The Rev. Dawn Cooley makes a provocative statement about the relationship between Unitarian Universalism and Christianity.
Unitarian Universalism may or may not be a Christian denomination, depending on who you ask. But we are a part of Christendom, because we have not disassociated ourselves from Christianity. Nor should we—it is an important part of where we come from and who we are today, and, I suspect, an important part of where we are going. (The Lively Tradition, July 30)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden suggests that UUs not worry about reinventing Christianity, but rather focus on being a big tent, in which each congregation, and each individual “brews” their own faith.
[Mainstream] Christian denominations are scrambling to survive. I don’t doubt that they will do a fine job of brewing the new Christianity. A much better job than can Unitarian Universalism, except in very specific locations and boutiques. . . . I think the future of Unitarian Universalism lies in micro-breweries. Boutique congregations, each with a recipe of their own. (Quest for Meaning, July 31)
Here’s my dilemma about the concept of grace: . . . . if grace is the gift we did not earn and do not deserve, wouldn’t that, in essence, make us all more tender-hearted toward those in need of that unearned gift?
. . . . I’ll ask in another way: is it possible to follow Jesus, claim him as your Savior, and then be hard-hearted to those who not only don’t have bootstraps but wouldn’t know how to wear a boot if it was handed to them? (Long Thoughts, July 31)
Co-existing with fundamentalist religion
Responding to Operation Save America’s harassment of a UU congregation in New Orleans, the Rev. Tom Schade wonders how progressive and fundamentalist religions can exist together in the same community.
Can the Tolerant and the Intolerant Co-exist?
Yes, but only if the Tolerant have the power to preserve the structural arrangements which protect them.
It is a question, ultimately, of power. (The Lively Tradition, July 29)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum believes that the Operation Save America incident was, indeed, “religious terrorism.”
Terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” . . . . This act in Louisiana didn’t include violence. So why is it terrorism? Because it’s done by a terrorist group that has included violence in the past. (The Lively Tradition, July 30)
Thank you, Margot Adler
Thalassa expresses her gratitude for the work of Margot Adler, who died this past week.
Margot Adler was my impetus to take the idea of being Pagan seriously. Not just to take myself seriously, but to demand (nicely, of course) that I should expect my religious beliefs to be taken seriously, regardless of how unorthodox they might seem to others.
Margot Adler is the reason that I never thought that I had to live “in the broom closet.” (Musings of a Kitchen Witch, July 29)
Despite her status as a priestess, Adler never considered herself as a witch or had a particular interest in magic. “Most people, when they think of witches and witchcraft, think of power and magical abilities,” she told a reporter three years ago. “I’m not a particularly occult-oriented person. I’m not into astrology. I’ve never felt I had magical abilities.” Instead, Adler focused on the power of ritual to connect a community and on the spiritual connection to the whole natural world. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, July 29)
This world’s hell
When NFL player Ray Rice gets off easy after committing domestic violence, Colleen Thoele can’t keep silent.
Do you know how hard it is to try and help a person feel safe and take steps to walk free from violence when we know that our system sets her up to fail and is complicit in making her life more dangerous than if she never left the abuse in the first place? (Adventures of the Family Pants, July 30)
After the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory told Kim Hampton that she had a paranoia-persecution complex, she consulted a friend who works as a psychologist for the Indianapolis Police Department.
[She] said, “They told you you were paranoid, didn’t they?” I said yes. She then told me, “Don’t worry about it. It’s because you’re black.” She then went on to tell me that, without fail, every black person who takes the test as part of the entrance to the IPD academy comes out as paranoid. The funny part of the conversation came a little later when she said, “Of course you’re paranoid. You’ve been followed around in stores. People make assumptions about you just by your very appearance. There would be something wrong with you if you weren’t paranoid.”
. . . . What does it say about this country that paranoia is the way that black and brown people have to think in order to stay reasonably sane? (East of Midnight, July 28)
Answering the question, “Why Universalism?” the Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg traces Universalism’s history and shares its current relevance.
So, “Why Universalism?” Well, whereas Unitarianism has sometimes lead down a road to extreme Emersonian individualism (of caring mostly about one’s own isolated spirituality), the Universalism calls us out of ourselves and into the world to love the hell out of this world—into a world filled with far too much hell that desperately needs the life-saving message that we are part of one another, part one human family. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, July 31)
Religion provides me with a community, sanctuary and covenant that is focused on peacemaking. It reminds me that I am not alone in working to build a more just world. It cures my compassion fatigue because it restores my faith in people. When peace and justice work becomes too heavy, it is my church that lightens the load. In a space filled with atheists, believers, agnostics, questioners and religious refugees, our attendance shouts to the universe: “We will continue the work! We will not give up! We crave peace!” (What’s My Age Again?, July 31)
If you scratch below the surface of the call for individual responsibility in this case, it’s easy to see a level of demonization below it, and that demonization has some ugly, racist roots. This water issue isn’t really about self-reliance, it’s about “othering” the people of Detroit, about race, and about class. It’s about making the most basic human need into us-vs.-them. (The Lively Tradition, July 23)
Circle round for freedom
This past Sunday, anti-abortion protesters disrupted the worship service at First UU Church of New Orleans; the Rev. Deanna Vandiver, who was preaching that morning, shares a first-hand perspective on the congregation’s response.
Beloveds, I have never been prouder of my faith community. The youth led the way in circling the congregation together, forming a ring around the sanctuary and singing sustaining songs. Soon it became clear who was choosing to be beloved community and who was trying to destroy it. (Quest for Meaning, July 22)
I spent the rest of the afternoon as I normally spend my Sunday afternoons, listening to music, writing and reading. The music leaned a little more towards punk sometimes, and Unitarian Universalist hymns at others. I reminded myself that there is good in this world, as I savored the sweetness of ice cream, good that is more powerful than hate and bitterness. (Vive Le Flame, July 22)
The Rev. Krista Taves suggests that other UU congregations can learn from this, and be prepared.
Most of our churches will never face this kind of sacred violation, thank the spirit, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In fact, given the increasing legal challenges to reproductive justice, and the fact that many Unitarian Universalist leaders are publicly active in the women’s reproductive justice movement, we need to be ready. (And the stones shall cry, July 22)
There is no question that the behavior of Operation Save America was outrageous, disrespectful, and a harassing form of public speech.
But, while their behavior as described most certainly was disruptive, it clearly was NOT terroristic. We should not inflate the meaning of fundamentalist intruders’ pesky drama to a level that only improves their odds of achieving media celebrity. (About Our Inherent Worth, July 24)
The Rev. Scott Wells remembers a colleague, the Rev. Jennifer Slade, who died last week of an apparent suicide.
I want to express my sympathy to her family, and to her congregations. I am praying for you and her, and for others—including a number of ministers—shaken and feeling vulnerable by her death. (Boy in the Bands, July 19)
For the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, this tragedy renews her commitment to reach out for help, and to ask her colleagues “Are you OK?”
The work of religious leadership is especially demanding in this time of closing churches and anxious laity. . . . We are “making it up as we go along” in a way that previous generations of ministers may be able to relate to culturally or theologically or organizationally, but not institutionally to this extent. The pressure is fierce. This is to say nothing of other life stresses of health, finance, family, community. (Beauty Tips for Ministers, July 18)
Lessons written in stone
Faced with a vocational setback, Claire Curole gets reacquainted with her rock collection, and relearns needed lessons.
I am being slowly reminded of things I used to know—the complex relationship between purity and perfection and beauty and fragility, how the things which are most interesting are not always the strongest or most flawless—and how those which are strong or flawless are not always the most interesting or beautiful. If I can learn from these stones the admiration of complexity, of fragility, of quirky individuality then perhaps I will eventually learn to apply these lessons more broadly.
The other thing of which I have been reminded is that, given enough time and the proper conditions, even shattered stones can mend, become whole—not that which they were, not exactly, but something more, something different. (The Sand Hill Diary, July 21)
Tim Atkins remembers a similar lesson about imperfection—from his days as a geology student.
One of the early lessons I learned in my first geology course? How minerals get their color. The answer surprised me then, and it gives me hope today. It’s the flaws—the impurities.
Impurities are what make rubies red. Flaws are what make emeralds green. And flaws are what make each of us beautiful, too. (Loved for Who You Are, July 21)
Believing in a heaven where my mother was denied entrance required suspension of every shred of rationality and native reason my mere 8-year-old brain was already manifesting. I would have had to take it “on faith,” but that was so absurd and impossible given the reality of my actual mom and her actual great big heart that faith didn’t stand a chance.
Notably, anything that has required similar “faith” on my part hasn’t fared too well since. (Traversing, July 21)
Although there are certainly many other vital religious traditions in our world, at least for me, Unitarian Universalism is the path that I have found the most helpful for navigating a 21st-century world in which we humans have been radically de-centered from the exalted position some of our ancestors believed that we held. (Pragmatism, Progressivism, Pluralism, July 24)
The Rev. James Ford marks Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Divinity School address as the moment when “the ‘new infidelity’ was brought home to the institution of Unitarianism.”
While Unitarianism had rejected the trinity and focused salvation on “character,” on the actions of the individual in her or his life rather than through a vicarious atonement achieved by Jesus’ death, it was nonetheless deeply rooted in biblical Christianity. . . . Emerson . . . explicitly [rejected] the necessity of scripture as divine revelation. Instead he declared that the intuition of the individual was sufficient to find one’s way.
This created a firestorm within Unitarianism. A fire that has not yet burned itself out. (Monkey Mind, July 15)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden explains why he is a “post-theist.”
I bought a new Ford truck, not a Model T. Why? Because a Model T, even though it revolutionized the automobile industry, is no longer an efficient mode of transportation in the contemporary world. . . .
This is how I view “god.” It’s not that I don’t believe in the god concept. It’s that I don’t think the concept is good transportation in our contemporary context. (Quest for Meaning, July 17)
Love, love, love
The Rev. Amy Shaw suggests that the word “because” should not follow the words “I love you.”
Loving you because implies that there is an alternate world in which I could not love you, because. Or a world in which my love for you would change as you drew nearer to some select goal that you and I shared. (Loved for Who You Are, July 14)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern objects to the word “bromance.”
In our culture, we don’t need a special name to describe the relationship between two women who love each other, love to spend time together, and are not romantically involved together nor seeking to be. We already have a term: friendship. What disturbs me about the embrace of the “bromance” term is the shunning of the obvious, available word.
Is there something so extraordinary about a close, loving, non-romantic relationship between men that we need a cute, arch term for it? (Sermons in Stones, July 14)
in the complete stretch of history i can see how
every time i felt this pull
to join with someone
it was because there was some part of them that i needed
to learn by heart (Rebel with a Label Maker, July 16)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum criticizes religious language about “brokenness.”
One of the most radical things we can do in the face of oppression is to counter messages of brokenness with proclamations of wholeness: I am whole; I am loved; I am worthy; I have inherent worth and dignity; You are whole; You are loved: You are worthy; You have inherent worth and dignity. You are loved — just as you are.
This doesn’t mean that we are perfect. It doesn’t mean that we never do harm. But we are still loved. We are whole, just as we are. (Loved for Who You Are, July 16)
Katy Schmidt Carpman writes that babies remind us our own interdependence. (Remembering Attention, July 14)
Creating new worlds
The Rev. Scott Wells notices that there was only one new congregation welcomed at this year’s UUA General Assembly, and wishes there were more.
To keep from shrinking, we need new congregations, and one isn’t enough. We need leaders with experience to foster new congregations, and one isn’t enough to found them.
So, again, I’m happy for Original Blessing. I only wish it had some cradle mates. (Boy in the Bands, July 15)
The Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss says it’s not too late for the UUA to move to Detroit. “Detroit has replaced Silicon Valley as the place where pioneers will create the real 21st century. Religion is about creating new worlds out of old chaos: let’s pull up our stakes and get busy.” (Politywonk, July 14)