A Tale of Two Hurricanes….Sandy and Katrina

As the country watches the news coverage of Hurricane Sandy, I have been reminded of how the country watched as Katrina exposed some things that people didn’t want to believe. It also makes me wonder about how we look at hurricanes that affect the eastern seaboard as opposed to hurricanes that affect the gulf coast and other places.

What will we learn from the coverage and response to Sandy? Have we learned what we needed to from Katrina?

Rape Is Not A Method Of Conception…or Vaginas and Penises and Ignorance Oh My pt.2

What is in the water in Indiana and Missouri these days?

The train wreck that is Todd Akin continues to roll; the latest for those of you not in Missouri is about Todd and friends referring to Claire McCaskill as a dog. Here in Missouri, there are even more stories which y’all might eventually hear about.

But in Indiana…my word. Now I did hear things like “God doesn’t give things that you can’t handle” while growing up [that is a part of evangelical and fundamentalist culture], but really.

Richard Mourdock, Senate candidate in Indiana said the following last night:

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

I do understand the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, I do not understand how (or when) rape became a “lemon.” Rape is a bodily violation. Rape is a psychic violation. Rape is a spiritual violation. Rape is NOT something G-d intended to happen. Rape is not a “lemon.”

I’ve talked about Dominionists and dominionist theology before. And I’ve talked about the need for religious liberals to counter theology with theology. You cannot wait for a generational shift to happen; that won’t bring you as far as you think. Religious liberals must get into the theological marketplace and start to speak against the dominionist theology that will eventually be in every textbook that schoolchildren receive. Religious liberals must get into the theological marketplace on the internet and counter the theologies that drive us toward death and destruction and injustice (thanatos) with theologies that move us toward life and beauty and justice (eros).

Religious liberals ignore this time in history at our peril. It’s time to get to work.

Vaginas and Penises and Ignorance Oh My

My evangelical friends have been sending me links to articles regarding the brewing controversy about the soon-to-be-published book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans. Modelled after A.J. Jacobs’ “A Year of Living Biblically”, Evans tries to follow the various directions that scripture [primarily Hebrew scripture] gives regarding how women should act.

As you can imagine, a lot of the directives in scripture regarding women deal with menstruation. Naturally, if one is going to talk about menstruation the word vagina is probably going to appear. Here’s where the controversy starts.

LifeWay Christian Booksellers, a conservative Christian bookstore chain, has announced that it will not carry Evans’ book. While they are keeping quiet about the reasons for not stocking it (which is news all on its own), there is reason to believe that the word vagina appearing in it might be at least part of the cause.

I was going to write about that, but the longer I’ve thought about, LifeWay not carrying the book is not really that much of an issue—at least not outside of evangelical circles. However, there is a related issue that I think has broader implications.

In a response to a question about LifeWay not carrying the book, Rachel Held Evans gives this little gem:

My publisher had warned me that if I left the word “vagina” in the book, it might not be carried by the Christian bookstore. 

This disturbs me; not the Christian bookstore deciding not to carry the book (that might be the subject of another post), but the publisher [Thomas Nelson, well known as a Christian publisher] saying that she needed to remove the word vagina in order to have that particular Christian bookstore sell the book.

What is it about the word “vagina” that makes it unacceptable yet in similar circumstances “penis” would be (and, in fact, is) perfectly acceptable?

The longer I’ve sat with this the more I see that there seems to be a longing to keep people ignorant about the basics of the female body. It’s as if not saying the word “vagina” means that we don’t have to deal with the issues that affect women on the social, economic and health levels.

Yes, I’m thinking about Todd Akin and all the other Dominionists out there. Who would have thought that in 2012 there would still be debate about contraception, Planned Parenthood and what the definition of “rape” is? (on the other hand, I can well see why there is debate on things like education and equal pay)

Ignorance leads us to places and people that we should avoid. And yet we seem to want to run full throttle into it. Why?

How Many UU Churches Are On The ‘Wrong Side of the Tracks’?

I hadn’t realized that I was talking about the same subject in two different ways in my last two posts.

So I’m going to ask a blunt question:

How many UU churches are on the wrong side of the (proverbial) tracks?

There is a conversation to be had about reaching out to the malleable ‘nones’ and why UU youth leave in larger numbers and why some who seem to be “natural” fits with UUism choose to go somewhere else, but in order to have that conversation we have to see the log(s) that is/are in our eyes. When is that going to happen?

Running After The ‘Nones’ Is Like Tanning Salons Offering Their Services To Black People

So the Pew study reports that there been real and sustained growth in the group known as the “nones.” The Religious News Service did a really good profile of what the study shows.

Here’s what I think is important (at least for this post):

5. [He’s] not very religious. This may sound obvious, but it makes the distinction between a person who has no religious affiliation, and one who is not religious. There are some nones who do consider themselves religious — just outside the confines of a religious organization. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of nones seldom or never attend religious services.

So if a substantial majority of the “nones” do not consider themselves religious–and not just unaffiliated, why are so many religious folk (especially liberal religious folk) running after them as if they were the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow? This makes as much sense to me as a tanning salon chain putting an ad in Essence magazine.

What’s really the drive behind running after the “nones”? It can’t be that we really think we’re going to get somewhere with them. Because, honestly, what we’re offering appeals to them about as much as what the tanning salon is offering appeals to most black people.

The Most Obvious Reason(s) Why Barack Obama Is Not A UU…or, Seeing The Log That’s In Our Eye

There seems to be some chatter about the UU-World feature article about the time that President Obama spent at the Honolulu UU church. In another round of strum-und-drang the usual questions come up…why don’t our youth stay?… why did so-and-so not become a UU instead of [blank]?

Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? (Luke 6:41)

C’mon now friends…let’s cut the crap. Let’s start noticing the log that’s in our eye. There are some very obvious reasons why some people, like President Obama and Martin Luther King Jr., who did spend time amongst Us/Us/UUs choose not to stay or affiliate.

If you want to understand why President Obama is not a UU, answer this question honestly…can you name a UU congregation on the South Side of Chicago? [Bill Baar, I know you know the answer, so don’t answer it]

If you want to understand why MLK Jr. didn’t become a Unitarian, let’s remember the words of Coretta Scott King…

We gave a lot of thought to becoming Unitarian at one time, but Martin and I realized we could never build a mass movement of black people if we were Unitarian.

If you want to understand why President Obama and MLK Jr. didn’t become Unitarian (or Unitarian Universalist in Obama’s case), what do you say about these words MLK Jr. wrote…

There is one phase of liberalism that I hope to cherish always: its devotion to the search for truth, its refusal to abandon the best light of reason. . . . It was . . . the liberal doctrine of man that I began to question. The more I observed the tragedies of history, and man’s shameful inclination to choose the low road, the more I came to see the depths and strength of sin. . . . I came to feel that liberalism had been all too sentimental concerning human nature and that it leaned toward a false idealism. I also came to see that liberalism’s superficial optimism concerning human nature caused it to overlook the fact that reason is darkened by sin. . . . Liberalism failed to see that reason by itself is little more than an instrument to justify man’s defensive ways of thinking. Reason, devoid of purifying power of faith, can never free itself from distortions and rationalizations.

You cannot change what you refuse to acknowledge. And let’s be real…UUs don’t want to acknowledge the obvious reasons that people like MLK Jr. and President Obama chose not to affiliate with U/U/UUism. UUs don’t want to acknowledge the very obvious reasons why so many UU-raised youth choose to go a different way after Coming-of-Age/Youth Group involvement/OWL. (a subject which has been written about by others who are much more knowledgeable than I)

It’s time to start seeing the log that’s in our eye.

Do We Really Believe In The Democratic Process?…or, Why Is Nobody Running Against Peter Morales?

It’s election season, but I don’t feel like talking about U.S. national politics (although I’m still absolutely fascinated by the whole Todd Akin thing, so I might write about that later), so I’m going to continue in bridge-burning mode and ask some questions that I think need to be asked during this, the beginning of the UUA election season.

Question 1…why is nobody running against Peter Morales for President of the UUA? No matter where you stand on Peter’s presidency, aren’t there issues floating around the UU-universe that deserve a full airing in a presidential campaign? But on an even more fundamental level, isn’t it important to the democratic process for Peter to have to answer for his time in office (so far) and articulate what he sees that he would bring to a second term? [Lest you think that I’m picking on Peter, those who know me in the non-blogging world might remember that I brought up the same issue while Bill was in office.]

Question 2…why does the Board get to decide who’s going to be nominated to run for Moderator? [before you start, I know that there is a way to run by petition]  Isn’t that a little self-serving; as they can choose to run someone who is not going to challenge their basic assumptions (i.e. the usefulness of policy governance in the UUA).

There are other questions about our democratic process (mainly about money), but these are the biggest that I can see.


Banned Books and Theology

When did you last read a banned book?

It’s Banned Book Week, and since I’m reading a frequently banned book because of research that I’m working on, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of both the written word and story.

So here’s the question…how many UU churches are talking about the theology of, and in, banned/banning books? Is your UU church having a “Banned Book” speak-out? How many UU churches have “Banned Book” Reading Clubs?

In all of the UU talk about the “free and responsible search for truth and meaning”, what are UU churches doing—in their community—to encourage  freedom for the banned books?

Freedom for the banned books is a social justice issue and if UU churches are looking for a way to get involved with their local community on a wide range of issues, fighting for the freedom of people to have access to banned books is a wonderful gateway into a myriad of social issues to work on.