No Shit Sherlock part 2, or What Are We?

I’ve been reading and re-reading the blog posts and comments related to the newest discussion of the IA issue and a thought came to my mind……

Why is all the focus on the social justice issues IAs?  There were other IAs out there. And I find the mistreatment of the theologically-based IAs extremely disheartening.

 So the question becomes…..what are we? Are we the ACLU (or Federalist Society for those on other side of the spectrum) with the occasional prayer thrown in? Or are we a religious group that does social justice work? Those are two very different kinds of communities and it would be a good thing if there was some clarification of who and what we are.

Back to work. More later, maybe.

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Speaking In Tongues and Interpreting In Tongues

As some of you know, I am taking a preaching class this semester. Now I need your help.

For our first sermon we have to have people that we know read the scripture passage that we are going to use and have them tell us what they heard from the text. And since I have this open forum, I thought I would ask the people who read this blog.

I have decided to use the Deuteronomy passage that was given as one of my choices. The passage is Deut. 18:15-20. And it says:

15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet* like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.* 16This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: ‘If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.’ 17Then the Lord replied to me: ‘They are right in what they have said. 18I will raise up for them a prophet* like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet,* who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet* shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.’

So there you have it. You are welcome to send me your comments whenever you feel like it.

Taking James Luther Adams Seriously….New Testament People in an Old Testament World part 4

Philocrites has asked me how to explain how the numinous would show concern to those who are oppressed. Let me say that I’m working on it.

My ultimate goal (I think) is to develop a Liberation theology for those who, like me, struggle with the idea of a personal God or don’t believe in God at all. And I see a lot of JLA and Theodore Parker in my future.

But I’m going to make a really quick statement that I think that it’s time for U/U/UUs to take JLA seriously. We NEED to be prophetic.

There is more that I plan on saying, but I want to do stuff for class tonight. More to come.

No Shit Sherlock

I am going to take a one post break from talking about Liberation Theology in a UU context to write my one and only post criticizing the UUA Board.

There are a couple of reasons that this will be the only post criticizing the Board. The main reason is that the bestest friend this girl has ever had is now a member of the board. And as much as I playfully talk about her, I know the work she puts in beforehand in preparation for the Board meeting so I won’t talk about the decisions that are made. The second reason is that I spent time as a member of a church board so I know that you’re never going to make everybody happy, no matter how much thought is put into a decision. But since what I going to criticize the Board about happened before the bestest friend went on the board and I don’t think much thought was put into the decision, I feel ok criticizing it.

I need to put my biases up front for you though. So bear with me.

In June 2008, I stepped down after 9 years from the board of the UU Christian Fellowship. For those of you who don’t know, the UUCF was organized in 1945. Notice what I just said. The UUCF was organized in 1945. The entity known as the UUA came into being in 1961. Last time I looked, this means that the UUCF is older than the UUA.

Next, I worked on the Local Committee when GA came to St. Louis. So I know, in more than a small way, the workings of GA. Add to that the fact that the chair of the Local Committee was a former member of the GA Planning Committee, and I have a wealth of GA information available to me.

Finally, at some point in the not-too-distant future, I want to run for a position on the GA Planning Committee. So I’ve been giving GA issues a lot of thought.

Now that I’ve told you my biases, I am going to say something that I’ve wanted to say since the spring of 2007.

No Shit Sherlock!!!!!!!!!

The UUA Board is surprised at the outrage and confusion that came with the summary dismissal of more than 40 Independent Affiliates at the drop of a hat.

No Shit Sherlock!!!!!

The UUA Board is surprised that many of the groups felt devalued and unappreciated for the work that they did.

No Shit Sherlock!!!!!

The UUA Board is astounded that this issue has continued to bite them in the ass ever since.

No Shit Sherlock!!!!!

Now that I’ve said it a few times, let me explain why I came to that conclusion very early.

As in all things UU- and UUA-related, the Board went overboard in 2 ways:

1. They merged two issues that did not need to be merged.

2. They took a hatchet to something that required a scalpel.

On the first issue, GA and the Independent Affiliates are two separate issues and should never have been merged into one. If either the Board or the Planning Committee thought that the IAs were getting too many workshop spaces at GA, there was a simple solution…. cut down the number of slots available to IAs and make the granting of workshop space competitive for everybody–UUA Staff included (because I’ve seen some workshops presented by UUA Staff that were about as useful as a workshop on how to gaze at your navel). This is not rocket science.

In a letter to an unnamed UU, Moderator Gini Courter wrote the following:

The GA Planning Committee has dreamed aloud of a kind of conference of religious traditions day at GA: imagine a GA Saturday where every workshop is a worship service or spiritual practice group. The Planning Committee doesn’t have the bandwidth to do this with a dozen IAs. It’s not just providing the space, it’s building the relationships between the Planning Committee and the groups, and between the groups. Imagine brochures in every congregation outlining “spiritual paths in UUism” or “celebrating our sources”. At the 2007 GA meeting the leader of one former IA laid out this vision to the other groups, and was almost shouted down. The discussion returned to the comfortable topic of the bone-headedness of the UUA Board, and her idea curled up and died on the floor while I watched. It’s a failure of imagination that’s staggering. 

Maybe it should be pointed out that this was already happening. The theologically-based IAs were all offering workshops at GA that dealt with spiritual practices and offered worship services. This paragraph makes it seem that the Moderator or other members of the UUA Board didn’t see this happening. I truly hope that is not the case. Otherwise, it’s not a failure of imagination from the theologically-based IAs side, it’s the lack of recognition by those who should have been looking that is staggering.

Also, I’m rather amazed that it was said that the Planning Committee doesn’t have the “bandwith” to have relationship with a dozen or so IAs. A dozen??? What dozen???? Let’s see…..there’s CUUPs…..UUs for Jewish Awareness…..UU Buddhist Fellowship…..HUUmanists…..UU Religious Naturalists….and the UU Christian Fellowship. That’s 6 if I’m counting right. Half-a-dozen. That is a small enough number that the Planning Committee could have a relationship with them if they so choose. Again, not rocket science.

And I think it should be pointed out that the theologically-based IAs did work together, when they could. Had for many years. And will continue to.

This just points out how the two issues should not have been merged. GA is a separate issue from the Independent Affiliates. The merging of the two, and then using one to deal with the other has caused more problems than need be.

But this brings me to my second point……the Board took a hatchet job to an issue that required a scalpel.

The Board is surprised that some former IAs felt devalued and unappreciated when they were summarily dismissed and other ones not. No Shit Sherlock!!!!! Didn’t the Board realized that they WERE making value judgements on those IAs that would have effects  on them not just at the national level, but at the district and congregational level???? I know that I am not the only one who knows of instances where former IAs have been told by congregations that they can no longer meet because they are no longer “offical” Independent Affiliates of the UUA. The same at the District level.

But here is the question that nobody has really been able to answer…….why were groups like the UUCF…..UU Buddhist Fellowship….UUs for Jewish Awareness…..CUUPs….HUUmanists.. UU Religious Naturalists stripped of Independent Affiliate status and the UU Partner Church Council got to keep theirs? Was it because of the word Council in their name? Because that’s the only reason I can see why the Council of UU Camps and Conferences got to keep theirs. Why would the Board want to take away a link to the faith traditions that make up the UUA?

Maybe something did need to happen with the IAs. I will not deny that possibility. Maybe it was because of GA that this process got rolling. I won’t deny that either. But the Board took a hatchet to something that required a scalpel and is now dealing with the consequences of that action.

So pardon me as I say it one last time……..

No Shit Sherlock!!!!!

Store-Front UUism….New Testament People in an Old Testament World part 3

When Doug Muder wrote his article that was in the Summer 2007 issue of the World, I thought he didn’t go far enough in his critique of UU problems in reaching out to those who are not “our kind of people.”

This is where my continued critique comes in and why I’m asking the questions about whether there can be a Liberation theology with a UU bent. But in order for me to do at least some justice to this, I think it might be a good thing if I say what I believe about Liberation theology.

One does not have to believe in God in order for Liberation theology to work. But one does need to believe in the numinous…..the holy…..the that which is greater than ourselves. And one has to believe that the numinous is in the situations of suffering that people are going through.

To tie my ideas of Liberation theology into this, here’s my question…..where are the store-front UU churches? Where are the UU churches that are down in the trenches? (I know about the Faithful Fools, but they are not a congregation) Why do we plant our churches out in the backwoods where nobody can find them? Or put them away from public transportation lines (in larger cities)? And then wonder why we aren’t growing? For all our social justice work, why don’t we put it into practice in our own churches?

There are so many people who have been knocked down by life and think that there are no second chances who are craving the knowledge that maybe, just maybe, there are second chances. That mistakes made 5 minutes ago or yesterday or 10 years ago don’t have to be the end of who they are. And where is the liberal alternative to the evangelicals with the store-front church? We’re out in the backwoods navel gazing.

That’s what I’m talking about when I titled these posts “New Testament People in an Old Testament World.” I don’t think you have to be a Christian, or believe in God, to buy into Liberation theology with a really liberal bent. At some point reason should tell us that we need to stop navel gazing and get into the game.

Enough for now. More later (maybe).

Can There Be Such A Thing As UU Liberation Theology?….New Testament People in an Old Testament World part 2

I’ve re-read the comments to my first post on this topic and see a common theme that was not my intended focus.

Salvation cannot be the only thing a gospel talks about. Maybe it’s because I don’t think that having a gospel (good news) necessarily means that one is talking about salvation. While I think salvation can (and often does) come with a gospel, if salvation is the only thing that one is aiming for, I think we’re losing something.

My question about any UU gospel is what it will say to people like one of my friend’s clients, who has, from the time she was 3, been used-misused-abused by every man in her life. Or the parent of a child who has gone to jail/prison and thinks it’s their fault. Or the person who loses some faculty and thinks that it is punishment for some real or imagined sin. Will UU theology say anything to them at all. Will it only talk to them if they have a few degrees under their belt? Or will it talk to them no matter where they are on the socio-economic or educational  scale?

I guess what I’m asking is what is our gospel to those who are psychically wounded, not religiously wounded. Can there be such a thing as UU liberation theology? 

And while I’m on this thought…..another thing I noticed was the focus on sexuality issues in the responses to my post. Do we U/U/UUs have the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time? Yes, we are offering a valuable gospel to many in the GLBTQQ community. My question is where is the gospel to the other marginalized and oppressed groups? Or are we too class-bound to see anybody but “our kind of people?”

I know I’m mutilating this, so I will stop here. As always, there will be more later.

New Testament People In An Old Testament World

I had lunch today with a therapist friend(Ph.D. in Psychology) who is an occasional student at ESR. We got to talking about the class that she took during the Jan. intensive “Women in the OT”. She told me that for the first few days she was just sick reading about all the different acts of violence that happen to the women of the OT. “I get enough of that in my practice, I really don’t need to think about that here,” she said her first thoughts were. Then she told me about her epiphany.

“I’m a New Testament person who deals with people who are living in an Old Testament world. A baby dies and it must be your fault.  Men can, and do, treat women any way they want because they are men and women aren’t worth as much. An eye for an eye. And here I am saying to these people ‘Don’t you think it’s time to forgive yourself, because I’m really sure that God has forgiven you.’ or ‘Isn’t it time you try loving yourself because God does love you.’ And for some of my clients, those are revolutionary words. They might know more of the Bible than I do, but the Bible they know is really harsh. And I feel like I’m preaching the Gospel to them for the first time.”

That has gotten me to thinking. 

I really love being classical U/U in my theology. It has been life giving to me. But this UU thing, I don’t think I want any part of it. What gospel is modern UUism giving to the broader world? What are we telling people who are living in an Old Testament world? Or do we just look over them and think that they are unenlightened and not worthy of our attention?

More later.