Why Language Matters…More on a Different View of Cultural Appropriation

I had planned on writing this yesterday, but got caught up in school stuff.

Anyway….Joel Monka over at CUUMBAYA asks people to rate the misappropriation in a particular scenario. I was going to write a comment over there, but decided that (for me) the real issue is about language and who can use it and who shouldn’t.

Joel’s scenario is about a Pagan “Seder”. In my mind that is an abomination. Pagans cannot have Seders. Seders are a Jewish ritual to commemorate a particular event. Pagans can have a ceremony that is inspired by the Jewish ritual, but they cannot have that ritual because it is a particular thing. Just call it something else and say that it is inspired by the Jewish ritual.

This is why I think the language one uses matters. If the words can be used by anybody at anytime about anything, then the words lose their meaning. And while words can (and do) change meaning over time, just because you want to use a word doesn’t mean that word should be used.

I’ll probably have to write more on this later, but I have to get back to writing my reflection paper for my Spiritual Prep class.

Are White Liberals Ever Satisfied?

I’ve been reading some of the analysis of the debate last night and have come to a conclusion: Barack Obama is always going to be in a Catch-22 with white liberals.

Last night Barack was who he was: cordial and smart and funny. For that he is being eviscerated by white liberals because he didn’t show enough “fire”.  If, one the other hand, he had shown any more fire than he did, he would have been called an “angry black man”. Can’t the brotha catch a break? Are white liberals ever satisfied? If you truly believe in Barack’s change argument, why would you ask him to change how he behaves?

Be thrilled that Barack showed the millions who watched the debate just how much he has thought about foreign policy issues and the intersection of foreign policy–economic policy–national security.

Cultural Inclusion or the Lack Thereof

I’m going to have lunch with a friend who teaches at Earlham College. By training she is a psychologist (I’m hearing R. saying that that’s just what I need….therapy 🙂 ) and starting in January she will be an official student at ESR.

Why am I telling you about this when the title of the post is “Cultural Inclusion”? Simple. On the bookshelf in her office, M. has more books on counseling with culturally diverse populations than I think the professor of Pastoral Care has even heard of. What does that say about the education that seminary students are getting here that you have to go outside of the school to get the information you need on working/giving care to diverse populations? Seeing as though most of the students, no matter what their religious persuasion, will be working in urban/suburban settings, isn’t it important to talk about the people they will encounter and be working with?

As you can see, I am in a rant phase about ESR right now. Trying to figure out how to deal with it. That’s why I’m writing it on here. More later.

Can We Talk About Race

So I decided to look at today’s (Sept. 22) NY Times editorial page online before I go to bed and come across this wonderful article about racial language in the current political landscape.

How do we talk about race in a way that isn’t demeaning or over-simplifying? Or when can somebody express something and not be considered “angry”? Is it even possible to talk about race and it not descend into chaos?

oh well..that’s it for this post. I might write more later.

“We Who Believe In Freedom Cannot Rest”

I went to College Meeting for Worship today (Quaker speak for Sunday morning Worship).  I went because I wanted to hear the person who was speaking; a person who’s been very nice to me since I arrived in Richmond in January.

When I walked into the sanctuary the song that was playing was “Ella’s Song” by Sweet Honey in the Rock. I love that song and today it made me cry. There is an issue I have with ESR that I’ve been debating just how much energy I want to put into bringing the issue up. Before today, I had told myself that that was not why I came to seminary; that I really don’t want to deal with it. I’ve dealt with it too many times before.  That all changed when I heard that song. I now know that there’s no way I’m going to avoid this issue, even though I really do still want to avoid it.

So may I recommend that if there is an issue you are struggling with, if you have access to it, listen to “Ella’s Song” by Sweet Honey in the Rock. I don’t think that you’ll struggle with it much longer.


We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons

That which touches me most is that I had a chance to work with people
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me

To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail
And if I can but shed some light as they carry us through the gale

The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on
Is when the reins are in the hands of the young, who dare to run against the storm

Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me
I need to be one in the number as we stand against tyranny

Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot, I’ve come to realize
That teaching others to stand up and fight is the only way my struggle survives

I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

“I Am Black and Beautiful”…..Africa, The Bible and Church History

Taking another break from things UUA-related, I thought I would update everyone on my thinking as far as classes are concerned.

For those of you who don’t remember, I have a biographical essay and research paper due in Church History and a project in First (Old) Testament.

I have picked the subject for the biographical essay; Heloise.

However, I had been having a really hard time trying to decide what to do for the research paper and the project. Then it came to me. “I am black and beautiful, o daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon.” For those of you who don’t know that is Song of Songs 1:5. Once that line came into my head I decided…I’m going to do the research paper in Church History about the African connections in early church history. And I am going to talk about the women who might be black/African in the First Testament. yee haw!

So if anyone reading this has any books to suggest or articles that might be of interest to me, drop me a line. I’m already looking stuff up, but it helps to have more than one mind thinking about this kind of stuff.

The Free Church Is Free For A Reason….Or Why We Don’t Do Creeds

I’m fascinated to hear Free Church people start to question as to whether creeds are good or not.

Whether they are good or not, I’ve never heard of a free church that does a creed. Now I know that some churches that are part of the UCC will recite one or the other of the creeds, but that goes back to what that congregation was prior to merger (ah…US Church History is really interesting).

But, dear friends, the Free Church is free for a reason. Aside from being congregational in polity which is the most fundamental of precepts, the Free Church is all about freedom of conscience, totally antithetical to creedal churches. And yes, I know that there is plenty of dissent in creedal churches, but (most of) those churches do not encourage it. That’s why creeds are bad; they assume that humans are static. And the last thing we are is static.

More later.

Sentimental Claptrap….Sentimental Claptrap

As someone who grew up in a non-creedal church before coming to UUism, I must say I find it hard to fathom why so many people in this movement are so attached to the Ps-and-Ps.

Bill Dockery says that in calling the Ps-and-Ps sentimental claptrap, I am somehow belittling those who lost their lives in Knoxville. Huh? They died trying to protect the Ps-and-Ps? I thought they died trying to save lives. Maybe I got that wrong.

Yes, I believe the Ps-and-Ps are sentimental claptrap. I believe that we don’t need them. We have the Cambridge Platform. We don’t need anything else. Let each congregation come up with its own covenant.

That is why I’m all for church covenants. They are created by each individual congregation, not given to them from somewhere else. Or at least they are not supposed to be.

but I’m going to class now. more later.


I’m taking a small break from writing about things UUA to write about something seminary related.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m on the Worship committee here at ESR. One of the things that I had been wondering about since joining the committee was whether or not I would be burned at the stake if I offered a communion service.  The funny thing is that over the summer, half of the committee was thinking the same thing. So we have decided to do a communion service, but in a very non-traditional way (this is a Quaker institution after all).

Now I’m looking for readings about Communion. I have a couple, but am looking for more? Any suggestions would be welcome.

If It’s Not A Creed, Don’t Treat It Like One

Steve Caldwell says that the problem with those of us who say the Ps-and-Ps are, in practice, a creed are talking about the use of by-laws in liturgy.

I plead guilty.

Liturgy/ritual is how most people receive their religion. If the Ps-and-Ps are just by-laws, don’t give them a place of prominence in church liturgy. Stop printing them in the place where the creeds would be placed in the hymnal. Don’t recite them as you would a church covenant. Stop treating them as if they are creed.

If the Ps-and-Ps are just by-laws, keep them that way. Especially since they are about churches association with each other, not an individual’s association with a particular church.

If the Ps-and-Ps are not a creed, don’t use them in practice as if they are.