UUs on boycotting Arizona, getting rid of covenant, and more

Immigration and Arizona

Joel Monka explains why he defends “the supporters, if not always the organizers, of things like the Tea Parties or the Arizona immigration law from charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, or all the other ‘isms’ that get thrown around in UU blogs.”

[I]f you assume irrational motivations for all your opposition, you won’t even try to understand their actual motivations, their real fears. And since you don’t understand what they really want, you’ll miss all opportunities to find a genuine compromise, or an outside of the box answer. (“CUUMBAYA,” May 4; the comments contain a long conversation with “Chalicechick”)

The Rev. Fred L. Hammond urges that the “very complicated onion to peel” of immigration be looked at in the context of three bills passed by the Arizona house of representatives.

But if racism and racial profiling is not being promoted by Arizona’s laws, then what pray tell, is the purpose behind the second [bill from] that same week—banning ethnic studies from public schools and banning teachers who speak with an accent from teaching English? The reason given for banning the courses is because they “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment of a particular race or class of people, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” (“A Unitarian Universalist Minister in the South,” May 4)

David Bacon’s book Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants is excerpted on “Beacon Broadside.” Bacon looks at “how NAFTA and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies forced Mexicans into the migrant stream.” (“Beacon Broadside,” May 5)

Finally, several bloggers weighed in on the announcement of the special meeting of the UUA Board of Trustees held last night (Thursday, May 6) to consider whether to move the 2012 General Assembly out of Phoenix, Ariz., including Hammond (“A Unitarian Universalist Minister in the South,” May 6) and the Rev. Scott Wells (“Boy in the Bands,” May 6), Monka, who attended the online meeting (“CUUMBAYA,” May 7), and UUA Trustee Lew Phinney (“UUA Trustee Lew,” May 7). (UU World senior editor Jane Greer’s full report on the meeting, which voted to forward a resolution to the delegates at General Assembly, will appear at uuworld.org on Monday, May 10.)

Covenant as an organizing principle

The Rev. Dan Harper says “Let’s get rid of covenant as an organizing principle. No, really.”

To sum up, trying to impose a covenant on Unitarian Universalist congregations too often means imposing an alien concept; a concept, furthermore, which is too easily confused with other, non-religious, uses of covenant. I have come to believe that instead of imposing this alien concept on our congregations, we would be better off extending the work of James Luther Adams and others on understanding associationism. (“Yet Another Unitarian Universalist,” May 3, May 4, and “When covenants do make sense” on May 4)

The Rev. Scott Wells agrees, saying, “At this point, I’d prefer a creed.

I think the appeal of neo-covenantalism is that it dignifies and gives form to Unitarian Universalist theological libertarianism (and decorates its decent into bald sectarianism.) (“Boy in the Bands,” May 3)

What is a soul?

“Lizard Eater” responds to the UU Salon question “What is a Soul?” with a meditation on how “a soul is effectively ‘on loan’ for each human being.”

Our souls are wonderful, elastic things, that in most cases, with the right “medicine,” can heal. As ministers, we are doctors to the soul, prescribing exercise for those who need it, rest for those who need that, love and attention for all the souls. And right now, just as the vast majority of medicine is being done at home, by dads putting on Band-Aids, moms giving cough syrup, individuals offering an aspirin to a a friend, we each minister to each other. Life circumstances can damage a soul; deeply and lovingly listening to the person is our stethoscope. We listen for where the damage is located, applying compassion and offering a safe place to rest while the healing takes place. (“The Journey,” May 1)

“Nancy DreUU” highlights the role of the religious community in the care of souls.

I would not say that souls shrink, but I do think they can get buried (and perhaps a bit wrinkled or spindled) under all the Other Stuff of life. Sometimes they’re purposely covered up as a last-ditch effort at protection. Sometimes they’re just set aside and forgotten in the too-much-to-do, gotta-get-through-the-game-of-life. (“MissDRE and Wonder,” May 4)

“Strange Attractor” thinks “the question of the soul puts the emphasis in the wrong place.”

To me, the most sacred moments are not about the individual, but about connection. Connecting to another person, to Nature, to a sense of the divine, these are the moments that give us meaning. Giving birth, falling in love, prayer and meditation, helping others, all of these make our lives better and richer in a way that focusing on my soul never has. (“Strange Attractor,” May 5)

Around the blogosphere

The Rev. Sean Dennison writes about the importance of having a congregational mission.

When a congregation decides to articulate a shared sense of identity, it shifts the focus to what brings joy, energy, and a sense of excitement to the community. When we begin to find the right words to describe our mission, we begin to recognize our community at its best—both who we are and who we strive to be. A mission statement is not a laundry list of all the tasks we think we should do. Neither is it a vague statement about an ideal of the perfect church. It is a simple, clear statement of purpose. It answers the question, “What is our congregation for?”  (“ministrare,” April 30. This post is part of a series on “Church Skills.” Understanding Democracy, April 25 (which we blogged last week); How to Make a Movement, April 27; Letting Go, May 2)

Deb Weiner wonders why Unitarian Universalists “seem to have such difficulty establishing and accepting boundaries and limits.”

This country supports freedom of speech, and the faith that I live by supports right relations and respectful discourse. But too often, a line gets crossed, and, by leaning too far in the direction of “one more chance,” or what we think is affirmation of “worth and dignity,” individuals who don’t observe boundaries and limits run all over due process and the basics of right relations. Sometimes, just saying no is the right thing to do. (“Morning Stars Rising,” May 1)

The Rev. Dr. Matt Tittle says goodbye at “Keep the Faith,” a Houston Chronicle blog that will be continued by the Rev. Ellen Cooper-Davis.

This experience has also changed my life and ministry. I have learned to communicate with people of many faiths and different beliefs in new ways. I used to tell religious liberals that engaging fundamentalists in religious discussions was a waste of their time and energy. I no longer believe that. (“Keep the Faith,” May 1)

UU seminarian, chaplain candidate, and Army veteran David Pyle shares 11 pieces of advice on “how to listen to me, a veteran,” in a post that needs to be read rather than excerpted. (“Celestial Lands,” May 1)

Unitarians in the United Kingdom, like American Unitarian Universalists, are having conversations about growth. The Rev. Andy Pakula is “fully in support of Unitarian growth.”

Some—and perhaps many—Unitarian congregations don’t really want growth; they don’t really want to reach out to people outside of their existing communities. They have good reason for this. The truth is that sharing Unitarianism is not without discomfort. It means change to the community where they find comfort—perhaps very dramatic change—and that is not at all easy. (“Throw yourself like seed,” May 2)

Mike Durall starts an interesting conversation by saying he is bored by Joys and Concerns.

I’m with theologian Stanley Hauerwas, who once wrote, “I am mad as hell at Christians, myself included, who make the practice of Christianity so uninteresting.” (“Ten Minutes or Less,” May 2)

UUA Trustee Linda Laskowski reports on a workshop on governance held at the Pacific Central District Assembly—and counters some of the assumptions she heard.

The “plan” has not been put together. Attempts at changing the governance structure inherited from 50 years ago have crashed and burned a number of times. “That map” that shows a western region extending from Hawaii to the Rockies is an informal arrangement for service delivery, put together by staff, not governance of the Association put together by anyone doing governance. This workshop was part of a discussion that started with the District Presidents Association (DPA) and the UUA Board last November. What started as a conversation about how the President can most effectively hold co-employed staff accountable led to some district presidents questioning why districts existed at all. (“UUA View from Berkeley,” May 4)

“PolityWonk” is preparing for General Assembly by reading about Margaret Fuller (who is profiled in the about-to-be-mailed Summer issue of UU World).

I’m renewing my acquaintance with Sarah Margaret (or “Margarett,” as her family liked to spell it) Fuller Ossoli. It’s been quite awhile since I overcame my jealousy (did I just admit that?) of such a brilliant, accomplished, fully feminine woman and plunged into her words and descriptions of her. She has been called the most written-about woman in American history, and yet what one reads does not do justice to what she wrote. (“PolityWonk,” May 7)

The Interdependent Web in action

“Strange Attractor” “hit a bumpy patch in my meatless 40/40/40 challenge. I am hungry ALL THE TIME.” She asks for advice and gets it. (“Strange Attractor,” May 3)

“DairyStateDad” is asking for advice about daily spiritual practices.

On the one hand, I find myself admiring people who adopt such a practice, and who, to me, seem very centered and spiritually mature. On the other, I find myself chafing at making anything a “requirement” or an “obligation” in this way—and then berate myself for seeming shallow or self-centered. (“DairyStateDad,” May 6)

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