UU blogs on immigration, declining membership, and board activity

Arizona’s new immigration law

Of course UUs have been blogging about this! Bill Lace was at a demonstration in Arizona on April 25 and posted a report with video to the UUA’s “Standing on the Side of Love” blog. (April 27)

UUA President Peter Morales denounced the law: “Everything I hold sacred as an American and as a person of faith is threatened by this legislation. We cannot stand by while those charged to protect us instead subject us to racial profiling, unwarranted searches, and unjust arrests.” (UUA.org, April 23) The UUA issued a statement saying that, “because the 2012 General Assembly is scheduled to be held in Phoenix, the UUA will consider how best to bear witness against this reprehensible legislation and to support both those groups marginalized by the law and Arizona Unitarian Universalists who are speaking out against it.” On the UUA’s Facebook page, UUs engaged in a lively debate about the law and the appropriate UU response to it (April 28), while an independent Facebook group launched a call for the UUA to pull out of its contracts for the 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix.

Joel Monka at “CUUMBAYA” (“A Conservative Unitarian Universalist Member Blogging As You Asked!”) argues that racism is not behind the new law:

But forget for the moment Arizona’s justifiable anger at the federal government for failing to enforce its own laws, or protect their citizens from what amounts to a de facto foreign military invasion. Forget the drugs. Forget the people who talk about jobs. There are still other reasons to address the issue of illegal immigration. Those who argue- and this seems to be a majority of the UUA- that people should be able to “wander free, Where–so us listeth, uncontroll’d of any”, are doing more harm than good to the poor and oppressed they would help. (“CUUMBAYA,” April 29)

“PolityWonk” is cautious about joining the Facebook petition to move the 2012 UUA General Assembly out of Phoenix:

And I prefer, at this juncture, to remember the Unitarian and Universalist heritage which says, “Let’s step back and try to respect everybody caught in this mess. Don’t show me an enemy, show me some win-win possibilities.” (“PolityWonk,” April 29)

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum calls us to remember “that even when it’s not my problem that I still need to care and get involved.”

Most importantly this means actually continuing to care and to connect on this issue. It’s an issue that, for me, as someone with northern European heritage, and living in the Midwest, would be easy to ignore. It’s not my problem; it’s not in my face or in my backyard. (“Rev. Cyn,” April 29)

The Rev. Kit Ketcham urges caution and empathy:

I have learned over my 67 years of life that when I deconstruct the actions leading up to a decision and see the factors involved in the making of that decision, I understand the situation much better and can feel empathy even around decisions I don’t like.

It’s certainly appropriate to speak out in opposition to this legislation but have we taken Arizona’s needs into account? Do we have something better to recommend? So far I haven’t heard much. (“Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show,” April 30)

Chip at “the yes church” says, “Instead of boycotting Arizona, perhaps we should go and perpetrate creative civil disobedience.” (“the yes church,” April 30)

“Juffie,” semi-retired after 42 years in the UU ministry and living in the high desert southwest, has a modest proposal:

Get together a bus load of elderly, white, middle and upper middle class folk. Leave even our driver’s licences at home. Go to Phoenix, Arizona. With excellent media coverage of course, deposit ourselves at police headquarters in Phoenix. Tell them, each one of us, that we have no papers on us identifying us as citizens, or as having a right to stay in the United States. (“Jubilata in the Desert,” April 28)

Declining UU membership

Steve Caldwell, having read UUA President Peter Morales’s “monitoring report” (PDF; 16 pages) to the UUA Board, ponders the effect on UU membership of the increasing number of people who identify their religious affiliation as “none”:

As the “None” demographic increases in other regions to 25-30% and beyond, will we see shrinkage of Unitarian Universalist congregational membership numbers? Are the growth trends in New England a warning for the rest of the UUA? How do we best market ourselves in a culture that is becoming increasingly secular? (“Liberal Faith Development,” April 24)

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum also notes the declining membership reported in “UUA membership declines for second year” (uuworld.org, April 12).

But meanwhile, I’m saying, if you want to know the truth about the health of our congregations, look to our religious education. If we’re dropping off there, which this report is saying we are, then I think we really are dropping off over all. (“Rev. Cyn,” April 24)

UUA Board reports and UU governance

Linda Laskowski, UUA Trustee from the Pacific Central District, blogs at length about the recent UUA Board meeting. (“UUA View from Berkeley,” Overview, April 24; Commission on Appraisal Funding, April 25; Healthy Relationships, April 26; The Observer, April 28; Landlords of the UUA, April 29)

Laskowski’s post about “The Observer” discusses Robin Edgar’s attendance at the board meetings. (Edgar, who has been publicly protesting what he calls his mistreatment by the Unitarian Church of Montreal and by the UUA since the mid-1990s, also picketed outside two Boston UU churches during his visit. He describes the board meeting at his blog, April 21.) The Rev. Scott Wells takes exception to Laskowski’s characterisation of Edgar.

Laskowski clearly has not been for years on the receiving end of his incessant and profane harassment. Nor has she been a personal target of his slanderous screeds. Nor has she had to wrestle with excluding someone so profoundly, which in our tradition this is the deepest and final — and necessary — punishment. At the very least, she owes the Unitarian Church of Montreal an apology. And yes, I do hold UUA board members to a very high standard. (“Boy in the Bands,” April 30)

The Rev. Sean Dennison describes the practice of representative democracy found in UU churches:

Sometimes in our congregations people get confused about democracy. They think that in order to be consistent with our fourth principle “The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large” the congregation should have congregational meetings to vote on every issue. Not so. (“ministrare,” April 25)

“Likeatoaster” poses a concern at the Chalice Circle group blog: “I’d love to know if anyone else is paying attention to the sweeping changes that continue to be suggested about UUA Governance Structure.”

For my part, I think that many aspects of governance at General Assembly (particularly the delegate structure and things like Actions of Immediate Witness which are basically pointless) has been laughably bad for years, and the whole conference seems classist and somewhat wasteful to boot. The biannual structure makes sense to me, although I worry that we risk losing the culture, cohesiveness, and skill-sharing aspects that take place annually at GA that help strengthen the religion as a whole. [Things like the Bridging Ceremony and the Service of the Living Tradition.] The GA Planning Committee has a tremendous amount of power for what it is, also. (“Chalice Circle,” April 26)

The Rev. Scott Wells wants change:

If I had a General Assembly vote and a pastorate, I’d likely oppose anything backed by the Board, cultivate informal and new programmatic networks, and re-orient missional giving (read: “dues”) based on results over legacy. Oh, and encourage the Commission on Appraisal to change its study subject and review the Board itself.

UUism, through its leadership, has grown to value conformity, sectarianism and institutionalism over growth, independent thought or creativity. (“Boy in the Bands,” April 27)

Are religions all the same? and more

“Chutney” points to “a great article by Boston University prof Stephen Prothero on why religions are not really the same when you get down to it.” (“Separate Truths,” Boston Globe, April 25)

Think about it. Who does UU inclusivism put in power? Why, UU inclusivists, of course! They’re the lucky religious liberals who are smart enough to figure out that all the world’s religions aren’t really about what they say they’re about—they’re about what smart lucky religious liberals are about: tolerance and abstract democratic ideals. Dumb religious particularists! If only they were smarter, they’d be UUs! (“Making Chutney,” April 26)

John Franc critiques the same essay.

Prothero is right to call for a greater understanding of religions and religious differences. But he is wrong when he criticizes Hindu teacher Swami Sivananda for saying “The fundamentals or essentials of all religions are the same. There is difference only in the nonessentials.”

Religion is a response to the realization that we are alive and that someday we will die. It is an honest attempt to spend our limited years in this world on things of ultimate, rather than transitory, importance. It is an attempt to live a life that is meaningful and helpful, to ourselves, our families, and our world. Those are the essentials, and they are the same whether you believe in no god or one god or many gods. (“Under the Ancient Oaks,” April 28)

Victoria Mitchell answers a question raised by a friend: “Why is it that out of bridged youth, the small minority who choose to stay in our faith all want to become ministers and denominational leaders while the vast majority don’t sustain a connection and choose to leave our faith?”

When you’re young and there is (what I do not hesitate to call) an epidemic going on in your religious movement where your peers are spiritually unfulfilled, have little interest in congregational life because they find it stifling, lacking community, and unable to act on issues they care about, and not living up to or even listening to the Unitarian Universalism they imagine – it’s a reality that most people are going to leave. And for those of us who are left, we are attempting to induce a shift in whatever ways we possibly can. (“visions of ministry,” April 27)

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum decries individuals and groups that have been praying for President Obama’s death.

My thoughts: praying for the president’s death may not be illegal, but it is immoral, and it does make those who choose this path bad Americans and bad Christians. (“Rev. Cyn,” April 28)

Peter Bowden has a how-to post on taking charge of your congegation’s Google listing. (“The Uu Growth Blog,” April 28)

“Lizard Eater” misses the “Blog Carnaval, and I like it when a conversation bounces from blog to blog.” And so she announces “the UU Salon,” which will post one question a month for bloggers to address. May’s question is “What is a soul?” (“The Journey,” April 29)

The Rev. Sam Trumbore encourages us to watch a video of the Rev. Nate Walker, “one of our electronic communication pioneers.”

I think his message is right on point. The Spirit flows through whatever medium is available … and humans are infinitely capable of figuring out ways to avoid their feelings and avoid being present to each other. It always comes back to each of us. How will we be present to each other and open to the Spirit of love and justice … right now? (“Rev. Sam Trumbore,” April 26)

The Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom attempts to explain “The ‘S’ Word”:

I noted that when Henry David Thoreau began his famous experiment at Walden Pond he said that he’d gone to “live deliberately” so as not to live “what is not life” and “when the time comes to die discover [he] had not lived.” I said that I took this to mean that he wanted to live something that was life and this, I said, is what spirituality is all about. (“a minister’s musings,” April 26)

The Rev. Thomas Perchlik notes the recent ruling by Justice Barbara Crabb that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. Perchlik recalls the experience in Muncie, Indiana, when an attempt was made to hold an exclusively Christian observance:

Of course the people on the side of inclusion and tolerance won. But then the question arose, “is this good religious practice?” Most Christians who read the Gospels of Matthew, 6:5-13, and Luke, 18:9-14, became uncomfortable with the whole idea of a civic prayer ceremony, and so the civic recognition has fallen by the wayside. (“Rev. Thomas Perchlik’s Weblog,” April 26)

UU World editor Christopher L. Walton contributed to this week’s roundup.