Showing posts from February, 2014

You Read It; It Reads You;

They say that systems will reassert homeostasis to preserve themselves. 
On Thursday last, only five days ago, the VUU, the CLF talk show, had a two part program. Block A (which is how the pros on MSNBC talk) was about the Moral Movement in North Carolina. Based on strong statewide UU participation in a growing NC movement for a moral redirection of their state, UU's from around the country joined in the largest march for justice in the South in 50 years. There was a strong feeling there that this had been a significant step for us in many ways. That we had such strong participation said something about where our congregations were. That movements for justice had started developing a morally based language which countered the dominant rightwing moralism opened up opportunities to change how we spoke. That movement like the NC Moral Movement were taking off around the South, where UUism has been experiencing its greatest rate of growth, could mean we were moving in a new direction…


#NeverLovedUs is a hashtag that summarizes the experience of black and brown young people. It is being disseminated by Philip Agnew and the Dream Defenders in the wake of the Michael Dunn trial for the murder of Jordan Davis.

This country never loved black and brown young people, never valued their lives, presumed that they were a menace to society -- criminal. As though there an uncountable surplus of them that could be wasted or misused.

I am struck now by how the language of love comes to the fore. The opposite of love is indifference, and the Stand Your Ground laws are the very institutionalization of indifference to the deaths of young people of color. They bring into the very structure of the law, institutionalizing it, a declaration of values: the law will accommodate the racial fears of white people; while the law is indifferent to the deaths of people of color. Better that Jordan Davis, a black student, die, says the law, than that Michael Dunn, a white man, be afraid, or be …


Response to the new logo is just painful. I am not on the UU staff, and minimally aware of things like evangelism, marketing, branding and communication and I am amazed at the level of willful yahooism that my colleagues have displayed.

1. Why do we need a new logo? Because the old one is 8 years old, and no one liked it. Until now. If you have an iconic logo (think Apple's apple, or Chevy's short cross or the Mercedes Benz almost peace sign) you don't change your logo. Otherwise, you change your logo periodically to keep up and look fresh. I know that lots of our churches have the same website they put up in 2004, but the UUA shouldn't. Their order of service is printed in the same font and format as it was years ago. Would you wear the same tie for 8 years every week to church?

2. Who decided that we needed one and picked this one? The staff of the UUA. That is what we pay them to do. The by-laws and purposes say the production of materials for spreading UUism some o…

UU Ministers discuss new logo

It is, too, a penis.
No, it's not.
You haven't seen one in so long, you forgot what they look like.
You should have given a trigger warning.
I think it looks like a bomb or a rocket headed toward innocent civilians.

The runner up:

Behold the New Logo

Behold the New Logo. 
The new Logo will be a screen  upon which UU's will project all of their frustrations  about how we think  we are perceived in the wider world. 
It will also be the symbol of everything  UU's think is wrong  with the way the association is governed. 
It will be seen as symbol of everything UU to everybody UU. 
If you think we are too fuddy-duddy, then you see it as fuddy-duddy.  If you think we try too hard to be hip, then that is what you will see. 
Does it look vaginal? Phallic?  Depends on what you think we have too many of.  
Shouldn't something this important go to the General Assembly? 
Behold the New Logo You Read It -- It Reads You.

If I knew what I was doing

In my last post, I ended with these words:
What we need is a serious (but which I mean, non-anxious and constructive) discussion of what we ought to be doing. We need a responsible discussion which assumes that all of us are involved in an important discussion with partners and it matters what we conclude. We need a discussion in which people claim and own their leadership and act like leaders. The response has been for readers and commentators to ask me where, and when, and the format for such a discussion to take place.  If I knew how to put things like that together, I would do it, instead of talking about it. (There's a line in a Keith Urban song that goes, "If I knew what I was doing, I'd be doing it right now." There's a reason why I blog.)

In short, there is no time like the present to have a real discussion about the real issues facing Unitarian Universalism; no where better than here, or where ever you are.

Rules of the UU Hive Mind

Chris Walton summarized my last post as saying, "Change originates in the hive-mind of Unitarian Universalism 'above and beyond' the local congregation".  That's why he is a good journalist; that's an concise and accurate quote.

Fausto commented in the comments of the post:
If you have correctly diagnosed the problem, then the "hive-mind" must be even more "stuck" than our local congregations, because for the last 50+ years it has been following its own nose down one self-absorbing rabbit hole after another, rather than leading the congregations in a discernible, realistic, relevant, effective direction.
He has a point.

I don't think that I said that the UU HiveMind, that amorphous collection of UU Staffers, elected leaders, activist lay people, denominational active ministers and other professionals, the formations formally known as Independent Affiliates, caucuses, GA Junkies and social media presences, is always right. I just said th…

UU Stuckness

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time discussing with other UU's, the stuckness of Unitarian Universalism. There is no denying it; our growth numbers, our new plant numbers, our aging population, our demographic isolation all say we're stuck.

Some think that the core issue is that we are stuck theologically.  We won't be able to grow and develop until we get over the aversion to God language in general and the Christian tradition in particular. Specifically, our theological consensus prevents us from talking about a whole range of subjects that people look to the religious life for: awe, wonder, hope for deliverance, expressions of dependence, the need for repentance and conversion, our own tendencies to sin and evil. We are stuck in a mid-twentieth century debate about the existence of God and the value of theological language itself. Most people find that discussion arcane and irrelevant.

Some think that we are stuck sociologically. The population that Unitarian Uni…

Belief vs Sect in Raleigh

A lot of people took an interest in a chart I did a while back on how people understood Unitarian Universalism.  
After the discussions in and around the Moral March in Raleigh, I have applied that chart to positions about participating in the event. I suppose that someone could make a similar chart about how each of these positions would express itself in an argument not to go. That is for another day. 
The horizontal are the two opposing positions as to whether UUism ought to place a primary emphasis on Unitarian Universalism as a distinct and separate identity.  To the Left is the position that stresses "UU Identity" while the Right side downplays that identity.
The vertical is whether UUism has distinct theological beliefs. To the Up is yes, toward the bottom is no. 
How this plays out in Raleigh?

Is this Movementarianism?

I went to Raleigh, North Carolina, and participated in the Mass Moral March, along with 80 thousands others, including some 1500 Unitarian Universalists. If you are social media savvy enough to read this blog, you have already seen pictures and videos. I don't have any more interesting than you have seen.

Before so many converged on North Carolina, we were discussing this difference: 

Thinking of the UUA less as an "association of congregations" and more as a religious movement focused on cultural transformation... So, is that what we saw in Raleigh?

The Boy in the Bands has cleverly dubbed the latter position "Movementarianism", a neologism that I think will stick.

So, was Raleigh "movementarianism": Unitarian Universalism of the future?

Yes and No.

Churches and congregations will continue. It is not, repeat NOT TRUE, that a UU staffer recommended burning all the churches and plowing the earth where they stood with salt. Nor are they to be converted …

Another Short Take on Congregations and Cultural Transformation

In the Chris Walton summary of the UU Board Meeting, there is this, which is presented as being one trustee's response to the Administration's report. :

Rob Eller-Isaacs in the Chris Walton report of the board meeting said that many of our congregations are not performing well. “Though I agree with your stance that a changing culture requires new ways of bringing efforts to bear,” replied the Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs, trustee, “I worry that undue emphasis on change in culture may be a dodge for the fact that many of our churches are inadequate churches. I’d hate to see us avoid the work of strengthening the church.” What do we do about the churches that are not doing well: the churches that don't ever grow, the churches that sit on franchises; the churches that chew up ministers; the churches that teeter on the age of failure; the churches that need some kind of help from somewhere. They are the identified patient of our system.

Note the way that Eller-Isaacs frames this: work…

Short Takes on Congregations and Cultural Transformation

There are people out there right now at work at transforming our culture. They are working for and living toward a culture of where liberal values (like openness, and solidarity, and self-determination and generosity) are normative.

The challenge for Unitarian Universalism is how we, as a whole body, make a connection with those emerging forces of cultural transformation?  How do we connect with the young people of color, like the Dream Defenders? How do we connect to movements of low wage workers in the fast food industry? How do we speak to the educated young people in the families in our own congregations who are burdened with debt and confronted by closing doors? How do we connect to young artists and musicians?

We don't need to start, run, or control a movement for cultural transformation; multiple movements are gathering strength. We just want to be a part of it, because it has been our goal and dream for most of our lives.

The plain truth is that it is not a choice between …

Short Takes = Congregations and Cultural Transformation

The commentary about the UUA Board meeting has been hot and heavy. See the previous posts and the comment sections there. (I moderate comments, so the comment section at the Lively Tradition is worth reading.)

Christine Robinson wants to know how we define "our most basic goals" in order to ground the discussion.
I think our most basic goal is to help people develop the basic virtues of liberality: openness, honesty, humility, reverence, gratitude and generosity, solidarity/empathy/compassion, self-possession.
It doesn't bother me that these virtues are not unique to us. It doesn't bother me that people engage in different practices to help them develop these virtues. It doesn't bother me that people get to them through different philosophical, theological or ethical systems or traditions. I think that the inspiration to those virtues can be expressed in any cultural setting, at any economic level.
I think that they are virtues that are developed in congregational…

MyRA vs SS Expansion

One of the proposals President Obama made in the State of the Union Address was for "MyRA", a new form of tax-deferred retirement savings account.

In this article, David Dayen of Salon magazine compares this proposal with the suggestion that we meet the retirement crisis by expanding Social Security benefits. It's eye-opening. Read it.

Little Rock Study Guide for "Religious Community Is Not Enough"

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Little Rock, Arkansas conducted an adult education class based on my article in the UU World, "Religious Community is not Enough".  It was a part of discussion group called Unitarian Universalism 102. They discuss contemporary articles and blog posts. Here are the discussion questions for the article.
Here are a few statements from Tom Schade's article and questions inspired by them:
"If your congregation defines its purpose as being a religious or spiritual community, it is time to think bigger." Is that how UUCLR defines itself? If it's time to think bigger, are we able to do so?
"If the main work of a church is just to survive, “to uphold the tradition,” or to keep alive a beautiful old landmark building, there’s not enough reason to join." What reasons do people have to join UUCLR? What reasons do we provide them? What reasons do we not provide?"Unitarian Universalists, like members of every other religi…

Congregations and Cultural Transformation Two

The religious or spiritual life is partly about personal growth and transformation. Something is supposed to happen to you, or for you, as a result of your commitment. You are saved from the consequences of your sin by accepting Christ as a savior. You gain clarity about the true reality of the universe through meditation. If you commit to Unitarian Universalism, the promise is, I think, that you will become more open, more reverent, more self-possessed. We don't talk much about the experience of Unitarian Universalism in that cause and effect way, but we do testify that becoming one changes your life for the better.

Changing yourself is part of changing the world. Some schools of meditation believe that if a certain percentage of people in a city meditate regularly, social peace and harmony will result. A Jewish legend is that if every Jew upheld every law of the Torah for even one day, the Messiah would come. Not far from this, is the prophecy of some Christians that once suffic…

Congregations and Cultural Transformation I

Chris Walton reports the following from the UUA Board meeting in San Diego. Morales responded, “The vision that is emerging, that I’m trying to reflect, has not changed radically at all. It’s a vision around compassion, community, and acting in the world. What is shifting in that vision is a sense that, given our current context, [we must move] beyond how we’ve thought about congregations to engage people who are deeply suspicious about church and about congregations as an institution.”
“Though I agree with your stance that a changing culture requires new ways of bringing efforts to bear,” replied the Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs, trustee, “I worry that undue emphasis on change in culture may be a dodge for the fact that many of our churches are inadequate churches. I’d hate to see us avoid the work of strengthening the church.”Morales responded, “We have to do two critical things simultaneously: make our congregations better, and also look for other ways of doing it.”The Rev. Dr. Terasa Cool…

The Neo-Confederate Economy

The Republican view of the economy is that the rich don't have enough money and the poor have too much. The problem with health care is that the poor have too much access to too much care, waste it, and drive the cost up. The other day, three GOP Senators offered a plan to replace Obamacare which would, for the average working person, cost more and provide less. It's goal was to 'sensitize' health care consumers to how much health services cost

Where do ideas like this come from? Why are they so prevalent now, when even conservative Republicans in the past would not have thought them? Why are they so different from the ideas of conservatism in other industrialized countries?

These are the ideological remnants of slavery, and they have become prevalent because the GOP has become dominated by its Southern branch.

Under the slave system, there was one consumption budget for the entire community. All consumption came out of the slaveowner's wealth and income. The worki…