary, July 21)

Tim Atkins remembers a similar lesson about imperfection—from his days as a geology student.

One of the early lessons I learned in my first geology course? How minerals get their color. The answer surprised me then, and it gives me hope today. It’s the flaws—the impurities.

Impurities are what make rubies red. Flaws are what make emeralds green. And flaws are what make each of us beautiful, too. (Loved for Who You Are, July 21)

Faith and belief

For Andrew Hidas, skepticism began in childhood.

Believing in a heaven where my mother was denied entrance required suspension of every shred of rationality and native reason my mere 8-year-old brain was already manifesting. I would have had to take it “on faith,” but that was so absurd and impossible given the reality of my actual mom and her actual great big heart that faith didn’t stand a chance.

Notably, anything that has required similar “faith” on my part hasn’t fared too well since. (Traversing, July 21)

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg answers the question, “Why Unitarianism?”

Although there are certainly many other vital religious traditions in our world, at least for me, Unitarian Universalism is the path that I have found the most helpful for navigating a 21st-century world in which we humans have been radically de-centered from the exalted position some of our ancestors believed that we held. (Pragmatism, Progressivism, Pluralism, July 24)

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden considers falling church attendance.

People today are looking for connection and service. They want to gather together and heal our broken world. The don’t want the same ‘ol same ‘ol.

The building is burning. Even those who remain Christian are fleeing. And those who wish to explore other paths?

Well, I can send you the address of my church . . . (Quest for Meaning, July 24)

Singing our faith, post-theism, creating new worlds, and more

Singing our faith

The Reeb Project flash-mob video made by All Souls Church in Washington, D.C., found its way to Upworthy this week. Enjoy the singing!

‘Infidelity’ and post-theism

The Rev. James Ford marks Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Divinity School address as the moment when “the ‘new infidelity’ was brought home to the institution of Unitarianism.”

While Unitarianism had rejected the trinity and focused salvation on “character,” on the actions of the individual in her or his life rather than through a vicarious atonement achieved by Jesus’ death, it was nonetheless deeply rooted in biblical Christianity. . . . Emerson . . . explicitly [rejected] the necessity of scripture as divine revelation. Instead he declared that the intuition of the individual was sufficient to find one’s way.

This created a firestorm within Unitarianism. A fire that has not yet burned itself out. (Monkey Mind, July 15)

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden explains why he is a “post-theist.”

I bought a new Ford truck, not a Model T. Why? Because a Model T, even though it revolutionized the automobile industry, is no longer an efficient mode of transportation in the contemporary world. . . .

This is how I view “god.” It’s not that I don’t believe in the god concept. It’s that I don’t think the concept is good transportation in our contemporary context. (Quest for Meaning, July 17)

Love, love, love

The Rev. Amy Shaw suggests that the word “because” should not follow the words “I love you.”

Loving you because implies that there is an alternate world in which I could not love you, because. Or a world in which my love for you would change as you drew nearer to some select goal that you and I shared. (Loved for Who You Are, July 14)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern objects to the word “bromance.”

In our culture, we don’t need a special name to describe the relationship between two women who love each other, love to spend time together, and are not romantically involved together nor seeking to be. We already have a term: friendship. What disturbs me about the embrace of the “bromance” term is the shunning of the obvious, available word.

Is there something so extraordinary about a close, loving, non-romantic relationship between men that we need a cute, arch term for it? (Sermons in Stones, July 14)

Liz James writes about loving beyond the bounds of committed relationships.

in the complete stretch of history i can see how
every time i felt this pull
to join with someone
it was because there was some part of them that i needed
to learn by heart (Rebel with a Label Maker, July 16)

Wholly interdependent

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum criticizes religious language about “brokenness.”

One of the most radical things we can do in the face of oppression is to counter messages of brokenness with proclamations of wholeness: I am whole; I am loved; I am worthy; I have inherent worth and dignity; You are whole; You are loved: You are worthy; You have inherent worth and dignity. You are loved — just as you are.

This doesn’t mean that we are perfect. It doesn’t mean that we never do harm. But we are still loved. We are whole, just as we are. (Loved for Who You Are, July 16)

Katy Schmidt Carpman writes that babies remind us our own interdependence. (Remembering Attention, July 14)

Creating new worlds

The Rev. Scott Wells notices that there was only one new congregation welcomed at this year’s UUA General Assembly, and wishes there were more.

To keep from shrinking, we need new congregations, and one isn’t enough. We need leaders with experience to foster new congregations, and one isn’t enough to found them.

So, again, I’m happy for Original Blessing. I only wish it had some cradle mates. (Boy in the Bands, July 15)

The Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss says it’s not too late for the UUA to move to Detroit. “Detroit has replaced Silicon Valley as the place where pioneers will create the real 21st century. Religion is about creating new worlds out of old chaos: let’s pull up our stakes and get busy.” (Politywonk, July 14)

Evangelism, sweetness and love, religious bullying, and more

Evangelism, elevator speeches, and innovation

Justin Almeida’s first attempts to explain UUism to his new classmates were “a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff,” so he worked out a more formal elevator speech.

Unitarian Universalism is rooted in liberal Christianity and developed out of the reformation. It is now a pluralistic, non-creedal religion that believes truth resides in the individual as informed by experience, tradition, family, culture and history. We have seven principles which guide our congregations, all of which boil down to ‘there is one love and nobody is left behind. (What’s My Age Again?, July 9)

For Gracia Walker, simple loving presence is a form of evangelism.

I think to show love doesn’t mean you tell people where to go to church or if they should go to church. It just means you spend the time you have with them in a loving way. (Loved for Who You Are, July 9)

The Rev. Dr. David Breedon reminds us that a culture of loneliness is the context for our evangelism.

As the Beatles knew, denizens of post-industrial countries may exist in utter isolation. We often shop in anonymous supermarkets rather than bustling markets. We buy clothing off a hanger, not from the source of the craft. As Robert D. Putnam pointed out, many of us bowl alone. (Quest for Meaning, July 10)

Katy Schmidt Carpman notices that many programs that support innovation are cropping up within UUism.

It’s a ripe time for innovation.
What’s your big idea?
How will you change the world? (Remembering Attention, July 3)

Enough already

While shopping in Target, Colleen Thoelle has a flash of insight about accepting the person she is right now, letting go of regrets and fantasies about the past.

Should the goal be to not go back and dig up but to walk forward and look straight ahead? Should I leave “her” behind me and just be who I am right now? What in the hell is wrong with who you are right now?

Bam! Lightbulb. (Adventures of the Family Pants, July 10)

During a stressful summer of “mothering from afar,” Jordinn Nelson Long also struggles with the question of doing and being “enough.”

My faith tells me there is no hell, but amazingly, that doesn’t touch the fear of damnation here, on this earth.

Not by others. . . .

What I’m afraid of is bigger and deeper, a theological matter for our time. The final judge will be the limits of each 24 hour day and the reality of opportunity cost and the truth that to love is on some level to leave your heart lying helpless. (Raising Faith, July 4)

Religious freedom, religious bullying

The Rev. Marti Keller, responding to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, writes that “We need to find ways to talk about the ripples of oppression and harm that may inevitably stem from this ill-considered verdict while not losing focus on the women in this country who were originally targeted.” (Leaping from Our Spheres, July 10)

After a thorough examination of the court’s decision, Doug Muder concludes that Pandora’s box is open.

[Any] clever person can find a link of some sort between whatever they don’t want to do and the commission of some act they consider immoral by someone else. Alito is encouraging Christians to develop hyper-sensitive consciences that will then allow them to control or mistreat others in the name of religious liberty. . . .

I focus on Christians here for a very good reason: Given that this principle will produce complete anarchy if generally applied, it won’t be generally applied. (The Weekly Sift, July 7)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern wants Unitarian Universalists to work for a more substantive conversation about abortion.

We wish to talk with others who struggle with these issues, not in order to concede to intolerable positions nor make peace with every opponent, but because they matter to us, and it is the duty both of a government and a civilization to grapple honestly with such questions. (Sermons in Stones, July 3)

John Beckett believes Americans too often confuse religious freedom and religious bullying.

Religious freedom means you are free to believe, worship, and practice as you see fit. It means you are free to advocate for your religion in the public square. It means you are free to live your life by your values and to encourage others to do the same.

It does not mean you are free to coerce others to believe, practice, or behave as you would prefer, nor does it mean you are free to ignore your obligations to our wider society.

That’s not freedom. That’s bullying. (Under the Ancient Oaks, July 3)

Sweetness and love

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg reflects on this year’s General Assembly theme.

Perhaps the biggest take away for me from General Assembly was the emphasis that “Love Reaches Out” means partnering to create social change with those whom you may in many ways differ from politically or theologically. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, July 8)

The Rev. Scott Wells objects to overly sentimental views of Universalism.

In the last generation, I’ve seen a revolting amount of ecclesiastic “mansplaining”: condescending depictions of Universalism, out of a Unitarian lens, to re-cast my tradition as something sweet, loving, emotive, poor, rural and homey. The whole thing reeks of Victorian sexual politics. (Boy in the Bands, July 6)