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Interdependent Web edited by Heather Christensen; a weekly roundup of blogs about Unitarian Universalism

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 interdependentweb@uua.org.

More than a cozy haven, grownup conversations, and living lightly on the earth

More than a cozy haven

Jordinn Nelson Long and her family find “slow church” in a consumer culture that expects immediate gratification.

I hope that in the course of your own religious life there are at least a few sermons that you gratefully carry—the feelings, the moment of awakening—for years after hearing them.

This was one for my family; the moment when we realized that we weren’t satisfied because we cannot consume community. That we were unsure where else to turn because we can’t purchase wisdom and depth. And that we need the flawed, frustrating collective because as humans, we are not wired to individually find our way to gratitude, love, or healing. (Raising Faith, March 22)

Christine Slocum has stopped going to church, because no matter how hard she tries, the only nearby UU congregation isn’t a good fit.

What I am seeking when I go to church is a place that will facilitate living my faith. A consumerist approach, as Jordinn notes, is the wrong one, as my faith requires that I give a lot of time, energy, and love. However, it requires that I give it to the world, not just to other self-identifying UUs. (Christine Slocum, March 22)

The Rev. Tom Schade suggests that a focus on community building hasn’t been an effective strategy for UUs.

Creating covenanted, healthy, spiritually nourishing, genuinely inclusive, peaceful, and safe communities became our evangelical and ecclesiological method. But now, the strategy of community-building has become so pervasive, it is unseeable.

. . . . We believe that there is a deep hunger for community out there, but is that really true?

Building community has its own value, but maybe it’s time to reconsider whether, as a strategy, it is enough to change our anemic growth trends. (The Lively Tradition, March 25)

Grownup conversations

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden is tired of childish squabbles, and wants an adult conversation about truth and meaning.

In matters of religion, the question of who is right and who wrong dims before the fact that so many people are harmed by the wrangling and tribalism around the question. . . .

Who will be the grownups?

What is the practical difference in actions between atheists, agnostics, theists and those who just don’t care? (Quest for Meaning, March 26)

The Rev. Kit Ketcham’s beliefs about “power beyond human power” have evolved.

I have not gone so far as to think of myself as an atheist, or even agnostic, because both these terms do not describe where I am in my thinking. To me it is undeniable that there is power beyond human power. Some people call this power God but grant to the power a state of being that is too human-like to satisfy me. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, March 24)

Elizabeth warns about easy answers.

Don’t be enticed by the promise that things will be okay. . . . It will always be hard, if you are living well you will be struggling, you will be aching, you will be longing and loving and failing and getting up again. It is messy out there, beautifully and excruciatingly messy. (Elizabeth’s Little Blog, March 24)

As he celebrates his 70th birthday, the Rev. Ken Collier thinks about living and dying.

I’ve had my share of disappointment, sorrow, grief, and pain. . . . And I’ve also had my share of joy and success and and love. . . . Accept the one and you get the other. Reject the other, and you lose the one. . . . And so as I love my life, I also love its end. Which will come in its own time. While I wait, I intend to live, as fully, as freely, and as joyful as I can, embracing whatever lot happens to fall to me. And when my death does embrace me, I intend to return the embrace.
Death is just not the big issue. Life is. (The Colliery, March 26)

Working in a congregation with a difficult history, the Rev. Theresa Novak’s direct style “is freaking a few folks out.”

Homophobia will come out, if it exists, during a conflict, just as racism will. Even among liberals and self defined radicals and progressives. It is in our culture and individuals can’t always help it, but it is also important to name it when it happens.

I have been accused of “unwelcome touching.”

I have been called a bully.

I think they were really calling me a bull dyke.

I think they are afraid of me.

I hope I can find a way to walk with them through that fear. (Sermons, Poetry, and Other Musings, March 24)

Living lightly on the earth

As a climate crisis looms, the Rev. Tom Schade asks, “Who will be saved?”

As it now stands, it is the global elite that will survive. They will migrate to the most habitable places; they will monopolize the resources needed for life; they will deploy the arms to protect themselves from the increasingly desperate masses. Everything we know about the modern arrangements of power tell us that this is true. . . .

Unitarian Universalists. . . . believe in Universal Salvation: all of humanity is a single unit. Our faith is that we share a common fate. For us, the climate crisis is a struggle for global justice and solidarity. (The Lively Tradition, March 24)

Patrick Murfin answers the question, “Why should anyone give a damn about World Water Day?”

With another year in an epic drought under its belt, National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) satellite photos reveal that California has only about one year’s stored capacity in it reservoir system. Strict compulsory rationing may be necessary but is being fought tooth and nail by business interests. One of the nation’s riches agricultural regions may essentially go out of production. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, March 22)

Karen Johnston is uneasy about finally making the move to a smartphone.

Despite its inconsequential heft in the palm of my hand, it is weighing heavily on me.

It weighs heavily because it is yet another way I do not live lightly on the earth. . . .

May I use this device to tap into and strengthen the interconnected web of all existence, rather than to add to its unraveling.

May I demonstrate the discipline to know when to disconnect, that it not lead to my ignoring other people, Nature, or my own heart’s true needs. (Irrevspeckay, March 26)

Peace and calm, truth in hard times, world-saving religion, and more

Peace and calm

Karen Johnston tells a story of kids being asked what “We Shall Overcome” means. They said it means, “We shall overcalm.”

Out of the mouth of babes comes such necessary wisdom, the deep meaning of overcalm: to exercise an inner peacefulness that connects us to a great source not of our making, available to all and especially available to those seeking justice on behalf of those treated unjustly, especially for moments and movements like this, especially for those seeking to create the Beloved Community.

Let us listen to children. Let us all cultivate overcalm. Let there be peace, but first let there be justice. (Irrevspeckay, March 14)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern celebrates the work of two Irish women, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, and founders of the Community of Peace People.

A peace congress probably wouldn’t have made much difference, but thousands of people demanding peace, over and over, in a grassroots movement all over two lands, most certainly did good work for fraternity—and sorority—between those two nations. Both women continue to agitate for peace to this day. (Sermons in Stone, March 18)

Truth in hard times

With a child seriously ill, Katy Carpman compares herself to raw garlic.

I get to call my own truths.
I’ve no patience for your platitudes . . . (Remembering Attention, March 16)

Grieving her mother’s recent death, the Rev. Amy Beltaine writes that “Unitarian Universalist Pagans have a robust set of tools to carry with us as we face the loss of a loved one.”

Personally I very much like the idea of becoming one with my divinity, for that is how I view the earth. The planet is both sacred and divine. The broccoli I had for dinner is a part of me, I have recycled dinosaur cells in me, larger than that, I have stardust in me. (Nature’s Path, March 19)

World-saving religion

The Rev. James Ford proposes an interdependent humanism that might “save the world,” rather than devolving into survival of the fittest.

We see where we are. Arising precious and unique, none of us ever to be replicated.
And fragile. All of us…
And then we can see what we can do.
We see we are all of us and this blessed planet connected.
Connected more deeply than can ever be said.
And, we act from this place.
And then the whole thing will be blessed.
And every action taken, a blessing. (Monkey Mind, March 13)

For the Rev. Dr. David Breeden, everything is transient except for human experience.

So, what are the truths of religions? What’s permanent? You. Your essence. Your human essence. Is that enough? Well . . . it has to be. Because that’s all we get. (Quest for Meaning, March 19)

John Beckett responds to a provocative opinion piece in The New York Times, which argued that schools teach children that there are no moral facts.

We no longer live in a monoculture, if we ever did. It’s no longer sufficient to pretend your culture, your religion, and your morals are objectively better than everyone else’s – you have to demonstrate why your moral standards work better, not just for you and yours but for everyone else as well. (Under the Ancient Oaks, March 19)

Encouragement to spiritual growth

For Catherine Clarenbach, being in recovery from mental illness means that she has less direct connection to the sacred.

Do you understand? Do you understand that while I am grateful for health and for stable relationships with friends and family, I also miss that one, great, powerful, and easy relationship? Do you understand that while I still can sometimes touch the fingers of the Goddess in the stars at night, it is not because I walk enveloped in those stars, but because I seek them, yearn for them, slowly do the work to find them within me as powerfully as I see them without? . . .

I . . . practice to catch the slightest ray of the blinding star in whose light the whole world used to shine. (Nature’s Path, March 17)

The Rev. Phil Lund writes about encouraging spiritual growth in lay-led congregations.

After all the time spent figuring out what’s going to happen on Sunday mornings, meeting with committees, and coordinating social justice events, there isn’t a whole lot of time leftover for lay leaders to plan adult faith development experiences on the subject of spirituality.

And just what did they have in mind way back in 1985? What does “encouragement to spiritual growth” entail, anyway? (Phillip Lund, March 17 and 19)

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg reviews a new book from Beacon Press, The God that Could Be Real, written by Nancy Abrams—”an atheist married to a famous scientist.”

In constructing a positive theology, the most interesting perspective she proposes is that ‘God’ is not cosmic, but “planetary”—an emergent phenomenon of life on Earth. Note that she means “Emergence” in the technical sense of the field of science that studies how systems (such as the human body) are much greater than the sum of their parts. . . . This evolving, emergent “God that could be real” is akin to Carl Jung’s “Collective Unconscious” in which the sacred is understood less literally than metaphorically and archetypally—but which is still actual, efficacious, and real. (Pluralism, Pragramatism, Progressivism, March 13)

Break the ropes, Selma is now, contrary voices, and more

Break the ropes

A question quoted in Mary Oliver’s Blue Horses hits Tina Porter between the eyes: “If you don’t break the ropes while you’re alive, do you think ghosts will do it after?”

What are your visions and what are the ropes that need to be cut? What are the days ahead of you full of and what can they be full of? . . . [If] your soul is straining at invisible ropes, perhaps it is time to follow the line of the rope back and see what is holding you, because maybe you are a visionary, but you’ve never been given permission to be so—by yourself or anyone else. (Ugly Pies, March 12)

Claire Curole wrestles with hard questions about identity and vocation.

Who am I? Whose am I? From what source and by what means and to what end? Sometimes we get clear answers. More often, we don’t, and like a dolphin or a bat navigating by echolocation, we fling questions out into the Mystery and get, from time to time, a ping in response. . . .

I hope, in my bones, that there is a place in this world where I am the missing piece that completes the jigsaw picture—just as I am, where my bumps and angles fit exactly as I am. (Sand Hill Diary, March 12)

Karen Johnston writes a prayer “for someone in deep pain who does not yet pray.”

Let me begin by setting aside my skepticism,
my sarcasm, my doubt, my intellectualized judgment,
my clever snarky attitude that wants to
shut me up and keeps me shut down.

I do not release it completely,
for it serves me well in other circumstances,
but I let go my tight grasp,
leaving room for something more.

Let me say these words:
dear god,
and not choke, not giggle,
nor fill with fear. (Irrevspeckay, March 10)

Selma is now

Leslie Mills shares one of the key questions of the UU Selma experience this past week: “Do you love?”

It’s not enough to reason your way to action, or to argue your way, and you can’t even believe your way to action. You can only act for justice from a place of love. And your actions will have more power if you are able to articulate that, because it connects your humanity to that of the people with whom you are striving for justice. (Leaping Loon, March 7)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern asks, “For what would I risk everything?”

Mostly I would like to give my life by living and working for a cause, not by dying for it. When I think of what I would risk dying for, I think of freedom and fairness, of the earth, but mostly of people: people I know. It’s a principle of community organizing and congregational leadership that what people give to, sacrifice for, go to the wall for, is their connection with other people. When we know someone who is suffering under oppression, abstractions such as freedom and justice take on flesh. They acquire a face, and the face silently asks us to act. Their fight becomes our fight. (Sermons in Stones, March 9)

Doug Muder helps us sort through the mixed news of the Justice Department’s Ferguson report.

In the end, although the Justice Department hasn’t given the black citizens of Ferguson Darren Wilson’s scalp, it has given them what they really need: Exposure of the corrupt and predatory system they live under, and some hope of relief. (The Weekly Sift, March 9)

The Rev. Tom Schade makes a case for reparations for the people of Ferguson.

The people from whom those dollars were taken are owed them. All of the dubious charges, all of the fines, all of the fines levied because the original fines were not paid on time, all the penalties and interest and court fees need to be returned. Not as a matter of “development funds” or “community investment” or “public policy”, but simply because stolen money must be returned from the criminal to the victim, to be used by victims for whatever purpose they choose. It’s their money, end of story. (The Lively Tradition, March 10)

Contrary voices

Kim Hampton is skeptical about UU promises.

So when Peter Morales stands in Brown Chapel last Saturday and says, “We are your partners forever,” is that really true? Our history shows that our partnerships, when it comes to race, are infrequent and easily dropped. But what might be even more telling, our memory is selective; we remember Selma (oh how we remember Selma), but we all but ignore the tumultuous relationship between the AUA and Ethelred Brown. We remember Selma, but skip over the fact that for an organization headquartered in Boston there was almost universal UU silence during the Boston busing riots of the 1970s.

If we are going to be partners, what’s the plan? Talk is cheap and easy; just saying we’re partners doesn’t mean that we are. (East of Midnight, March 11)

The Rev. Scott Wells has mixed feelings about UU participation in the fiftieth anniversary observances in Selma—and a bit of advice.

[To] escape the peril of exoticism, live where you work and work where you live. Be not tourists, but companions. Be present in the place. Show up daily, not every fifty years. (Boy in the Bands, March 9)

What is church?

Leslie Mills meets a woman in Selma who says of Unitarian Universalists, “I think I’ve found my people at last!”

When this woman walks through the doors of her local UU congregation, brimming with this fierce hope that, after years of believing she was alone, she’s finally—finally—found her true home, a faith where the flame of justice burns brightly, how will her fierceness be received?

Will you try to tame her? Will you ask her to conform to your way of doing things? . . . You see, I don’t want us to disappoint her, and I don’t want us to use her up. (Leaping Loon, March 7)

The Rev. Andrew Millard is grateful for a recent workshop that restored his faith in church.

I have been disheartened by the apparently exclusive emphasis on other forms of religious group-making, including the earnest promotion of ministry as a vocation that in the future will require either independent wealth or a submission to poverty. . . . The fact is that it takes hard work for people to actually be in community, particularly religious community. (Life’s Too Short to Sing the Melody, March 6)

Thomas Earthman wishes we would stop thinking of UUism as a halfway house.

Unitarian Universalism has a reputation of being the rehabilitation clinic for people who are leaving religion. That is a sad statement on how we view faith. People don’t come to us because they want to leave religion; they come because they want a religion that speaks to a broader world view and inclusion. . . .

What many are looking for is community, encouragement, hope, and mental or ethical stimulation, and maybe some music or ritual. They are looking for religion when they show up, just one that is liberal and offers them a chance to explore theology, philosophy, and morality safely and as part of a community. (I Am UU, March 6)