Unitarian Universalist theologians
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern bids a sad farewell to the Rev. Dr. William R. Jones, “one of that rare breed known as Unitarian Universalist theologians, and the even rarer breed of African-American Unitarian Universalist theologians.”
From the time I encountered his work when I was in seminary, it gave me that mix of headiness and humility that we get when someone articulates our own most cherished ideas far better than we can. . . . Not to suggest that his work only recapitulated what I already believed; he has also challenged me, as good scholars and ministers do. . . . Bill Jones has done his part; the next steps will have to be taken by those of us he has inspired. (Sermons in Stones, July 19)
Matt Kinsi asks, “Who are our accessible theologians?”
What do I mean my accessible? I mean theologically and intellectually accessible. . . . So who are our Unitarian Universalist Theologians writing for the everyday person, not writing for seminary students? . . . Yes, I can build my own theology, but it helps to have the bricks to build it with. (Spirituality and Sunflowers, July 19)
Exploring her personal beliefs about the afterlife, the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein is grateful that Unitarian Universalism does have specific doctrines about what happens when we die.
This openness to possibility is a huge blessing to me as an individual and as a minister, as I am not obligated to preach a theology that I do not feel connected to. I can speak of the eternity of the soul, which I believe in. . . . I can also sit comfortably with atheists who say, “This is it. When I die, that’s the end of the story. It has been a good story.” . . . The only afterlife concept that I rail against is the one that threatens humans with cosmic torments or a continuation of the mess and chaos that so many experience here. (PeaceBang, July 14)
Can Liberal Christianity be saved?
Liberal religious bloggers, including Unitarian Universalists, responded to Ross Douthat’s New York Times op-ed, “Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?”
The Rev. Dr. Matt Tittle rejects as unfounded Douthat’s claim that “the decline and imminent death of liberal Christianity is inherent in liberalism itself.”
So what do liberal faith communities need to do to survive and thrive? I believe, like Mr. Douthat, that we need to offer religion again. Not conservative, traditional religion that is unchanging and uninviting, but the inclusive, radical religion that Jesus taught in his first sermon. A religion that binds together all people in a single garment of destiny. (Quest for Meaning, July 16)
Kim Hampton writes that, “No matter how much today’s liberal Christians might bungle it, Liberal Christianity . . . doesn’t die, it multiplies.”
Liberal Christianity is anyplace that preaches that love always wins. Love conquers all. Liberal Christianity is anyplace that preaches a gospel that increases the love, peace, joy, mercy, grace and beauty in the world and says that it is available to all. Liberal Christianity doesn’t need to be saved. (East of Midnight, July 17)
Life in religious community
Responding to UUA President Peter Morales blog post about increasing numbers of religiously unaffiliated young adults, Thomas Earthman suggests that his search for religious community is not every “none’s” story.
I wanted a community that would support my search for truth. I wanted to be part of other people’s search, as well. . . . I was looking. I kept looking. I was seeking something that Unitarian Universalism ultimately provides. Not all people are. We can’t focus our efforts on trying to lure people to our cause by modifying the cause to suit them. . . . We shouldn’t change who we are in order to gain market share. (A Material Sojourn, July 13)
When a group of agnostic, atheist and skeptical members of her church lead a summer service, Jeanne Desy faces some of her personal history.
You’re familiar with the idea of a knee-jerk reaction—actually a very picturesque cliche, if you’ve ever had your reflexes tested with a little rubber hammer. When I saw this service on the schedule, I had one of those, a mind jerk. It went, “I don’t want to go to that.”
I am committed to attending church every Sunday, both for my own sake and for the sake of the church itself. Every body forms that larger congregation. So I had to think about this. It took me no time to relate it to my former husband. I sigh even as I write that. It is so hard to retrain yourself. (The Dalai Grandma, July 15)
Chance Hunter recommends that people think long and hard before entering the ministry, and offers suggestions for self-examination.
If I sound too negative, keep in mind that one study showed that half of current ministers would leave the ministry today if they knew another way to make a living. That’s sad news, and that single fact should be posted as a Surgeon General’s warning on every seminary brochure. Are you willing to risk years of your life finding out the hard way why so many ministers feel that way? (Times and Seasons, July 16)
Gini Courter responds to Matt Kinsi’s questions about democracy and General Assembly.
Kinsi: If this is a deepening of our democracy, but future GA’s choose democratically to never do something like it again, is it truly disempowerment or the democratic process at its finest?
[Courter:] If our congregations, exercising their democratic power, never decide to do something like this again, then arguably that’s as good as the GA democracy we had for our first 48 years (wink). If, however, our congregations were to decide to outsource their ability to make momentous decisions to others, that’s not democracy, it’s abdication. And if our congregations were to change the rules to prevent future General Assemblies from making similar risky decisions that’s not democracy, it’s hubris. (Just Gini, July 14)
Humanity and hope
The Rev. Dr. George Kimmich Beach shares the story behind the documentary, “Sweet Dreams,” about a drumming group and an ice cream shop in Rwanda.
The film shows how individuals and the society continue to struggle a profound sense of grief and sense of violation. They need the means of material well-being, but they also need spiritual well-being—which is what “salvation” really means.
This is the “something more” . . . profoundly needed by the people of Rwanda: an opening toward the future, personal and communal hope. The drumming group brings Tutsis and Hutus together in a joyful experience of “laughter and forgetting,” the kind of psychic release that makes a new beginning possible. The ice cream shop brings not only skills and incomes and savings accounts—enabling some to achieve goals such as college education and new homes—but also, after all the bitterness, the happiness of something sweet. (Campicello, July 18)
The Rev. John Crestwell outlines Deepak Chopra’s “law of pure potentiality.”
[Everything] that exists is pure energy. . . . We are the universe and the universe is us. We are kin to all living things on earth and in the cosmos. Within this realm there is life, birth, death and constant expansion and change. The more we understand what we are—that we were meant to change and be changed throughout life, the faster our consciousness expands giving us more stability and peace. . . .
Now it comes with a price. The cost is you must be willing to change. If you are not willing to change then this law will not work for you. (Building the Beloved UU Community, July 17)
Pausing for a funeral procession, Mark Andrew Alward wonders, “What would happen if we treated each other with as much respect in life as we do in death?”
Are you present in your conversations? When you’re out for coffee with a friend are you really listening to what they have to say, or are you just bursting to say something in response so that you can hear your own voice? . . . The only way that we can truly appreciate and value another person when we’re spending time with them is if we are truly present. And to be truly present, it helps to be comfortable in your own skin, to just be able to say, “This is who I am, I am valued and loved, but now is a time when I’m going to truly listen to my friend.” (The Loving Room, July 14)
Around the blogosphere
A four-day fruit-and-water fast teaches the Rev. Robin Tanner that she makes few real sacrifices.
Now, do I hang my head in overpowering guilt?
No, because this would not be terribly useful. Feeling bad for the ease of my life also isn’t the point of sacrifice. I fast, sacrifice, to remind me of the blessing and the responsibility. I fast to connect my life to others; for a day to be conscious of all that happens for that “simple” salad. I fast to ground again in gratitude. I fast to be called forward to create a world where no one has to give up a meal to feed their children.
How? I don’t know entirely. But I am led by the hunger. (Piedmont Preacher, July 18)
The Rev. Dan Harper points us to a summary of what Occupy Oakland was—D. Scot Miller’s essay “The Hungry Got Food, the Homeless Got Shelter: The First Days of Occupy Oakland.” (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, July 14)
The Rev. David Owen-O’Quill suggests a resource for equipping children to fight hatred—the children’s book, White Flour. (news from the underground, July 19)