Showing posts from June, 2014

A Practical Case Study in Standing on the Side of Love

Conventional liberal approaches to homelessness have been practiced for decades -- since the beginning of the present housing crisis in the 80's when the emerging rightwing hegemony over policy dismantled public housing programs and cut community based mental health programs as too costly. 
Homeless people and families were provided social services, and as they proved that they were ready, they became eligible for subsidized housing programs.  The policy was driven by mercy, but also by the fear of a moral hazard. The fear is that if help is given to the undeserving poor; the help will reward socially undesirable behavior. The fear is that social policies will create dangerous temptations by being too generous. 
Housing FIrst breaks with the fear of the moral hazard. In cities that are implementing "Housing First," chronically homeless people, as they are, are given keys to apartments. They don't have to get sober; they didn't have to get mental health treatment an…

Over the Edge -- Brave Souls

Having deep seated fears about heights, fires and drowning, the recent UUA GA in Providence was a bit of a challenge for me.  I did not rappell off the side of a building, because of an earlier traumatic experience with a Ferris wheel. I stayed well back during the Waterfire witness. The fear that I might fall in and be swept down the swift flowing river bouncing off one giant red hot flaming chalice of death after another deterred me. 
But a brave faith takes many forms, so I tried to hear of other stories of courageous witness from participants at GA.  Some unverified stories:
I heard of a minister who changed the Christmas Eve order of service.
Another recently settled minister told the largest donor that no, they did not get to veto decisions of the Board.
Someone told a UU Republican that just because no one agreed with them, it didn't mean they were oppressed. 
A whole congregation somewhere stepped up to the plate and took up clapping during hymns. The steeple stood. 
A congregat…

Optimism, Hope, Hopeless Hope and Radical Hope

When I observed that "the world is unfair, but it gets better", some people were uncomfortable with that.  On the VUU (episode 64), we got into discussion about various types of hope.

There is a distinction made between hope and optimism.  Optimism is a belief that things will work out for the best.  Optimism has been proven wrong so often that it doesn't carry much weight. I am optimistic that it won't rain on Saturday. I am optimistic that the Democrats will hold the Senate in the fall. I could be wrong about both, and if I am, I will be mildly chagrined. No crisis of faith.

Now when it comes to Hope, a much more substantial emotion. Hope is the conviction that things will improve. It is a belief about the nature of the world and progress. St. Paul says that hope is one the three things that last forever, along with faith and love.

People point out that it is hard to hope, what with the disastrous turns history makes, as well as seeming permanence of some people&#…

Love Reaches Out

Core Statements of Liberal Public Theology

Unitarian Universalist public theology is now expressed in our aspiration that we should "stand on the side of love." That hope expresses the first principle we affirm: that we promote the worth and dignity of each person. That principle restates our historic Universalism. For if God intends the salvation of all, then doesn't it behoove us to treat each person, whom God holds redeemable, as worthy and possessed of dignity?  After all, if God holds them worthy, who are we to be choosier?

We rarely fail to love because we hate. Yes, there are people who do terrible things, arouse us to great anger and are difficult to love. We test ourselves against our Universalism by trying to imagine those we could not love. But Adolph Hitler and Ted Bundy are not the real test of our Universalism. Our failure is that we regard so many with indifference. We just don't know their story.

Respect for a person's dignity, loving them, is not abstract and general. It is specific and …

Public Theology

People ask me what I mean by "public theology".

Public theology is the explanation of human society, social institutions and governments. If you a theist, it explains the existence of governments, nations and social institutions in God's plan. Even if you are not a theist, it explains the fundamental moral foundations of social life
Here is a statement of public theology that you may have heard before: 
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

From the Declaration of Independence, of course. It is a statement about the nature of humanity (that it is men, that they are equal, and that they are given rights by God.) It is also a statement about the origins and purposes of governments…

David Brat's Public Theology

Michelle Boorstein, in the Washington Post writes a long, not very astute article about David Brat, comparing and contrasting him to Pope Francis, without really understanding either. Does David Brat? He describes himself as a Calvinist, who goes to a Catholic church. 
But this is what jumped out at me. A statement by David Brat in 2011
“Give me a country in 1600 that had a Protestant-led contest for religious and political power and I will show you a country that is rich today,” Brat wrote in 2011.

Well, that convinces me.

How Did You Become a Unitarian Universalist -- Report Back

Thanks everyone.  I got 124 responses, most with thoughtful answers to open-ended questions. I will be sorting through the data and scheduling some interviews for next week. I won't be able to interview everyone who said that they were willing to talk; my apologies if anyone is disappointed.  I never thought I would get this level of response. Again, Thanks a lot.

Getting Arrested at Moral Monday

A Methodist Seminary professor has written an article explaining the reasoning for not submitting to arrest in North Carolina's Moral Monday protests. The article has been taken down, and I respect that. I have, therefore, removed the now-dead link to the article, and taken the name of the person out of this blogpost.

But, as I read argument, I think the professor probably should be arrested. Not because I think that Methodist seminary professors should go to jail. But because I think their arrests could add to the moral power of the movement.

The political situation in North Carolina is like that of the whole country.  If you look at the polls on issues, it seems that the public is much more progressive than the election results indicate. There are lots of folks who are in favor of increasing the minimum wage, granting equal access to marriage, restricting carbon emissions, and not making it harder to vote, but who are voting for the Republicans who are implementing the very oppo…

How Did you become a Unitarian Universalist ?

I am taking a preliminary survey about how people became a Unitarian Universalist.  The survey is screening people for a more in-depth interview.  I you are a UU, please take the survey and let me know that you are interested in a longer talk.  Even if you are not willing for the interview, I would appreciate the general anonymous information.

Please goto the following site:

Tom Schade

Eric Cantor and White Nationalism

It surprises me how much commentary on Eric Cantor dances around the full implications of his defeat. Candidate Brat accused him of being an apologist for "amnesty". Leader Cantor did everything he could to refute that charge. He still lost by 11 percentage points despite outspending his opponent.

Why is this so hard to figure out? The competitive nature of the game of cable news commentary sometimes obscures the obvious. Nobody wants to stare into the unblinking eye and repeat the same thing that everyone else has already said. So all kinds of other theories are being floated. But Eric Cantor was defeated because he become viewed as unreliable on the issue of white nationalism. And white nationalism is at the core of today's conservative movements.

The anti-immigration reform tendency is a pure expression of white nationalist ideology: the preference for a country in which white Europeans dominate, and others are kept to the margins. White nationalism explicitly drove …

Revolution in Las Vegas

Conservative Public Theology will not be challenged by the Las Vegas revolutionaries. It won't make a dent.

Conservative Public Theology is based on a vision of fixed, stable, traditional social order where everything works as it should. The old school bases this vision on religion; the new school on the invisible hand of the market. When the world doesn't work as it should, it is because individuals have failed to live up to it. They have sinned.

According to conservative public theology, the Las Vegas insurrectionists became bad people. Yes, they were good people a while ago, when they rallied for Cliven Bundy, but since then, they became bad people. It is good that they died. They are responsible for what they did; no one else.

Liberal Public Theology is based on an understanding of society and cultures as growing, evolving entities. They have the capability of progressing. When cultures progress, the behavior of individuals change. So liberal public theology is concerned …

"PopUUlism" and Processes

I posted the following on Facebook this morning.
Reading about SKSM, I am convinced again of the wisdom of our recommended processes of our ministerial search and settlement processes. It would NOT be recommended for a Search Committee to announce the names of the final three pre-candidates. Nor would it be recommended that they collect recorded feedback on the candidates by congregants. Why not? Because those steps would imply a democratic process when the final decision is being made by a committee, which is (and should be) free to choose to not follow what seems to be most popular course. The result of such a bad process is that the new minister is burdened by a self-conscious group that would have preferred another actual and viable candidate. Instead starting out with 95% -- the new minister/President would be starting out knowing that up to 2/3 of the people would have chosen another candidate, if they would have had a vote. I know nothing about the specifics of the situation be…

Transparency, Confidentiality and PopUUlism

Believe me, I know nothing about the Starr King situation beyond what everybody else knows. I have read the same public statements  by the incoming President, the Board Chair, and the attorneys representing the students whose degrees were granted conditionally.

I am aware, though, that I don't really want to know more. I have an actual fear of knowing more. I suspect that if I find out more, I will find that somebody I respect, admire or have hopes in will have behaved badly. I don't want to find that out. It will shake up my little world.

Many express pain and sorrow over the situation.  Is that an anticipatory grief over a feared loss of innocence?

Turning from this particular situation to a broader view:

UU institutions, down to the level of individual congregations, want to have "transparent" governing processes.  It's part of being democratic. Yet many of the biggest decisions being made are personnel decisions: searching, hiring, evaluating, firing people. …