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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.

Domestic violence, September 11, the just-world fallacy, and more

Let our voices be a safe haven

When news stories spark conversations about domestic violence, Karen Johnston urges us to “let our voices be a safe haven.”

Let us remember who is in the room.

Let us be mindful of who is in the room when we speak, when we consider how and when to ask our questions. Let us be thoughtful when we speculate.

Let us be guided by facts and real-life testimony of survivors of violence and their allies that in most any public circumstance, in any gathering of people, there are survivors of domestic violence among us. They are us and we are them. (irrevspeckay, September 11)

Thirteen years ago

The Rev. James Ford comments that it’s hard to believe it’s been thirteen years since the September 11 attacks.

Today, these thirteen years later, at home we’ve come to be divided even more than we were before, something I’d not thought possible if asked in about it on 9/10.

And in the relentless play of causality even a president who came into office in significant part on the promise to extricate us from the morass looks to be forced into a fight with a truly horrific child birthed out of the whole dirty mess.

Blood poured upon blood. (Monkey Mind, September 11)

The Rev. Lynn Ungar acknowledges that we have responded to the 9/11 attacks by choosing security over freedom.

When the World Trade Center towers came down. . . . everything changed, because we had to come face to face with the reality that loss on such a grand scale really could camp out on our very doorstep.

And then we had to figure out how to respond. Would we build back our personal defenses through going on attack, following the illusion that we could simply exterminate everyone who was a possible threat? . . . . Why yes, we would.

Because anything is better than simply dwelling in the knowledge that we are not safe, that the horrors which befall any one of us could befall all of us, that loss lurks around every corner. (Quest for Meaning, September 11)

The just-world fallacy

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum examines the just-world fallacy in the context of leaked celebrity photos and the death of Michael Brown.

What happened to Jennifer Lawrence was a crime. Her privacy was invaded, her digital material stolen, her pictures shared without her consent. What happened to Michael Brown was horribly wrong, and no unarmed person deserves to be shot by the police. We’re pushing back against the bully culture and the rape culture, too, that tell us that the victims deserved what they got.

[Your] disease, your misfortune, crime perpetuated against you—these are not what you deserve. The Just-World perspective is a fallacy. You have inherent worth and dignity, you are worthy of love, you deserve a good and happy life. (Loved for Who You Are, September 8)

Effort, engagement, and success

The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford wonders, “When did ‘pet project’ become an insult in UU churches?”

What if, rather than trying to get 40 participants for one program, we instead equipped and empowered 40 members to go out and each one follow their own passion? Maybe we gave them meeting space or maybe even a little seed money. Maybe all we did was cheer them on, and offer them the shared wisdom of all the other church members who were changing the world in their own particular calls. (The Lively Tradition, September 11)

The Rev. Dan Harper responds to a blog post about moving beyond the simple congregational metric of average worship attendance.

Odom’s blog post ends with him wishing that he “could go back to the good old days and track a couple of different numbers.” I don’t share his nostalgia—I’m fascinated by the ongoing evolution of congregations, and I love the opportunities for creativity we now have.

How about you? What metrics would you use to figure out how your congregation is doing? (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, September 9)

The Rev. Dawn Cooley, drawing on her experience with roller derby, asks, “What are our stinky pads,” the evidence of our hard work?

On the one hand, I see evidence of our liberal religious effort all over the place. . . . Of course, just providing space is not enough—a roller derby team can provide practice times, but if no one shows up, no effort is put in. So then I wonder: Are people attending these events, workshops and opportunities provided by various liberal religious entities? Are they showing up and putting in effort? If so, then I think that this is one way that we can see evidence of “faithful sweat stains.”

But this does not seem sufficient—we need an outward component as well. (The Lively Tradition, September 10)

Finding peace

The Rev. Tamara Lebak struggles to be calm when she gets a flat—driving on the highway, with her young daughter in the back seat.

It is nearly impossible to hide an emotion when in cognitive or emotional overload. You will inevitably leak. It seeps out in our voice or in a nearly imperceptible micro-expression that warns others of our emotional world even if they don’t know exactly what they saw. On the one hand I want Beckett to be able to identify and articulate what she is feeling when she is feeling it and I would like to model that. I don’t want her to hide her feelings. On the other hand I do not need her upset when I am trying to dodge oncoming cars. I had a job to do. (Under the Collar in Oklahoma, September 9)

Using—and protecting—the web

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern encourages us to help protect net neutrality.

I have loved living in this age, seeing the internet grow from nonexistent, to a seldom-used novelty, to the central part of our lives it is now. It’s how I do research, meet new people, share my daughter’s childhood with faraway family and friends; it’s my ongoing university, workshop, and studio; it’s how I met my wife. I hate to picture looking back on this as the long-gone heyday of the internet. I don’t want to tell my daughter, as she works with a much different network of channeled and ranked information, “Let me tell you about 2014, when the internet was still neutral.” (Sermons in Stones, September 10)

Katy Schmidt Carpman uses “the interdependent web” to facilitate a long-distance, surprise donut delivery.

The blessings of a single donut have rippled through the week. Favors and laughter and networking and sugary sweetness—it’s all good. (Remembering Attention, September 10)

Hard times, lessons learned, theology, and the NFL

The good, the hard, the song

Visiting her parents after her father has had two strokes, Kari Kopnick finds solace in song.

The song most present for me today is . . . “All Will Be Well” by the Rev. Meg Barnhouse and while it’s not in any of our hymnals (yet!), it is one of the best songs for keeping on keeping on when things are hard. I have plucked my way through the chorus of this on my guitar, teaching it to groups of children and adults—and they have told me that it helps. It helps. It does.

All will be well, all will be well all manner of things—will be well. (Chalice Spark, August 28)

Lane Campbell writes about the self-destructive habit of comparing herself to others.

I am someone who often measures my own accomplishments next to colleagues. I take a look at what they are doing on their websites and in social media. I listen to colleagues at professional events and wonder why I am not doing more. Why am I not like them?!

It is a way of shaming myself. I look at what others are doing and revisit those feats and accomplishments as a source of why I am not good enough at my job, at my work-life balance, at being a family member—the list could continue. (Loved for Who You Are, September 1)

Jordinn Nelson Long shares the struggles—and joys—of homeschooling her gifted, complicated son.

Babies come shrouded in mystery, and between that and the beauty that blinds and the strengths that draw our gaze away from the weaknesses and the love that’s so big it’s unspeakable and the fear—O, God, the fear—it is hard. It is a difficulty both daily and eternal to see in our child’s face not our dreams but their reality.

But here is truth, and I dare to speak it, not in resignation but in acceptance—an acceptance of what is that kindles a realistic hope for what may come. I speak, I believe, in the truest love I know: Soeren is not a normal kid. Our baby is not what we expected.

And we love him and we are grateful for the gift of him and we are deeply excited at the learning that he is doing. (Raising Faith, September 2)

The Rev. Cynthia Cain understands the rage at the center of the movie Calvary.

As someone who has lived with the knowledge of childhood sexual abuse committed by a family member, as well as a clergywoman who has listened to countless stories of childhood victimization, I am deeply aware of the toll of this transgression upon the victims. I actually understand the rage that could be so all consuming it could make an otherwise peaceful person resort to violence. (Jersey Girl in Kentucky, September 4)

Kenny Wiley has depression, and is young and black; these basic truths of his existence have a lot in common.

That feeling—that people are okay with knowing that you have depression, as long as you don’t talk about it—mirrors some of what blackness has meant in the post-civil rights era.

It’s okay that I have blackness, as long as I don’t talk about it, or “act black” in any way. (A Full Day, September 2)

Lessons learned—or not

Doug Muder wonders whether we will learn from the national trauma of Michael Brown’s death—or forget it with the next news cycle.

In part, that decision is up to all of us. Will we let the things we’ve learned these last few weeks slip away like the trig identities we crammed into our heads for the big math test? Or will we hang on to our new understandings and not settle back into the same old conversations? Will we demand that our news sources and our political representatives recognize these realities? Or not? (The Weekly Sift, September 1)

The Rev. Elizabeth Stevens shares some of the lessons she learned from a visit to Ferguson.

Lesson One: Don’t believe what you see on television. I expected to witness chaos, devastation, and drama. Instead, I saw a community coming together to try to address deep systemic issues and individuals trying to get back to their normal lives. (revehstevens, September 4)

Kim Hampton believes UU responses to events like Michael Brown’s death are haunted by the Black Empowerment Controversy.

[Our] cousins in the UCC have many ministers of color and congregations comprised primarily of people of color. So do the Disciples (yes, they are cousins too). So what has impeded Unitarian Universalism?

. . . Will we see [racial bias] only as something that is happening outside of our congregations and not look at the way that what is happening outside of our congregations is being played out in our congregations too?
(East of Midnight, September 3)

Theological thoughts

Britton Gildersleeve compares Puritan and Quaker beliefs about why bad and good things happen.

Suffice to say: Puritans believed in the inherent evil of human beings; Quakers believed in the inherent good. If you were a Puritan and good things happened to you, God was showing favour. If bad things happened? It was your own fault. . . .

If you get tased by a cop, Puritans would say, it’s YOUR fault. NOT the fault of the racially paranoid clerk at the store, or the racially motivated police. Yours, even if you’re following the law. After all, if you’re black? God must not love you as much. Or something. (Beginner’s Mind, August 29)

The Rev. Meredith Garmon examines three contemporary perspectives on faith, including this one by Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg.

Faith is stepping, jumping, skipping, leaping, somersaulting right into the middle of possibilities for how we might evolve and for what goodness might burst forth. Faith’s opposite, then, is not doubt, but despairing withdrawal. (The Liberal Pulpit, August 29)

Claire Curole encounters opportunities to think about Postmodern theology while on vacation in Maine.

I ought, perhaps, to have used the camera more on vacation. Then I could pass round a picture and say, this here? this is what the post-Modern critique of Modernism looks like. It has weathered cedar shingles and a faded sign and a whimsical piece of folk art in the window, and it is open every day but only until four o’clock. It smells of salt and old fish and road tar. It is around the corner from a vacant boarded-up sardine cannery with a crumbling concrete dock and across the street from an empty lot where a set of granite stairs leads to nothing. Post-Modernism has a soft, cynical chuckle at Modernism’s notions of progress because progress is motion and motion means “away from here” and post-Modernism knows that “here” will still be here when the big houses burn down or sag on their sills until they collapse under their own unmaintained weight.

Post-Modernism paints flowers where they will not grow, because it can. (Sand Hill Diary, August 31)

Quitting the NFL

The Rev. Adam Tierney-Eliot quits the NFL, after a turning point watching a game last season.

I saw a wealthy old billionaire high-fiving his billionaire friends while his employees permanently damaged their heads, spines, legs and backs in pursuit of…something. On the sideline was the caricature of the sort of horrible, screaming, obscene middle-aged suburban dad most of us try not to become at youth sporting events. I asked myself if I wanted to be the sort of person who condones this. The answer, it turned out, was “no.” (Burbania Posts, September 3)

Too soon to heal, love is not enough, and more UU writing

Too soon to heal

Kim Hampton resists pressure to begin the healing process after the death of Michael Brown.

Too often in the U.S., black people and black communities are asked to start the healing (or reconciliation or forgiveness) process before our slaughtered are even buried . . . .

How can a community heal when a knife is stuck in their back 10 inches, brought back out, and then plunged in again? (East of Midnight, August 24)

The Rev. Cynthia Cain is not ready to “move on.”

Unlike our President and so many others, I do not pray for an end to the protests in Ferguson and for peace at all costs. Not if peace means people have gone back to sleep. Let them stand up, even with anger if that is what it takes, and let this rage spread as far as it must, for ignoring this situation has not made it better, only worse. (A Jersey Girl in Kentucky, August 23)

The Rev. James Ford marks the anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till.

So much has been accomplished since then.

And so much that is so deeply wrong continues. As long as someone’s life is in greater danger in this country because of the color of their skin, we need to keep the issue alive, to not allow ourselves to lull into some state of denial.

We need to remember. (Monkey Mind, August 28)

Love is not enough

Pushing back against “Standing on the Side of Love,” Christine Slocum says, “Love is not enough on its own.”

We need love, and we are loved, and there is more to do. The next time you hear, “God is love,” ask yourself, “so then what?” What are you doing because of this love that you have? How do you improve the world because you are loved? The world needs love, and it needs more. Never forget that. (Loved for Who You Are, August 25)

When an African-American colleague tells the story of a traumatic encounter with the police when she was three years old, the Rev. Meg Riley writes, “I am stopped in my tracks, recognizing anew how totally and completely I will never know anything but my own (white) experience.”

From that moment on, in every other memory she carries, she has woven in a lack of safety and a constant threat that I can never imagine. Because she is joyful and generous, because she lives with a giant heart and spirit, I presume that she and I more or less inhabit the same planet. And then I hear just this tiniest formational sliver of her story and I realize I haven’t the faintest idea how she professes and lives her theology of love for people of all races. (HuffPo Religion, August 28)

Andrew Mackay considers the role of outsiders in working for change.

Though there are moral principles at stake here, the question those who wish to help need to ask is “if we can, how can we help you?” versus “I know what can help you.” Respect for autonomy, whether in the black community, or indigenous peoples fighting Chevron and mining companies, or whatever group is engaged in struggle, is important. Part of the Freedom Summer was allowing the oppressed to gain political tools to use against their oppressors. Supplying power to others, not using your own power in their name. (Unspoken Politics, August 26)

The Rev. Thomas Perchlik, who ministers in the St. Louis area, offers suggestions about how people can respond to Ferguson.

The best way you can stand in solidarity with us is to look at your own community. If it has not been done, look at how often police in your area stop people of color in proportion to their percentage of the population. Talk to people in your community about how much they trust the police officers to protect them. Ask the Police if they feel trusted. (Rev. Thomas Perchlik’s Weblog, August 22)

Looking back

As he celebrates 20 years as a religious educator, the Rev. Dan Harper takes stock of his experiences.

So why have I stuck with it? Well, I still believe that religious education is important. Occasionally I have seen our congregations save the lives of children and adolescents; more often, I have seen congregations serve as anchors for kids, stabilizing influences in their lives. Equally importantly, now that so many adults come to our congregations with no background in organized religion, religious education for adults becomes increasingly central to congregational life. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, August 28)

Andrew Hidas remembers the advice of a long-ago spiritual director.

Live. Be involved. Do. Move. Quit dividing the world into sacred and secular, spiritual and profane, body and mind. Don’t worry about the “What,” just make sure you get after the “Do.” (Traversing, August 22)

Organizing for mission and usefulness

The Rev. Dawn Cooley suggest a “6H” approach to organizing congregational mission—healing, holding, hearing, helping, handing off, and homecoming. Here’s the first H, healing:

HEALING those participants who are spiritually wounded and struggling, providing resources (such as pastoral care and counseling) to those in spiritual need who choose to participate in the life of the congregation. So many people come to us desperate for our message of love and acceptance. And so many of those already with us have crises in our lives during which we need a community of love and support. Before any of the other steps can take place, people need to be spiritually rejuvenated. (Speaking of, August 25)

Cooley also applies the 6H approach to making the UUA a “relentlessly useful” organization. (The Lively Tradition, August 28)

Knowing and unknowing

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden thinks of agnosticism as a spiritual practice.

Contrary to the cliche, agnosticism isn’t about not deciding. It’s about honestly facing what we know about knowing itself. It is, as the Victorian biologist, T.H. Huxley, who coined the term, said, “not a creed but a method.” (Quest for Meaning, August 28)

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg revisits the biblical story of Eve and the tree of knowledge.

This connection is intentional between being mature enough to comprehend moral complexity (good and evil) and being mature enough to be self-aware of adult sexuality. The capability of understanding the messiness, complexity, and gray-areas associated with adult moral reasoning emerges around the same time as adolescence and puberty. So in the trajectory of human psycho-sexual development, we can see the root of that correlation between eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and one’s body beginning to come into fruition (if you will) in a way that brings a very different kind of knowledge — a carnal knowledge sometimes called a “loss of innocence.” And once you “eat of such fruit,” childhood innocence is lost — just as Adam and Eve could never go back to their previous naked and carefree life in the Garden. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, August 28)