MLK, Roe v. Wade, theological unity, and more UU blogging

Unitarian Universalists remember Martin Luther King Jr.

The Rev. Thomas Perchlik explores the rejection of Unitarian Universalism by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama as a way to gather his thoughts about pressing issues for UUs on matters of race.

In terms of identity, to put it very simply Unitarian Universalists are aligned with an intellectual minorities, but not racial or ethnic ones. . . . In that context we developed a white identity. We have striven against that in the past two decades to some degree or other, but in the end we have not become truly multi-cultural as a community. (Rev. Thomas Perchlik’s Weblog, January 21)

Kim Hampton outlines the theological reasons why King chose not to be a Unitarian.

There is a communal experience of G-d in the African American psyche that liberal religion has a hard time dealing with. It is an experience of G-d borne in slavery, matured through Jim Crow, and is redefining itself in the era of the new Jim Crow. . . .

In other words, this is the G-d of “the least of these.” This is the G-d of the afflicted. The G-d of the Unitarians (and Universalists to a much lesser extent), on the other hand, has mostly been the G-d of the comfortable. (East of Midnight, January 22)

(The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt wrote about King’s familiarity with Unitarian Universalism for UU World back in 2002. See “To Pray without Apology: Why Martin Luther King Jr. Wasn’t a UU.” The Rev. Dr. Thomas Mikelson wrote about King’s theology for UU World in 2006: “How Big Is Your God?“)

The Rev. Dan Schatz tells a little-known story behind the ending of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Dr. King stood up to speak.  He must have been exhausted, but he read well from his carefully prepared text. When he reached the end, he paused, and Mahalia Jackson, remembering the words she had heard Dr. King speak at so many churches and rallies across the south, shouted from her seat, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” (The Song and the Sigh, January 20)

Inspired by a day of community service in honor of MLK, Deb Weiner renews her commitment to the struggle for justice.

I walked in the door a few hours ago with hope in my heart and alive with the possibility—the just-maybe feeling that I don’t get all that often anymore—that maybe our country, our world, has a chance to find its goodness and center again. (Morning Stars Rising, January 22)

Christine Organ suggests that one way to honor King is to stop supporting homophobic organizations—including, if necessary, stepping away from one’s religious traditions.

Profound and meaningful actions like these may not be easy. It can be difficult—excruciating, in fact—to leave a religion or congregation that has been a part of your life for as long as you can remember. . . .

But know that your faith, love and Grace will guide you through the challenges. Know that when you act with love by supporting love—authentic, God-given love in all of its forms—you have already received your reward. For it is only when we stop becoming silent and start acting in love that we can begin to really know the love that God intended. (HuffPost Religion, January 21)

Forty years after Roe v. Wade

On this 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the Rev. Debra Haffner celebrates and laments.

I was 18 when Roe v. Wade was decided. . . . I could never have imagined that 40 years later, as a post-menopausal woman, I’d still be working to assure that abortion would be accessible to all, regardless of age, income, or geography. I think my 18 year old self would have been appalled. (Sexuality and Religion, January 22)

Guest-posting at Raising Faith, Mandie McGlynn recounts an experience as a volunteer escort at a women’s clinic.

“I’m sure this looks really great,” the woman mumbled, “me coming here with my kids.”

Oh, Honey.

My heart nearly burst with sorrow for her—sorrow that she had to make this choice, sorrow that she felt ashamed and unsafe even with me, whose job it is to be supportive of her and protect her from those who would shame her. (Raising Faith, January 22)

The Rev. Meg Riley is grateful for the Unitarian, Universalist, and UU “giants” upon whose shoulders she stands in the struggle for reproductive justice.

I have been asked, “How dare you speak out about this, as if we all agree?” . . . How dare I speak out about reproductive justice? I can honestly say that I have been given this daring by thousands of others upon whose shoulders I stand. (Quest for Meaning, January 20)

Inspired by the “this is my body” project, Thalassa pens her own manifesto.

My husband and I have the right to determine the size of our family. We have the right to stop having children and to continue to have sex. . . . You don’t have to like it, but until you are here changing diapers, handling middle of the night feedings, and paying for day care, you need to get over it.  My body is none of your business. (musings of a kitchen witch, January 23)

The Rev. Tom Schade wishes that a joint statement issued by the presidents of the UUA and the UU Women’s Federation about Roe v. Wade‘s anniversary had been directed at a different audience, and offers a revision. (thelivelytradition, January 24) 

Considering UU theological unity

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern and the Rev. Dan Harper, ministers at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, California, plan to co-teach a class there on theological unity within Unitarian Universalism. They have started the class with an online conversation about the topic, beginning with these posts.

Harper lists five areas where he believes UUs have found “some degree of theological unity.”

Women and girls are as good as men and boys. . . . Human beings must take responsibility for the state of the world. . . . Maintaining the sanctity of the Web of Life is a moral ideal. . . . Healthy sexuality is something to enjoy, not something to be ashamed of. . . . Love is the most powerful force in the universe.  (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, January 18)

Zucker Morgenstern suggests that we need less theological unity, not more.

What I mean by that is that our fear of diversity and difference among us keeps us from talking about our theology/ies. And that dialogue is something we need more of. In fact, when I am afraid that Unitarian Universalism is withering and dying, it’s the lack of this dialogue that I suspect is the cause. (Sermons in Stones, January 22)

Around the blogosphere

When a friend asks, “Are you planning to ever come back to church?” Christine Leigh Slocum outlines the context for her absence—pregnancy fatigue, commuting logistics, and uncertainty about getting to church after the baby is born.

I think it would be wise for church leaders to consider that sometimes the factors which inspire one to go to attend Sunday services and participate in the community may have little to do with congregation. It may be as simple as the logistics of getting there, and the context of a person’s life. (Seattleite from Syracuse, January 22)

The Rev. James Ford wonders if young adults are looking for a neo-traditional liberal religion.

I’ve been inundated with a literature of growth that assumes people want pulpits taken down, pews removed, and organs burned. Rather, what it looks like I’m seeing in the actual real people who are coming into church I’m at least tentatively characterizing as neo-traditionals. (Monkey Mind, January 22)

Sarah MacLeod writes about her conversation with one of the “Nones,” a religiously unaffiliated former Hindu.

I’d encourage each Unitarian Universalist to seek out a None and engage him or her in this discussion. Listen with an open mind to criticisms of our current model, ideas about a more appealing model, and the needs that rest behind both. Then go back to your congregations, and when the discussion turns to growth, share what you’ve found. (Finding My Ground, January 21)

Christopher L. Walton contributed to this week’s edition of “The Interdependent Web.”