A weekly roundup of blogs and other user-generated web content about Unitarian Universalism, collected by uuworld.org. Find more UU blogs at UUpdates. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It has been a week full of bad news, and the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein exhorts her clergy readers to “preach the front pages” this Sunday.
Preach the news. Preach the fire. Preach the rage, the sadness, the lamentation. Preach it fierce. Bring your rage, your solidarity, your authority to confront: to confront ourselves, to confront our God, to confront yourself, to confront our sick, sick society. Confront what is really happening. (Beauty Tips for Ministers, August 14)
Patrick Murfin says that when the news beats us up, it is “time to step up, not away.”
Hiding from it will not save you. It will make you, however unwittingly, an accomplice.
None of us have the power to stop these things. All of us have the power to move the world, if only a little, along that long promised arc that bends towards justice. We are called to crawl out from under the covers and unleash our love—muscular love—applied with plenty of elbow grease. Not platitudes but action. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, August 15)
Ferguson, and wherever you are
The killing of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and subsequent events drew the attention of many UU bloggers this week.
The Rev. Meg Riley is “struggling to discern how to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”
Where do you locate yourself in these stories? Who do you see as dangerous, and who is trustworthy? Where do you locate safety? What would safety look like for the people of Ferguson now, for instance? As a white person in the U.S., I am conditioned from birth to see whiteness as safety—white neighborhoods, white people, white authority figures. My lived experience, my conversations with people of color, and my study of history have shown me over and over that this is a wild and cruel perversion of the truth. (HuffPost Religion, August 14)
The Rev. Jake Morrill says, “it’s not just Ferguson.”
As protests in Ferguson, Missouri, go on tonight, a lot of my white brothers and sisters are focused on how, in the short-term, to restore order. But the real question is how, in the long-term, to restore justice. (Quest for Meaning, August 13)
The Rev. David Breeden responds in verse.
The measured response of empire
is death—war against war;
attack against attack; violence
to violence. Murder. Revenge.
Death. The measured response of
empire is insanity. The peace of
empire is reloading the gun. It
is the realm of hungry ghosts,
shiny new helmets in the void. (Theopoetics, August 15)
Christine Slocum is uncomfortable with the way African American spirituals are often sung in UU churches.
How dare white people sing African-American spirituals while our police forces shoot black teenagers.
How dare white people sing African-American spirituals when African-Americans are killed on the presumption of criminality by citizens?
How dare white people sing African-American spirituals when African-American men are sent disproportionately to prison on drug charges, despite similar rates of drug use?
I could go on. My point is that the oppression of African Americans has never ended, and yet white people sing the songs. (This Too Will Pass, August 10)
Kim Hampton asks, “How the hell did y’all get this blind?”
Did y’all think that Trayvon Martin was a one off? Did you not see the story about Jordan Davis? Renisha McBride? (East of Midnight, August 14)
The Rev. Theresa Novak laments,
Oh waste of loss
America we’ve failed
Storm clouds gather
Justice must rain down
Tears are not enough. (Sermons, Poetry, and Other Musings, August 14)
Depression and suicide
Anyone who is suicidal may receive immediate help by logging onto Suicide.org or by calling 1-800-SUICIDE. Suicide is preventable, and if you are feeling suicidal, you must get help.
Kimberley Debus responds to the deaths from suicide of the Rev. Jennifer Slade and Robin Williams from personal experience, having “lived that moment, when a decision is made.”
You may not know what to say exactly. But say something. And genuinely listen. (Notes from the Far Fringe, August 13)
Kari Kopnick cautions against the phrase “committed suicide.”
People die by suicide. It is a horrible tragedy. But lets not make it worse by saying that our beloved brother or sister committed something. Language matters, what we say makes a difference and the words we choose change the meaning of what we say. (Chalicespark, August 12)
The Rev. Meg Riley acknowledges that sometimes love is not enough.
As I have witnessed the conversations taking place in the wake of his suicide—about depression, about grief, about being bipolar and about loving people who have depression or are bipolar, what I have realized is this: We are all grappling with the edges of the power of love. We loved him, and yet he committed suicide. Our love—the real love of millions of people—did not save him. If so much love couldn’t save him, where is the hope for the rest of us poor schlubs? (HuffPost Religion, August 13)
The Rev. Tony Lorenzen puzzles about how personally he has taken Williams’s death.
It’s the depression, both his and mine, that makes his passing a powerful loss. . . . Robin Williams evokes this pain about the battle with depression, not because he’s the first or most well known to die from it, but because he was one I grew up with and he played roles that deeply affected me. (Sunflower Chalice, August 12)
Politics and culture
Doug Muder asserts, “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party.”
Here’s what my teachers should have told me: “Reconstruction was the second phase of the Civil War. It lasted until 1877, when the Confederates won.” I think that would have gotten my attention.
It wasn’t just that Confederates wanted to continue the war. They did continue it, and they ultimately prevailed. They weren’t crazy, they were just stubborn. (The Weekly Sift, August 11)
The Rev. Tom Schade says, “We should be re-thinking all of our big thoughts about the state of our political order.”
The police killing of Michael Brown, and the police repression of the community that has demanded accountability, should push people like us (who are more unfamiliar and misinformed about the conditions of life of African Americans than we think we are) into an extended campaign of learning, re-thinking, and teaching.
Learning, Re-Thinking, and Teaching are political acts of great significance and power. (The Lively Tradition, August 14)
When Sarah MacLeod no longer needs her UU congregation as a stepping stone from theism, or as a safe, supportive place during a personal crisis, she asks, “Why church?”
Church, because supportive community is built over time, not just used when in need.
Church, because working through pain, anger, and disappointment in community deepens understanding. . . .
Church, because it reminds us that community is larger than any one person, idea, or belief. (Finding My Ground, August 5)
The Rev. Tom Schade believes that a consensus is emerging among UUs, including that “the ‘language of reverence’ is now our vocabulary.”
President Sinkford was roundly criticized for suggesting that we needed to break out of the straitjacket of humanist language, but then, we did. We’re all about “calls,” “faith,” “mission,” “prayer,” “spirit,” and “soul.” Admittedly, we are probably sloppy in our usage, but everyone kind of gets what each other is talking about, and goes along with it. (The Lively Tradition, August 1)
Woo, but not woo-woo
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden reclaims the practice of spirituality from superstitious “woo-woo.”
There’s nothing mysterious about the mystical. Spirituality is a feeling. We don’t have to buy what particular religions are selling to access these feelings. It’s all in our heads. (Quest for Meaning, August 7)
Rachel Camille values sacred space, and notices that Unitarian Universalist meeting spaces tend not to feel “special.”
We didn’t talk about anything different from what we talked about at the dinner table. It wasn’t super deep. It didn’t teach me anything epic and huge. I didn’t feel connected to anything bigger than myself, which is kind of insane considering that in UU, I’m connected to the entire interconnected web of existence. It felt like a book club. We went into a room and talked about some interesting things, and that was all. The end. (I Am UU, August 7)
Rebecca Hecking is not Pagan, but does mark the Wheel of the Year.
The simple act of marking the day, noting the change, acknowledging the passing of time in a tangible, physical way, helps to counteract the fast pace of our busy lives. As the seasons turn, as the wheel makes yet another round, we note the passing of time in our own lives. Children grow. Elders pass. We move from stage to stage on our own journey. Bringing this to conscious awareness heightens our appreciation for life and its gifts. (Breath and Water, August 1)
Paying for ministry
The Rev. Tom Schade puts concerns about clergy compensation into a broader context.
The big picture is that most of us need a broad social movement to redirect the wealth of this country downwards. That means raising the minimum wage, building up the infrastructure of the country, forgiving student debt, investing in education, increasing social security benefits, bailing out underwater homeowners, empowering old and new unions, returning the wealth stolen from African Americans. More people should have more money.
And in that context, UU ministers will probably have a better future than it now seems. (The Lively Tradition, August 2)
Katy Schmidt Carpman asks us to remember more than just clergy when we talk about paying for ministry.
And yet in many congregations, ministers have the best compensation package. I would love to see a fuller conversation of compensation and financial wellness for all who work in churches. Yes, as a religious educator, I’ve got an interest here. But it’s also about our music directors, administrative staff, sextons–whatever positions make up each congregation. (Remembering Attention, July 31)
Energy and despair
The Rev. James Ford sees the future in the “mix of energy and despair” in Long Beach’s diverse downtown neighborhood.
Walking around downtown Long Beach I realized this is the future.
A mix of energy and despair, people succeeding and people crushed. And downtown everyone living cheek-by-jowl, the same block with high-end lofts, middle-income condos, and inexpensive apartments. In places trash in the street, and not far away, pocket public gardens. (Monkey Mind, August 2)
Asked to write about yet another tragic news story, the Rev. Lynn Unger shares a poem, encouraging us to “Wake up. Give thanks. Sing.”
What will you do
with the last good days?
Before the seas rise and the skies close in,
before the terrible bill
for all our thoughtless wanting
finally comes due? (Quest for Meaning, August 6)
Photos from the “Humans of New York” project inspire the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum’s thoughts about why we need safety nets.
I’m fortunate—we have family and friends able and willing to help. I’m a minister in a denomination that has some funds for ministers in financial crisis, and knowing that is a piece of sanity, a certain knowledge that there’s a safety net there for me. I’m also insured, which means there’s a cap to the financial trouble that health problems can bring me.
Not everyone has these safety nets. Many people have only the knowledge of a family member’s open door. Some people don’t have even that. (The Lively Tradition, August 6)
Gracia Walker remembers a long-ago encounter, one of many that helped her find her way from fundamentalism to Unitarian Universalism, and encourages us to be the kind strangers other people need.
You never know what seeds you can plant, what a bit of kindness can do to widen the thinking of someone who may be trapped in a worldview that doesn’t meet their needs, or let them grow to their potential. We don’t always have to preach, it may just be the patience we show that can change hearts. (Loved for Who You Are, August 4)
Life in American Christendom
The Rev. Dawn Cooley makes a provocative statement about the relationship between Unitarian Universalism and Christianity.
Unitarian Universalism may or may not be a Christian denomination, depending on who you ask. But we are a part of Christendom, because we have not disassociated ourselves from Christianity. Nor should we—it is an important part of where we come from and who we are today, and, I suspect, an important part of where we are going. (The Lively Tradition, July 30)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden suggests that UUs not worry about reinventing Christianity, but rather focus on being a big tent, in which each congregation, and each individual “brews” their own faith.
[Mainstream] Christian denominations are scrambling to survive. I don’t doubt that they will do a fine job of brewing the new Christianity. A much better job than can Unitarian Universalism, except in very specific locations and boutiques. . . . I think the future of Unitarian Universalism lies in micro-breweries. Boutique congregations, each with a recipe of their own. (Quest for Meaning, July 31)
Tina Porter wonders if some Christians “opt out” of the concept of grace.
Here’s my dilemma about the concept of grace: . . . . if grace is the gift we did not earn and do not deserve, wouldn’t that, in essence, make us all more tender-hearted toward those in need of that unearned gift?
. . . . I’ll ask in another way: is it possible to follow Jesus, claim him as your Savior, and then be hard-hearted to those who not only don’t have bootstraps but wouldn’t know how to wear a boot if it was handed to them? (Long Thoughts, July 31)
Co-existing with fundamentalist religion
Responding to Operation Save America’s harassment of a UU congregation in New Orleans, the Rev. Tom Schade wonders how progressive and fundamentalist religions can exist together in the same community.
Can the Tolerant and the Intolerant Co-exist?
Yes, but only if the Tolerant have the power to preserve the structural arrangements which protect them.
It is a question, ultimately, of power. (The Lively Tradition, July 29)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum believes that the Operation Save America incident was, indeed, “religious terrorism.”
Terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” . . . . This act in Louisiana didn’t include violence. So why is it terrorism? Because it’s done by a terrorist group that has included violence in the past. (The Lively Tradition, July 30)
Thank you, Margot Adler
Thalassa expresses her gratitude for the work of Margot Adler, who died this past week.
Margot Adler was my impetus to take the idea of being Pagan seriously. Not just to take myself seriously, but to demand (nicely, of course) that I should expect my religious beliefs to be taken seriously, regardless of how unorthodox they might seem to others.
Margot Adler is the reason that I never thought that I had to live “in the broom closet.” (Musings of a Kitchen Witch, July 29)
Patrick Murfin gives an overview of Margot Adler’s life.
Despite her status as a priestess, Adler never considered herself as a witch or had a particular interest in magic. “Most people, when they think of witches and witchcraft, think of power and magical abilities,” she told a reporter three years ago. “I’m not a particularly occult-oriented person. I’m not into astrology. I’ve never felt I had magical abilities.” Instead, Adler focused on the power of ritual to connect a community and on the spiritual connection to the whole natural world. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, July 29)
This world’s hell
When NFL player Ray Rice gets off easy after committing domestic violence, Colleen Thoele can’t keep silent.
Do you know how hard it is to try and help a person feel safe and take steps to walk free from violence when we know that our system sets her up to fail and is complicit in making her life more dangerous than if she never left the abuse in the first place? (Adventures of the Family Pants, July 30)
After the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory told Kim Hampton that she had a paranoia-persecution complex, she consulted a friend who works as a psychologist for the Indianapolis Police Department.
[She] said, “They told you you were paranoid, didn’t they?” I said yes. She then told me, “Don’t worry about it. It’s because you’re black.” She then went on to tell me that, without fail, every black person who takes the test as part of the entrance to the IPD academy comes out as paranoid. The funny part of the conversation came a little later when she said, “Of course you’re paranoid. You’ve been followed around in stores. People make assumptions about you just by your very appearance. There would be something wrong with you if you weren’t paranoid.”
. . . . What does it say about this country that paranoia is the way that black and brown people have to think in order to stay reasonably sane? (East of Midnight, July 28)
Answering the question, “Why Universalism?” the Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg traces Universalism’s history and shares its current relevance.
So, “Why Universalism?” Well, whereas Unitarianism has sometimes lead down a road to extreme Emersonian individualism (of caring mostly about one’s own isolated spirituality), the Universalism calls us out of ourselves and into the world to love the hell out of this world—into a world filled with far too much hell that desperately needs the life-saving message that we are part of one another, part one human family. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, July 31)
Attending church helps Justin Almeida combat compassion fatigue.
Religion provides me with a community, sanctuary and covenant that is focused on peacemaking. It reminds me that I am not alone in working to build a more just world. It cures my compassion fatigue because it restores my faith in people. When peace and justice work becomes too heavy, it is my church that lightens the load. In a space filled with atheists, believers, agnostics, questioners and religious refugees, our attendance shouts to the universe: “We will continue the work! We will not give up! We crave peace!” (What’s My Age Again?, July 31)