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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.

Our whole complicated lives, new humanism, Malcolm X, and more

Our whole complicated lives

The Rev. Gretchen Haley writes about “how loving works.”

Some people are really super duper consistent in the type (and biological sex) of the person they fall in love with and desire. And some people truly only fall in love with and find intimacy with one person, for their whole life.

But for many of us, love and desire is a lot more complicated across our lifetimes. There are relationships we just cannot have words for, that mean more to us in many ways than the relationships we do have words for. We surprise ourselves with desire for people that we would’ve never expected at other points in our lives. Some of those desires we act on; many of them, we do not. Love changes and grows and fades and evolves—because we do. Living things change. (Another Possibility, February 23)

Karen Johnston writes about “Sex and life and aging and death [as one] gorgeous, edgy, voluptuous cloth.” (Irrevspeckay, February 24)

Katy Carpman isn’t a fan of hugging.

My body is mine, and I like to keep some space around it. When someone I do not much know is touching me more than incidentally, or wrapping around me, I can deal but I get a little twitchy. It wears me out.

A good friend? Sure, we’ll do a hug. Maybe two. I do not need to do the orbit of hugs when I arrive or before I leave a party. (Remembering Attention, February 25)

Responding to the popular book and movie, 50 Shades of Gray, Desmond Ravenstone prefers relational covenants to transactional covenants.

Too often, our consumer culture reduces sexuality to what we do—from conventional intercourse to role-playing in fetish garb. We forget that what we desire to do is inextricably linked to who we are as unique persons, and how the doing may affect our being. May we remember who we are, and what we have to bring, whenever we come together. (Ravenstone’s Reflections, February 24)

Ravenstone also provides space for a guest blogger to respond to UU World’s recent article about sex offenders in UU congregations.

When you say that those monsters shouldn’t be allowed in the doors of the Church, that you would never shake the hand of someone “like that”, please remember that you are talking about my dad. My dad who started out the same as all of us—feeling attracted to kids because he was one, and who didn’t ever grow out of it. . . .

You are talking about my dad, who lived with urges that most of us cannot judge or understand because we don’t have them. My dad who thought he could be strong enough to overcome it on his own.

My dad, who fought a hard fight. And who mostly succeeded. (Ravenstone’s Reflections, February 21)

Life obliges

Shauna Ahern, a member of the congregation I serve, applies to her own life lessons she learned at a recent memorial service.

We don’t have just one life and then a death. . . . There are, without a doubt, a thousand deaths and births while we’re here. I think the best way to live through them is to talk about it and share it with each other. Why are we so afraid of talking about death? (Gluten-Free-Girl and the Chef, February 25)

Sara Lewis introduces her congregation’s monthly theme for March, “Rhythms.”

There is a time for everything, not just for foods, but for everything. The value of living seasonally is that you attune your life to what is the right thing to be doing right now. As a life-coach once told me, “you can do almost everything you want and need to do, but honey you can’t do it all right now.” (The Children’s Chalice, February 26)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern suggests that we enlarge our definition of compassion.

I tend to think of compassion in the context of empathizing with someone’s suffering, although if asked to define it, I would say it encompasses all feelings, joyful as well as sorrowful. . . .

If we only invite compassion for people when they’re suffering, compassion has a steep hill to climb. It has to conquer our natural desire to avoid pain. . . . Partaking of someone’s feelings becomes a chore. But if we invite compassion for all feelings, . . . feeling others’ feelings, far from being always painful, can be a source of great pleasure. It’s an act of imagination, engaging and fascinating, which sometimes does carry us into experiences we would rather not have, but also brings us happiness that we would not have experienced had we remained shut in our own minds. (Sermons in Stones, February 20)

New humanism, and a new Fellowship Movement

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden explains some of humanism’s roots—and argues that humanism now has a new context.

In fighting religious dogmas, humanism became dogmatic. Attacks on religious claims; attacks on scriptures; claims and counter-claims became part of humanist practice. This is old fashioned now, at best.

But that was then. Now, humanism has a whole new world to dwell in. A world in which religions are interesting antiques and we humans can finally get around to exploring ways to make life better . . . here and now. (Quest for Meaning, February 26)

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum thinks it’s time for a new Fellowship Movement.

I think the answer looks something like multi-site and and something like a Fellowship. The folks that are not attracted to a traditional church and its worship as the central focus might be attracted to something that is Unitarian Universalism in another package, like the Fellowships were. . . . But it needs institutional support, like the Fellowships had through the UUA staff and the mailings from Boston that provided the Fellowships with pre-prepared worship services and programs.

Today, it won’t be an ad in a newspaper, but something spread by social media. And maybe the staff person isn’t from Boston but rather, like the multi-site model, supplied by the nearest congregation. But the model being so fixed and clear and authorized and organized centrally is what made the Fellowship model so successful. We need that clear vision and mandate to grow these new entities, the new Fellowships. (The Lively Tradition, February 20)

Remembering Malcolm X

For the Rev. Dan Harper, reading Malcolm X is “a bracing experience.”

Recently, I’ve been questioning this notion of “white privilege” that we white liberals have been playing around with for twenty-five years or so. In The Ballot or the Bullet, Malcom X writes: “Whenever you’re going after something that belongs to you, anyone who’s depriving you of the right to have it is a criminal. Understand that. Whenever you are going after something that is yours, you are within your legal rights to lay claim to it. And anyone who puts forth any effort to deprive you of that which is yours, is breaking the law, is a criminal.” This simple, clear statement puts the lie to the concept of “white privilege”; what we’re actually talking about is theft, a criminal act, a crime. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, February 21)

Turning toward spring, nostalgia for inequality, and more

Turning toward spring

Fed up with her Facebook friends’ pictures of spring flowers, Maine resident Claire Curole takes matters into her own hands. (The Sand Hill Diary, February 14)

claire's yard


Even though he lives in the relatively balmy Pacific Northwest, the Rev. Bill Sinkford writes, “my heart is ready for spring.”

The news of the world continues to test our spirits. Struggles in our individual lives and even in our church have taken a toll. I find myself ready for new life to burst forth; ready to allow nature’s rebirth to call forth a rebirth in my spirit. (Rev. Sinkford’s Blog, February 19)

The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt wanders into a Roman Catholic church on Ash Wednesday, and finds, surrounded by her ancestors, a new beginning.

Ash Wednesday is meant to be a solemn day, a reminder of our mortality and of the dust to which we ultimately return. But it wasn’t like that for me today, surrounded by portraits of the ancestors and the God of my understanding. The ashes I wore this Wednesday were a talisman of hope, a reminder for my sometimes weary heart that any day is a good day to repent: that is, to turn myself around, and to give myself over to love’s good news. May all of us get that same chance, in this Lenten season: the chance to turn ourselves around. May all of us find reason to believe in love’s amazing power. (Starr King School for the Ministry, February 19)

Catherine Clarenbach adds a Pagan sparkle to the beginning of Lent.

One year in seminary, one Ash Wednesday, I went to my friends who had ashes on their foreheads and asked them whether I could offer them another blessing. Every one of them said yes. I had a small, carved box full of very fine glitter. I opened the box, and pressed my finger to the glitter just a tiny bit, then pressed that finger onto the backs of my friends’ hands. “Remember,” I said, “you are of the dust of Earth and the dust of stars, a child of Earth and Starry Heaven.” (Nature’s Path, February 18)

Tending the spirit

The Rev. Phil Lund confesses that he is a “spiritual slow learner.”

So, after years of skating along the surface of poetry I’ve finally broken through the intellectual ice and fallen into the spiritual depths. And the best poems are a bit like a splash of cold water, too, waking me up from my slumber and invigorating my spirit. Coffee’s not bad, either. (Phillip Lund, February 14)

Lund also shares a list of questions meant to help small groups “go a little deeper spiritually.” (Phillip Lund, February 18)

Unsatisfied with an online list of spiritual novels, the Rev. James Ford writes, “That set me to thinking about what novels have touched my heart on my path, what set, or reset me along the way at important moments.” (Monkey Mind, February 15)

Nostalgia for inequality

The Rev. Tom Schade wonders if the current fascination with “Fifty Shades” is a kind of nostalgia for inequality.

Why this, at a time when the hidden codes of domination and subordination between people are being interrogated and exposed as never before. Is it like ethnic joking, a seemingly playful subversion of new multicultural sensitivities? Is this nostalgia for the old ways of being human in which unequal power and sexuality were welded together? (The Lively Tradition, February 6)

Doug Muder responds to two arguments that often appeal to middle-of-the-road opponents to marriage equality.

[Whether] it would happen in your ideal world or not, same-sex couples are raising children. Some are adopting children whose biological parents can’t or won’t raise them. Some are working with doctors and friends to conceive children that they will raise from birth. And some are keeping faith with the children they had in a previous opposite-sex relationship that failed.

In the vast majority of those cases, if they gave those children up something worse would happen to them. And if you make life harder for those couples, you can’t avoid making life harder for their children. Who would that benefit? (The Weekly Sift, February 16)

Kim Hampton sees a trend in recent white responses to strong black women.

Black women are supposed to patch up white people’s emotional boo-boos. . . .Yet what is going on in the situations of Starr King, #BlackLivesMatter, and “Selma,” is that black women aren’t doing that. And in all three cases none of the black women involved are apologizing for that fact.

There seems to be a lot of white anxiety when they are not the focus/main driver of the story. In other words, white people don’t like being “the help.” (East of Midnight, February 16)

More #sexUUality

Dawn Fortune contributes to the February #SexUUality blogging project.

In this day and age, we receive lots of messages about what sex, love and relationships ought to be. I cannot tell you what your love life should look like, nor should I. What I can talk about is healthy boundaries, agency, respect, and consent. Sex should not hurt unless you want it to. What matters is that you are respected, happy and fulfilled, and not attempting to live up to a false standard established by popular culture. (Rebel with a Labelmaker, February 18)

The Rev. Dr. Nori Rost considers a reader’s challenging questions about shame and sexuality.

What happens when we find ourselves in situations where we feel incapable of stopping something that is happening, or when, in the midst of emotional and spiritual pain we allow things to happen to us or actively engage in sexual activities that don’t feel sacred or bring healing to our lives and in fact, mire us in the tar pits of shame and its BFF self-loathing? (sUbteXt, February 16)

Andrew Hidas writes about the sacredness of the physical world, including sexuality.

I believe in the sacramentality of things, the very objects of this world that God, whom I don’t believe in except pertaining to the countless gifts He has placed before us and inside us for our intrigue, feasting and delight. One of those things being skin and its millions of sensational sensate receptors and oh my God the miracle that that is! (Traversing, February 14)

Facebook friendships, sexuality, Starr King, and more

Strategic Facebook friendships

The Rev. Meg Riley chooses to stay connected with difficult Facebook friends, and to remain kind and curious, even when she disagrees with someone.

Like it or not, Facebook is now a significant displacer of the corner diner, the water cooler, the bridge club, the hair salon, the barber shop, the potluck supper—whatever your image is for where ‘the people’ engage in the personal conversations that shape culture. I know that people use it in a variety of ways and you may only want to watch cat videos or talk to people whose opinions you share, but, for me, it’s a resource too precious to waste by cutting engaged people out of the conversation, regardless of the perspectives they bring. (Quest for Meaning, February 9)

Unafraid of a changing future

The Rev. Christian Schmidt is tired of people saying he should be afraid of changes faced by religious communities.

I’m not afraid even as I try to provide for a growing family (we welcomed our second child last month!), I’m not afraid as we drag around a whole bunch of student loans that we’re making little progress towards paying off. If I was afraid, I wouldn’t be doing ministry, that’s for sure: This is not for the faint of heart. . . .

And even if I was tempted, those people coming in the door each Sunday would keep me right here. We need these communities, with their buildings that are falling apart, with their financial structures so often inefficient, with ministers who have been trained in all the wrong things, who are aching to devote their entire lives to these communities. (A Free Faith, February 12)

Blogging #sexUUality

A group of UU bloggers are working together this week to blog about sexuality, using the hashtag #sexUUality.

Jordinn Nelson Long writes about what she and her husband learned when they narrowly avoided divorce.

[What] has saved us is our sex life.

Yep. I just said that.

What has saved us, in fact, is treating our sex life like a spiritual practice. (Raising Faith, February 7)

Liz James tells the story of her complicated family, “a beautiful mess of things that cannot be unloved.”

There’s not just the one paradigm of marriage that we all sign up for. There are so many kinds of love, so many shapes beyond our traditional ideas. I know this on a deep level. For the same reason so many of you know it. Because I’ve had the experience of falling back into the leaves, through the dusty surface layer. I have had that moment of realizing that I am not the right shape. Of being stuck standing on the wrong side of love. (Rebel with a Labelmaker, February 9)

Liz James also hosts a guest post from a minister who writes anonymously—and frankly.

Here’s what my husband and I know better every day: the most powerful sexual organ is the brain. The most powerful aphrodisiac is communication: being listened to, being seen, being heard. Our sex life was accidentally jump-started when we hit a wall — when we got to the point where we just couldn’t overlook how emotionally distant we were. (Rebel with a Labelmaker, February 11)

Karen Johnston acknowledges that training to be a minister forces her to speak in generalities about sexuality, rather than speaking specifically about her own life—so she shares three truths.

The truth is, we have bodies—all of us: free-range Unitarian Universalists, congregants, seminarians, ministers—all of us.

The truth is, we desire to do right by each other, which we call a sacred covenant, and this is not sequestered just to healthy communications in committee meetings. This means in our intimate lives, however we consensually enact and embody them.

The truth is, we are called to be awake and one of the places we, as a culture, would rather be “asleep” (=denial, confusion, shame, etc.) is sex. (irrevspeckay, February 7)

The music of her teenage years pushed Diana McLean to believe in “happily ever after.”

It took me a long time to figure out that there are other ways to define happily ever after. That I might not only survive being single (which I would once have called “alone”) but actually thrive on my own. And even after I figured that out, I’ve still had to contend with the cultural norm that says partnered is better than single. (Poetic Justice, February 8)

The Rev. Lynn Ungar asks, “Is sex necessary?”

Any marriage gets to define its own fidelities, and it is possible that sexual intimacy or even sexual monogamy is not the only definition of being faithful. But if it isn’t, there had better be something important and intimate and caring to which the partners are committed, and which they can hold to and depend on day in and day out, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. (Quest for Meaning, February 11)

Starr King moves on

There have been a variety of responses to this week’s news that Starr King School for the Ministry is attempting to “close a sad chapter” of conflict. (See UU World‘s coverage, “Starr King belatedly grants degrees to two students.”)

Adam Dyer shares a song he wrote a few years ago for SKSM, when he was a student body president.

Let’s move on
To somewhere we are healed
Somewhere we can meet each other face to face
Let’s move on to somewhere brighter. (spirituwellness, February 11)

Edith Love, one of the students involved in the “Strapped Student” email, writes a guest post about her experience.

When all this began, I considered the release of the information as whistle-blowing. In hindsight, while I maintain a healthy critique of the process and my school, I can see how we could have made other choices. I wish I had been braver, and spoken out publicly about my concerns then, as I am doing today. (The Lively Tradition, February 12)

Kim Hampton isn’t ready to forgive and forget.

When the leaked information was leaked, it was done with a specific purpose; to imply that the chosen candidate, Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, was less qualified to become President of Starr King and was picked in spite of all available evidence. This was done with malice and forethought. (East of Midnight, February 12)