Responding to Japan
The Rev. Parisa Parsa offers a prayer in response to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
God who arrives not in wind or earthquake or fire, but in the sheer silence that follows them all, hold our heavy hearts in these days of our awe at the forces we cannot control. Stand by us as we sink deep into the truth of our vulnerability. Hold our hands as we grasp for answers that we think will soothe, so that we may keep them free for the work ahead, of building new meaning and new promise out of the rubble of these days’ tragedies. Grant us the peace of the everlasting, as we face all that does perish. Amen. (“Pastor Prayers,” March 14)
The Rev. George Kimmich Beach shares a poem by Ryokan, a Zen Buddhist monk.
. . . Those old days—I wonder,
did I dream them
or were they real? . . . (“Campicello,” March 13)
“Plaidshoes” speaks for many of us in response to Japan: “It is just overwhelming. My heart and prayers go out them. I just wish there was something I could do to really help them.” (“Everyday Unitarian,” March 15)
Like “Plaidshoes” and others, you can respond with a contribution to the UUA/UUSC Japan Relief Fund.
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum welcomes the conversation about universalism occasioned by evangelical minister Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.
It’s been a while since the theology of Universalism has been such in the public eye. And I want to personally say, as a Michigan colleague, that if Rob Bell would like to sit down and talk with Unitarian Universalist ministers and exchange ideas, we’d be happy to do that with him. (“Rev. Cyn,” March 15)
UUA President Peter Morales also addresses Bell’s book in an essay at Huffington Post.
[W]hen we speak of universalism today, let us speak in terms of compassionate love for all people. No matter how we interpret Bell’s writing or his personal theology, let us be tolerant and kind in our dealings with one another, regardless of our faith. Most of all, let us stand on the side of love, always. (“Rev. Peter Morales,” March 15)
“Lizard Eater” doesn’t believe God has less love than the many people who have shown her love, or indeed, than she herself has.
Believing Gandhi isn’t in hell doesn’t make you a universalist, it makes you a reasonable person.
As much as I say that I couldn’t not be a Universalist, it is damn hard work. Because not only do I not believe that Gandhi [is] in hell, I don’t believe Saddam Hussein is in hell.
Whatever God is—and nowadays, my understanding is more of God as a seductive process—I believe that ultimately, Love does win. I believe that this process of God pulls us towards more compassion, more kindness, more generosity, more love. And eternal punishment just doesn’t fit in to that. (“The Journey,” March 15)
The Rev. Naomi King says universalism asks her to “believe in a love and justice bigger than my imagination.” (“City of Refuge,” March 15)
The Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom relates universalism to the suffering in Japan.
I had once heard someone say “If God is Love, then God can do only what Love can do.” This is still saying quite a lot—love is a very powerful force—but it is not all-powerful. An “all-embracing inescapable love” cannot control tectonic plates, but it can comfort and console the suffering of those devastated by an event such as the ongoing tragedy in Japan. And it can move observers to action. (“A Minister’s Musings,” March 15)
The Rev. Ellen Cooper-Davis believes “that there is an inexhaustible, inescapable love that will not let us go.” (“Keep the Faith,” March 15)
The Rev. Phil Lund believes “UU congregations should be the absolutely best place on Earth for Christians to explore their relationship with God and Jesus, Heaven and Hell.”
But that’s not what goes on in most of our churches, fellowships, and societies. Instead you find people getting their knickers in a twist about words like “worship,” “sanctuary,” “spirituality,” and “faith.” (“Phil’s Little Blog on the Prairie,” March 15)
The Rev. Scott Wells believes “it’s positively unfair to suggest that people drawn to Rob Bell will find a welcoming home in any but perhaps a dozen churches in the UUA.” (“Boy in the Bands,” March 15)
“DairyStateDad” “will probably take a look at Rob Bell’s book” but is especially interested in “Then what?”
[W]hat I believe I need most deeply in the spiritual realm has nothing to do with what happens after I die. What I know I need most is to learn how to live, with myself and with others, in this world. (“DairyStateDad,” March 15)
Around the blogosphere
“Lizard Eater” is mad at God, and recommends the use of the psalms of lament.
These psalms are brutal, and sad, and heartrending. And utterly honest. Especially psalm 88, the only one that can’t crawl its way back to faith in God. Darkness is my closest friend. (“The Journey,” March 11)
“Lefty Parent” considers “the politics of taking, keeping, or bestowing your name” and recounts some of the decisions in his own life.
The bigger discussion for us was about the last names we would give to the two kids we decided to have. There were four options discussed—giving them both my last name, giving them both our hyphenated last names, giving one my last name and the other hers, or giving them both her last name. The key thing to note here was that we had the discussion and that as they say, “All options were on the table”. (“Lefty Parent,” March 11)
“UU Mom” thinks greater trust will lead to less hatred and violence.
For many people, they go to church and hope that a similar belief system will help us trust each other and create a community that will allow us to get to know each other better. This community is also often not diverse. They say Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week. (“UU Mom,” March 12)
The Rev. Andy Pakula asks, “What is an open-minded Unitarian to do? By what standards are we to evaluate beliefs and practices, whether old or new?”
Unitarianism has long placed a strong emphasis on the use of reason, but while this has been interpreted by many as a requirement that beliefs be scientifically and logically sound, this is neither historically accurate nor—I would argue—a spiritually helpful stance. Spirituality and religion are about having faith—about holding onto hope—about working for justice even when these positions are plainly irrational. (“Throw Yourself Like Seed,” March 12)
Bob Francis thinks perhaps we can live without the death penalty.
I’m a Unitarian Universalist. We have a set of seven principles that help us with questions of morality. The death penalty bumps up against four of them at least. Despite that, I do have a nagging suspicion there are certain acts that so violate societal norms that—yes, they should merit death. But I can’t say—specifically—what they are. (“The Bob Files,” March 13)
Andy at “thoughts ON” is “at the place where church is comfortable, and I can trust some, I can be pushed more I can be made to grow again.”
I guess I’ve found a church. I like the services, I like the people, and I like the minister. I really like the minister. Which sounds like a good thing, and it is a good thing, but it’s also challenging for me to admit it.
Because, you see, the minister is a straight, white, cisgender, 50-something man. (“thoughts ON,” March 14)
The Rev. David Pyle describes how interim ministry lets him feel his place “as a minister in a long line of ministers.”
There is a peculiarity in loving a group of people, knowing you do not get to stay with them, and knowing that your time with them is not only in service of them, but in service of their relationship with someone else. The reality of regularly thinking of the ministry that is to come after me has fundamentally changed who I am as a minister. (“Celestial Lands,” March 15)
The Facebook group “UU Growth Lab” has been discussing metaphors for church life. The Rev. Andy Pakula likens the ideal congregation to “a base camp for life’s expedition.”
I understand Unitarian congregation at their best to be places for rest and for equipping and organizing the journey to the heights of justice and spirit. (“Throw Yourself Like Seed,” March 17; also see “The UU Growth Blog,” March 17)
Turns out “Nagoonberry” is a UU after my own heart:
We live in a time of information overload. Some of us have that time and inclination to sift through that information, gathering up the parts that interest us, the pieces that seem valuable, important. And that is a ministry, a ministry of reading. (“Nagoonberry,” March 17)
The UU Salon, a blog that poses a monthly question to UU bloggers, wants to know what questions you’d like to see them ask. (“The UU Salon,” March 11)
On the lighter side
Jacqueline Wolven is a member of Gen X—”truly a TV generation”—and she wonders which TV show she’d most like to live in. She comes up with a surprising answer. (“MoxieLife,” March 15)