Friday, May 18, 2012

Nothing is More Powerful than a Made-Up Mind

Another eccentric billionaire is in the news -- this Ricketts guy wants to buy the election for Romney by funding an ad campaign recycling every racist suspicion of Obama.  There must a whole cottage industry of political consultants writing proposals for ad campaigns to be funded by eccentric right wing billionaires.  If they stroke the right zones on the right old guy, the consultant is in the money.  Kind of like building mansions on spec. 

Big money in politics buys television ads.  Television ads are not very effective in Presidential races.  Or, to be more precise, television ads are really only useful defensively in races where most voters already have opinions.  Supporters lose confidence if they do not see their candidate's ads.  Very few people are actually persuaded one way or another by an ad campaign.  Once voters makes up their mind about who they plan to vote for, not much can change. Nothing is more powerful than a made-up mind.

It's important to remember this after the Citizen's United decision.  Billionaires come and go and the money washes around the system, but I know that my vote cannot be bought.  Most people's votes cannot be bought.  And as the issues and interests become more clear, more votes are unbuyable. 

As religious liberals, our message to our fellow citizens is: get a hold of yourself.  Sort out your interests and principles and values, and figure how to advance them through your votes.  That is your empowerment. 

Mother's Day


Today is Mother’s Day.  A day in which we each think of our mothers, and of course, our childhood’s,  I hope that for most of you those memories are warm, and bring back feelings of safety and security and nurture, like the mother and child nestling together at bedtime in our reading today.  And I pray for all of you, whose memories are more difficult,and are colored with tragedy, and especially for you who remember pain and terror as your companions in your youngest days.  May each passing year put more healing time between you and those days.

And I think of all those who are actively mothering right now, with all its frustrations and anxieties and demands:  may you be graced with moments that will become sustaining memories as these pass.  May you be assured that you are probably doing better than it seems.  May we all hold mothers in a warm and comforting embrace, recalling, remembering, reliving, forgiving.  Let us be motherly to mothers: intercede for them against harsh judgements and resentments and unwillingness to forgive.

and today, we cannot help but think of the most famous and reknown mother of all, the biggest mama of history, Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus, the blessed virgin mother, the queen of heaven, the mother of us all, the mother of God. 

Growing up a liberal Protestant -- out of the anabaptist traditions of Germany, and then among the Unitarians of New England, the Blessed Virgin Mother was a distant, remote and somewhat silly figure.  Devotion to her seemed strange.  I grew up in Youngstown Ohio, a city which was filled with Roman Catholics, and I saw the shrines to her in the backyards and in the front yards of my neighbors.  I must admit we snickered some. Even though we were friends and played together, we were very conscious of being Protestant vs being Catholic.  We would yell and mock and even throw little stones at the school from Immaculate Heart of Mary School when it lumbered through the neighborhood.  Somehow, we thought they thought they were better than us.  You would think I grew up in Belfast.  The statues of Mary were everywhere, surrounded by flowers in the spring and summer, and even in the winter, plastic flowers grew at her feet, indestructible, emerging from the snow.  She was slim and beautiful and always so calm and usually wore a sky blue cape.  She seemed more a sad and shy older sister than a mother.

And this of course, is one image of Mary -- the innocent maiden -- really just a girl.  There are four visions of Mary in the New Testament, and each vision is provocative -- almost an archetype of the ways that adults think about their mothers.  So, I want just go through them -- not as biblical scholarship, but as triggers for our own memories of our own mothers, on this, Mother’s Day.

Let us remember first Mary the Innocent, the virgin, and yet of surprising strength of purpose.  She is our mother, but we never know that mother of ours -- she is the mother before we are born.
I have a photograph of my mother standing in the kitchen of the first parsonage my father ever lived in -- they were just married.  The house is probably still standing somewhere down in Rock Village in Middleborough, Mass.  The kitchen looks more like a kitchen in a summer cabin.  My mother is impossibly young in the picture and she is not smiling.  She looks so vulnerable.  I cannot look at that picture without feeling enormous tenderness for her. 

Many people think of Mary as being the face of the divine feminine -- and a Christian reworking of the pagan Goddess -- the great Mother Goddess which some say is the divinity of pre-history.  I don’t doubt it, but consider what a contrasting vision the Virgin Mary is.  The Mother Goddess is fertile and maternal and generous and overflowing with children, with milk, and life.  She is lush and wide and a sacred symbol of all that is cyclical and generous about the Earth which gives us life.

Mary, on the other hand, is pure and young and inexperienced -- one imagines her holding the baby cautiously at first, fussed over by a midwife, reassured that she will get this motherhood thing.

Instead of earthy, ethereal.  She was pure and that is why she could be the vessel through which the pure, immutable, unchangeable, God could take shape and form and enter into time. 

But this young innocent mother, who is devoted to her child, is the subject of so much of our longing and our art.  The madonna and child -- how many paintings?

On this mother’s day, we remember our Mothers, as the young mother we never knew, innocent and devoted.

After the stories of Jesus’ birth and infancy, we next see Mary in the Bible as the rejected mother.  It is a story in both Matthew and Luke -- Mary and her sons -- the mother and brothers of Jesus come to him while he is preaching, and they cannot get to him because of the crowd.  And he denies them -  no, his family are his disciples -- the ones with whom he is working.  They are hearing the word of God and doing it. 

We do not see Mary’s reaction to these words.  Sent away by her son.  We know, however, Mary’s reactions, because so many of us have lived this story ourselves.  Some of us have played all the characters in this most human of dramas.  This story of rejection is part of growing up -- an essential step in defining ourselves. 

Mother’s Day is so poignant and emotional is that we carry this memory with us, and the roses and gifts and brunches are small tokens of our remorse and guilt, now that we are on the other side of that temporary chasm that is adolescence and young adulthood.

And on this mother’s day, we remember our mothers in this moment of our life together.

And the third time that we see Mary, the Virgin Mother, in the biblical narrative is the Sorrowful Mother.  The one watching her son being arrested, tried, beaten, scorned and crucified. 

The sorrowful mother.  I also had a sorrowful mother.  As the emotional center of a family, mothers are the ones who teach us how to grieve.  There were two deaths in my growing up years -- my mother’s sister and then my mother’s mother each died of cancer while I was in grammar school.  I remember her stricken face on the telephone, her tears, the days of sadness.  It was terrifying to see her so sad, for her grief revealed that some sadnesses cannot be fixed and made better. 

There is wisdom in such sorrow, a wisdom born of brokenness, a light that shines through the cracks of such brokenness. 

And on mother’s day, we remember our mothers who taught us how to grieve.

May the grief of all mothers be assuaged on this day, and those who sorrow for the loss of their mother be comforted.  Let God lay thy healing hand on these hurting hearts.

And the last story of Mary in the Bible is this strange story in Revelation 12 -- a mythic summation of Mary’s life, retold as though it was the end of a summer blockbuster movie made for teen-aged boys.   Mary as pivotal figure in a cosmic story.  She is about to give birth to the Messiah, it seems, and Satan, it seems, wants to snatch that baby, but Mary is protected by an army of angels, led by Michael.  Mary does not fight herself, but must flee on the wings of an eagle and hidden and protected in the deepest wilderness. Satan even sends a river to wash her away and the earth opens up to swallow up the river. 

This is a rich story.  You are that baby.  Whether you are a boy or a girl, you are that baby in the cosmic struggle for salvation that is your life.  What on Earth can that mean? 
 
And what does it mean that your mother must be protected and kept safe and nurtured, so that you can do what you need to do in life?  I urge you to play with this story.  I cannot interpret this story for you, but one of the things that is said of Mary is that she is the Mother of us All.  After all, if Jesus is our brother then Mary must be our mother and we are all children of God. 
Mary is also said to be the mediator, one who protects us in the cosmic struggle of salvation. 

May we all be saved and protected in this cosmic story of life.

So, on this mother’s day, we remember each of our Mothers, in all her ages and stages. May we pledge to protect the mothers among us.  And let us allow ourselves to be protected by mother love once again. 

Hymn Number 409.

Some things that must be said

Before our Mother's Day sermon, I made a few comments about President Obama's approval of same-sex marriage.

Before we turn to Mother’s Day, a word about a current event.  I am glad that President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage this week.  I don’t think that anyone doubted that this is, and has been, his true position for quite a while now. 

Now, what I am going to say is going to sound like bragging, but it must be said.  President Obama has caught up with the Unitarian Universalists.  The Unitarian Universalist Association officially endorsed marriage equality in 1996.   The earliest known “ceremony of union” for a gay or lesbian couple by a UU minister was in 1974, when Barack Obama was 13 years old. 

I know that sounds like bragging, but I think it is necessary.  A recent survey of young people showed that over 90% associated “Christianity” with “anti-homosexuality”. That to be “Christian” meant that one was necessarily anti-gay.  90% of the young.

Now, I know that whether UU’s are Christians or not is a subject of great disagreement and controversy. But I think most of the rest of the world thinks that people who worship on Sunday morning with organ music and meet in buildings with tall steeples are Christians.  So, I think that it is safe to assume that most of the young people who see this church from the outside assume that we are going to be anti-gay.   

So it is important for us to be clear that we are not, and that we have been supportive of gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender and queer people for a decades now.

My second comment about President Obama’s statement:  I want you to notice the way that he referred to his religious tradition in his statement.  He cited two sources of authority for his pro-same sex marriage position.  One was his personal experience and observation:  the people he knew and worked with, including the people that he commands.  The second was his religion, and there he specifically mentioned the Golden Rule, which was pronounced by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.  

Anti-gay Christians look to Bible passages in Leviticus and in Paul’s Letter to the Romans which are, indeed, explicitly anti-gay.  The Bible is used as authority for two different positions.  There are obviously two ways to read the Bible. 

President Obama reads the Bible the same way that I read the Bible -- that is, to take it as a whole and discern its core meaning.  It is a contradictory book, filled with all sorts of material with all sorts of point of view.  It is a documentary history -- a book filled with documents, not a single story. 

What does it document?  It documents the twists and turns of the people of a particular religious tradition as they struggled to make meaning of life and to determine how people should live.  And while there are many voices in the scripture, it comes down to a final set of propositions -- that we live in a wild and improbable Universe, full of beauty and danger, sorrow and joy, and we must love it, embrace full-heartedly, and to the extent that we imagine it as made by a single set of hands, love its maker.  And, to love our fellow human beings.  To Love God and To Love our Neighbor as ourselves. 

This is, as Jesus said, it all of it in a nutshell, and to me, and I believe to all that read this book as I do, which includes President Obama, it means that we read every line of that vast and contradictory book through that lens.  And how could loving our neighbor as ourselves be ever reconciled with denying them the rights and privileges of civil society that we demand for ourselves?

These are things that must occasionally be said.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Our "Betters"

aren't.

The news of Mitt Romney's cruelty toward a fellow student at the posh Cranbrook School, combined with the recent stories about how future financial titans currently enrolled at Dartmouth haze the pledges in their fraternities, plus the casual sadism of George W Bush at ultra-elite Skull and Bones at Yale, should make that clear.

These are, of course, just "youthful pranks," but they still have an unconscious purpose: to inure the future leaders of the nation to the suffering of others.  Specifically: to teach that fitting in with one's peers has a higher value than one's natural compassion or reluctance to cause another person pain or humiliation. 

The object of this teaching is not the ringleader, who is already well on the way to the sociopathology called executive leadership, nor the victim, who doesn't matter, but the boys in the middle.  What remnants of a moral code are they willing to give up for the approval of the leader?  It starts with condoning a forced haircut, but proceeds onto beatings and rape, and then laying off workers and then bombing raids on civilians. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Obama and Marriage Equality

Lesson:  Once you are behind the curve historically -- there is no time that trying to catch up doesn't look exactly like what it is -- trying to catch up.  Your friends will be very happy because they don't have to be embarrassed by your tardiness anymore.  Your enemies will be mad at you because you are getting right when they were enjoying your error.  The only thing to do is to try to catch up as soon as you can, do it with dignity, and hope that you give some space for other late-comers to catch up too. 

Marriage, Obama, North Carolina

Just saying those three words together gives a person a headache.

North Carolina just passed their amendment One -- a nasty slap in the face of every gay, lesbian and queer person in the state. 

North Carolina voted for Obama in 2008 and could well again in 2012.  If the current predictions of a closer 2012 election come true, North Carolina might make the difference between Forward and Backward.

Obama is a mush and muddle about marriage equality.  He makes every dog whistle he can that he favors marriage equality, but he will not say so.  And when I think of the awesome goose-bumptious speech he could give on behalf of marriage equality, I want to cry that he won't, or hasn't yet, or can't.

Of course, my default on Barack Obama is that he is melanin-enhanced version of myself -- a warrior for the great progressive cause, a man of the Left, as they say in Europe.  I am willing to crow loudly for marriage; but Obama seems to cluck like a chicken on the subject. And how could he be so cautious on a cause dear to us, his loyalest supporters?

But progressives are not Obama's loyalest supporters.  African-American voters are his strongest supporters and his base.  And his base is divided on the marriage equality -- Not as much as they used to be, but still divided. 

I do not believe that President Obama thinks that being less than clear about marriage equality is going to fool any Republican social conservatives.  But it may help keep some of the most socially conservative African Americans religious leaders and voters in the coalition.

It's really great when the President of the United States can be the advocate for one's causes.  It doesn't always work out that way.  Sometimes you have to lead from below and say what the President thinks he can't say.   

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Is Spirituality a Skill --

I am a pragmatic guy -- a “by their fruits, you will know them”, especially when it comes to religion and spiritual paths.  Whatever seems to work in allowing people to develop the essential virtues of life is OK with me.   Does your religious approach result in you embodying reverence and awe and gratitude, as a start?

In fact, I think it’s the only way to define spirituality in a theologically inclusive way.

Spirituality is a way of thinking and feeling, rather than specific thoughts, or beliefs.

So, the question is whether it is a learnable.  Can one develop a deeper spirituality?  Can one learn how to be more grateful, more reverent, to hold the world in greater awe?    Can one learn how to discern what is the next right thing for you in your life -- the way forward that brings you into greater balance and harmony with the universe? 

Because if there is, doesn’t it make sense to try to develop that skill?  Isn’t that one way to think about being, as we say, “on a spiritual journey.”

Over the last week, I have been reading a book about a variety of Evangelical Protestantism that has some very interesting ideas about this subject.  The Book is “When God talks Back”  by T. M. Luhrmann.  Ms. Luhrmann is a Anthropology professor at Stanford University and is a psychological anthropologist.  She also says that she went to a Unitarian Sunday school growing up, which verifies her credentials as a Comparative Religions nerd. 

Professor Luhrmann spent a couple of years studying the interior religious lives of people who were part of what is called either “renewalist evangelicalism” or “experiential evangelicalism”.  The Vineyard churches, of which there several in Massachusetts, practice this kind of religion.

Renewalist or Experential evangelicalism is not particular interested in right belief or even in right behavior or right politics, but in the person having a personal relationship with Jesus or God, which are more or less interchangeable in their world.  And by relationship with God, they mean that not only does one “pray without ceasing” -- talk to God, but that one listens for and hears God talking to you.  Pretty much all day long, and about everything. 

Professor Luhrmann describes people who tell of conversing with God as they might with a close friend.  Standing in the front of the closet chatting away about whether they should wear the blue or the green shirt today.  Chatty, informal, casual, even giggly. Women talking about having dates with God.

So, what’s going on here? In a certain light, this looks like delusional behavior, but this are not auditory hallucinations.  People are not, for the most part, hearing an actual voice which seems to be coming from outside themselves. 

What Professor Luhrmann learned through extensive and sympathetic interviewing is that people have identified a certain voice, an expression of a certain point of view, among all the thoughts, impressions, images and sensations running through their mind as being the voice of God.

Here is an example:  a woman notices the tulips on her walk through the park -- among all the tulips some were all ready past their peak, and others were just at the peak, and others were opening up, still in bud and some were so newly formed that she couldn’t even see what color they would be when they did open. 

Later as she is talking and praying with someone else, the image of these tulips come into her mind and for her, it is a message from God to offer the other the reminder that everything comes in its own time, and sometimes in ways that are unpredictable.  That sometimes you don’t get what you expect. 


She had trained her mind to read the image of the tulips as it floated into her consciousness as a communication.

Anyone who has meditated for even a short time realizes that we have very little control over our thoughts.  Ideas, associations, images just rush into our minds -- where do they come from?  Why these images or thoughts, instead of those?  Well, sometimes, we understand the association, but other times, it doesn’t seem clear -- I start out thinking about my dog and in 3 seconds I am thinking about the 1950 Dodge we used to have and along the way, I thought about Emerson, an old girlfriend, and what I would like for dinner. 

Professor Luhrmann says that the spiritual path that these folks are on leads them to identify some of those thoughts that God has planted in their mind -- as God communicating with them.

She calls it “externalizing internal thoughts.”  Or moving the boundary between what is private and individual and what outside the self.

Understand that this is consistent with a long tradition with Western spirituality. Every week, as we prepare ourselves for silent prayer and meditation, we speak of “the still, small voice of God that dwells within each of us.”  And today, we read the biblical passage from which that phrase comes -- the story of Elijah the prophet, told in the court history of David and Solomon.  We think that we are more likely to hear God as an internal voice to us, or in a vision, or a dream, than we would hearing it as a teaching of the church, or even in a sermon on Sunday morning -- well, we all believe that, even me.

The whole history of Western Religions has been the movement from worshipping an entirely external God -- God out there, and up there -- through ritual in a special place, with special words, to a private, personal practice of a relationship with the divine within.   We call it the progression from organized religion to private spirituality. 

The experiential evangelicals have adapted evangelical protestantism to the era of personalized and individualized internal spiritual authority. 

The point of experiential evangelicalism is not changing beliefs, or even changing behavior, it is bringing people into a relationship with God -- where God is always a presence in the faithful’s mind -- the way that your spouse or partner or best friend is.  You trust them; you believe that they have your best interests at heart; you believe that they love you; you believe that they will forgive your misdeeds and so it is natural that you would consider what they would think of your actions, even your thoughts.  Their voice is always, in a sense, in your head.

Now, their understanding of God is very similar to the vision of God held by liberal Christians, or theistic religious liberals.  God is encouraging; God is on your side; God knows you intimately and God still loves you.  God wants to get what you want if it is going to be good for you.  God no longer engages in smiting.  God is not angry, or wrathful, or eager to destroy the rebellious humanity.

Their belief, indeed the belief of all liberal theists these days, is that God is a safe, loving presence -- the ultimate therapist, seriously, some with whom you can safely explore what is most troubling about yourself and the most painful and traumatic of all your experiences, and you can do this because you know that you will not be judged, or condemned, or mocked. You can be vulnerable and not in control. 

Now, it seems that the practical result of understanding yourself in such a relationship could be that you could live a life more consistently reverent and grateful.   When you were bored and tired and irritated and distracted, (as I was in the tire store I told you about a couple weeks ago) you would be expecting that God would be telling you to make a more cheerful and positive response to life.  I would be interpreting some of the thoughts that were floating into my mind as reminders and calls and encouragements. 

As I have said, my father left the Baptist ministry to become a Unitarian about the time I was born.  I have held the letter that he wrote to the American Unitarian Association at that time, explaining why he wanted to leave the Baptists, where his father and brothers and brothers-in-law and his father-in-law were all successful ministers.  He said that he had become convinced that people change because they come to believe more in God’s Love than in God’s anger.  So this is a distinction that has been around for a while.

So the progression is like this:  in order to live a more spiritually grounded life, one has to be in a close and intimate relationship with God, as though God were best friend.  And in order to be in that relationship, you have to let God speak to you, by identifying parts of your stream of consciousness as the voice of God.  And to let God that close, you have trust God as truly loving you, which just means believing that you are a person worthy of being loved. 

Oh, that’s all. 

The Vineyard Churches seem to have some methods for developing the sense that one is lovable and indeed, loved by God.  Their worship and their prayer life together is very emotional and emotionality is encouraged.  People cry when prayed over by others; people are supported in having their emotions run away with them.  Their Bible study is emotion centered -- how would it feel to be in the situations described.  They are encouraged to practice peace, joy and love in all situations -- a virtue based morality, rather than rule-based.  They are asked to look at themselves through God’s eyes -- to give up looking at the world as a frightened creature at risk, but looking at them as God would -- almost parentally watching a tot’s first steps.  And, interestingly enough, for them an important piece of the work of the spiritual journey is specifically addressing and re-working the concept of God the Father.  It is their experience that people cannot let God get close to them because they are conflicted, frightened, traumatized, ignored, neglected, abused by the human father figure. 

Their understanding of why so many of us cannot be in relationship to God is not because of belief, or logic, or doctrine, or science, but because we are somehow blocked in entering into that relationship.   And how long does it take to fully let someone into your heart -- a lover, a friend, a partner, a spouse? 

Unitarian Universalism is not the Vineyard and the Vineyard is not us.  We come from a different historical root and branch.  They are a type of evangelical Christian with strong Pentecostalist influences.  Their founders and pioneers came from the Jesus Freak movements of the late 60’s and 70’s -- very loosely structured, emotional and ecstatic forms of Protestantism that developed and were rooted in California.  Obviously, we are something different.  We come from those Puritans for whom the spiritual life is often focused on self-examination, self-scrutiny, making a fearless inventory.

I am not sure that you could even call the Vineyard Christian fellowships part of “Liberal Religion”. 

But they are, as I have said before, a genuine religious response to the personalization of spirituality in the 21st century.  Spirituality is personal, unique, individual.  It has to do primarily with how you live your life, how you feel, what you think about, the values you live by in daily life, with whom and how you are in relationships.  It is not primarily about what you believe.  It is not even what you do.  It is not about the groups that you belong to. 

And this experiential evangelicalism is getting at one of the weaknesses of personal spirituality:  that of spiritual practice?  What do you as a person do?  How do you learn; how do you mature in faith?  What are the life skills of the spiritual life?

My big takeaway from this book is that life skills of a spiritual life can be taught and learned.  Ultimately, they are relational skills, learning how to live in this universe and among these people, with honesty and humilty, reverence, gratitude, openness, solidarity and self-possession.  These are the virtues of liberal religion and if you notice they are relational -- they describe kinds of relationships with others, with your many selves, and with all of reality.  May we learn to ground those relationships in love.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

More on Troubling Trends for Professional UU leaders.

Responses to the troubling trends in professional leadership.

My recent post has gotten an interesting mix of responses, especially in the area of creating “super-congregational’ hiring bodies for religious professionals.  (Again, using the word “super” in its meaning of “above” rather than “better” or “greater”.)

Several satellite church experiments were reported.  One model is that the flagship congregation plants the satellites.  My questions:  are the people in the satellite members of the flagship congregation?  What are the local staff requirements, beyond the ministers?  How does the money flow?  How do they get started -- do locals approach the flagship?  Or vice-versa? Somebody enlighten me.

I am interested in First Houston’s creation of satellites by merging smaller congregations into the flagship.  I am pleasantly surprised by this happening.  I would have thought that smaller congregations would resist merger.  In some cases, isn’t their reason for being exactly their desire to be different than the “big church downtown.” ?  Understanding how to successfully merge churches of different sizes would be key to moving UUism in New England forward. 

I am also interested in Jeanne Pupke’s thoughts about district/regional hiring bodies.  Could we imagine a situation where a district/regional or even UUA level body would directly support ministers to do church planting?  Hasn’t that kind of “extension” work been done through congregations in the past?  I, for one, am more optimistic about creating new “beyond-congregations” by subsidizing entrepreneurial minister/planters than by supporting a mini-congregation that is trying to form. 

New Word Alert:  A group of people who are gathering on Sunday morning for a worship service are a New Congregation.  They might have a minister or not.   A new “Beyond-Congregation” is a organized network of UU’s and other religious liberals who are joined by some religious purpose -- study group, small group ministry circles that meet in homes, or restaurants, collective living groups.  They might be organized by a minister or not.

Community Ministry:  I think I hear Scot Giles suggesting that UU Community Ministers might represent some solution. As I read his comment, I thought of a small church led by a bi-vocational minister who was, in part, a Community minister and generating income from that work and a part-time parish minister, who was presumably generating income from that source.  There must a thousand variations possible of this arrangement, depending on the potential for non-UU income and the interest in performing as a parish minister on a part-time basis.  

But where I started in exploring this was the realization that as we go to more part-time ministries and part-time employment in all positions, we end up excluding more and more of our professionals from the benefit programs that the UUA has worked on creating and providing. Combining part-time jobs may make a decent living, but often without good benefits.

And lastly, Paul Beedle seems to suggest we will have to rely more and more on lay and volunteer and part-time staffing. Maybe, we need to give up is the idea that Unitarian Universalism will be a religious movement led by middle-class professionals who work full-time, have offices and good benefit packages.  That style may still prevail in the Capitol but out in the Districts, not so much. (Hunger Game reference.)