Checking In: Congregations, Cats, Anti-Racism Class, etc.

February 28, 2008

Ah, school and work are setting in. I’m dying to jump into the conversation on Unitarian Universalist-identified people who are not part of congregations, the limits of Unitarian Univeralist congregationalism, the exciting possibilities for broadening our vision of what it means to be Unitarian Universalist, and the ways that this could expand our reach and ministry. Ms. Theologian links to the various posts here and also eloquently writes about why she is Unitarian Universalist but does not go to church. But, alas, I just don’t have the time to craft something worth putting out there – a lot of important things have already been said. (Come to think of it, I will refer readers to a 2006 post – A Congregationally Based Movement? On Community Ministry and the Work of Our Faith in the World – about my call to community ministry and how I struggle with how that fits into a congregationally-based movement. Slightly longer. Written in third person – why? I do not know. Maybe just how I was feeling that day….)

In other news, our cat Murray is hanging in there. He changes all the time. But seems to not be getting worse (as of the past two days – but who knows).

I am teaching OWL (a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum – Our Whole Lives) and loving it. I was never a huge fan of working with teens. Not so much that I was against it, but I just never understood how people could think it was so awesome. Not that I am clamoring to be a youth minister now, but I “get” it much better how one could consider that as a career option or long-term volunteer option. I’m sure all people who work with young people and really like it think that they are working with especially impressive teens, but I actually think it is true in my case. And my co-facilitator is great too.

I have started five posts relating to the sexual purity movement, a NYTimes article on meat, “the hard work of being a peaceful presence”, and the GA brou-ha-ha (as Philocrities put it) but none have gotten done enough that I want to put them out there. I guess I will just have to resign myself to things being slower while classes are going on and chiming in on discussions a little late in the game.

Speaking of classes, I am taking one called Racializing Whiteness with an excellent instructor who presents ideas, but does a great job of not making everyone feel guilty and horrible (which was my fear of what it would look like) and leaves room for the exploration of issues rather than preaching some sort of party line about the only and right way to be anti-racist (again, this was a fear of mine). I am learning a lot. And now fear less nervous of saying something “wrong” about anti-racism work, since it can be (lest we all forget the brown bag controversy last year) a sensitive subject in our denomination. I think it will help me be more anti-racist (or, framed more positively, more just) in my own life and inform (in a positive way) my ministry and scholarship. Somehow it is a huge relief to me that it is a really helpful and meaningful class and that we have room to learn and grow and grapple with hard questions.

That’s all for now.

p.s. I just read Chalice Chick’s reasons she does go to church. It is super-good. A great compliment to Ms. Theologian’s post about why she does not go to church.

So how is Murray?

February 19, 2008

One of my favorite and most faithful blog readers asked how our Murray is. I wrote about Murray, our sick kitty, here and here and so here is the update:

Things are not good, not much worse, and they are also not conclusive. No one can even tell us if cerebellar hypoplasia is progressive or not. Our theory is that if it happens in utero when the mama cat is sick or if she is given a distemper shot (and this seems to be the claim), and it causes lack of development of part of the brain of the kittens, that it seems impossible for that to somehow “kick in” at age nine months as it did with Murray. How did that part of his brain function the first nine months when he was walking just fine and then all of a sudden worsen in the matter of a week? So, our theory is that doctors and people on the internet (whose doctors have diagnosed their cats with cerebellar hypoplasia) tend to use cerebellar hypoplasia to refer to a range of neurological problems that cause similar symptoms when the actual causes are very varied and unknown. So one doctor says it is CH, our alternative doctor is sort of like “try this homeopathic medicine and see what happens” and none of the doctors has any suggestion about the next steps, short of trying various natural remedies or doing a $1200 MRI. We don’t feel up to (and the shelter also doesn’t think we should) try to get a third opinion given the already substantial costs and tests we have already run that all came back normal. He is declining slightly – his walk gets worse and he sometimes looks a little hunched over – but he also still eats well, gets up and hangs out, and spends a lot of time following our other cat Gustav around trying to get him to cuddle him. We still hope that he will plateau and be just fine. If he worsens a lot more, we may try to go to another vet. We hope that the homeopathic, natural stuff will start to work. Keep him in your thoughts.

GA ID Issue Round-Up

February 9, 2008

I will be posting about this myself in the next day or two. In the meantime, while you breathlessly await one more opinion on this matter, you can read other takes on this issue at the following UU Blogs: Philocrities, Trustee Talk, UUA Politics, iMinister (and here), RadicalHapa, The Chaliceblog (here and here), the Yes Church, Boy in the Bands, Ministare, Transient and Permanent, and Making Chutney. Feel free to add posts I’ve missed. You can also read about it at UU World here and here. Finally, see the memo from UUA President William G. Sinkford, Moderator Gini Courter, and GA Planning Committee Chair Beth McGregor, where they respond to concerns about security checkpoints at the 2008 General Assembly here, and have your Frequently Asked Questions About Security in Fort Lauderdale answered on the UUA website.

From The New York Times: Meat Consumption Is an Environmental Issue

February 1, 2008

NYTimes isn’t exactly on the cutting edge of vegetarian and environmental propaganda, so those leery of vegetarian overstatement can rest assured that this isn’t the same as if PETA came out with such an article. The times has a spotty record of publishing articles about vegetarianism and the environment, including a painfully misinformed article about veganism last year and an article that tells people how they can save the planet with easy, simple steps rather than actual sacrifice (I wish this was true, but it just isn’t – you can only slow down the destruction with easy, simple steps).

Anyway, they NYT has come through, however, with an impressive article about the environmental consequences of meat-consumption. Interestingly, the guy who wrote it is not a vegetarian. I always find that interesting that folks can have all the info in the world (hey, including myself) and know what is best, but not do it. It shows that rationality is overrated.

In “Rethinking the Meat Guzzler“, Mark Bittman writes:

To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days….

Perhaps the best hope for change lies in consumers’ becoming aware of the true costs of industrial meat production. “When you look at environmental problems in the U.S….nearly all of them have their source in food production and in particular meat production. And factory farming is ‘optimal’ only as long as degrading waterways is free. If dumping this stuff becomes costly — even if it simply carries a non-zero price tag — the entire structure of food production will change dramatically.”

Animal welfare may not yet be a major concern, but as the horrors of raising meat in confinement become known, more animal lovers may start to react [Elizabeth’s note – do we need to be animal lovers to want to prevent very serious suffering?]. And would the world not be a better place were some of the grain we use to grow meat directed instead to feed our fellow human beings?

I suggest reading the whole article, but those are some of the highlights. A good point that I came away with is that it isn’t like everyone has to become vegetarians (although, of course, I would like that!). But if everyone did some reduction, it would have more of an impact than if a small number of people became vegetarian. I found that once I started thinking out of the “meat is the center of a meal” box, I learned to eat a lot of things I wouldn’t have other wise. Like Michael Pollen (non-vegetarian) says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Murray Update

February 1, 2008

I wrote a day or two ago that our little foster cat Murray is having a hard time walking. We took him to the vet, and it could be worse, I suppose, and we might find out that it is. The vet has determined that Murray has cerebellar hypoplasia. I think. I thought that the vet made a very quick diagnosis and could not adequately explain why Murray’s walk has gotten much worse in the past few days since CH is supposed to be nonprogressive. The alternatives are not good either. So we can hope that it is CH which simply means that Murray will walk funny his whole life, but I have a feeling it will be worse. Poor little guy. Our shelter really likes the vet we go to, and he charges us only half price, but I’ve never had good experiences with him. He is super-quick to diagnose and always 100% sure of his diagnosis. And has been wrong in the past. The result is that usually we end up paying out of pocket to get a second opinion, which several times has been important for our little kitties, but if the vet would just listen better and not be so sure of himself, we wouldn’t have to do that. Sigh. Let’s just hope that, for Murray’s sake, he is right. I hope we’ll know more tomorrow after phone consults with other vets. :(

Murray said to thank you for writing nice comments about him and that he appreciates the support.