UUA presidents respond to Aurora
For UUA President Peter Morales, this week’s shooting in Aurora, Colorado, is a symptom of a culture that worships violence.
Those who worship guns worship a god that demands regular human sacrifice. Why are we horrified at the rituals of human sacrifices by cultures like the Aztecs when our culture worships gods far more violent? May the living victims find healing. May those who loved the dead find comfort. May we some day, some precious day, come to our senses. (Beyond Belief, July 25)
Past UUA president Bill Sinkford asks, “What is there to do after our prayers?”
What we can do is to guide our actions in the days ahead by our deep and religiously grounded refusal to accept an epidemic of gun violence as the price we must pay for being together. Love your neighbor is at the heart of every religious gospel I know. . . . Prayer is necessary in these days, but prayer is not enough. (Rev. Sinkford’s Blog, July 23)
Mending our frayed social fabric
The shootings in Colorado are, for the Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley, a call to provide community for those who are deeply lonely and profoundly isolated.
How can we be present to those in extremis? How can we find ways to pierce the deep loneliness of people who feel left behind, who feel themselves to be failures, who need a loving hand, a welcoming touch, an interest in who they might deeply and caringly be seen? How do we reach out in this disconnected world? How do we prove to those completely bereft that meaning, light and love still exist? (Learn Out Loud, July 22)
Jeanne Desy hears the same call to kindness and connection.
James Holmes had been psychotic for a long enough time to stockpile weapons and protective gear, and elaborately booby-trap his apartment. Now neighbors are saying he was strange, he was reclusive. But did anyone take a coffeecake to his door? I haven’t heard of it yet. Did anyone smile at him on the stairs and say hello in the parking lot, or did people turn away because maybe he seemed a little unfriendly?
. . . All I can do about it . . . is ask myself who I know that might enjoy a little kindness, at least a friendly smile and a greeting. Is there anyone I shy away from or avoid because they’re different? I really hope not. I’m going to be watching. I hope we all are. (The Dalai Grandma, July 21)
Violence and mental health
Acknowledging that it is not her role to diagnose mental illness, the Rev. Sharon Wylie writes that “Strong support systems are one of the protective factors that shore up mental health and well-being.”
James Holmes lived alone in an apartment, separate from his family living three states away, with no close friends, it seems, in his university community. In our culture where isolation and disconnection are an acceptable norm, there was apparently no one to hold up a mirror to his actions, no one to witness his purchase of weaponry and ammunition, no one to bring him to a hospital out of concern for his potential to harm himself or others. I imagine that he has spent the last month psychotic and alone, trapped in a growing delusion of fear and violence, his mind spinning a waking nightmare that he was unable to distinguish from reality.
And I weep for him. (Ministry in Steel Toe Shoes, July 25)
The Rev. Katie Norris warns us about increasing the stigma of mental illness.
I believe that our society jumps to the mental illness label because evil is scary for us. Most people are not quite sure what makes someone do evil things and they sure as heck want to make sure they personally cannot ever be seen as evil. So, they blame an illness, which they don’t have, as a way to distance themselves from the situation. As if they are saying “only mentally ill people do evil things, so that means I can never do anything evil.” Really though, as stated in the NAMI response, the “U.S. Surgeon General has reported that ‘the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small.’” (Bipolar Spirit, July 23)
Growing faith, living tradition
Barry Sanders writes that “Grandma’s church”—predictable and perfunctory—is dead.
Spiritual consumers are searching for places to grow spiritually that will meet their needs. We won’t simply take what is being offered. Faith organizations that will survive in the new world have to be organized around meeting people’s needs. If you left your church because they stopped meeting your needs, there is good news. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. Churches are getting the message. Go shopping. (Gathered by the Fire, July 26)
The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein suggests that numerical growth may depend on congregations growing up enough to meet newcomers’ spiritual needs.
What do they need? I think they need to experience something. . . . I wouldn’t dare try to articulate exactly what that “thing” is: it has something to do with what Jesus called “life more abundant.” . . . Whatever the “thing” is, exactly, the need for it became so great that it drew them out of their comfort zone and into a strange building to sit with a group of total strangers—can you imagine such courage? (PeaceBang, July 26)
Walter Clark takes a class at his UU congregation called “Grow, Care, Act,” focusing on values, and how to achieve them.
As you can imagine, a lot of personal baggage was shared and shed. In the process . . . we came up with mission statements that were supposed to keep us focused. These creeds were to be based on the values that we held closest. After weeks and weeks of thought, I came up with three statements: Move Forward, Act with Honor and Share Joy. (Lack of a Clever Title, July 26)
Around the blogosphere
Matt Kinsi wonders how we can make leadership more broadly accessible; with his limited time off from work, accepting a volunteer position with the UUA means giving up a long-awaited vacation.
How can lay leaders do what I hear ministers call “self care” when work plus church eats up 60+ hours a week, often more? How can we evolve past where you have to be a minister, retired, a student, or self-employed to be a denominational leader? Hell, how are lay leaders able to have outside-church interests or events without going nuts from lack of time? (Spirituality and Sunflowers, July 26)
Kelly Kilmer Hall shares her family’s story, pointing out that in the United States, “those who rely on state-issued insurance . . . are looked at as less than, and do not have access to equal and humane health care.”
My story is not an anomaly. As a matter of fact, my story is probably better than a lot of people that live in this city and state and country, because I’m a pain in the ass and can politely demand what I know is reasonable, humane, and ethical for my children’s care without getting thrown out for my skin color, accent, or other identifying features. (Seeking Divinity, July 26)
In a series of posts, the Rev. Christine Robinson discusses the results of the American Religious Identification Survey, and their implications for Unitarian Universalism.
[Fewer] than half of those who identify as UU’s actually belong to a congregation. . . . We’re migrating just like the rest of the population. . . . We’re aging faster than the population at large. . . . We are more monolithically Democrats than we were in 1990. (iMinister, July 23)