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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.

Canada, autumn, Ebola, and more UU writing

O Canada

The Rev. Bill Sinkford reacts to this week’s shooting in the Canadian Parliament.

I . . . heard the MP’s speak about yesterday’s attack and renew their commitment to preserve an open society. An open society? How long has it been since you could describe ours as an open society? . . .

At what sacrifice in personal privacy can safety from such attackers be purchased, if at all?

Is this the new normal, not just in Washington but throughout the world? (Rev. Sinkford’s Blog, October 23)

A season of letting go

Catherine Clarenbach writes about autumn as a season of relinquishment—and shares a personal story of grieving the loss of her father.

[Relinquishment] is not the same as giving up. Rather, we are making space as the leaf does, as the squash vine does, as the wind itself does. We can choose the manner of our relinquishments—not always, but sometimes. Sometimes we will resist with everything we have—denial, anger, bargaining—and sometimes it takes a while for our hands to stop trying to grasp so hard what is already gone. (The Way of the River, October 20)

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden celebrates the “sloppy wet kiss of here and now.”

Perhaps you
remember
from last year
those leaves,
that glow. Yet it
is here and only
here, this fall
only falls here. (Theopoetics, October 22)

Thoughts about Ebola

The Rev. Jude Geiger sees a common thread tying together ISIS, Ebola, and immigration.

I think the fear around ISIS (a Middle Eastern horror) and Ebola (a West African horror) and our Mexican border (where human beings are trying to work, migrate and find better homes for their children) is not about ISIS and Ebola, it’s about racism. We can’t argue against immigration reform with integrity, because most of us are descendants of immigrants from the past 100 years, so we need to come up with another way to keep Americans from trusting our neighbors from the South. (HuffPo Religion, October 21)

Doug Muder lists seven liberal lessons of Ebola, beginning with this:

Ebola points out why we need government. Libertarian rhetoric about sovereign individuals has a lot of superficial charm. But biology knows nothing about that; humanity is a species, and sometimes we have to act as a species. We do this through government. (The Weekly Sift, October 20)

Reading the Hebrew Scriptures

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg explores “the ways Christians have often appropriated Jewish scripture in a way that does not fully appreciate the ways that Jews understand their own texts in very differently.”

The conservative Christian tradition of my childhood taught me, when I read a passage in which a Gospel writer quoted a passage from the Hebrew prophets, that I should think, “Isn’t it amazing how that ancient prophecy predicted details about Jesus’ ministry?” But the more I explore the original context of the Hebrew prophets, the more I think that Isaiah would be dumbfounded by Matthew’s interpretation of his words.

So, how do we read the Bible more responsibly in light of this awareness? (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, October 23)

The Rev. Tamara Lebak discovers that Leviticus mentions the Golden Rule twice—once as “love your neighbor,” and once as “love the stranger.”

In lifting up both neighbor and stranger, Leviticus seems to be lifting up that you cannot simply stop the conversation with those like you and pushes us to think about how we have indeed been strangers ourselves. (Under the Collar in Oklahoma, October 22)

Congregational life

The Rev. Dan Harper’s congregation is experiencing an increase in attendance—with a resulting increase in conflict, and in demands for time, energy, and space.

If you are wishing for your congregation to grow, remember that growth injects stress into the institution. In the short term, it is much easier and more pleasant to stay the same size, even if it does mean chasing lots of newcomers away. Only a fool, or someone committed to making the utopian ideals of liberal religion accessible to all who want them, would seek congregational growth. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, October 19)

Harper also writes a series of posts about participating in UNCO 14 West (“an unconference for church leaders, pastors, families, and seminarians”). (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, October 20)

The Rev. Dawn Cooley considers ways to remove barriers to participation in UUA governance.

I believe that we need a robust Unitarian Universalist Association that can serve stakeholders that may or may not belong to a congregation. A UUA where all who meet certain “citizenship” requirements are able to participate, whether or not they are affiliated with a congregation. We have more free-range Unitarian Universalists than we do congregation members. Many of these folks were raised in our congregations. Might we want to allow them to have a say in the future of our faith tradition? (Speaking of, October 21)

The Rev. Adam Tierney Eliot writes about the rhythms of preaching—and the reality of dry spells.

For a good preaching ministry there must be a steady pattern of “study . . . preach . . . study again . . . preach again” that runs in the background seven days a week. When this stream is flowing steadily and well, worship is invested with the spirit and has spirit in the moment. If not, then the process is more like a person looking for the car key. There is a lot of wandering, swearing, self-doubt, and foolish relief at its final discovery. (The Burbania Posts, October 17)

Who are my people? and more UU commentary

Who are my people?

Kenny Wiley, who is both UU and black, wonders if his UU community cares more about remembering Selma than engaging in Ferguson.

Unitarian Universalists, you are my people. And UUs, my ‘other’ people—of which some of you are—need you. We need you to show up. We need you to listen and go beyond platitudes. Not everyone can travel hundreds of miles, but we can all do something—something beyond what we thought we could do. Oct. 22 is National Day Against Police Brutality, and several cities are hosting events.

The next call to action for racial justice has arrived. My people: Will we answer?

My people want to know. (A Full Day, October 15)

The Rev. Tom Schade explores the reasons why there has been no national UU call to Ferguson, and proposes more grassroots, local-driven engagement.

The tragedy is that each of those 59 congregations within 250 miles of Ferguson had some people who wanted to go Ferguson, but didn’t hear the invitation, or feel encouraged by their local congregational leaders and minister. And even more tragic, in each of those 59 communities and cities, there were many more people who wanted to go to Ferguson, but were not connected with anyone, any group, who could help them make that happen.

We need to get to the next stage. We don’t need to count how many UU’s turn out for events like Ferguson, or Raleigh, or New York, or Arizona. We need to start to count how many non-UU’s we bring with us. (The Lively Tradition, October 15)

The St. Louis-area UU congregations are organizing their responses through the St. Louis Standing on the Side of Love Facebook page.

Faithful relationships

In a widely-shared post, the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein responds to the news that the new president of Andover Newton Theological School admitted to a four-year affair.

I am first and foremost personally concerned about covenantal relationships –marriage being the most important one in this situation. It concerns me that my alma mater’s president should have violated the covenant of marriage for a long period of time, and that he and the board of trustees ask our forgiveness for that violation. (PeaceBang, October 4; published in modified form at The Narthex, October 6; quoted in the Boston Globe, October 12)

Liz James writes a searingly honest post about her own struggles with marital fidelity, and concludes that relationships need better tools and supports.

If we care about these stories, if we truly see pain and harm caused by this pattern, and we want to prevent it, we will not frame this conversation solely in terms of what this guy did wrong (not that there isn’t a place for this conversation, but that place sure isn’t my blog). We will ask what better support and context we can provide people as a community to support them in building relationships that are loving, sustainable, honest, and rewarding. We will talk real stories and real life.

Because this matters WAY too much to waste time getting judgemental when we could be getting creative and wise. (Rebel With a Label Maker, October 16)

The stories of our lives

Recovering from a migraine, the Rev. Cynthia Cain boards an airplane, and her seatmate’s drunkenness triggers memories of family dysfunction; after her first feelings of anger, she finds her way to compassion.

I looked at Mr. Reeking of Alcohol, and his one eye was completely bloodshot, and I felt so much sadness and compassion for him. I knew that like some people very close to me he was trapped in a place he could not get out of and didn’t need my scorn and anger.

So when he suggested I relax, instead of launching into aforementioned rant, I smiled at him.

“I’m trying, bro.” I said. (A Jersey Girl in Kentucky, October 14)

Karen Johnston urges a mourner to “forget pious blessing chatter.”

Forget pious blessing chatter.
The nice-nice that assures polite company
the world still spins properly.

It doesn’t.
It’s off kilter.
Your son is gone.
All is not right
in the world. (irrevspeckay, October 15)

The problem of oversimplification

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum pushes back against oversimplification in how schools react to students’ infractions.

We need to, as a society, rethink “zero tolerance” and “three strikes” laws. We need to rethink them when it comes to our prisons, but we also need to rethink them when it comes to our schools, and we need to stop treating children like criminals. We need to give the schools the ability to look at the situation and look at the individual child, to think about what’s best for the school and what’s best for the child.

In liberal religion, we often talk about how much we value education. It’s time for us to recognize that this is a major way in which some children are not getting the same access to education that others are, and work to make a change. (The Lively Tradition, October 14)

Doug Muder writes that the real problem with Sam Harris and Bill Maher, and their comments about Islam, is “Orientalism,” fencing off a group of people, and then presuming to be an expert about their lives.

The reason to pause before you criticize Islam or religion isn’t that these topics are or should be surrounded by some special aura of protection. It’s that there’s really no such thing as Islam or religion, at least not in the sense that most critics would like to assume. (The Weekly Sift, October 13)

Holy ordinary, all in this together, a side of racism, and more

Holy ordinary

For the Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss and her wife, living with a progressive illness is like living in the shadow of a volcano.

When I wrote fondly last week about my joy at playing house, did I mention that it sits on a volcano? Like all volcanoes, this one troubles and frightens in various ways, but not all the time, and not in any pattern. Maybe it’s more like living near several volcanoes, each with its own separate pattern. You might have seen one of those documentaries about the various Iceland volcanoes. One blows straight up in the air, one kind of seeps, another threatens to spew forth enough heat to bury the nearby towns and farms with mud from rapid melting of its usually beautiful glacier. . . .

The name of our volcano is Huntington’s Disease. It lives in my wife like a parasite, often resting, but always on the lookout for some way to kidnap her body and turn it against us. (Politywonk, September 20)

The Rev. Robin Tanner and her partner have a covenant that has helped them through the first stages of new parenthood.

If things got tough . . . and one of us was short-tempered with the other one, or said something unkind, then we would apologize, forgive and MOVE ON. . . .

In that first 48 hours home when the twins cried again within 30 minutes of their last feeding and my beloved slept peacefully through it, I said something best not put into print. The next morning as we huddled over our coffee I looked up and said, “I am sorry for what I said.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” she responded. (Piedmont Preacher, September 22)

All in this together

Claire Curole reports from the People’s Climate March in New York City, where she was unable to join the main group of UUs due to a traffic jam.

I would have liked to be part of the interfaith block, gathered with the other UU’s. I know that some folks from our bus did get there – I saw the pictures later. But what did happen was also delightful and very appropriate – we are everywhere, threading our way through all kinds of things, making connections in unexpected places to work for the greater common good.

Which was, after all, the core message of the Climate March.

We are indeed all in this together. (The Sandhill Diary, September 23)

Hindu UU Ricky Cintron struggles with the Hindu community’s reaction to violent hate crimes.

I do not want your apathetic philosophical diatribes about how I don’t need to march in a pride parade. I do not want your lectures with quotes from scriptures and purports about how sex and gender are material characteristics. . . . What I want, what I need, what my community needs is your compassion and your commitment. What we want to hear is, “I’m sorry this is happening to you and I will do whatever I can to support you, because we are all equal in God’s eyes.” (Jñana-Dipena, September 25)

The Rev. Susan Maginn wonders about what to do with privilege after Ferguson.

It seems a disturbing truth that caring people of privilege like to save non-privileged people. We like the feeling of doing good in the world. We like to be the hero. There could be worse flaws. But here’s what we need to learn: when we put on our shiny superhero costume, we can do real harm. We can disempower people and do so sadly in the name of empowerment. . . .

We need to humbly stay on the sidelines this time, but that does not mean that we need to be ashamed of our privilege and our ignorance and disappear. There is a role for those of us who are privileged, but it is not a starring role. We work hard behind the scenes, not on the stage. We remain in the wings so that those voices with far more wisdom and far less power can be heard loud and clear. (Quest for Meaning, September 23)

Margaret Sequeira grew up in a family that disparaged “welfare queens;” now that she’s known her share of financial stress, she encourages us to ban the word “lazy.”

We must stop judging people by the size of their bank accounts, or lack thereof. We must stop assuming that if you are struggling financially you are more likely to commit crime or try to rip someone off. Shaming people never gets them motivated to do better. Shaming people makes sure they hide even deeper in their shell, keeping their head down and just doing their very best to get through from day to day. Shame strips hope, strips dream, strips motivation. All our punishing of the poor only drives people deeper into despair, deeper into hopelessness and deeper into poverty. (Scattered Revelations, September 23)

The Rev. Tom Schade passes along Tom Hayden’s thoughts on why social movements seem ineffective. (The Lively Tradition, September 21)

A side of racism

When her family is treated differently by a restaurant hostess than the African-American man in line behind her, the Rev. Megan Lloyd Joyner wonders how to respond.

We debated leaving. We debated saying something. But I didn’t know what to say, and I am not sure yet what I would have or should have said. I regret, though, not saying something.

I wonder how many people have received a similar unwelcoming “welcome” on a Sunday morning at church. No matter how hospitable we may want to be, it is quite possible that we may greet visitors and long-time members alike with unintentional micro-aggressions. (Quest for Meaning, September 22)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern misreads a bumper sticker—”IMAM AZIZ MUHAMMAD HIGH SCHOOL. Home of the Jihadis.” Click here to find out what it really said! (Sermons in Stones, September 22)

Uses of power

The Rev. Meg Riley finds her thoughts focused on “the use of power by authority figures, and how that leads to trust or to brokenness.”

Authority figures have a choice—trust people and set reasonable limits to make the world work for everyone, or create a world of fear and rules and punishment. A TSA world. A world where everyone, known or unknown, is not to be trusted and every student is secretly wanting to wield a weapon. (HuffPo Religion, September 23)

The Rev. Dan Harper revisits “the mess at Starr King,” specifically looking at the ethics of securing electronic communications, the training of new ministers, and the future of Starr King.

[F]rom an ethical standpoint, the SKSM leadership should accept blame for the release of sensitive information, and they should publicly apologize to all three candidates for the SKSM presidency, staff, students, and anyone else affected by the poor security protocols.

. . . . If SKSM leadership works hard at it, my guess is that this mess will take two to five years to clean up—if it is addressed openly and non-defensively, and right now there’s not much evidence of openness or non-defensiveness at SKSM. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, September 25)