Thursday, June 30, 2016

How Love Has a Side


“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. 

The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. 

The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. 

And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”

--Eli Wiesel


To call upon ourselves and others to act "on the side of Love," is to challenge the indifference, including our own indifference, that allows injustice and oppression to continue. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Once Again

When I was a youth in the early 60's, it seemed that this book was on every Unitarian family's coffee table.


y

Dearest UU's --
We can do what we need to do. 
We have done it before, many times.
Actually,
We are pretty good at it.

Standing, Rolling, Dancing, Singing, Praying, Preaching, Acting on the Side of Love -- Landrum

At our the preceding Ministry Days preceding the UU General Assembly, ableist language was used in worship to the extent that UUMA Board Member Josh Pawelek issued this response:

Clearly there is a problem with ableism in our public presentation. Public statements, music, stories and metaphors that perpetuate ableism have been hurtful to colleagues. As with any oppression, this ableism likely runs deeper than our public presentation. I remain grateful to all those who are willing to call it to our attention, and I am deeply sorry that such calling is still necessary. (The full response is here.)
The most prominent example of ableist language in our movement, however, is our social justice arm: Standing on the Side of Love.  And before you say, "It's just a metaphor," I invite you to watch this and read this by UU minister Theresa Soto.  The point here is not to convince you that ableist metaphors are a problem.  The point is that we often think, even if it is ableist, "Standing on the Side of Love" is a done deal and it would be too hard to change it.  I'd like to offer a different possibility.  I think we need to change this, and it's possible to change this.  The important part of the "Standing on the Side of Love" isn't the "Standing," it's that we're acting "on the Side of Love." 

Step 1: Start including our non-standing bodies in the message.  Without changing the name officially, widen the images and merchandise.  Start by offering "I Roll on the Side of Love" or "Rolling on the Side of Love" or "Sitting on the Side of Love" t-shirts, bumper stickers, and other items. Make it easy for people to get these items -- don't make them make their own.  Start making images that you share on your webpage with these words more and more frequently. 

Step 2: Offer more and more words as options -- we can dance, pray, sing, and act in lots of ways "on the Side of Love."  Start using all sorts of words more and more frequently until "standing" is just one word among many, used no more frequently than the others.  Do this on merchandise and images in particular.  Maybe ministers would like t-shirts that say "Preaching on the Side of Love" or "Serving on the Side of Love."  Maybe DREs would like "Teaching on the Side of Love" or "Growing on the Side of Love" or other ideas. 

Step 3: Drop "Standing" as the title of the organization in favor of "On the Side of Love" or "The Side of Love."  Start by using the shortened version on images and merchandise where no one verb will do.  Then as people get used to the new name, change URLs and official name and usage of the organization. 

I think it's time for us to recognize that while it's been a great campaign and done some really neat things, the title is ableist, and that is problematic.  Let's fix it, folks.  We're better than just throwing up our hands and saying, "Oh well." 

Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Street Sets the Agenda...

more than we realize.

Consider Occupy! which made us think about percentages, which made Romney's 47% comment so fatal.

Consider the Ferguson resistance and Black Lives Matter ! which has pulled the Obama administration and the Democratic Party to the left on criminal justice issues.

The beginning of the end of the George W. Bush's administration was when Cindy Sheahan camped out at his ranch.

So now consider the demonstrations against Donald Trump. The pattern is that the largest and most confrontational have been in the Southwest. It is reported that Mexican flags are often present there.

It seems to me that Trump's anti-Hispanic, particularly anti-Mexican animus, is being protested in the streets. Of course. If you advocate deporting 11 million people, they and their friends and families are going to take it personally. What we see now is the foreshadowing the massive resistance that would take place if Trump's deportation plan began to approach reality.

Conventional politicians and liberal journalists ask how it can be communicated just how dangerous Trump is. How can we not 'normalize' him as just another politician, with some unusual quirks? But normal methods of criticism and opposition actually serve to normalize him.

The people in the streets are putting forth a completely different message. Trump is not a normal politician, but a dangerous authoritarian. We need to not only vote against him, but protest him, by making our opposition visible, not confined to the privacy of the voting booth. And we need to prepare to resist him if he were to come to power. And we need to disrupt his rise to power now.

And, (this is shaky ground, I know) do we need to confront the individuals who publicly support him? Can we say that we need to confront white supremacy and, at the same time, treat support for a candidate of retrograde and authoritarian white supremacy as just another political opinion? I am just asking.....

MSNBC's video of white people being publicly set upon by young people, especially young people of color, for wearing Trump gear is brain-scrambling.
We are used to spectacle of protesters being thrown out of Trump rallies -- a drama in which the overwhelming power of white supremacy crushes another single victim. It matches our sense of the balance of power in the country.

I am not advocating the tactic, but I am saying that the spectacle of in the streets of San Jose show a different, and more accurate, balance of power. The Trump fans are not the majority: they are a minority full of bluster and bravado, but mostly afraid and amazed that the world is no longer theirs. Inside the hall, they chortle at the thought of Mexico paying for the wall to keep Mexicans out of the US and cheer the idea of deporting many of those already here. It all seems so easy and it's fun to say it all out loud.

But outside the hall, in the streets, those people, the ones so easily banished, are real and are angry. They do not plan to go quietly. And they remind us that in the American southwest, it is the white Europeans from back east who are the settler/invaders who have arrived last.

The spectacle is unsettling because we are not used to pitying the white racist, nor used to hoping that the riot police rescue them.

Yes, attacking people on the street for their political views is over the line. A lot of lines have been crossed in this campaign already. Calling for mass deportations is over the line.

What's happening in the streets sets the agenda for the future.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A New Party !

They're talking about a new party again ! Some of the disappointed Sanders voters are going to start a new party ! Feel the excitement !

There has not been a successful new party start up in the United States since the formation of the Republican Party in 1854, 162 years ago. And History is littered with the bones of many an effort. There have been Marxist parties, Socialist parties, populist parties, progressive parties, candidate-based parties, centrist parties, reform parties, revolutionary parties, even the present Green party. And that's just on the center-left side of the spectrum.

Some of those parties, like the Communist Party USA or the Socialist Workers Party are to be sustained presence, not by attracting voters in elections, but by creating a body of professional, or semi-professional, organizers united by a Leninist party structure. But no party, including them, has become an electoral power.

Yet, the dream of new electoral party remains the go-to dream of frustrated progressives whenever their candidate loses. As a threat to Democrats, it has a certain power, but as a sustainable organizational strategy, it is laughable. And its power as a threat is not that the new party might outpoll Democrats, but that it is an organized way to urge people to abstain from the election.

If you step back, it is not surprising that new party formations don't work. Instead of going to where the people are, it is going to where the people are not and waiting for them there.




Sunday, May 15, 2016

Many congregations will not able to handle it.

Another gleaning from the Followup Conference on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry ......

There are significant new regulations coming about the hiring and compensation of employees that may well be beyond the ability of smaller UU congregations to handle.

One area of new regulation is the use of overtime. In order to declare an employee exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the position must meet certain requirements. Those requirements are being tightened, both in terms of overall salary and job definition. The practice of treating some church staff as exempt or salaried employees, paid a certain amount regardless of the number of hours they worked, will be harder to do within the law.

It's all fiendishly complicated, of course, and that is the point of this story. All but the largest of our congregations do not have professional Human Resources personnel on their staff. Richard Nugent of the Office of Church Staff Finances thinks that many of our congregation are not in compliance with labor law already. And in our smallest congregations, these matters are handled by part-term administrative staffs, supervised by volunteer treasurers.

The economic sustainability of our ministries (in the broadest sense) depends on the infrastructure to collect revenue and to legally employ people in an increasingly regulated labor market. Our polity as a religious movement has distributed that infrastructure down to our smallest operating units -- the local congregation.

I don't think that that arrangement is going to work much longer.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Report from Sarah Lammert on Follow Up Conference on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry

Two of my recent posts dealt with issues that came up from at the Follow Up Conference on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry. The Rev. Sarah Lammert was one of the co-conveners on the conference and here is her preliminary report. Much to think about.



May 4-6th, 2016
Twenty-five UU leaders gathered in a follow-up session to last year’s Summit on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry. A lively keynote address was offered as the kickoff event by Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurston, authors of "How We Gather" and "Something More”.  

Attendees then worked in smaller groups on two issues: Stewardship Education and Lay Ministry. Using design theory as a frame, the first group looked at how we can re-energize and re-frame the relationship of Unitarian Universalism with money, based on a robust theology of covenant. Participants came up with the idea of curating current resources into an “OWL 4 MONEY” that mimics the very successful all-ages UUA curriculum around human sexuality. A second group worked on a design for unleashing the power of lay ministry. There has long been a yearning in UU circles for an alternative path to doing ministry that is different in scope and less involved than seeking ordination. Recognizing that there are already many forms of lay ministry in the UU universe, participants came up with the idea of building a network of such groups to share best practices around formation and accountability, with the hope of moving toward a reciprocal recognition that could include and encourage diverse forms of recognized lay ministry.  

On the final day, Richard Nugent, Director of the Office of Church Staff Finances, presented a preliminary report (and asked for input) from the ongoing redesign of “UUA Compensation Guidelines” for UU religious professionals. His office is working with a consulting firm in a multi-year, comprehensive process to provide a balanced, just, and achievable set of standards for congregations to compensate their professional staffs for their faithful work. 15 focus groups have already been held with UU religious professionals; the coming year will focus on engaging lay leaders in similar groups, with a rollout expected in 2018.  

An “idea journal” with detail is forthcoming from the organizers of the conference. For more coverage, watch the special on-site edition of the VUU. Link here to The Lively Tradition blog posts on the conference. Come to the workshop “Economic Sustainability of Ministries: An Ongoing Discussion,” at General Assembly, Saturday June 25, 3:00 – 4:15PM Hyatt Regency Union AB.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Zero Sum Game?

Lay Ministry and Ordained Ministry.

Would training more lay ministers to perform some of the functions of ministry drive down the economic prospects of ordained ministers? 

Would small and struggling congregations choose to hire a trained lay minister rather than an ordained minister? Would a larger congregation choose to supplement their ordained parish minister with a few trained lay ministers, some of whom might even be volunteer, rather than add an ordained associate, or assistant, minister? 

You could argue that more trained lay ministers would inevitably have that effect.  

You could also argue that deploying more ministers, of whatever level of training, is essential to the growth of Unitarian Universalism. And that’s where our economic sustainability ultimately lies. 

The economic sustainability of Unitarian Universalism is a wickedly complex problem. There are a lot of moving parts: Ministerial indebtedness, the high cost of preparation, tight congregational budgers, soaring real estate prices in many areas, the income stagnation of the middle and working class people. A lot of proposed fixes just shift the problem to somewhere else in the system.

If there was an obvious answer somebody would have done it already. 

Does training lay ministers just shift the burden to the already ordained ministers as a group, if not individually?

Your thoughts, please?