uuworld.org: liberal religion and life

Archives

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.

Post-election commentary, more love somewhere, heroes and holidays

Post-election commentary

The Rev. Diane Dowgiert commits to “loving the hell out of the world,” no matter who wins elections.

To love the hell out of the world means that we need to find our strong and brave heart. . . . We need the heart to stay together and not let ourselves become polarized by issues or by political parties. . . . We need each other if we are to remain strong hearted for the work ahead. Bending the arc of the universe toward justice takes strength. Strong is what we make each other. (Transforming Times, November 5)

The Rev. Dan Harper prepares to vote more thoroughly than many people do—and still feels like it’s not enough.

Democracy takes time, and I did not put in enough time. . . .

Today, I was reading Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution, and came across this quotation from Thomas Jefferson: “If once [our people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves.”

Is that howling I hear in the distance? (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, November 5)

The Rev. Tony Lorenzen proposes a series of “technical fixes” to the problem of voter disenfranchisement. (Sunflower Chalice, November 5)

The Rev. Dan Schatz encourages us to keep on loving the world, even when current events discourage us.

Ours is still a world of wonder and beauty no less than hardship and tragedy. Remind yourself of the beauty. Let it feed you. If your soul is dry and parched, return to the well that nourishes you and drink deeply. . . .

There will be a time for the struggle; it has not gone away. There will be a time to dedicate our energies once again to campaign for what we believe in. Our work in that time will be far more effective if we come to it as whole people, spirits strengthened by the goodness around us.

Sometimes, the world can be hard. Love it anyway. (The Song and the Sigh, November 5)

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg asks, “Can you be both a religious liberal and a political conservative?”

Just as Unitarian Universalism and other progressive religious movements intend ourselves to be liberal religious traditions in the best sense of the word liberal—open to new ideas, generous, open-handed, open-hearted, and open-minded—there has been room historically and there is room today within our big tents for those who are conservative in the best sense of the word: caring about conservation of nature, upholding the beauty of traditions and rituals that accrued deep meaning through the test of time, reminding us of the importance not only of individual rights and equality, but also of community, authority, sanctity, and loyalty. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, November 3)

The Rev. Lynn Ungar has learned a lot from her Cub-fan congregants.

The Cubs lose. Everyone knows that. Historically, currently, the Cubs are just not what you would call a winning team. Which doesn’t stop the fans from rooting for their beloved Cubbies, year in and year out.

You love what you love, and you go out and yell on its behalf, following the statistics or the players or whatever markers of success or defeat you might have. You show up and cheer. When your team wins you get a parade. But when your team loses you have the opportunity to gather with your friends and mourn the losses and plot how next year will be better. (Quest for Meaning, November 6)

The Rev. Tom Schade believes that racism played a powerful part in this election.

The power of Obama to frighten people is still potent. It is testament to the power of racism as an semi-conscious ideological force for many white voters. Fear of black power is what makes white voters hate Obama. Increasing African American participation in the political structure, including the development of black political leaders, has precipitated more white backlash.

This has to be confronted and resolved for progressive change to happen in the United States. (The Lively Tradition, November 5)

More love somewhere

The Rev. Peter Boullata objects to UU revisions of the song, “There is More Love, Somewhere.”

Glibly rewriting a slavery-era African American expression of hope and determination should give us all pause.

There’s an air of hubris in this wordsmithing, and a lack of insight.

Joining together to sing “there is more love right here” to me smacks of self-satisfaction and self-centredness. In a world filled with have-nots, the haves glorying in their wealth, their abundance of blessings. We have hymns of thanksgiving. Can’t we sing them, instead of this awkward revision? (Held in the Light, November 1)

The Rev. Meg Riley shares seven ways to prepare for the Ferguson grand jury’s announcement, including this one:

Many perspectives will be vying with one another to dictate the narrative of what’s “really” happened. Pick a perspective that helps you stay present, and stick with it. For me, as a white, middle-class, middle-aged woman, even imagining what it is to be a young black man is virtually impossible. But I am a mother. I can imagine a mother’s grief, even if I don’t know what it means to be an African-American mother. For me, the person to stick with most closely—in my imagination, and in every news account possible—is Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden. (HuffPo Religion, November 5)

Heroes and role models

The Rev. Sean Dennison likes having very human heroes—including musician Amanda Palmer.

Is Amanda Palmer perfect? No. And I am happy that she is not. While some want their role models to be perfect, I like mine to be human. Part of what keeps me engaged with Palmer and her art and music is that she is transparent about her mistakes. Like any of us, she tries and fails and tries again to live up to her own ideals. (ministrare, November 3)

As part of her November gratitude practice, Diana McLean honors the clergywomen who have been her role models. (Poetic Justice, November 2)

‘Happy’ ‘holidays’

The Rev. James Ford explains why he’s afraid of Christians—it’s because of their outrage about people who say “Happy Holidays.”

There is something hanging in the back of my mind when living in a country dominated by a group of people who have an ideology that puts me at the moment of my death firmly into the fires of hell for, well, forever. And it’s hard not to be vaguely aware of how easy a step it is from seeing someone as firewood in the future to seeing one as killable in the present tense.

And, frankly, this seasonal outrage sparks that anxiety. (Monkey Mind, November 4)

The Rev. Adam Eliot offers a different perspective, and encourages ministers to make room for uncomplicated expressions of spirituality throughout the extended holiday season.

For many of the people in your community (not necessarily your congregation, but the community at large) this is the only time they think about all those things we think about the rest of the year. I mean in a focused way. This means while we are grinching our way along, we are getting killed by the secular culture and the religious right. They speak the language that others speak rather than speaking their own language slowly, expecting folks to understand.

The season starts (as I mentioned) on Halloween when we think about fear and death. Then there is Thanksgiving which is about gratitude, family and so on. Then there is XMas which is about presents (if you let it be) or about something so much more. (The Burbania Posts, November 5)

People to bring the casseroles, lessons in grief, and more

People to bring the casseroles

The Rev. Sharon Wylie has hard truths to tell the “spiritual but not religious” crowd.

Nobody wants a minister
Until
Suddenly they do.
And nobody wants a church
Until
A loved one is dying or dead and
Suddenly
It would be nice to have someone give the eulogy
And people to bring the casseroles
And friends to sit and cry with. (Ministry in Steel Toe Shoes, October 29)

Safe congregations

The Rev. Sarah Stewart publishes a sermon about the complex issues involved in creating safe congregations, and concludes:

Our work as a human community is simply to love one another, to do no harm to our neighbor, but to create the place where true honesty and relationship to the holy may be sought. It’s our job to be good neighbors and to create a neighborly and loving church. Let us hold in our hearts our true goal and value: a safer community where we seek authentic relationship in peace. (Stereoscope, October 30)

Bidden or unbidden

“God” has been an unexpected guest in Karen Johnston’s life, tempering her previously caustic atheism.

I am noticing a shift in my voice. . . . When we make our clever jokes about god’s presence in our lives, the mock and the snark seems to be dissipating. . . . The word isn’t so charged as it was before, leaving room for god to be something other than limb-ridden and narrow, a god who saves parking places for lucky bastards while allowing free-lance journalists to be beheaded. (irrevspeckay, October 27)

Canadian perspectives

The Rev. Brian Kiely has been proud of his fellow Canadians this week, but he does fear what comes next.

I fear exploitation of these dramatic, but ultimately—to all except families and friends— insignificant acts. I fear what Mr. Harper and his government might do. The fact is, our security measures by and large worked. The violence was limited to the kinds of acts that could not realistically have been prevented no matter how large and intrusive our security services. . . . It is likely we will have to step up security to a degree, but the question that concerns me is to what degree? (Ministerial Musings, October 26)

Liz James is also proud of Canadian responses to the Ottawa shootings.

A refusal to abdicate our responsibility to choose how we will respond. Seen as a whole, the underlying theme of our conversation is unmistakable. “You do not extinguish terror with war. These two things are not opposites. The opposites of terror are reassurance, compassion, and reason. When faced with terror we do not declare war. We declare calm.”

Maturity, order, and the occasional idiotic speech from Harper. It doesn’t get more Canadian that that. (Rebel with a Label Maker, October 27)

James also writes an open letter to Susan Bibeau, the shooter’s mother.

There are many people who need comfort right now, and our hearts ache to reach out and to stand beside every one of those people. I want to you to know that tonight I think of you, and I hope that in some part of your mind, some part of your grief you are aware of the mothers all over the country who cannot reach you, who can never fully understand what you are going through, but who nevertheless stand beside you in spirit. (Rebel with a Label Maker, October 23)

Lessons in grief

Diana McLean learns a valuable lesson about setting setting aside her identity as a seminarian and ministerial intern, and allowing herself to grieve her father’s death.

On Friday, as we prepared for yesterday’s service, Rev. Gail Geisenhainer, the senior minister at my parents’ church . . . gave me an important gift. She talked to me about role clarity, about how this weekend, I’m not a minister (or a ministerial intern or a seminarian). I’m the daughter. In the pulpit as the grieving daughter instead of the intern, I can’t put up the shield of professionalism, can’t have professional distance. It’s not my job. (Poetic Justice, October 26)

Claire Curole writes an open letter to the Rev. Lee Devoe, a former interim minister at her church, who died recently.

You guided us through [a] difficult transition, leaving your mark on my church like the line traced by a potter’s thumb on soft, wobbling, spinning clay as the vessel takes its shape. And this congregation that you held together with grace and love is the one that in its own turn shaped me, as I grew from a church-phobic newcomer into a student discerning my own call to the ministry. In this way the work I am only just beginning picks up and takes in loose threads of the work you leave unfinished. We are connected. We are all connected. (The Sand Hill Diary, October 27)

Deeds not creeds

The Rev. Andrew Weber encourages us to wear social justice ribbons and buttons, not just to church, but also in public.

The question is, are you open and public about the unpopular or difficult beliefs you hold? Do you wear your ribbon only when it is comfortable—or also where it might promote difficult and possibly transformative conversation?

May we all have the courage and pride to live our values publicly—to wear our ribbons outside. For it is by living our values that we earn and wear our “awards” in life. (Drive Like a Minister, October 27)

Justin Almeida participated in a poverty immersion, and shares some of what he learned from the experience.

I’ve never thought of asking a person for forgiveness when I hand them a dollar outside a supermarket. But it makes sense. By asking for their forgiveness and blessing, I’m reaffirming their inherent worth and dignity by treating them with respect; I’m asking them for something only they can give. And I need to stop caring how they ended up being homeless. It’s not my place to judge and I’m not qualified to ask. (What’s My Age Again?, October 30)

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg highlights a Jewish, “deeds, not creeds” reading of Christian parables—a companion to a previous post about how Christians read Jewish texts. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, October 24)

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)