‘Things we lost in the fire,’ and more from the UU web

Endless seconds of good

When the Navy Yard shootings happened too close to home, the Rev. Heather Rion Starr learns a lesson from a Boston Marathon bombing survivor: focus, not on the few seconds of evil, but on the endless seconds of good that follow.

There is goodness, right here, in this apartment that I am tidying up, in the child and parent that are sleeping peacefully in the other room, in the beauty of the fall day that will unfold tomorrow and that has the possibility, still, of being transformative, in a good way, for all of us. (Quest for Meaning, September 20)

Things we lost in the fire

Through the lens of her seminary experience, Jordinn Nelson Long explores what transformation feels like, when it seems like everything will be lost in the fire of change.

Here is my family’s answer: we will hold tight to each other, release everything else, and lean into the flames. We will find out what is fireproof. . . .

We see it coming over the horizon, bright, hot, bigger than we imagined. We do not run.

Instead, we take one more step. We crouch low. We hold hands. (Raising Faith, September 24)

God talk

Judy C. Foster begins a series of posts reviewing Daniel Dennet’s book about religion, Breaking the Spell.

Why does he define religion so narrowly. . . ? [Dennet] seems to propose to subject fundamentalist, literalistic religious belief . . . to an exhaustive scientific study but not the kind of religion that itself takes into account science and rationality or the kind that resists claims of certainty but simply maintains a mindset that is open to exploring the possibility of a supernatural reality . . . or dimension in the universe. (Your Brain on Books, September 26)

Faced with the question of why God doesn’t stop bad things from happening, Roy King suggests that perhaps God has PTSD.

If God were all-powerful, then he could of course, in principle, intervene; if God were empathic, the she would cry over incomprehensible pain and loss. I choose empathy over power; loving awareness over detached principles. A traumatized God is preferable to an indifferent deity, if we are created in the image of the Divine. (Mediterranean Wisdom, September 23)

Sarah MacLeod responds to the question, “If you don’t believe in God or some greater purpose to the universe, how do you find comfort in times of trouble?”

After the speaker worked away at his answer, I turned to my pew mate who had lost her husband to cancer not too long ago. Before I could form the question, she answered, her eyes wide: “If there had been a purpose, that would have been worse!” (Finding My Ground, September 26)

Rebecca Hecking identifies as a “none of the above” because her religious beliefs don’t fit into any easy boxes.

Without a sanctioned holy book to dictate meaning, and without magic-big-daddy (or mama) in the sky, my search for meaning leads me back to my home ground: Earth. With its rhythms and seasons, its diversity and abundance, there is plenty to draw on for inspiration, even for the scientifically minded secularist. (Breath and Water, September 21)

Atheist church

Unitarian Universalist reactions to the Sunday Assembly (the so-called “Atheist Church”) amuse the Rev. Scott Wells.

[The] whiff of impinged ownership I hear from some Unitarian Universalists—that the Assembly should align with us, or that Assembly-goers should go to Unitarian Universalist congregations instead—makes me chuckle. As Unitarian Universalists, I’ve noticed that we lack the capacity to make a grand, new religious expression—Humanist, Christian, Plural, something else—and even create practical and ideological barriers to success, but then get bent out of shape when anyone else does what we could or should be doing. Or simply pretend that the other effort is a clone of what we do (or think we do.) The flourish of theological universalism among Christian Evangelicals comes to mind. (Boy in the Bands, September 24)

The Rev. Tom Schade looks at UU reactions to the Sunday Assembly as mimetic rivalry—“a relationship in which the other party in the relationship is both your rival and your model.”

I’ll be blunt here: I think that our ‘rivals’ succeed when they change lives and equip people to live more connected and responsible lives. I think Unitarian Universalism succeeds and fails on exactly the same grounds.

It is possible that creating a “community of like-minded people” doesn’t help people change, but actually shelters them in a place of resistance to a changing world. . . .

And all of us, the evangelical megachurch, these new Sunday Assemblies and the UU congregation that may be your spiritual home, can easily fall into that temptation. (The Lively Tradition, September 23)

Short bits

Liz James jettisons the seven UU principles on a summer road trip with a seminary colleague. (Rebel with a Label Maker, September 20)

The Rev. Dan Harper provides a responsive reading of a text from Unitarian theologian Charles Hartshorne, calling it “a scientific and theological take on nature, humanity, and freedom.” (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, September 20)

The Rev. Carl Gregg connects the UU Water Communion service with David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College commencement address, “This is Water.” (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, September 26)