Showing posts from January, 2012

A shocking solution to the student loan crisis

After a recent posting on the student loan crisis, someone sent me the following note.  S/he requested anonymity since s/he felt that the special interests that control this country would do everything in their power to suppress this kind of common sense solution to our nation's problems.  S/he hopes that if this idea comes from a blog of a respected religious leader, patriotic legislators will be able to reach across the aisle and come together for the good of our country, defying the extremes of both parties.

Well, I am not sure that I am that "respected religious leader" but I am willing to do what I can to bring our country back from the brink of madness and partisan bickering.

His/Her proposal:

We should forgive all student loans past and future in exchange for each student serving two years of mandatory national service in the armed services, inner-city teaching, conservation work or working in the newly nationalized American porn industry.
The adult entertainment i…

Student Loan Crisis in 5 steps

1.  Manufacturing jobs disappear in the United States, leaving only very low-wage service jobs or more technical and skilled careers.  But instead of investing in manufacturing in the US, the country makes a tacit decision that everyone should go to college and get one of these higher-skill, higher-paying jobs. It's the free market solution.

2.  Everybody, as a result of Free Market decision #1,  needs a college education.  But instead of making college education more plentiful and more affordable (investing more in community colleges, lowering fees and tuition, or even making it free, like Norway), the country adopts another  'Free Market" solution.   We decide to finance higher education by student debt.  
3. As an unintended consequence, college costs soar, for-profit colleges multiply and prestigious universities acquire endowments the size of small countries.  Banks make fortunes handling student debt.  Why shouldn't they?  It's a free market solution.  
4. H…

Beyond Congregations -- What's a Religious Movement?

When some people hear that President Morales wants us to think of ourselves as "a religious movement," they get anxious.  It sounds like the UUA will become even more boundary-less and intentionally less organized.

As I understand it, the UUA will never be a "religious movement".  After all, it is a legally incorporated non-profit organization with all the appropriate IRS status designations.  It has a Board and everything.  These are not the signs of a "movement".  Was the "Great Awakening" ever incorporated?

Liberal Religion is a movement among the people.  It is a spontaneous mass -movement of resignation from most forms of "organized religion" as people adopt as their religious views these propositions:

religious traditions are cultural responses to the basic human condition,
religious truth claims are unverifiable,
the goal of the religious life is ethical behavior
an ethical approach to life includes religious pluralism.

The Li…

Beyond Congregations and modern UU History

I divide the history of Unitarian Universalism (since merger) into 3 periods.  See my paper in response to Kim Beach at the James Luther Adams Foundation in 2011. 

Most of our assumptions about Unitarian Universalism come from the longest period -- 1968-2008 -- the period in which conservatism in all forms was aggressive and hegemonic while liberalism in all forms was defensive.   It was a wilderness period.

In our wilderness period, two responses arose:  One was to move to the Left politically.  The other was to stand on "religious community" as our core meaning and purpose.  UU's did not feel able to aggressively challenge conservative theology in the public square.  Instead they turned to the long strand of congregationalism as being their essential meaning.  "Congregations" and "covenant" defined us. These terms were applied to all sorts of congregations -- from those that sat in pews to those that sat in circles. But in all circumstances, our gos…

Our Message and Beyond Congregations

If Unitarian Universalism is called to engage people in settings other than congregational life, then our message becomes all the more important.

I have posted a big chunk of my sermon from yesterday because I am trying to define our top level message as it would be heard by people who are not familiar with us.  What is it that every person should know about what Unitarian Universalism wants them to do with their lives?

Our Good News

The heart of my sermon on January 29th.

Religious traditions are, first of all, messages to the people of the world.  Is the message that we are sending into the world good news to the people who hear it?  Is it helpful to them?  Does it speak to their condition? We are on an errand into a world unknown to us, and all we can carry is our message. Our message comes down to three affirmations and challenges:   The first is "self-possession.  You are an inherently worthy person, you have a right to be here, you are welcome in the Universe -- that’s the affirmation -- what’s  the challenge?  You have to think for yourself, be responsible for how you use this good gift of life.  
How many people need, desperately need, to hear this message?   Almost everyone...  all those who suffer discrimination, stereotyping and racism, the poor and the "uncultured", the LGTQ people, the immigrants, all those of diminished social status..  And beyond all social diminishments are the personal sh…

Musings on Morales 3 Beyond Congregations

Maybe if we stop trying to make our congregations all things to all people, they can get better at being some thing to some people.

Let a hundred flowers bloom.

Beyond Congregations 2

The link to the Morales article under discussion:  Beyond Congregations

President Peter is right, of course.  Lots more people identify themselves as UU than are members of our congregations.  Only a third of Baby Boomers are active in a church, about half of the same measure among the generation before them.  Participation falls off a cliff in the generations younger than the Boomers.  New forms of organization are going to be required; our present congregations will have to be our base camps for explorations into the wider world.

This would be a dire situation if Liberal Religion did not have a meaning and a message that can help lots of people grow into the people that they want to be. But we do.

In a world where most people are defined by others, either through discrimination and stereotyping, or through aggressive acculturation, Unitarian Universalism and Liberal Religion calls people to self-definition and self-determination.  We also call people to open-mindedness, which I th…

Beyond Congregations Thoughts -- #1

The first question that everyone should ask when the President of the UUA writes something for us all to consider is: for whom and to whom is he speaking?

Some people like to talk about 'The UUA' as if it were a single, monolithic body.  Not true anymore.  Remember that the Moderator of UUA endorsed a different candidate for the Presidency of the UUA than our current President.  Moderator Courter endorsed Laurel Hallman.  Laurel Hallman was more favorable to "policy governance" than Peter Morales.

I am told that the staff and the board are not always on the same page right now.

The Board of the UUA (and Gini Courter) has been quite clear that they are trying to make themselves more accountable to the congregations.  That was the impetus behind The Great Disaffiliation Campaign of a few years ago, when the Independent Affiliate Organization were weaned from official status.

Now, we have President Morales calling for an increased focus on non-congregational forms of…

I'm Back

Been away -- some computer problems, some pressing assignments.
But there are lots of things to talk about --
I promise more posts and shorter posts.

What is it about? Thoughts on Peter Boullata's excellent blogpost.

My friend and colleague Peter Boullata has written the most "liked" and "shared" blogpost of end of 2011.

He has a struck a chord with many of UU ministers.  With great passion, Peter articulates the frustrations and disappointments that many of us feel about the denomination and the churches for which we labor. Bookmark it and then print it out on archival-quality, non-acid paper. Put the paper in the shoebox you have marked for the Smithsonian.  It will do quite well as a historical document of this moment in the story of liberal religion in the USA.  As Eliot's Journey Magi asks, "Had we come all that way for a birth, or for a death?"

He has provoked me.

I see three strategic approaches to overcoming current UU malaise:  institutionalism, missionalism and evangelism.  Naturally, they overlap.

Institutionalism is dominant.  It says that the way for UUism to…