I plan to blog regularly about modern UU history and our public theologies. I believe that we in a changing social and political situation and that our thinking about the world around us is dangerously outdated. I believe that UUs are internally focused, anxious, and timid.
I want to build up a collaborative conversation about these issues. I welcome your comments, and will respond to them as they pique my interest. (The Lively Tradition, February 15)
How do you talk about the “good news” of a 15-year-old’s life when the only reason she is dead is because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time? How do you talk about the fact that, more than likely, she was shot to death by someone who was near to her in age? How do you talk about the fact that this is an all-too frequent occurrence in urban America? How do you talk about the fact that there are millions of parents, siblings, other relatives, and friends who pray every time their partner/child/sibling/relative/friend walks out the door that they will come back unharmed? (east of midnight, February 9)
I am not who I used to be in so many ways. As a teen I was deeply depressed—to the point of having suicidal ideation. I was miserable and could not imagine ever being happy, so why live? I’ve changed every cell in my body about seven times since that dark period. I’m grateful for having left the cells with those morose thoughts far behind. (Pullman Memorial Pastor’s Blog, February 11)
She died when she was just 64. I will be 64 in a few months. I now know how much too soon her death was.
Love between parents and children is a complicated thing. It can be hard, and there can be seasons in which it seems to lie fallow. The changes we go through can make it seem like we are visitors from other planets.
Try harder, friends. Try harder than I did. (The Lively Tradition, February 12)
I have spoken to so many people in our congregation who are seeking a deeper spirituality. And though we may crave an experience of wonder and awe during our worship services, it is also what we bring into that space which creates the spiritual experience…and so we must work to discipline ourselves, rather than to come empty-handed, expectant of the feast. This is the work of our gatherings—and our commitments in between. (Walking the Journey, February 13)
It transcends just being a minority. I am the sole representative—the only white male they see during their hours at our program. So I am not just a fellow with a rarely-seen skin tone; I represent white society. I carry all the stereotypes, culture, and history of millions of people. It’s a strange burden. (I Am a UU Occupier, February 8)
Linda Laskowski’s fourth post about the January meeting of the UUA Board of Trustees addresses “Why the UUA exists.”
A significant shift in the Board’s thinking about the Association’s outcomes (“ends”) was in focusing on the value added by the Association, not the differences made by its member congregations. (UUA View from Berkeley, January 9)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum’s posts about guns continue with a sermon that’s “probably the longest sermon I’ve ever preached, and it’s way too long for a blog post, but I’m posting it all as one anyway.”
I think I’ve never given a sermon that was as controversial in this church as the one I’m about to give today. I hope it will be received with love and understanding knowing that my goal here today is to build bridges between us so that we might further the dialogue on this issue. We come together here with many different viewpoints, but as one covenanted community, dedicated to coming together in our diversity and worshiping together, and dedicated to love and justice. (Rev. Cyn, February 13)
The Rev. Kit Ketcham found herself stepping into a gap at the new fellowship where she has been worshiping after her retirement from active ministry.
It made me think. It made me wonder how long I was going to try to suppress the ministry seed, because it was clear from that moment on that it wasn’t dormant any longer. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, February 12)
Sadly, the naming of this phenomenon the “Ikea effect” will normalize the consumer relationship with boxed furniture, rather than reminding us that there are even greater rewards available in true craftsmanship, in which a solo craftsman has built something useful, beautiful and real from his or her OWN creative inclinations and skill. (Wisdom of the Hands, February 7)
Our true religion in America is the one that says that success in any venture is possible if you have enough optimism and marketing savvy. If you fail, therefore, it can only mean you did not have enough of one or the other. That is why you find so many blogs by writers speaking with tremendous enthusiasm about novels that have, in reality, sold about 20 copies. (Author Laura Lee, February 7)
Claiming popular music
David G. Markham points to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” asking “Madonna sings that life is a mystery and when people speak to us and we hear their voice sometimes it is like an angel sighing. Have you ever had that experience?” (UU A Way of Life, February 4)
The Rev. Lynn Ungar’s 14-year-old daughter was “aglow” after watching Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance, and asked Ungar to watch it online.
There the singer was onstage at the biggest homage to testosterone in the nation. She was up there with her all-female band and women dancers and the gal with flames shooting out of her guitar, having, as far as anyone could tell, the time of her life. Yes, she was powerful, receiving the homage of all those roaring fans, all those hands reaching out to her. And yes, she couldn’t have been more obviously, writhingly sexual. Which was, at moments, a bit jaw-dropping as something to watch with my teenage daughter. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder what exactly there is to object to about her hip-swinging, hair-flinging sexiness. (Quest for Meaning, February 6)
When I got married nearly twenty years ago, I . . . didn’t realize how uncomfortable my new name would be until I took it. My primary regret, however, is that I didn’t set a different example for my kids. I think it’s important they understand that the tradition of marriage originated as a means of trading in women. Love, and eventually partnership, came in time. These things have changed marriage and should change its tenets accordingly. Consequently, I hope my kids will see the traditions around marriage as in flux and subject to their invention. (small house, big picture, February 4)
Our introversion isn’t something to be fixed. It’s a good part of who we are, and for that, no apologies are needed. By respecting our needs (yet still meeting our commitments), we’re learning important lessons in self-regulation. I’ve often told my kids to recognize that rising feeling of discomfort that can occur when one is overloaded with the sound and fury of an extroverted world. I’ve encouraged them to listen to their bodies and brains and to plan for time for solitude around points that demand being in a crowd. (Quarks and Quirks, February 4)
Even when I think I don’t have time I know that doing at least 10 minutes of mediation practice, writing 3 pages, and exercising for 20 minutes changes my entire day. I’m not exactly sure why it works? I just know it does. (Jacqueline Wolven, February 2)
Having spent most of its institutional history (1968 to 2008) in a culture where all forms of liberalism were actively demonized, mocked, and vilified, Unitarian Universalism is paralyzed in a defensive crouch. (The Lively Tradition, February 7)
I have come to believe that antiquated polity is the greatest danger to ourselves and to what we care about. . . .There’s a role for history, there’s a role for debate. But Tom has achieved the fundamental first step: he has pointed out we stand at a moment of existential crisis, and asked us where we want to go from here. (Politywonk, February 7)
Melody Platz looks at the recent arrest of George Clooney in a protest at the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C., and asks “How far would I go to support a desperate cause? How far would you go?” (Melody Platz, March 16)
A lot of my time was spent making the rounds of friends, fellow workers in the IWW, and others who I had collaborated with in various radical episodes. I guess when I started out on this, I imagined that I would be lionized as a brave martyr to the revolution. I imagined that going to prison would punch my ticket as a revolutionary. After all hadn’t all of the great ones done time in the slammer and come out stronger and more committed? I was sadly disillusioned to learn that almost no one else shared this view. Most of them knew me too well to detect anything heroic about me. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, March 19)
I am outraged by them all. Every single cause (along with many more I haven’t listed) is worthwhile, needing support, focus, attention. But I have reached the bottom of my personal well of outrage. . . . However, I can pick one, and run with it. The one issue that I’ve been carrying a torch for since I was a teen is the cause of women. And it is this torch that I need to focus on. . . .
So please, I ask you, you who are outraged by the things I listed at the top of the page but may not have the energy to take up the cause of women, it’s okay. And please understand if I can’t engage in your outrage, as I’m too busy engaging in my own. Between us, we will share the burden and together, on many fronts, we WILL turn the tide. (Notes from the Far Fringe, March 19)
The Rev. Terasa Cooley begins a series of blog posts on the subject of covenant.
I heard a lovely sermon yesterday delivered by my colleague Sarah Lammert, who asked us to think of covenant as being a spiritual obligation to anyone around us, not only “our” people. Indeed, how would that shape our sense of covenant if we understood it not necessarily to be that which is agreed upon by a community or between two people, but a way of being in the world? (Learn Out Loud, March 19)
One point I had missed in thinking about this passage until recently is that the ancients thought of “the wilderness” in exactly the opposite fashion to we moderns—for them, the wilderness was where to go to face demons, not to escape them. For the ancients, the cities were places of light and reason; the wilderness places of darkness and chaos. In going to the wilderness, Jesus was not heading out to commune with nature, but rather to do exactly as he does—to face down darkness and terror. (Make No Peace with Oppression, March 19)
Jeremiah 31:31-34 . . . Every day we can learn something new about how to live faithfully. Some days we might even have the opportunity to learn many new things. Those can be both exhilarating and humbling days, depending on how we approach learning. If our identity is being learned already, if we’re attached to knowing what’s what and what’s up, then we will have, along with our serving of learning a nice dish of humble pie. At least, that’s been my experience. (City of Refuge, March 19)
If there is a secret, I think it is filtering. The amount of really high quality content will always be very slim. What we will rely on more and more are people who filter content for us to find the good stuff. Before electronic media came along, there were far more books published, movies to see, concerts to attend and magazines printed that we could consume. What we will be looking for are people who know quality and can pick it out for us and save us the effort. (Rev. Sam Trumbore, March 21)
Having learned to take pencils, journals, books, and art supplies into my prayer time, perhaps it was inevitable that I started taking my phone. That might seem off-putting to some, but a smart phone is, after all just a tool, as a pen and paper or a printed book might be. All tools take getting used to, and none work for everybody, but I’m certainly not going to put a limit on what tools God can use to get through to me! I encourage you to try some of these suggestions and see if they work for you. Even if the old ways feel better to you, those of us who advise that younger generation should keep them in mind. (iMinister, March 19)
Religion is concerned with one fundamental fact of life: there are things that are within our power to do or create, and there are other things beyond our power or preferences. The traditional Christian terms for these are “works” and “grace.”
In dealing with this fact of life, a religion must also take account of the fact that we experience both an outer life and an inner life. Our outer life is concrete, physical, and social. Our inner life is ephemeral, emotional, and solitary. In both our outer life and our inner life, there are things within our power and things beyond our power or preferences. And so taken together, these two polarities of grace and works on the one hand, and inner and outer experience on the other, define the fields of what religion needs to address. (Reflections, March 18)
David G. Markham is looking at UU congregations through the “sociobiological systems” set out by James Griffith in Religion That Heals, Religion That Harms: A Guide For Clinical Practice.
People join church organizations because they want to “belong.” They want to be part of a group. They want to join and become a member of a herd because there is safety in numbers and becoming a member of a group provides a feeling of safety. . . . This boundary between us/them appears to promote a sense of peer affiliation and engagement by the individual with the group and vice versa. Unitarian Universalism, being a very inclusive organization, often does not have clear boundaries because it welcomes all comers from various religious traditions or none and thus presents itself as a very amorphous, ambiguous entity. (UU A Way of Life, March 19)
“Lizard Eater” shares photos of the custom boots with flaming chalices her husband gave her upon graduation from seminary.
[The chalice means] something to me, perhaps due in part to being a parent who has raised my children as Unitarian Universalists. In our small congregation, it was a rite of passage when they were old enough to go forward and light the chalice. They’ve been taught the story of Hans Deutsch, the artist who created the original picture, and pushed into the frame of our front door is a chalice pin. It was, honestly, one of the first words Little Wren learned. I’d have her in my arms, fumbling for the keys, and she’d lean forward, touching it with her tiny finger. “Cha-ice,” she would say. It was a touchstone; it meant that she was home. (“The Journey,” March 21)
There are times when I come to realize that there is not enough apology in the world to heal a wound.
That’s when I arrive at the entrance of forgiveness. (Pondering on the Path, March 16, continued on March 18)
With a concrete vision to work towards, our congregations are almost unstoppable. The construction or renovation of a building is an incredibly complex process (I know what I’m talking about here). But the vision of a renovated facility can be galvanizing and motivating. Boards, committees, and task forces come together to share decision-making, raise money, coordinate with multiple stakeholders (including the local community), COMPROMISE!, and get the job done. I can’t help but wonder what we could accomplish if our congregational mission statements were as concrete as our construction plans. (Ministry in Steel Toe Shoes, March 17)
Or, is the church for the world? Are we about love freely given? Unconditionally? Are we about healing those who hurt? Are we about radical hospitality? Are we about facing our own demons and pushing through that even when it is hard and soul wrenching because the world needs us? Are we about getting over ourselves? (Elizabeth’s Little Blog, March 18)
There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your child’s honorable military service. What I find interesting, though, is the implied opposition between military service and academic success. (debitage, March 20)