Friday, June 29, 2012

Honest Class Talk

Discussions of the economy in the present climate hide more than they communicate.  There is a whole vocabulary of terms that disguise the reality that different economic classes have different interests.

Take the term "job creators" which is favored term of the conservative politicians to talk about the wealthy.  The words suggest that the role and function of the wealthy is think of ways to hire people and create jobs for the rest of us.  Creating a job for a person is the last thing the wealthy want to do.  If something needs to be done, the first choice is a machine, the second choice is to buy a service from someone on a transaction basis, the third is a temporary, low-wage hire and finally, if there is no other way, creating a good job at a good wage and benefits for someone.

And even this is an old-fashioned way to think about the role of the wealthy in job creation.

People talk as though the wealthy are the owners of businesses that create goods and services for customers.  Even Elizabeth Warren, who of all people should know better, addresses a mythical factory owner when she addresses those who forget that our labor has made their wealth possible.  The wealthy now are in finance, not in the creation of goods and services.

Finance Capital is dominant in our economy.  The real action is not creating goods and services which meet people's needs.  It is investing in and trading in companies that produce profits.  If you give a chunk of money to someone like Mitt Romney and Bain Capital, they will search the landscape for a company that might possibly be profitable someday.  They will buy the company, bring it to temporary profitability, primarily by reducing labor costs, and then selling it.  Finance Capital does not use wealth for the purpose of "creating jobs."   It is more accurate to say that finance capital uses wealth for the purpose of destroying jobs.  This is obvious.  If a company announces a major layoff, eliminating thousands of jobs, capital flows toward that company; the stock price goes up.

Yes, the wealthy create jobs through their personal consumption.  That doesn't mean that much; everybody creates jobs through their personal consumption.  Some of those jobs are at the Chevy plant and some are at the BMW plant.

To Finance Capital, a company that makes a 10% return on investment is twice as good as a company that make 5%.  Social value has nothing to do with it.  This is why profitable companies are forced to lay off workers and cripple their ability to serve their customers -- they are not dependent on their customers, but on the financial markets for their survival.  There are newspapers who were profitable that drove themselves out of business trying to become profitable enough to continue to attract investment.

A company seeking customers has to be better than its competitors.  The resulting competition creates better goods and services at lower prices for customers.

A company seeking financing competes against all other investment opportunities, including companies that are not in the same industry, or even on the same continent.  The result is not better goods and services, but indeed, worse goods and services.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Comprehensive and Fair Immigration Policy

Thanks to Angela Maria Kelley's presentation at GA, I learned some background information about the state of policy development about Immigration in the last decade.  Angela Maria Kelley is the VP for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress.

Everyone says that we need comprehensive and fair Immigration Reform.  Even Mitt Romney, who tries to avoid saying anything concrete about immigration says that we need a "long term solution" by which he means a "comprehensive and fair immigration reform."  Romney adds the stunning qualifier that it also be "long term."  Quick, someone specify that it be "bi-partisan" to round out the list of glittering generalities.

The thing forgotten though is that such a bill has already received majorities of both houses of Congress and had the support of the President of the United States.  It was not perfect, of course, but the Immigration Reform Bill supported by Kennedy, McCain and George W Bush was approved by the House of Representatives and received 53 favorable procedural votes in the United States Senate.  While overwhelmingly supported by Democrats, it received Republican votes in both Houses.  One would think that it would be the law of the land, but no.

Unfortunately, the United States Senate operates under Minority Rule.  41 Senators can block any legislation.  And so, 53 votes out of a possible 100 is a defeat. (This innovation is one of the methods of the ongoing slow coup that a radicalized Republican Party is engaging in.) 

The bill became a cause for the proto-Tea Party grassroots rebellion in the GOP.  Support for it marked a Senator or Representative a RINO; even John McCain walked away from his own bill as part of his pursuit of the Presidency. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Occupy

I went to a workshop on the Occupy Movement here at UU Ministry Days, led by some colleagues who have been very active in New York City, Portland and elsewhere.  About 40 ministers attended, almost all of which had some level of participation in the movement.

I was surprised that my colleagues seemed to think its radical process was most important about Occupy: its ambition to be a 'leaderless' movement that worked by consensus and direct democracy.  There was talk of Occupy as a foretaste of Beloved Community.  And as has come up again and again in UU circles, there were reminders that the 1% must also be redeemed.

Bunkum.
 
The radical process of Occupy is an old fantasy.  We UU's know that better than any one else.  After all, we have learned the hard way that consensus based ultra-democracy is code for the covert veto power of tiny minorities.

What was radical, and  a challenge to Unitarian Universalists is the class analysis implicit in the naming of the 99%.

A class analysis is both a description of material reality and a strategic program. Change is a struggle between and among contending groups, each with their own ideas, narratives and interests.  A class analysis defines what those groups are, and describes who are allies, and who are adversaries.

As a description of reality, the 99% analysis is a little fuzzy, but provocative. The problems we face in the world all stem from the power that finance capital (or popularly "Wall Street") has over the wealth of the world.  Finance Capital is actually controlled by a small group of people, much less than 1% of the population, and through the operational control of the wealth of the world, they have amassed an unbelievable amount of wealth.

Consider the power of finance capital in today's world.  Finance Capital directs how the world's wealth is used.  The world's wealth is understood to be money that is invested by great financial institutions.  An increasing amount of the world's wealth is controlled and invested for the profit by those financial institutions.  It is most of our money.

I have a retirement account.  I have a piece of paper that tells me how much it is worth.  But in actuality, I have given that money to a number of financial institutions to invest for me.  I presume that they have the good intention of allowing me to have my money (my wages that I have given to them, rather than spend myself) back when I need it when retired.  Of course, there are no guarantees.

The same is true of the endowment of my church.

Financial Institutions control the vast amounts of the wealth of the nation, and control how it is be invested.  Their decisions are the basic decisions that our society makes.  They have determined that there is money for Hollywood studios to make sequels of movies based on comic books, but not enough money to fix bridges and highways.  That there is money for new suburban McMansions, but not for home renovations in the inner city.  That there is money to be invested in private prison companies rather than schools.

The only other source of wealth to invested is the government, and the political program of Finance Capital is to minimize the amount of money that the government to invest and maximize the amount of money that Finance Capital controls, through lower taxes.

Isn't it odd that the state sector is broke, but that American businesses have $2 Trillion "in cash" -- actually on deposit in various financial institutions, awaiting what looks to them to be profitable investment opportunities.  This is the power of finance capital -- that even at this most macro of levels, the uses to which the wealth of our country is put to use is under the control of a set of institutions that are, in the end, controlled by a tiny segment of the population, and purposed primarily for their own profit.

That is the materialism of what is wrong with our country and our world.  And while many other problems and social issues do not originate in these economic arrangements, all efforts to address them are shaped and limited by this materialism.  For example, people become addicts for a whole host of reasons, but it is the dominance of finance capital over the wealth of our society that means that free addiction treatment is not available on demand for every addict that wants it.   People get cancer through mysterious unknown processes, but the reason why some die without treatment is due to the power of finance capital.

The materialism of the situation means that 99% of the people in the United States, and more around the world, have a common interest in ending the dominance of finance capital.  99% plus.  99% plus of the world's population are common allies in the struggle.

This is a stunning development, and one that challenges the implicit analysis of liberals and radicals who are of the types that go into the Unitarian Universalist ministry.

Most strategists for the Democratic Party understand the balance of forces, not as 99 to 1, but 50 to 50.  They assume that perhaps 45% are solidly with the Party and the goal is reach 50% plus one.

In terms of religion, UU's are in a .01% to 99.99%.  We would be insanely successful if we got to 1 to 99, that is, if 3 million UU's existed in the USA.

Culturally sophisticated liberals actually seem to assume that the balances of forces are 5 to 95 up to 25 to 75.    That 5 to 25% of the population share our values: they are cosmopolitan, open-minded, creative, progressive etc.  What percentage of our fellow citizens would we consider to be "anti-racist?"

The point is that class analysis proceeds from an analysis of the materialism of a situation.  An analysis of consciousness and perception is a different thing.

It is an absurd statement to say, as I have heard some say, that the 1% are oppressed as well under this system.  No, the system is defined by the 1%'s unchecked power.  The very definition of the system is the oppressive monopoly of real power by those who control finance capital.  It may be that their human potential is diminished by the mental contortions required to justify their unchecked power, but that is not oppression.

The class analysis of the 99% vs the 1% is a sharp challenge to the liberal and progressive movements to date.  It radically expands the category of the potential coalition.  Nothing makes this more clear than the consistent statement that the police are separated from the Occupiers by one city budget cut.  

We whose progressive politics is intertwined with progressive cultural and spiritual values have to learn to separate those two things.  Our task is not to help the Occupy movement succeed at being a formless, leaderless, horizontal, consensus-based movement.  Our task is to engage in the work of concrete coalition building -- applying universalism from below, as it were, by identifying the reality of a common interest of almost all in democratizing the decision making over the wealth of world.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

UU's Living Their Mission

What explains the fact that Unitarian Universalism has not suffered the dramatic loss of membership of the mainline Protestants?  Our numbers have stayed steady, while groups like the Congregationalists, the Methodists, Lutherans have all shrunk considerably.  (Yes, I know that relative to overall population growth, staying steady is actually a loss.)

My theory, and I don't think it can be proven or disproven with the data that we have, is that Unitarian Universalism was revitalized in the 1990's and 2000's by the influx of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, and queers.  Not just numerically, but also culturally and theologically.  And this influx followed closely after the dramatic rise in the number of female ministers. 

Neither of these events were unique to Unitarian Universalism, especially the increase in female ministers, but both proceeded with less opposition in our denomination than others.

Unitarian Universalism has had an influx of converts, many of them younger that our mean age, many with children, many with frustrated aspirations for ministry.  It is hard to imagine that Unitarian Universalism would be still around without them.

I think that this history offers much insight into our mission, our core purpose and DNA. 

The fiery core that gives liberal religion its energy is the process of self-possession: a person laying claim to their own self.  It can be self-identity: "This is who I really am!", a "coming out process".  It can be self-invention: "This is who I intend to be from now on." It can be self-commitment: "These are the causes or the people for which I offer my loyalty and effort."  It can be self-consecration: "This is the spiritual path I have chosen" or "These are the promises I make." 

Self-possession is the result of acts of will, which are the creation of energy, which demands to be expressed. 

In short, battery pack of liberal religion is people exercising their will to become the subject of their own lives, rather than the object of others. When we are no longer in touch with that process of individual self-possession then we wither.

It is our mission to bring about that transformation in people.  Our churches and congregations are places where people can perform that transformation, where they can display the selves they intend to be, where they can get some witnesses to their changes.

Our small success in resisting the decline of mainline in the past decades has come from the fact that we living out our mission of empowering self-possession in a very concrete and effective way, with people who have needed it. 

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Memorial Day, the Doctrine of Discovery and the Honor Code: Or "Why is there a flag on the Moon?"

There's a Flag on the Moon.
Sermon May 27, 2012
Tom Schade

On Memorial Day, we remember those men and women, mostly men, who died in the Armed Services of the United States, fighting in the wars this country has fought. 

It is a holiday that originated after the Civil War -- beginning as a commemoration of the Union dead, but over time, those that fought on the side of the seceding States have been included in the honoring.  Time and war have added more to that number: the soldiers, sailors and marines who perished in the Spanish-American War, World War 1, World War 2, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam, the first Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan and the second Iraq War.  This is not to mention various interventions and invasions conducted throughout the history. 

So many occasions; so many names; so many losses; so much history.

There were more wars in our history:  The wars against the Indigenous peoples of North America: wars to take their territory, wars to remove their populations from the lands to be settled, and most often, wars to find, capture or kill groups or bands that had taken up arms to resist their people's defeat.

The Pequot War, King Phillip's War, the Beaver Wars, the Tuscarora and Yamassee Wars, the Chickasaw resistance, Pontiac's Rebellion, Little Turtle's War, Tecumseh's War, the Creek War, The First and the Second Seminole War, the Trail of Tears, the Black Hawk War, the Apache War, the Navajo War, too many to list, starting in the early colonial period and ending in the twentieth century. 

I have no idea how many US troops died in these many wars.  And we certainly have no idea how many of the indigenous peoples perished in these wars. 

It seems that if the Confederate dead have been included among those invoked on Memorial Dead, these fallen should also be remembered as well.

The military suppression of the indigenous people has come to be known as a group as the American Indian Wars -- and I will call them that here-- even though we know that term is loaded, carrying with it the presumptions of the winners.

When we refer to the United States as a country or a nation, we are referring to both the land and the government centered in Washington DC.  The land was made by God, we say, and we are governed by the state created by the Constitution of the United States of 1789. 

The question that I want to answer is how did this particular government acquire sovereignity over this particular land mass. Well, the present Constitutional Republic acquired it from its predecessor -- the Articles of Confederation government, which had forcibly seized it from the British Crown in the Revolution.  And the British Crown was considered sovereign in much of North America because they, it is said, 'discovered it'.  Which brings us to the Doctrine of Discovery.

The Doctrine of Discovery is a 16th century religious doctrine.  It is not a secular real estate principle, but a religious doctrine, rooted in the Christian church of the time, and reflecting Christianity's theology of history of that time. 

To explain: the Christian church at that time believed that humanity was living in the in-between period between the two comings of Christ -- the first and the second coming which was yet to come.  During this period, it was necessary for humanity to be under the rule of Christian rulers -- otherwise, sinful humanity would come under the influence of Satan.

So the question was: what should be done with peoples who are not under the rule of a Christian monarch?  The answer was that they should be brought under that control as soon as possible.  And which one?  Well, the one that first discovered them. 

The doctrine of discovery was not about discovering lands; it was about what to do with pagan people -- indigenous people.  And when should they be brought under the control of the Christian monarch?  When they were discovered or conquered.

The Doctrine of Discovery gave to the discovering Christian monarch an exclusive right to extinguish the rights of an indigenous people when it was feasible to do so.  Hence, a discovered Indian tribe could not ally itself with another European power -- nor could it sell its land to another power.

So for example, when the United States bought the Louisiana Purchase from France -- it did not actually buy the land; after all, France did not control the land.  Nor did the United States take control of that vast stretch of land.  The United States had bought the rights to be the sole recipient of that land when the Native peoples who actually owned and controlled that land could be coerced into surrendering or selling that land. Those were the rights of discovery, under the doctrine of discovery.

The American Indian wars were all carried out under the doctrine of discovery.  Each war was to carry out the extinguishment of the rights of an Indian nation, to bring  those people under the rule of those who held an exclusive right to rule them, according to international law and religious doctrine.

The doctrine of discovery became the international principle which underlay colonialism around the world.  It is the legal basis of the division of the non-European world into nation-states as we now know them.   

The United States Supreme Court in 1823 incorporated the Doctrine of Discovery into the law of the United States.  It was the basis of all our dealings with indigenous peoples throughout our history.  It is a bedrock principle of American jurisprudence.  It is why the present Native Americans cannot sue the government on the grounds that their rights to life, liberty and property have been taken from them without the due process of law.  It is still why Indian tribes cannot sell their property, or control the leases of their property for mineral rights without the approval of the Federal government. 

In the 1990's, the United Nations passed a Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples -- a Declaration which has been ratified by all but four countries in the world (the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). 

Understanding this doctrine of discovery and the legal principles that flow from it is new information, I expect, for most of us.  It explains the mechanism by which the present world was made.  It answers a How question, but not a what question. 

We all know the broad outlines of this history -- that the taking of the North American continent from its rightful owners and inhabitants was an enormous historical crime -- bigotry, greed, conquest, and genocide. 

But as unjust as it was, It is still fundamental to the way that the world is; it cannot be repealed or reversed, anymore than can the Holocaust be undone, or the African slaves be adequately compensated or made whole.

You cannot unring a bell.

Or at least that is how we think of this now -- that this stuff is the unsavory and unmentionable past that created this unchangeable present.

Which brings us to the question of how change happens.  I have been thinking a book published a few years ago:  The Honor Code, by Kwame Appiah, who is at Harvard.


His thesis, as I understand it, is that the opinions of those with power and privilege changes according to their sense of honor.  Not because of their thinking about the principles of justice.  Not because they are filled with a new compassion.  Not because they feel guilty.  But because it becomes dishonorable in the eyes of their peers to continue in the old ways.

Appiah, he explored two particular issues, neither of which most of us have any deep emotional investment, in which helps. 

The first was the practice of dueling among the aristocracy of Europe.  Dueling went from being a completely acceptable part of life, indeed something by which men defended their honor, to vanishing in a very short period of time -- a decade or so.  It had become dishonorable, and it fell out of social acceptablilty like a rock. No new argument against it had been advanced; no new research had proven it to be anti-social.  It had become dishonorable, and so men of honor avoided it.

Appiah tells the same story about Chinese foot-binding for women.  As you might expect the earliest opponents of foot-binding were women.  But it continued for generations after that -- but a variety of social changes suddenly made it a dishonorable practice.  Men went from being proud of their wives with bound feet to being embarrassed to be seen with them.  It would mark the man as being a retrograde throwback. The facts had not changed and no new information was available.  But the standards of what was honorable and dishonorable had changed among the privileged -- the men, the husbands -- and that brought up the consolidation of the change that had been long brewing.

I have been thinking about this is the context of our culture now.  And if you are my age or older, you can remember the speed with which the N-word vanished from the vocabulary. 

And I look at the speed in which same-sex marriage has become accepted.  It appears that President Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage has not made much of a difference in opinion polls, except within the African American community.  I would suspect that for some in the community, he made approval of marriage equality an honorable position, and that has moved people. 

Let's look at social change from the point of the privileged -- and really, do we have any choice in that matter?

As a privileged person, for the most part, you consider the present arrangements to be OK in practice.  You may know that there is an unsavory past behind what is happening right now.

When the present arrangements are questioned or protested or some change is demanded, the privileged's first response is to consider those proposals to be somehow dishonorable, in the way that suggesting to change the rules in the middle of the game is not fair or honorable.  I always get this: what?  Now, that attitude which have I had, or words I have said all along, somebody is complaining about.  And I think it is dishonorable at that time: people are trying to get power by guilt-tripping me.  People are being too damn sensitive.

And a social line is drawn.  Those who are privileged maintain the status quo by calling those who want change to be outsiders, somehow dishonorable.  They  threaten to withdraw social respectability on those who want change.

Among the privileged, such as a ourselves, social change comes down to a series of skirmishes about what is honorable and what is dishonorable.  Saying somebody is just being "PC" is a way of saying that they are outside the honor code that we all hold.

What is OK to talk about? What is not? 

I read somewhere recently this line: it doesn't so matter whether you are privileged or not, it's what you do with that privilege.

Obviously, this church and this congregation holds a lot of privilege.  Our building is a landmark in the city and members of this church serve in many capacities throughout the community. It used to be that this congregation had great economic power, and with the changes in the Worcester economy that is no longer true.  But I know that many of us are respected opinion leaders in the community -- in our jobs, in the organizations we belong to, in our neighborhoods.   What do we with that power and privilege?

I say that we are called upon to push the boundaries of what is respectable to talk about. To expand the scope of positions which a good citizen can take with honor. 

Perhaps it seems like a small thing that we try to be affirming of transgender people here in this church -- but we are moving a boundary -- changing the honor code of heterosexual gender typical people.  We are moving closer to a day when it will no longer be an honorable thing to smirk and joke and be derisive about sissies and tomboys, and other people who don't match up to gender stereotypes. 

And, along that line, my purpose today is to push the boundary a little on who we honor on a day like Memorial Day.  Perhaps all the Native Americans who fought and died in the American Indian wars --  men and women and children too numerous to mention, too different to name, too insignificant to remember, perhaps we ought to remember them as well as those who fought against them. 

We cannot change the past, but we can change how we think about the past.  And someday, it will seem small and cramped and somewhat dishonorable to remember the past in ways that remember white people out of proportion.  Let us face down our discomforts and move toward that higher and more expansive honoring.

And to circle around to my title:  when the astronauts went to the moon, the left a US flag on the moon, as though they were a Spainard, or Portuguese or English Explorer landing on the soil of North America.  As though our country discovered the Moon, the same moon that all people everywhere look up and see sailing across the skys of Earth.  Isn't a little embarrassing? 

Let us end today singing this song of international empathy and solidarity-- This is My Song.  Number 159 in the gray hymnal. 
 

Monday, June 04, 2012

Unitarian Universalism in New England

Unitarian Universalism is sometimes called a "New England" religion.  New England is the "historic homeland", the region in which Unitarianism and Universalism started as distinct religious movements.  Proportionally a higher proportion of the overall population are UU's in New England than elsewhere.

It is also the area of the slowest growth for Unitarian Universalism; in fact, the number of UU's in New England is declining.

Consider this.  The proportion nationally of religiously unaffiliated is about 16%.  In Massachusetts, it is about 17%.  In all of the other New England states it is significantly higher, ranging from 23% in CT and RI, 25% in Maine and 26% in NH/VT.

Unitarian Universalism is not growing but shrinking as the number of religiously unaffiliated is growing.  To the religiously unaffiliated, we are not a solution, but a part of the problem.

And consider this:  as opposed to most of the rest of the country, Unitarian Universalist institutions are common and easily available.  UU churches are almost as ubiquitous as Dunkin Donuts. We have a branch within easy driving distance for most of the population of New England.  We also have a history; lots of people know us already.

Unitarian Universalism has a problem in New England, and it is a different problem than UUism faces in most of the country.

I reminded of one of the first internet meme, "We are in your base, killing your doodz." (Why that was once considered hilarious escapes me now.)  But UUism is declining in its base.

I don't have a real analysis, nor a solution to suggest.  But New England Unitarian Universalists need to start strategizing about what we have to offer in this specific cultural context.

One area of inquiry should be understanding the discontent of Roman Catholics in New England.  It may be that rising number of religiously unaffiliated are people leaving the Catholic church for institutional reasons.  Contrast this with people becoming unaffiliated because of theological disagreements with conservative Protestantism.  Or people leaving the mainstream of the mainline because it is too establishment.  

Another area of inquiry has to be the implications of many small churches, each with an expensive building to maintain.  This is a different problem than what UUism faces in other parts of the country.

Another area of inquiry is the town vs suburb difference in many New England towns.  The UU church is often in the center of the old historic town -- on the town green.  Yet the population growth is in newer suburban-type subdivisions often near highways.

Unitarian Universalism, you would think, is a good fit for New England.  So what is it that we are not getting about the spiritual needs of our neighbors that would prevent us from serving more and more of them?



Sunday, June 03, 2012

Our Message to Our Community


 

This weekend, there is an art fair on a street near the church. We have a table there and plan to meet people and talk about liberal religion. This is the message that we are carrying....

A Happier and Healthier Life….

It is human to want a happier and healthier life;  it is human to want to know where you fit into the Universe; it is human to want to have a purpose in your life. 

These are the big questions that religion tries to answer.  But for many, religions have too many answers and not enough room for the questions. 

So, people say that they are "spiritual, but not religious." 

Maybe that is you.

You want some room to explore the big questions.  You want a chance to live your own life and learn your own lessons.  You want find a way, your own way, to make a more just world.

If you describe yourself as "spiritual, but not religious", perhaps you are a religious liberal.   

 A religious liberal believes that all religions are human creations, ways for people to become closer to God, to the ultimate reality or the truth.  A religious liberal knows that you don’t have to believe in God, or even have a final answer to that question, to be a spiritual person.

For a religious liberal, all the religions in the world carry some truth.

A religious liberal believes that what matters about a religion is how it changes the lives of the people who hold it.  "By their fruits, ye shall know them", said Jesus.  What is true is what makes for happier, healthier and more just lives.

A religious liberal believes that each of us are on a journey of discovery, learning, from our own experience and from the world's great teachers, how to live well with love and meaning.

The First Unitarian Church of Worcester has been a center of religious liberalism for over 225 years in the city of Worcester.  You have seen our steeple a thousand times. 

Over a hundred years ago, the First Unitarian Church of Worcester put our purpose in one sentence. They wanted to bring together people who were inspired by Jesus, but who accepted the truths of science.  They wanted to give thanks and express their reverence the joys of life and the wonders of the Universe.  They want to come together to seek justice and serve humanity. 

They said it in one sentence and it became our covenant:  "In the Love of Truth and the Spirit of Jesus, We Unite for Worship of God and the Service of All."  

We still say that Covenant every week in our worship service.  It is our purpose and mission in life.

The Keys to a Happier and Healthier Life.

We think that you will have a happier and healthier life if you build your life around the values implied by our covenant: such values as honesty, humility, reverence, gratitude, openness, self-possession and solidarity.

But you don't need to read them in our covenant: you know them already. 

And if you consider yourself, "spiritual but not religious" you are already trying to bring them into your life.

First of all, happiness and health comes from having "an attitude of gratitude" for life.  You don't have to like everything; and there are injustices we should not accept. There are things in life that should be mourned, or resisted, or fought, but to be happy and healthy, you have to somehow be with even them. Life beats the alternative.

Health and happiness grow when we are reverent, when we feel awe and appreciate the mystery of reality.  We don't have to understand everything; but we should just take some time to feel it.  Loving life is the business of Is-ness.  Was all of this, the sun and the stars, and this planet teeming with life, and these people, laughing and loving made by a single pair of hands? Does that matter?  We should love the source, and each other.  Or, as tradition teaches us, "Love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength, and Love your neighbor as yourself."

Honesty and Humility: these are basic values.  The truth is enough.  Liberal religion knows the difference between a rich and inspiring story and a fact.  A person needs both in their lives but has to know which is which.  Mostly, we need to understand the truth about ourselves, and our limitations.  Lao-Tze, the Taoist teacher, says “those who would take over the world and shape it to their will never succeed.” 

Openness.  Are you open to the new?  To people who are different, to unfamiliar music, to points of view you have not heard before?  Being liberal religiously is a way to practice keeping an open attitude to everything that is changing.  “Change alone is unchanging.”  said one of the earliest of the Greek philosophers, Heraclitus.  Nothing will make you more unhappy than a habit of suspicion of the new and different.

Self-Possession.  In a wildly diverse world, somebody has to be different and it might as well be you. Liberal Religion encourages you to define for yourself who you really want to be, what you believe and how you want to live.  It’s your life and you have a right to try to live it on your terms.  The Sikhs say: “... Divine dwells inside everything, seek therefore in your own heart.”  Knowing how to be different than others while still staying in relationship with them is one of the first steps toward spiritual growth.

Solidarity: Happiness and health depend on a habit of seeing other people with compassion.  How do they experience life, and can you lessen their suffering and pain?  It’s wanting justice for them and for all.  The Buddhist traditions call upon us to cultivate boundless goodwill and to cherish all living beings as a mother watches over her child. 

Liberal Religion, and the First Unitarian Church of Worcester, is not about believing this or that, but about learning new ways of living. 

No one succeeds in living these virtues all the time.  After all, people are distracted, busy, insecure, nervous and often self-centered.  We are hungry in body and spirit, and desperate for love and acceptance.  Of course, we are often going to be jerks, or doormats.

We worship together on Sundays to remind ourselves of what we are trying to do with our lives and to inspire ourselves to keep at it.  No matter how we did last week, on Sunday, we start over trying to be the people that we want to be. 

We invite you to be our guest to experience our worship service and the other programs that we host.

In the summer, casual and informal services are led by our members.  There is always music, silence and prayers, as well as message from the heart.  This summer might be a good time to dip a toe in the water. 

After Labor Day, our minister, Tom Schade, gives the message at our regular services.   Our program is for the whole family.  We have a full program for developing the capacity for wonder and reverence in children in the fall, as well as an incredible choir and music program. 

Other programs are held during the:  a meditation group and a community dinner on Monday night, yoga on Tuesday and other things to be involved in.  Check our website for more information.

Now, pay attention.  We want you to come.  You don’t have to be a member, or join, to participate; we are used to having a lot of guests and visitors.  We welcome people of any race, from any country, from any religious tradition.  We welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people.  We try to make it possible for people with disabilities to participate.  

You’ve seen our steeple hundreds of times.  Why not step inside and explore?