Showing posts from May, 2007

Henry Louis Gates' Bag Party

Jfield comments on how recent the use of the brown bag as a measuring rod has been, saying that Henry Louis Gates, Jr. experienced it in the Ivy League.

Here is Gates describing the incident on Book Notes, in an interview with Brian Lamb.

When I was at Yale, for example -- I went there in '69 and...

LAMB: Undergraduate?

GATES: Undergraduate.

LAMB: Studying what, by the way?

GATES: American history, though I took a lot of Afro-Am courses on the side, but I was a history major. I remember the first year I was there -- the first month I was there, we had this special meeting of the Black Student Alliance to talk to the black men -- young black men from New Orleans, some of whom were very light complected. And they wanted to have something called a bag party. So, you know, what's a bag party? They wanted to put this paper bag over the door and anyone who was darker than the paper bag couldn't get into the party. So, you know, I looked at them -- I was secretary of the Black Studen…

Brown Bags

Ok, I will get into this one as well.
For those who stepped out briefly: here is the backstory.

Melissa Mummert, in a sermon reprinted in Quest, describes Starr King School for the Ministry's decision to cease using the phrase "brown bag lunch".

Peacebang comments on this, and not in a supportive way.

Much commenting ensues. Most of it is a defense of SKSM's curriculum's focus on anti-oppression.

My interest was piqued by the blog entry of the Left Coast Unitarian.

Key paragraph:

For me the actual matter of dispute is fairly simple. If a person of color, especially an elder, suggests that a particular term is not the most inviting way to title or describe a gathering, I will take them at their word absent a good deal of evidence.

On a very small scale, herein lies the weakness of much of the anti-racism and anti-oppression work that has been done among Unitarian Universalists in the 21st century. This paragraph describes an asymmetrical relationship and a lack of mutu…

The hidden cause

It is my belief that the hidden cause of the anxiety-provoking weakness of the UUA is simple. We are a religious organization that marginalizes and disempowers its religious professionals in the leadership of its affairs, especially its most successful ministers.

We hold our annual convention at the time of the year when our ministers are least ready to exert any leadership.This year we are inviting our congregational leaders to come and learn together at UU University, at a time which competes with minister's meetings.Our national leaders understand that national leadership positions are not possible for successful parish ministers.We think that communicating with the larger culture is "marketing" and we hire marketing consultants to do it. Communicating to the larger culture is "sharing our gospel" and it is a religious/theological/evangelical task. Did Jesus hire a marketing consultant to come up with "The Kingdom of God is at Hand."?
Much of the …

It does not follow

that "congregational polity" means that trans-congregational organizations, memberships and networks are somehow illegitimate.

Whatever you think, the way that information flows and the kinds of connections that people can make means that Unitarian Universalism, like all movements, parties, denominations, and organizations will exist in an open network of many-to-many connections. UU's from across the county and across the world will form connections around special interests, shared identities and common causes. That toothpaste is already out of the tube.

More on the IA Mystery --Going a Little Deeper

Unitarian Universalism is an organizationally anxious denomination.

We know that we are not growing fast enough to keep up with the population.It is hard for us to articulate what we feel are our shared message, mission and goals. We feel weak in the overall religious environment of the country. We are diverse in our understanding of what we are and are doing, enough so that when we look around at other UU's, we often feel that we are not sure that we belong. It is easy to imagine that the whole thing could go in a direction where we would no longer feel comfortable.
In sum, most of us want Unitarian Universalism to be stronger, more organized, more powerful and more united, and more capable. At the same time, we see other UU's as potential threats and rivals and obstacles.

I would love it if Unitarian Universalism grew more bigger and more powerful and more organized, IF it still includes me, and the kind of church I serve. If on the other hand, it grows more powerful and…

Why the Independent Affiliate Mystery matters

So, the UUA board rejects the applications for a bunch of Independent Affiliates?
Weren't there too many of them anyway? Aren't they an "organizational irregularity" in "An Association of Congregations" anyway? Aren't some of them just kind of support groups? Aren't others just political pressure groups that have as their purpose to lobby for certain political stances by the Association? How many have more than token memberships?
Aren't they part of the problem of GA -- that bazaar of the bizarre that our substitute for a serious meeting where the work of the association can be carried out by representatives of our congregations? And aren't some of those IA's responsible for our fracturing into hyphenated-UU's and actually prevent the kind of clarifying and unifying theological discussion which we need?Independent Affiliates have been part of the organizational ecology of the UUA for many years now. They are trans-congregational …

The Independent Affiliate Mystery

At its most recent meeting, the UUA Board rejected the applications of 15 of the 17 organizations who were re-applying for Independent Affiliate Status. I have read elsewhere that the board voted as follows. I have not been able to find the minutes online -- I suppose that they are still in process.


Council of Unitarian Universalists Camps and Conferences
Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry.

IA status was denied to the following groups:


Unitarian Universalist Men’s Network
Unitarian Sunday School Society
Faithful Fools Street Ministry
Lambda Ministers Guild
New Massachusetts Universalist Convention
Project Harvest Hope
The Unitarian Universalist Psi Symposium
Unitarian Universalist Retired Ministers and Partners Association
Unitarian Universalists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
District Presidents’ Association
Council on Church Staff Finances
Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice
Unitarian Universalist Peace Fellowship

Testing What You Would Do

How bad a thing would you do, if it were to save something really good? Apparently, this is the dominant discourse in public moral theology these days. Is it OK for Jack Bauer to torture people on '24'? Do US Muslims think that suicide bomb attacks against civilians are justifiable? US soldiers and marines in Iraq have been recently quizzed on whether they think that abuse of civilians is OK. A wag recently commented that the Republican Presidential candidates are uniting around the position that they would relish the opportunity to send to Gitmo and torture illegal alien women until they give up the names of their abortion providers.

It is the Abraham and Isaac story again -- if you say that you will obey God, would you then murder your own son, if you thought that God commands it? It is a line of questioning that probes for the exact spot where two values which are normally seen as complementary become contradictory. After all, in most circumstances, protecting o…

An Obvious Point, but needs to be said

UU's should encourage tithing.

UU leaders, ministers, staff, and lay, all agree that it is crucial to build "a culture of generosity" among Unitarian Universalists if we are ever going to do any of the things to which we aspire. In fact, it is the one thing that we agree on. Everyone from the flattest of the flat earth Humanists, to the most crusty nostalgic Christian, to the grooviest New Age hipster, to the UU comrade fresh from the barricades, all decry our legendary cheapness.

So why doesn't someone start thinking about how to encourage and recognize those who tithe? After all, we have national programs designed to encourage all sorts of other good behaviors, and to recognize those who are good examples. One gets all sorts of ribbons to wear on one's name badge, and one's congregation can be listed in lists in the UU World for all sorts of good things. One can even have little icons next to your congregations link if you are welcoming, or accessible. …

One's theology of religions is central

The Band-Boy scores again with this comment:

I think the first piece of literature — whether it be a position paper, a pamphlet or webpage — I think any new Christian church needs to get down is its understanding of and relationship with non-Christians.

To which I would add, this is also true of Unitarian Universalist congregations. UU congregations actually seem to have 2 or 3 (maybe more) observably different understandings of other religions, including Christianity. For the most part, these theological positions do not even have names, nor even much theological reasoning behind them.

There is a strong strain of old-school supersecessionist Humanism: as modern science burns away all superstition, all religions will eventually be purified into a single ethical humanism.

There is a strong strain of supersecessionist syncretic Unitarian Universalism: all religions will eventually be replaced by a single religion that combines all the best of others into one new world religion.

There is…

For a Healthier Unitarian Universalism

The Band-Boy asks:

what would it take for Unitarian Universalism to be healthier, so that would could meet some realistic goals for improving the material and spiritual estate of this corner of liberal religiousity? If we’re going to fight, it might as be for something epic. If we’re going to struggle, it should be more than topping up the endowments.

He also says

So how are we to be healthier? One sign of bad health is that, as an Association, we seem incapable of holding more than one model of anything at one time, or for very long. In a great arc, some great cause sweeps the landscape, obliterates other options, the failings appear, and it is discarded. The Fellowship Movement is one example. I think the Big Plant church start — a late-adopted darling from the 1970s — is already showing sign of strain. I wouldn’t get too attached to the Carver Model.

My thoughts: (1) give up "terminal uniqueness", (2) one way to get better is to stop assuming that you're sick (3) promot…