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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.

Facebook friendships, sexuality, Starr King, and more

Strategic Facebook friendships

The Rev. Meg Riley chooses to stay connected with difficult Facebook friends, and to remain kind and curious, even when she disagrees with someone.

Like it or not, Facebook is now a significant displacer of the corner diner, the water cooler, the bridge club, the hair salon, the barber shop, the potluck supper—whatever your image is for where ‘the people’ engage in the personal conversations that shape culture. I know that people use it in a variety of ways and you may only want to watch cat videos or talk to people whose opinions you share, but, for me, it’s a resource too precious to waste by cutting engaged people out of the conversation, regardless of the perspectives they bring. (Quest for Meaning, February 9)

Unafraid of a changing future

The Rev. Christian Schmidt is tired of people saying he should be afraid of changes faced by religious communities.

I’m not afraid even as I try to provide for a growing family (we welcomed our second child last month!), I’m not afraid as we drag around a whole bunch of student loans that we’re making little progress towards paying off. If I was afraid, I wouldn’t be doing ministry, that’s for sure: This is not for the faint of heart. . . .

And even if I was tempted, those people coming in the door each Sunday would keep me right here. We need these communities, with their buildings that are falling apart, with their financial structures so often inefficient, with ministers who have been trained in all the wrong things, who are aching to devote their entire lives to these communities. (A Free Faith, February 12)

Blogging #sexUUality

A group of UU bloggers are working together this week to blog about sexuality, using the hashtag #sexUUality.

Jordinn Nelson Long writes about what she and her husband learned when they narrowly avoided divorce.

[What] has saved us is our sex life.

Yep. I just said that.

What has saved us, in fact, is treating our sex life like a spiritual practice. (Raising Faith, February 7)

Liz James tells the story of her complicated family, “a beautiful mess of things that cannot be unloved.”

There’s not just the one paradigm of marriage that we all sign up for. There are so many kinds of love, so many shapes beyond our traditional ideas. I know this on a deep level. For the same reason so many of you know it. Because I’ve had the experience of falling back into the leaves, through the dusty surface layer. I have had that moment of realizing that I am not the right shape. Of being stuck standing on the wrong side of love. (Rebel with a Labelmaker, February 9)

Liz James also hosts a guest post from a minister who writes anonymously—and frankly.

Here’s what my husband and I know better every day: the most powerful sexual organ is the brain. The most powerful aphrodisiac is communication: being listened to, being seen, being heard. Our sex life was accidentally jump-started when we hit a wall — when we got to the point where we just couldn’t overlook how emotionally distant we were. (Rebel with a Labelmaker, February 11)

Karen Johnston acknowledges that training to be a minister forces her to speak in generalities about sexuality, rather than speaking specifically about her own life—so she shares three truths.

The truth is, we have bodies—all of us: free-range Unitarian Universalists, congregants, seminarians, ministers—all of us.

The truth is, we desire to do right by each other, which we call a sacred covenant, and this is not sequestered just to healthy communications in committee meetings. This means in our intimate lives, however we consensually enact and embody them.

The truth is, we are called to be awake and one of the places we, as a culture, would rather be “asleep” (=denial, confusion, shame, etc.) is sex. (irrevspeckay, February 7)

The music of her teenage years pushed Diana McLean to believe in “happily ever after.”

It took me a long time to figure out that there are other ways to define happily ever after. That I might not only survive being single (which I would once have called “alone”) but actually thrive on my own. And even after I figured that out, I’ve still had to contend with the cultural norm that says partnered is better than single. (Poetic Justice, February 8)

The Rev. Lynn Ungar asks, “Is sex necessary?”

Any marriage gets to define its own fidelities, and it is possible that sexual intimacy or even sexual monogamy is not the only definition of being faithful. But if it isn’t, there had better be something important and intimate and caring to which the partners are committed, and which they can hold to and depend on day in and day out, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. (Quest for Meaning, February 11)

Starr King moves on

There have been a variety of responses to this week’s news that Starr King School for the Ministry is attempting to “close a sad chapter” of conflict. (See UU World‘s coverage, “Starr King belatedly grants degrees to two students.”)

Adam Dyer shares a song he wrote a few years ago for SKSM, when he was a student body president.

Let’s move on
To somewhere we are healed
Somewhere we can meet each other face to face
Let’s move on to somewhere brighter. (spirituwellness, February 11)

Edith Love, one of the students involved in the “Strapped Student” email, writes a guest post about her experience.

When all this began, I considered the release of the information as whistle-blowing. In hindsight, while I maintain a healthy critique of the process and my school, I can see how we could have made other choices. I wish I had been braver, and spoken out publicly about my concerns then, as I am doing today. (The Lively Tradition, February 12)

Kim Hampton isn’t ready to forgive and forget.

When the leaked information was leaked, it was done with a specific purpose; to imply that the chosen candidate, Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, was less qualified to become President of Starr King and was picked in spite of all available evidence. This was done with malice and forethought. (East of Midnight, February 12)

Celebrating the good, debating political correctness, and more

Celebrating the good

Unitarian Universalists tend to be reflexively self-critical; this week UUs celebrate the good things we do.

John Beckett, a UU Pagan, applies a lesson he’s learned from UUs to a conflict happening within the Pagan community.

I encourage our most ardent atheists and our most pious polytheists to talk about what they do, what they believe, and why. I encourage them to explain their assumptions, their experiences, and their interpretations. But I encourage them to do so in ways that are honest and respectful and perhaps even friendly.

It’s a good idea this polytheist learned from the Unitarian Universalists. (Under the Ancient Oaks, February 1)

In an era when people increasingly find church irrelevant, Andrew Hidas tells the story of his congregation making a difference in one person’s life—a formerly homeless jazz musician whose concert the church hosted.

“Thanks, friends, on behalf of Vinnie,” our minister had written on our church’s listserv. “Vinnie is a talented musician, but not a talented planner, so we could use a number of volunteers to make sure that the event is a success . . . This event is going to be one of the highlights of his entire life. Really.” (Traversing, February 1)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern thinks too many of us hide the light of Unitarian Universalism under a bushel.

Too many of us, which is why I don’t give in to the temptation to lie about my profession on airplanes, but tell those who ask that I’m a Unitarian Universalist minister. And when they start witnessing to me about their faith, which happens as often as their saying “I’m spiritual but not religious,” I tell them about us: that my congregation welcomes humanists and atheists (including me) as well as theists and Christians, that we encourage people to follow their own spiritual impulses in community, that we see the Bible as a document created by and for humans, that science and our observations of nature are one of the sources of our tradition, and of course, that we unreservedly affirm LGBTQ people (again including me). (Sermons in Stones, February 4)

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden responds to David Brooks of The New York Times, whose recent column suggested that secularists have build their ethics and beliefs from scratch, and on their own.

I am the senior minister of a congregation that has been Humanist for ninety-nine years. (That’s almost a century!) That’s a bit of time to have developed some community, morality, and motivation. All without reference to any gods or supernatural woo-woo. It’s not all that new after all, unless you see Claude Monet is the hottest new trend. (Quest for Meaning, February 5)

Debating political correctness

Doug Muder reviews responses to an article by Jonathan Chait about political correctness, before adding his own perspective.

When you belong to a powerful group—say, men or whites or straights or something similarly normative in our culture—you can take for granted that nearly everyone you run into has a general appreciation of your point of view and knows better than to piss you off in obvious ways. Members of marginalized groups can’t assume that. They’re constantly being jostled or hassled or put on the spot; occasionally by haters, but more often by ordinary folks who can’t be bothered to think too hard about them. PC is the attempt to raise the overall level of consideration to the level that powerful groups take for granted. (The Weekly Sift, February 2)

Personal stories

Liz James participates in Eating Disorder Awareness Week, sharing strong words of advice from her own experience.

When I was 19, I read The Beauty Myth, and I took it to heart. I decided to fight back, to limit my exposure to media containing those photoshopped cookie cutter perfect bodies. To spend my time and energy looking at real people, connecting with them. I went on a low bullshit diet. None of those stupid women’s magazines, none of those TV shows, very few movies. It took discipline, but not nearly the discipline that bulimia does. . . .

Be as strict with what you let into your eyes as you would be with what you let into your mouth. Reject that way of thinking about your body, and any images that feed it. Go on a strict no-bullshit diet for six months. Or forever. (Rebel With a Labelmaker, February 5)

Theresa Ines Soto responds to ableist language.

Your words are one of the tools at your disposal to make justice.

It is not appropriate for you to use someone else’s condition as a metaphor for your own purposes.

All of the metaphors that we use have the possibility of creating more love and more liberation in the world. When we use metaphors of the bodies of others to say that the conditions they have signify inferiority and weakness, we have both transgressed the boundary of the body of another and have also used our words to devalue their physical home and lived experience. (Theresa Loves You, February 4)

When her father shows up in her dreams, Tina Porter has learned to pay attention.

Why in the world would my dad be in Shell Cottage when there is absolutely nothing connecting him to the Harry Potter world (I don’t think he even watched any of the movies with my daughters on any of his visits). It makes no sense at all except in my head, where I’m putting my father and his wisdom in the bedrooms in Shell Cottage which is where Harry gets the information he needs to finish off Voldemort. (Ugly Pies, February 4)

Ask a seminarian

A group of UU seminarians participated in an “Ask Us Anything” discussion this week.

There’s a statistic floating around that there are twice as many ministers entering fellowship every year as their are open parish positions; the exact validity of that is questionable, but many of us will, by necessity, be faithing entrepreneurs. I am called, I believe, to be one of those who embraces this changing reality early and well. (Reddit, February 3)

Jordinn Nelson Long writes about how becoming a seminarian has changed her blogging.

There are things you give up on this journey, and no edits, no take-backs, write-what-you-feel is among the first.

And it should be. Do you want a minister who says, in print, whatever enters her mind at any given moment? As a representative of your congregation? As a representative of Unitarian Universalism, or of people of faith, generally?

Of course you don’t. And so, there are tradeoffs. You learn, in short, to govern yourself. (Raising Faith, February 3)

Remembering the Holocaust, conversations about #BlackLivesMatter, and more

Remembering the Holocaust

Marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, Patrick Murfin recounts the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet army.

Coming in the midst of the Yalta Conference and other war news, the liberation received scant news attention at the time. And the Soviets, who were at best ambivalent at the highest levels about what to do with the liberated Jews, did little to publicly celebrate their role in the liberation, at least at first.

It was only after survivors reached the West and eventually Israel as refugees, that Auschwitz emerged as a special, horrific symbol of the whole Holocaust. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, January 27)

Black lives matter

The Church of the Larger Fellowship hosts a video conversation about #BlackLivesMatter.


Alex Kapitan asks liberal religious white people to stop using #AllLivesMatter.

It is a deeply spiritual thing to say that despite hundreds of cultural messages every day that teach me a black life is worth less than my white life, despite the actions and impacts of the criminal-legal system on black people, despite extreme disparities in a thousand markers of well-being amongst black communities, despite all this and more—Black Lives Matter. Affirming this truth is one important step toward the day in which we can live the truth that all lives matter—and that we are all different, yet all one. (roots grow the tree, January 25)

Kim Hampton also pushes back against pressure to replace #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter.

The killing of unarmed civilians by agents of the state is always tragic. However, let’s be real; if this were happening in any white community every 28 hours on average, there is no way that white people would let racial minorities co-opt their movement by saying—in essence—“Yeah, it’s a shame what’s happening to you, but that’s not as important as these cases where it happened to us too.” I might have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night. (East of Midnight, January 28)

Life is complicated

John Beckett rants about our tendency to want simple answers.

And since this is a religious blog, let’s not forget how Christianity is a religion of oppression, unless it’s a religion of love. Islam is a religion of terrorism, unless it’s a religion of peace. Or perhaps Christopher Hitchens was right and “religion poisons everything.”

Simple. Black and white. Good and evil. Just one thing.

Complete and utter bullshit.

The science of life is complicated and the living of life is even more so. (Under the Ancient Oaks, January 25)

Doug Muder investigates the simplistic claim—made by religious fundamentalists and New Atheists—that there is no such thing as liberal Islam.

Plenty of Americans—many of whom are anything but ignorant of the scriptures of their traditions—are liberal Christians or liberal Jews, so it’s not hard to find defenses of the liberal versions of those faiths. But the idea that there is no authentic liberal Islam is fairly widespread in this country.

As a result, while almost everyone acknowledges that some Christians or Jews take their religiosity to crazy extremes, craziness and extremism are often attributed to Islam itself. (The Weekly Sift, January 26)

A place in the web

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden denies that humanists promote individualism.

We are all in this together. That’s the wisdom of humanism. We are all in this together because our littleness is huge. Because we [are] primates trying to do better. Because we are on a planet that is like “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” And our hope is for a global civilization “in which love is pretty much the only law.” (Quest for Meaning, January 29)

The Rev. Scott Wells asks, “Is there a place for poor Unitarian Universalists?”

I don’t mean one, or two, or a small handful of poor people within a congregation of prosperous people, but a vital presence of Unitarian Universalists in a particularly poor community, or coming out of the experience and responding to the poor people in a mixed community. (Boy in the Bands, January 24)

Honest disbelief

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg encourages us to follow the example of “honest heretic” Joseph Priestley.

When faced with secondhand information that we discover to be untrue, may we listen to the still small voice of our conscience and be honest to what we know is true in the crucible of our own firsthand experience.

May the “honest heretics” among our ancestors inspire the legacy that we shall leave to future generations.

May we may choose for ourselves with integrity and authenticity. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, January 28)

For the Rev. James Ford, the line between material and spiritual is a blurry one.

Anything that appears in the world is subject to . . . testing. Everything.

Also all the “truths” we find through this process are provisional, subject to change with more information.

Actually, everything is provisional. And something else. Something very important to notice. Everything is in motion, changing with every encounter in smaller and larger ways. This includes you and me.

So, a question. Should this perspective be called material or spiritual? (Monkey Mind, January 27)

Sing out loud

The Rev. Dan Harper acknowledges that most people don’t sing in church anymore, and celebrates the quality of singing in the congregation he serves.

[C]ongregational singing does not need spectators, over-professionalism, blare, or crappy songs. Congregational singing can aim towards joy, towards ecstatic union with the universe through song. Congregational singing can be — should be — cynical kids belting out a favorite hymn at the tops of their voices, completely lost in the moment. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, January 28)

The Rev. Dawn Cooley brags, just a bit, about the congregation she serves, sharing three videos they made about thriving during her sabbatical. (Speaking of, January 27)