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 email@example.com.
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern celebrates Nelson Mandela’s long commitment to the work of justice.
One would think that almost 20 years of revolutionary activism, 27 years in prison, and five years as the head of state would entitle him to an honorable retirement, but Mandela never stopped taking on new challenges. In 2005, he went to London before a G8 trade meeting and reminded the leaders and the gathered crowd that the G8 had pledged several years earlier to cut world poverty in half. “Do not look the other way,” he said to them; “Do not hesitate. Recognise that the world is hungry for action, not words. Act with courage and vision.” (Sermons in Stones, December 5)
What is compassion?
The Rev. Sean Dennison writes about compassion as a commitment of “Cabaret Church.”
Cabaret Church is a community of people who believe that compassion is powerful and necessary. We are well aware that we are human and that means we make mistakes. We fuck up. We hurt people. In our commitment to art and resistance, we push boundaries and break rules. Sometimes we struggle to live up to our commitments and instead stay silent when we should have spoken up. We need compassion. (ministrare, November 29)
The Rev. Myriam Renaud asks, “Compassion—what the heck is it?”
Suffering brings you to the limit of the ordinary realm of “S/he.” It is at this borderline that compassion and religion arises. Compassion for suffering may then propel you into the “higher pinnacle” of “Thou.” From this place, this summit, you can see more clearly what actions on your part and your community’s could ease the pain. And, upon returning this place, you are spurred to make it so. (The Naked Theologian, December 3)
Frustrated by her preschool daughter’s behavior, the Rev. Robin Bartlett turns to Facebook, where her friends remind her that home is where her daughter doesn’t have to be perfect.
I hope you have a place . . . inside your house or inside your heart, where you don’t have to be the best at anything; where you don’t have to try; where you just are. The place where you know yourself beloved. We are beloved just by virtue of our birth, and we forget that truth, or we never learned to know ourselves that way. . . . We succeed, we are loved. We fail, we are loved. (Religious Education at UU Sherborn, December 4)
Jordinn Nelson Long refuses to do it all.
[No] one is waiting at the finish line of your life to give you a cookie for completing all the tasks that no one else cared about. If you choose unhappiness to prove that you’re “good enough” for it, your own resentments will be your reward. (Raising Faith, December 4)
With love and grief, the Rev. Jake Morrill recounts the history of Tennessee, where he serves as a minister.
When you can’t any longer get coal out of coal mines, the coal company will start blowing up mountains. When you can’t any longer get your prescription filled, the heroin dealer is just a phone call away. Heroin, they say, will ease your worries a while. But the pain never ends. It runs through everything. It’s there when you’re born. It is there when you die. And your babies (they’re crying) will know it, as well. Given this life, that anybody at all would think to sing is a blessing. (Quest for Meaning, November 24)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum shares her experience with Healthcare.gov, and how the Affordable Care Act will affect ministers who serve small congregations.
So the good news is that the UUA’s plan is very competitive with comparable plans. And the bad news is that “Obamacare” didn’t bring us cheaper, better healthcare. It actually brought us healthcare for the average small business employee that is going up 9.3% this year along with deductible increases. So that’s sad for me, who had held out hope that while it would get all those uninsured people a better situation it might actually take a load off the small church, as well. It seems that is not to be the case. (Rev. Cyn, November 26)
The Rev. Tom Schade looks beyond the church-and-state issues of a recent ruling about clergy tax exemptions.
This ruling will bring new attention to the finances of the grass-roots church of all denominations. But let’s see it for what it is: part of the destruction of autonomous and self-directed voluntary organizations for the poor, the working class and the middle classes. It’s coming close to the clergy, now. We, in the clergy, might want to blame the IRS for this downturn in our personal economies, but the larger picture is growing class divide, and the impoverishment of the majority. (The Lively Tradition, November 25)
Thinking deeper about Thanksgiving
Rebecca Hecking acknowledges that Thanksgiving, even stripped down to the practice of gratitude, is a complicated holiday.
Thanksgiving? Stuffed with history and myth, basted with family drama, sugar-coated with platitudes, but also seasoned with thoughtfulness, it is what we make of it.
Just like everything else. (Breath and Water, November 21)
Shawna Foster objects to liberal disapproval of retailers open for business on Thanksgiving.
I remember working holidays. Holidays paid a time and a half. It made the extra bills of the season bearable.
Perhaps retail workers themselves would rather be home. At the same time, I am not so sure of outrage on their behalf. (Vessel, November 21)
Fifty years later, remembering JFK
For Deb Weiner, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was an “end of innocence” for her pre-teen self.
I started peppering my childhood minister, Rev. Wayne Shuttee, with questions about how there could be a loving God in the face of insanity and rage. About why there was a world where such bad things happened. About how people find courage and strength to carry on in the face of such stuff. (Morning Stars Rising, November 21)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum points out generational differences in how we think about the anniversary of JFK’s death, and suggests a pastoral approach.
So, Gen X and Millennial friends, we need to get over our cynicism and stop rolling our eyeballs. . . . [We] need to . . . cut through the surface level, the media level, that we’ll be hearing about, and talk to people about what this moment really meant to them, how it changed them, why they continue to focus on it, what its deeper meaning is. We need to get past the nostalgia and into the real work of the grief and fear, and the way it continues to shape our country. (Rev. Cyn, November 21)
A wider love
Roy King asks, “What if Pantheism were a middle path between monotheism and humanism, between the One and the Many?”
The great divide in our Unitarian Universalist congregations has historically been between those who are theists, namely those who believe in some sort of personal God, and our humanists/atheists who believe that humankind is the ultimate measure of all things. A monotheistic God is a unifying principle, while humanity is a source of rich diversity. (Mediterranean Wisdom, November 21)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden considers the influence of Hinduism on “Transcendental Humanism.”
If the self is Brahman . . . Sounds a bit like American Transcendentalism, doesn’t it? There’s a reason for that. British philologist (and one of the colonizers) William Jones, better known as “Oriental Jones,” made Hindu thought available to early-Nineteenth Century Americans of a particular intellectual persuasion. People such as the Unitarians inclined toward Transcendentalism—including the Peabody sisters, Thoreau, and Emerson.
Vedanta’s third point is direct experience. The Transcendentalist knew what that meant. They put themselves in the way of lived experience. They lived for those moments. (Quest for Meaning, November 21)
The Rev. Jake Morrill remembers being a “playground atheist,” and the support his younger self received from his UU community.
In all the years since, my theology has evolved. I have taken communion, stopped in awe before mountains. I have prayed till tears come, and sat in meditation for long hours in a dark Buddhist Zendo. But, truth be told, it was as an atheist that I first came to see, in a way that was real and has not failed me since, how I am part of a love wider than my own life, and how that spacious embrace makes itself known to me, most often, through a community like the one that first told me, “You are not alone.” (Quest for Meaning, November 18)
Gender, memory—and grammar
Teo Drake refuses to live in fear.
They did not like me as a girl—they like me even less as a boy.
I am not a straight white man, my queerness invisible to the naked eye.
They tell me they might let me live if I never speak up. If I sit complicit in my silence, while they shout their misogyny, their homophobia, their transphobia—their ugly hate.
If I keep my mouth shut maybe it won’t be me to die today—maybe it will be you. Can I live with my own deafening silence?
I will not live in fear. (roots grow the tree, November 19)
The Rev. Dan Schatz offers a prayer for the recent Transgender Day of Remembrance.
We remember and honor those who walk proudly,
who love themselves and others,
who teach by their being,
and who reach to help others along the way. . . .
and every day,
may all of us,
transgender and cisgender alike,
dedicate ourselves unflinchingly
to respect for every human being,
and to the transforming power of love. (The Song and the Sigh, November 20)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern boldly declares “‘they’ is a perfectly appropriate gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun.”
Whether agender and transgender folk will adopt “they” for themselves is up to them. It’s not up to me, and I will use whatever pronoun a person prefers for themself, but I humbly suggest that it has a huge advantage over “ze,” “hir,” or any of the other neologisms that have been tried. Neologisms do take hold sometimes, but when we already have a word that has worn a path in our linguistic landscape—the way “they” has done for many of us—it’s likely to be the best place to build the road. (Sermons in Stones, November 14)
Babies, mamas, and ministry
The Rev. Tom Schade would like UU congregations to go into the baby blessing business.
Our baby blessing should come right out of our core theology. Each baby is a person, unique and irreplaceable. The baby blessing ceremony should challenge parents and families to respect and honor that child’s own soul. A child is not a toy, a pet, a person who can use to fulfill our own needs. A child is not here to bring you glory, or fulfill your dreams. In all likelihood, a child will not turn out as you expect, or hope. (The Lively Tradition, November 16)
The Rev. Parisa Parsa charges her colleague to live in the power of both ministry and motherhood.
The world is rife with terrible tales of both bad ministers and bad mothers, and both vocations are subject to images of goodness idealized to inhuman proportions. Short of setting ourselves on sainthood—which is particularly unrealistic in a tradition that abandoned that notion a couple of centuries ago—we have to find other ways to live in the very large landscape between perfect and terrible. The charge I have to offer you this morning is to live in the power of these roles at least as much as you live in the fretting over each of them. (Pastor Prayers, November 21)
Growing—and breaking through
The Rev. Tandi Rogers pulls back the curtain on the process of choosing Breakthrough Congregations.
This is how I want to answer that question:
• Do “religious community” well.
• Be yourself intentionally, joyfully, and impact-fully.
• Live your saving message in bold, generous, loving ways inside your walls.
• Live your saving message in bold, generous, loving ways outside your walls. . . .
[But] I know what most people mean by the original question is really, “How are Breakthrough Congregations chosen?” Here’s how. . . . (Growing Unitarian Universalism, November 20)
The Rev. Thom Belote allows us to eavesdrop on his congregation’s decision-making about one service, or two.
If it was our goal to stay at our current size, I would recommend returning to one service. If it is our goal to grow, we should probably stick with the two service format. (Rev. Thom, November 16)
The Unitarian Universalist Association will be closed next Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving. Interdependent Web will return the following week.
Typhoon Haiyan: how we can help
Karen Johnston discusses how to help when tragedy strikes in distant places—without sending SWEDOW (Stuff We Don’t Want).
Given the increased frequency with which these catastrophes are happening, . . . it is the responsibility of people with financial privilege . . . to find trustworthy agencies who will ensure that the donations serve the people most in need. This is a subjective process. . . . It does require some effort at a discernment process. Yet, there are ways to make it a little easier on yourself. What I do is look to people I respect. (irrevspeckay, November 12)
Among other options, Johnston refers to the UUA/UUSC joint response to Typhoon Haiyan; the Rev. Scott Wells suggests the World Food Program USA (Boy in the Bands, November 12).
Living in community
The Rev. Myke Johnson reminds us of the joy of living in loving community.
So often when we hear that we should love one another, it sounds like hard work, like a task, like a moral imperative that would be good to follow, but not very pleasant. And I admit there is something difficult about loving one another. But somewhere in the middle of it, comes a surprise. There really is divinity within each person—and when we see it, it is beautiful, joyful, mysterious, and wonderful. (Finding Our Way Home, November 9)
Liz James shares a summer adventure—a story about how communities need both upstream thinkers and wave riders.
Wave riders, as I think of myself, are not just deficient up streamers. We are bad at one set of skills and good at another set. We are the authors of surprise vacations and spontaneous river trips. We are the ones who turn the bedbugs into an adventure and co-author the “stuck on airplane songs” of the world. (Rebel with a Label Maker, November 13)
The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford asks, “Does your church take care of ‘their’ community or ‘the’ community?”
It’s easy . . . to feel the need for “our community,” for a safe place to seek sanctuary for a culture that often feels so foreign, with its emphasis on consumerism, celebrity, and, depending on where you live, fundamentalism.
But it’s not enough for us to make a safe place for “our community.” Our parish goes beyond our walls and we’re called to make that entire parish more loving, more tolerant, more whole. Those other folks out there—they are residents in the Beloved Community, too. (Boots and Blessings, November 11)
Drawing on the words of the Prophet Isaiah, the Rev. Naomi King writes “Hope is ours indeed, when hope is in our deeds.”
My life has changed dramatically in the past few years, and every time I cannot attend a meeting or join friends at a cafe or go some other place because of curbs and steps and crowded narrowed cluttered spaces I have a choice: do I suffer in exile, or do I go ahead and make home, welcoming and meeting others where we can meet, inviting and encouraging my neighbors to want to make our towns accessible to all? (The Wonderment, November 13)
The Rev. Audette Fulbright writes a letter to UU seminarians about the UUMA guidelines as an invitation to spiritual practice.
Guidelines and covenants hold before us high ideals and expectations, but they also are meant to build the bridges necessary for us to reach them. See them as the planks and beams of what helps create good ministers and ministry: relationships of trust and support, some shared expectations, and a system of accountability to hold it all. (Raising Faith, November 7)
Rebecca Hecking asks, “Got baggage?”
Each of us carries the baggage of generations. Each of us does battle with hidden ghosts. Each of us is wounded. Each of us suffers. . . . On a good day, a day when I’m feeling particularly spiritual and enlightenment seems likely, I can see this. I have a namaste moment with all humanity, and those who cross my path. The hidden burden I carry bows to the hidden burden that you carry. (Breath and Water, November 14)
Faith and interfaith
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg summarizes a class he’s teaching on alternate Christianities and extracanonical books of the Bible.
The most important point may be that there never was a simple beginning in which all you needed to do was believe in a certain interpretation of the meaning of Jesus’ death. As rediscovered “Lost Christianities” and banned books have shown, in the beginning was diversity, experimentation, and conflict—that has continued to this day—over the meaning of Jesus’ life and teachings. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, November 13)
The Rev. Jeff Liebmann is an atheist, non-Christian follower of Jesus.
Whether he actually existed or resides merely in myth, I admire the person who walked humbly, helped everyone without judgment, and stood up to the authorities of the day speaking out for equality, fairness and mercy. If he walked our streets today, I imagine him decrying our cuts to food stamps, calling out business greed that destroys families and demanding an end to our violence against each other. (UUJeff’s Muse Kennel and Pizzatorium, November 9)
Attending an interfaith dinner and celebration, “Plaidshoes” was most touched by a non-verbal interaction after the event.
I went out to get my jacket and ran into one of the women from the table. I didn’t get to talk to her very much as she was seated further away and had a harder time with English. She was also fully covered in a headscarf and reminded me of a sweet grandma. When she saw me in the hallway, she rushed up to me and took my hand, hugged me and kissed me three times. It was one of the most amazing, touching things I have ever experienced. It almost left me in tears. Friendly, open dialogue truly can make the difference. That is why this work is so important. (Everyday Unitarian, November 8)
The Rev. Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre, a guest preacher, gives an altar call at All Souls Unitarian in Tulsa.
Conversations about masculinity
Doug Muder comments on the bullying accusations concerning Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins.
The resemblance to the keep-it-in-the-family view of child abuse or domestic violence (in my opinion) is more than coincidental. Implicit in the criticism of Martin is the idea that there’s only one acceptable way to be a man, and being shy or non-confrontational is not part of it.
. . . . Hazing and bullying is often about group solidarity. And often the ultimate beneficiary of a solid group isn’t a team or teammate, or even the bully himself, it’s a boss or owner. (The Weekly Sift, November 11)
In his series of conversations about masculinity, Adam Dyer writes about the trauma of “culturally imposed skin hunger.”
[There] is one kind of trauma that men in America experience we should be exploring much more deeply. . . . Starvation by touch or what I would call culturally imposed skin hunger. By forbidding touch, particularly touch between males, men in our culture experience life in a world devoid of unconditional human contact. They are in essence ‘starving’ for physical contact and most of them don’t even realize it. (spirituwellness, November 13)
Expanding the Web
The Interdependent Web usually limits itself to explicitly Unitarian Universalist-identified bloggers. This week Jeffrey Lockwood, an entomologist, was featured in Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Dish. Lockwood was not identified as a UU, but he is a regular contributor to UU World and the UUA has published several of his books; here Lockwood describes a “creepy-crawly” encounter.
Grasshoppers boiled in every direction, ricocheting off my face and chest. Some latched on to my bare arms and a few tangled their spiny legs into my hair. Others began to crawl into my clothing—beneath my shorts, under my collar. They worked their way into the gaps between shirt buttons, pricking my chest, sliding down my sweaty torso. For the first time in my life as an entomologist, I panicked. (The Dish, November 13)