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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.

Solidarity, brave souls, thoughtless choices, and more

Prayerful solidarity

Inviting us to draw our own conclusions, the Rev. Meg Riley prays for Dr. Ersula Ore, assaulted by the police for the minor offense of jaywalking.

Dr. Ore, you are in my prayers today. You and the thousands of other people of color who are forced to prove that you have a right to walk home, and upon whom the burden of proof always rests. Please know that you are not alone—that tens of thousands of white people, as well as the people of color who share your experience of being told you don’t matter—are with you and will be with you as you ask for what everyone wants: Respect for your worth and dignity. (Quest for Meaning, June 30)

Supreme Court decisions

Patrick Murfin agrees with the Supreme Court’s recent decision about buffer zones around abortion clinics.

To protect our own rights of dissent, we must unfortunately defend someone else’s right to be an asshole.

That does not mean we have to step back and let wolves lose upon the sheep. It means we have to take action to confront the wolves ourselves, to offer our bodies, if necessary, in their protection. It demands a lot from us. Giving up comfort, giving up safety. It means, as the theme of this year’s GA says, Reaching Out in Love. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, June 27)

The Rev. Elz Curtiss suggests that William Ellery Channing’s book, Slavery, is useful for countering the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

Much of today’s political breakdown rests on the inability of secular and free-range left wing leaders to articulate a comprehensive philosophical counter to conservative religious arguments. Happily, William Ellery Channing has provided here, in one document, everything we need to lift our stature in current debates. (Politywonk, July 1)

Loved for who you are

“Loved for Who You Are” is a UU outreach project you can participate in by sharing its message, or sharing your story. For inspiration, here are a few posts from “Loved for Who You Are” this week.

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum believes that whether or not God exists, we are loved.

If God exists, quite frankly, I am loved. And you are, too.

But if God doesn’t exist, is the world cold and cruel? Is human life meaningless? Is love absent? Is there no reason to do good?

Of course not.

We are still precious and loved. (Loved for Who You Are, June 27)

Suzyn Smitth Webb argues for a mix-and-match approach to finding our life’s purpose.

We are so quick to define ourselves by our jobs alone in this world, when our respective purposes aren’t at all limited by what we do 9 to 5. . . . [What] the world needs . . . is garbage collectors who are great Moms who also lead scout troops and sing in choirs.

That is a life with purpose. (Loved for Who You Are, July 2)

Brave souls, thoughtless choices

The Rev. Tom Schade looked for stories of courage at General Assembly—ones that didn’t involve heights, fast-moving rivers, or fire.

I heard of a minister who changed the Christmas Eve order of service.

Another recently settled minister told the largest donor that no, they did not get to veto decisions of the Board.

Someone told a UU Republican that just because no one agreed with them, it didn’t mean they were oppressed. (The Lively Tradition, June 30)

For Adam Dyer, too many UUs at the General Assembly WaterFire event failed to live up to their promise to live “on the side of love.”

I watched yellow shirts push past, walk around and yes, even climb over residents who had been waiting for up to 2 hours to see this event. From my vantage point among the local crowd, what was intended to be a “witness” turned into more of a “display” and somewhat of a distraction. (Spirituwellness, June 29)

Religion, spirituality, and philosophy

Andrew Mackay responds to a recent article in Atlantic magazine, which criticizes the casual syncretism of contemporary spirituality.

Mobility in the spiritual realm should not be viewed as intrinsically bad. . . . The dynamic behavior of the newest generation may be a move past the sense of obligation and communal pressure to conform and stay in one religious institution.

To end, it is important to not oversell traditional religious practice, and to dismiss 21st century spirituality. The two have much to teach each other, if they will listen. (Unspoken Politics, June 29)

Alix answers her friends’ skeptical questions about Unitarian Universalism and ministry.

For me, Unitarian Universalism is a philosophy, a way of thinking about and organizing reality, the nature of knowledge, and existence. . . . AND yes, Unitarian Universalism is a religion because it’s not just a way of thinking about the world, but also a way of acting in it. (Doubled Up in Love, July 2)

Declaring independence

We’re publishing early this week because of Independence Day. Here’s some advice from Jacqueline Wolven to help you enjoy your weekend.

Get offline and start doing something. Anything. Take walks. Get a hobby that you love. Learn something new. Cook real meals. Dance badly in your living room. Really, anything would work to allow you to experience life in the way that you want to and not transfer all of the millions of emotions that you are experiencing from others online. (Jacqueline Wolven, June 28)

General Assembly, open windows, porch cats, and more

Attending General Assembly

Lena Gardner, a first-time General Assembly attendee, can hardly stop weeping during a worship service.

I wept for my ancestors who didn’t make it, and for the ones who persevered, who escaped, who endured, for the ones whose land was stolen away and who watched—and fought—as genocide and torture was called nation building and progress. . . .

Meg Riley and the rest of the worship committee put together an incredible service that intricately, delicately, and powerfully weaved together the complexity of African American identity, the historical legacy of this place we have gathered with its historical legacy of slave trade and racial justice and UU theology. Somehow grounded in the love of UU theology they delivered a message of hope, endurance, perseverance, and wisdom without sugar coating the past. (Spirit, Self, and Journeying, June 26)

Katy Schmidt Karpman speaks for those of us at home, who would like cheese with our whine! (Remembering Attention, June 23)

Open windows

At its best, blogging opens windows into human experience. In this unflinching post, the Rev. Alane Cameron Miles shows us her life with a neurological disorder that is stealing her ability to remember.

I have become Lucy from “50 First Dates” or the scary tattoo-covered dude from “Memento”, two of the most famous memory loss movie characters. I prefer to think I am Lucy. She at least can remember for a whole day. I can’t, but it is something to strive for. I’m realizing that Lucy isn’t played with nearly enough rage. The lack of memory isn’t as upsetting as the times when I have an inkling of everything I am forgetting. (Auspicious Jots, June 22)

Known issues

Suzynn Smith Webb compares personal flaws to “known issues”—things known to be broken in a complicated web application, which the developers can’t yet fix.

Treating my flaws as known issues makes the process of self improvement a lot easier. If you know you make everything about you, it makes it a lot easier to catch yourself doing that. You’re looking for the pattern. . . .

[We’re] flawed but functional, and improvement takes ingenuity and work, but is always within reach. . . . We’re all OK, and we’re all loved. Now where will you go from there? (Loved for Who You Are, June 20)

Andrew Hidas asks how we, as privileged Americans, should respond to global inequality.

Should it shame us that so many of our brothers and sisters have it bad? Spur us to give away all that we have, as the Book of Mark urges us, to help the poor? Or live somewhere in between those poles of shame and ultimate charity, in an uneasy truce between the debilitation of shame, the glow of charity, and the satisfaction of creature comforts that are now deeply ingrained in our culture and personal history?

Can we settle into that truce with a sense of integrity, knowing the world is tilted on a strange axis indeed, accepting it as we can, making an honest (if less than total) effort at redress, while knowing that no matter what we do, life, as our parents reminded us so directly, just isn’t fair and never will be? (Traversing, June 26)

Claire points to systemic problems behind an internet hoax.

At the end of the day, there is still a little child with a disfiguring injury that would benefit from continuing care, and she lives—as do we all—in a system whose structure makes that care seem more attainable through deceit and manipulation than through honest vulnerability.

What does that say about the system? What does that say about us? (Sand Hill Diary, June 24)

The Rev. James Ford hopes humanism will focus its energy on engaging the world’s problems.

I hope as we go forward into the Twenty-first century a new humanism will emerge, one that isn’t particularly concerned with disproving a deity, but that is wildly, gloriously, engaged, bringing those most wonderful tools of reason and the scientific method into the great project of life. (Monkey Mind, June 21)

The Rev. Meredith Garmon reminds us that “We must be in touch with the world’s pain, hold it ever in awareness, never grow callous or oblivious.” (The Liberal Pulpit, June 21)

How to be alive

Like many parents before her, Christine Leigh Slocum discovers that parenting is teaching her important life lessons.

I am approaching the tasks of parenthood with the orientation that my job is to show her how to be alive. . . .

In order to show my daughter how to love life, I need to be loving life. If I want to teach her to appreciate the nature, or know how to be loving to others, I need to appreciate nature, and be loving to others. (Many Words, June 26)

The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein remembers a childhood vacation with her workaholic father, and passes along advice to parents.

On behalf of the child I was who remembers how good and right and whole the world felt when I received my parents’ full, sober attention, please consider not answering that phone. Please consider a vacation with your children with no distractions, when you can have lazy days for conversations that unfold in no hurry, when a daughter can pretend to read a book while sitting by the pool, when she is actually not reading at all but only savoring the sound of her father turning pages in the deck chair next to her.

These are the only days we get. Don’t miss one. (PeaceBang, June 26)

Bringing in porch cats

After a winter of encouraging a “porch cat” to consider indoor life, the Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss sees connections between him and the religiously unaffiliated.

If a majority of potentially religious folk now consider themselves “free range,” then bringing them into covenant with us—making available to them the refuge of our faith messages in hard times—is going to be slow and tedious. It will require sustained membership mentors who themselves require ministerial and personal support. Encouragement. Tactical advice. Money for supplies. And lots of food. (Politywonk, June 20)

The Rev. Heather Rion Starr wishes we were asking bigger questions than, “How do we bring young adults back?”

We all seem to get so focused on our particular setting or context or denomination and how to keep it alive, make it thrive. Too easily it seems we lose sight of the larger purpose that got us wanting to be a part of a community in the first place–to be there for one another, to be challenged and held and transformed ourselves and to be a part of that transformative experience for others. (Quest for Meaning, June 22)

The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford challenges us to identify our congregation’s implicit mission—and if it’s not what we mean to be doing, kill it. (Boots and Blessings, June 21)

Love is the boss, witchcraft and wizardry, public theology, and more

Love is the boss

A flip comment—”My calendar is the boss of me”—makes the Rev. Deanna Vandiver re-evaluate her core commitments.

I serve in the name of love. Love for the world that is and the world that can be. Love for the wonder of creation and respect of destruction. Love for a faith community that meets us where we are and doesn’t leave us there. Love for you. Love for me.

It is easy in the days of overloaded calendars and underloaded bank accounts to forget. And it absolutely matters that we remember. (Quest for Meaning, June 17)

Amid all the anxiety and posturing that goes on in a hospital, Jordinn Nelson Long looks for the places where love lives.

What if we made it our number one job each day to remember that we aren’t a role or a title or a degree, not really? And that the one across from us, with the hair the color of your sister’s, or freckles, or dimples, or a gold tooth, and a look of fear or dread or hope or resignation—that person isn’t a patient or a stroke victim or a financial concern, not really?

What if we truly remembered this, with each phone call or e-mail or data input task:

I am a human being, here to serve other human beings–in love–and this entire institution exists, whether it knows it or not, to fulfill that mission.

Here. Now. In this very moment. (Raising Faith, June 14)

The nightmare of children crowded into a warehouse in Nogales breaks the Rev. Diane Dowgiert’s heart.

Frightened children.

Lonely children.

Crying children.

This is not a dream.

A living nightmare.

When will we awaken?

Decide to create a new reality?

Realize that we are all interconnected?

Know that what we do unto the least of these we do unto ourselves? (Transforming Times, June 18)

The Rev. Erik Martinez Resley shares “Love Reaches Out,” from the Sanctuaries in DC.

Public theology

The Rev. Tom Schade explains what he means by “public theology.”

Public theology is the explanation of human society, social institutions and governments. If you a theist, it explains the existence of governments, nations and social institutions in God’s plan. Even if you are not a theist, it explains the fundamental moral foundations of social life. (The Lively Tradition, June 17)

Schade also shares four core statements of liberal public theology.

The world is unfair, but it gets better.

The opposite of love is not hate but indifference.

You can’t hate somebody after you hear their story.

Everything causes everything. (The Lively Tradition, June 19)

Truth and meaning

Liz James wonders how to learn to do ministry beyond “the shadow of the cross.”

I am not in a Christian seminary, but we learn in the shadow of the cross. Our understanding of what a Minister is comes from Priests and Pastors, not from Gurus, Shamans, or Traditional Faith Healers. We may be like Priests, or we may be different from them, but the exploration is shaped by that story. (Free Range Seminarian, May 28)

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden warns us about the fantasy of finding “Truth.” (Theopoetics, June 19)

Maps, graphs, and other toys

The Rev. Dan Harper looks at geographic data about Unitarian Universalism, and shares his conclusions—that in most places in the US, UUism barely makes a dent, and that in a few places, UUs are common enough to feel like a mainstream religion. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, June 14)

The Rev. Scott Wells creates a bar graph to show density of UUs by region—and is surprised by the results.

I knew that New England was the “homeland” and you are more likely to find a small-town churches there; I was still shocked to see the disparity between New England states and everywhere else. I had thought earlier Universalist missions, the Fellowship movement and subsequent population drifts had smoothed out the distribution. (Boy in the Bands, June 17)

Wells is also surprised by an article that defined “micro-church” as a “gathering of 30 or so folks.”

Gott im Himmel. If an attendance of thirty makes a micro-church, what does that make Unitarian Universalists? A fellowship with a large proportion of small congregations, that’s what. (Boy in the Bands, June 16)

Witchcraft and wizardry

Patrick Murfin provides an overview of Starhawk’s life and work, including her contributions to Unitarian Universalism.

Starhawk was an early and influentially active member of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS).  Her combinations contributed heavily to the adoption of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Seventh Principle, “Respect for the Interdependent Web of All Existence of Which We Are a Part” in 1983, a move led by the faith’s growing eco-feminist movement. That inclusion has in many ways profoundly changed traditional Unitarian Universalism broadening its roots form radical Christianity and modern Humanism, influencing the way the faith act in the world, and being a major catalyst for a revival of spirituality in the liberal faith. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, June 17)

The Rev. Dan Harper asks three interesting questions about the Harry Potter novels. Be sure to read the comments, and share your own answers if you’d like.

Which characters did you picture as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning, and why?

If Harry had to marry one of the minor characters, which one would he marry, and why?

If you could be any character or creature in the Harry Potter universe, which one would you be? (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, June 13)