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New Orleans church supports women’s clinic
Despite harassment from pro-life protesters during a worship service earlier this year, members of First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, La., are providing religious support for the construction of a much-needed Planned Parenthood clinic in that city. (Cosmopolitan - 1.23.15)
More stories of UUs working for reproductive justice:
“Reverend Nathan Ryan speaks during protests against The Response: Louisiana” (The Daily Reveille - 1.24.15)
“Roe v. Wade marked with call to action” (The Courier-Journal - 1.26.15)
UU clergy say religious freedom bills are discriminatory
The Rev. David Messner of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah, Ga., joins other clergy who are voicing opposition to a recent “Religious Freedom Bill” because it would open the door to discrimination against minorities in the workplace or in being refused services. (wsav.com - 1.23.15)
The Rev. Duncan Teague sees recent religious freedom legislation as just an attempt by people who do not like the increasing rights that same-sex couples are achieving nationwide to slow its progress in Georgia. (GA Voice – 1.22.15)
Sustainable renovations, cranes for Ebola victims, and the morality of drones
Living out the Seventh UU Principle and investing in the future of their congregation, the Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Neb., recently completed a $2.5 million renovation to its building that will help reduce the congregation’s carbon footprint and offer a more comfortable space in which to worship. (Lincoln Journal Star - 1.23.15)
To honor the Sixth UU Principle and share a sense of hope with the recipients, the youth group at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango, Colo.. folded 1,000 origami paper cranes and shipped them to Sierra Leone, the African nation that has been hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak. (Durango Herald - 1.23.15)
The Rev. Chris J. Antal of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Rock Tavern, N.Y., participated in the first Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare, in part because his experience as a military chaplain showed him the moral pain that soldiers experience from harming civilians with drone strikes. (Philadelphia Inquirer - 1.25.15)
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)
The Rev. Clark Olsen of Asheville, N.C., recalls in vivid detail the fateful evening when, as he walked with clergy colleagues near Walker’s Café in Selma, Ala., they were attacked and the Rev. James Reeb was mortally wounded. (Asheville Citizen-Times - 1.17.15)
Acknowledging his privileged position, retired minister the Rev. Gordon Gibson says he was glad to be of use to his denomination during the civil rights movement in 1965. He traveled to Selma to support voting rights then and observed that new voting requirements in some Southern states are returning to those old ways. (wate.com - 1.19.15)
UU honored at MLK celebration, clergy witness for racial justice
The Rev. Roger Bertschausen of Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Appleton, Wisc., was given a legacy award at the town’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, an event he helped found 25 years ago. (post-crescent.com - 1.18.15)
See also: “MLK celebration’s message resonates” (postcrescent.com - 1.21.15)
Unitarian Universalist ministers joined others in the Washington, D.C., area to stage a “die-in” demonstration during lunchtime in the cafeteria of the U.S. House of Representatives. They hoped to bring legislators’ attention to underlying issues of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. (Huffington Post - 1.21.15)
Other stories about the die-in include:
“‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters stage ‘die-in’ in Capitol Hill cafeteria” (The Washington Post - 1.21.15)
“Clergy Stage a Die-in at Congressional Cafeteria for Black Lives Matter” (ColorLines - 1.21.14)
Congregation protects immigrant seeking stay of deportation
First Unitarian Church of Denver, Colo., is one of six faith communities in that state that have come together to provide sanctuary for undocumented immigrants facing deportation. Arturo Hernandez Garcia has been living in the basement of the congregation since October 2014 as he fights deportation proceedings. (Newsweek - 1.21.15)
Other Denver sanctuary stories include:
“Battle Over Deportation as Republicans Try to Roll Back Obama Immigration Policies” (The New York Times - 1.16.15)
“Immigration vote sends chilling message to those facing deportation” (The Denver Post - 1.15.15)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden notes that the movie Selma changes some of the stories we tell ourselves about the Civil Rights movement.
An old African proverb says it better than 99% of postmodernist writing: “Until lions have historians, tales of the hunt will glorify the hunter.”
Director Ava DuVernay (Paul Webb shares the writing credit) has some incredulity going on, and her film blows apart several sacred metanarratives. One metanarrative is that the “good” federal government swept in and curtailed the power of “bad” state government. Another is that white liberals played a starring role in the struggle. Another is that black men led the struggle. Finally, the lions have a historian. (Quest for Meaning, January 22)
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg, drawing on a recent biography of Rosa Parks, writes that Parks was far more complex than most of us know.
Almost universally she was remembered as “quiet,” “humble,” “dignified,” “soft-spoken,” “not angry” and “never raised her voice”—and she was remembered almost exclusively for that one moment in time when she refused to give up her seat.
This romanticized view of Rosa Parks masks the fullness of her life that included “nearly seventy years of activism.” Her refusal on December 1, 1955 to not give up her seat was deeply shaped her previous decade of activism. And she continued social justice work for decades to come. And although she recognized the strategic value of nonviolence—far from being meek and mild—Rosa Park’s “hero was Malcolm X.” (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, January 19)
Like other UUs, the Rev. Gretchen Haley wishes that James Reeb had been identified as a Unitarian minister.
I get it. We have a stake in this story; we want it to feel true. And yet, I worry that these questions about the film’s representation of the past can be a distraction from its urgent message for us today. While it’s not true that James Reeb was a priest—he was a Unitarian minister, and while it’s unlikely that one of the leaders in Selma called him a priest, it is critically important to pay attention to the fact that this African American female director in 2015 doesn’t seem to care one way or another, and to be open to the possibility that not many others do either. (Another Possibility, January 21)Tradition and innovation
Katy Carpman draws a lesson about tradition and innovation from baking experiments.
Sometimes we go for tradition–using recipes and methods that our great-great-great grandmothers might have used way back when. Other times we try something very new, maybe taking a chance with something even our grandmothers couldn’t have bought in any store. It might be for the sheer novelty of it, or it might be a deliberate choice to be more inclusive to whomever walks in the door.
May it be delicious! (Remembering Attention, January 15)
The Rev. Sharon Wylie continues her “Church 101” series with the first of two posts about giving money.
[Pledging] is an important spiritual practice. I’m not saying that as a minister; I’m saying that as a congregant. My life changed when I began including the church on my list of monthly payments. It feels similar (to me) to making a commitment to regular exercise or healthful eating; it is saying, “this aspect of my life is important enough to me that I am willing to make it a priority.” (Ministry in Steel Toe Shoes, January 18)
The Rev. Scott Wells wonders, “Perhaps the problem isn’t that we’re too small, but too large.”
I’m half-joking, half-serious. We are institutionally too complex, with structures that are just large enough that they have to invest a high level of resources to keep going, but without the benefit of an economy of scale. (Boy in the Bands, January 19)Meeting Jesus
The Rev. Fiona Heath describes UU perspectives about Jesus.
UUs do not believe Jesus performed miracles, and not all UUs would even agree that Jesus was a rabble rousing activist. Some see Jesus as a mythic figure, not a real person, pointing to the lack of any contemporary accounts of his life and the story of his cruxification resembling ancient Egyptian and Babylonian tales of death and resurrection. Others believe he may have been a visionary during his life, but his story has been so refracted and amplified by the Gospels, by Paul and church doctrine and systems, that it is impossible to know the truth about Jesus. (The Empty Chalice, January 20)
The Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom remembers scholar Marcus Borg, who died this week, thanking him for “reintroducing me to an old friend.”
Marcus Borg was one of the people who helped me to see a way to bring together my, if you will, post-Christian understanding of the world with my deeply rooted Christian identity. . . . And his invitation to “meet Jesus again for the first time” was incredibly exciting—I had, of course, previous “met” Jesus in the Presbyterian and Methodist churches of my youth, but this would be the “first time” I did so with my more mature perspectives. . . . I was not the same person who’d encountered Jesus before and, as Borg showed me, neither was Jesus. (A Minister’s Musings, January 22)Prayers and podcasts
Karen Johnston offers a prayer for the nation of Myanmar, where she has been visiting.
May the people stay on the land.
May the land and the peoples be healed and rebuilt.
May I bring home the lessons of hospitality
given so freely and open-heartedly.
May the so much that is right
the so much that is wrong. (Irrevspeckay, January 20)
The Rev. Jude Geiger announces that he’s beginning a podcast about the spirituality of Dr. Who. (RevWho, January 17)