More on Hope

June 30, 2009

I am thinking a lot about hope for the future these days, and also trust in government. A recent commenter said this:

I think there is something really positive about feeling good about Obama in itself. If people are behind him and positive whatever change he can actually make will be more effective than if people are totally cynical. I’d rather feel hopeful (perhaps with a sense of reality) about a president doing mediocre things than to be disparaging about a president doing mediocre things even if the outcome is the same.

Thoughts? Is it good to be hopeful even if it isn’t very founded, or it is based on mediocrity? Is it good to trust government even if it isn’t very founded, even if the government isn’t THAT trustworthy? Does it somehow make for a better democracy? Are hope and trust important values in and of themselves, or just ways of indulging our idealism and desire for things to be different?

p.s. On the off chance that someone knows literature that deals with these questions, I would love to know about it.

Obama and hope

June 28, 2009

I thought ChaliceChick was pretty amusing today when she said this – she remembers what it was like to be a Hillary supporter when

Obama was made of kittens and fairydust and was going to change politics forever and ever.

I try not to get too involved in politics since I live with Mr. Political Science who is involved enough with it for both of us, but I still thought this was funny. I think of my wise friend who is the benefactor of this blog when she was visiting last summer: she said, “If it was easy or even possible to be non-partisan and work together well with the Republicans, lots of people would have done it already. It isn’t like anyone hasn’t thought of that before.” Not that I don’t appreciate his efforts and the nice words he says, but it seems that this whole post-partisan change new world we-can-do-it is just a lot harder than he thought.

Not to be all anti-Obama, because I think he is just fine, just not nearly as good as he said he was going to be and everyone thought he would be, it does remind me of this cartoon which I find amusing.


Just some random thoughts on another rainy day….

UU Sermons, Articles and Blog Posts on Hope

June 22, 2009

I am working on a project about the understanding of hope in Unitarian Universalism. It has a more contemporary focus, but draws on older texts too. Do you know of a Unitarian Universalist sermon on hope? An article? Book? Blog post? Something else? Post it in the comments. Link to your blog. Sermon. Or something else. Self-promote!

p.s. If you know of academic literature on hope (theology, philosophy or really anything else) I would love to know about that too.

If I Were Going to Be a Christian

June 13, 2009

Long-time readers of this blog know that I come from a Christian (mega-church-Baptist-Catholic-Methodist-ish) background, once identified as Christian, probably don’t now, but still sort of want to and long for some parts of that tradition and familiarity and… long for that something that I felt and knew during my years in that world.*

But I haven’t been able to get over several parts of Christianity, like, for instance, the centrality of Jesus, and the atonement thing, among others. I know, I know. Big issues. But that is for another post. The point here is that I just got done reading an amazing paper by someone in one of my classes. The paper will eventually be posted online, when it is, I will link to it.

But her beautiful paper (she is an academic theologian and a Christian) inspired me to imagine for a second or two that I would be able to convince myself that I could reside both in Unitarian Universalism and in some sort of Christian tradition.

And I thought, if I could do that, this would be how:

It would mean placing myself in a tradition of struggle – a struggle to do right, to love God, to love our neighbors and to apprehend mystery that is beyond mystery, beauty that is beyond beauty, suffering that is beyond suffering. It wouldn’t mean that I would believe differently – but that I would situate myself in a tradition, a context of grappling with this crazy world we live in and trying to make sense of it all by drawing from certain texts, being nourished by a community of believers trying to do right, trying to do good… just plain old trying. It is such a diverse and beautiful and rich tradition because it is just so damn hard to understand the divine and to live well. It takes so many different tries and thoughts and practices just to even begin to get close. It would mean placing myself in a tradition, a tradition that I still long for and miss, that hopes even when hope seems unreasonable. It means acknowledging that people do terrible things to each other, yet we also love radically, believe that things can be better, and imagine that God is within us all (the holy spirit), can walk among us as Jesus did, and that God is everywhere and everything. Christianity can be read and practiced in other ways – hurtful ways, exclusive ways, unjust ways. It has and I understand that. But I could decide to identify with the parts that call to me. I could, at the same time, be a part of the tradition and faith, and transform parts of it.

Maybe I will someday. For now, I am where I am and the Mystery and Love I know is okay with that and glad that I am still struggling, hoping, praying, and trying to make a way in this world – to make a way that is just, joyful, peaceful, and beautiful. It is amazingly hard to do this well and I realize I get so much of it wrong – and this allows me to be more understanding of the ways that others appear to me to get it wrong. It is, I think, so difficult just to stumble through life and not do lots of harm – to ourselves and others. I give thanks for those that journey with me in so many different ways, and for my Unitarian Universalist faith that wants me even given my struggles and failures and longings for something more.



*This would be in addition to/concurrent with/woven into (not as a replacement of) my Unitarian Universalist faith.

The Hardest Choice

June 8, 2009

The article below is a beautiful and heart-breaking piece about abortion past the first trimester. It is so difficult for me to understand how people cannot hear stories like this.

The Hardest Hardest Choice: Why I Had a Second-Term Abortion.

The UUA Presidential Election and The Point of Our Faith

June 3, 2009

Well, it is a rare case when I read the always thoughtful and usually (self-proclaimed) conservative UU blog of Joel Monka and agree with it. I learn a lot, but at the end of most posts I am thinking, “Wow, I so don’t agree with that.” But, his most recent post on the UUA Presidential Election has really helped to clarify a lot for me. Interestingly, his post is titled “Something Clicked,” and it helped something click for me. I shall explain.

For the few short years that I have been giving sermons (and blogging), I return to one theme over and over. You know, they say that each preacher has one sermon that he or she preaches over and over in different forms and this is SO true for me. In large part, it is because it is the struggle of my life.

The gist of my sermon that I give repeatedly in different forms is that we (and I very much include myself in this) don’t live out the values that we proclaim in our own lives. We say we believe x, y and z, but our actions don’t often enough reflect this when it gets really hard. My sermons are not so much about “do better” (although that is part of it) but more “how do we come to terms with this?” since, by my estimation, we are (I am) never going to do THAT much better at living out our values. Part of this is that we must necessarily focus our energies of love and justice at the expense of letting other injustices stand. We cannot do it all – we cannot save the world. How do we learn to live with this, and choose how and where to put our energy? (I won’t expand on this, but if you want to read my writing about this you can go here, here or here.)

Back to Joel’s post, he quotes UUA Trustee Linda Laskowski in her post about why she supports Rev. Morales for UUA President. She writes,

I believe we do offer much to a hurting world, and through working with like-minded individuals and alliances can be part of “saving” it — and in the process save ourselves and this faith we love.

Joel argues that this is backwards. He writes,

Religion isn’t about changing the world; it’s about changing the man in the mirror- if you can save him, the world will follow.

Gender exclusive language aside, I think this is what I am often getting at in my sermons and blog posts. It helps me clarify to me how I understand Unitarian Universalist faith, and also helps clarify to me an underlying current I was working against in my sermons and blog posts: that somehow the world needs what we have to offer it. Rather, I would like to reorient our reflection to how WE come up short far too much and it isn’t a matter of “fixing” ourselves and our world, but that we need to be more honest and real about coming to terms with the fact that we are not ever able to fully live up to our values.

While I tend not to be a fan of the idea of original sin, or talk of sin in general, I hear Joel’s point about how it might make sense to focus on living our lives better – dealing with/coming to terms with our weaknesses, imperfections, and brokenness (that some might call sin) – rather than always looking “out there” in the world and thinking WE can save THEM or IT. It reminds me of charismatic ministers that think they have so much to offer the world and their church that they don’t deal with their own life and end up making huge public, damaging blunders because they thought the good they do in the world/church somehow makes up for not doing such a good job in their own lives.

I often feel so frustrated at the sense that we (Unitarian Universalists) somehow have what the world needs – like, somehow Christianity or Islam or Buddhism isn’t cutting it. For me, it is that Unitarian Universalism is where I need to be. And I welcome others in joining me and my fellow Unitarian Universalists in the journey to try to do the hard work of love and justice. This is where I am, but it isn’t because other religions somehow aren’t good enough. I could digress on this, but, bringing it back to Joel’s post and the post by UUA Trustee Linda Laskowski about endorsing Peter Morales, I can see how this relates to Morales’s take on things and the tone and approach he may bring to our association. In the sermon announcing his candidacy, (click here for a pdf of the sermon) he said:

We live in a new world, a world in which once isolated religious traditions are in constant contact. We desperately need new religion for a new world. The old religions lead to tribalism, violence, suspicion, hatred, and oppression. We need a religion that transcends divisions, religion that unites enemies, religion that points to a new future that includes everyone.

While I have no doubt that he did not intend any harm by this statement, I really feel rubbed the wrong way by the idea that “we need a new religion for a new world” (which is, apparently, Unitarian Universalism) and that the “old religions” (by which he seems to mean Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) lead to tribalism, violence, suspicion, hatred, and oppression. Like somehow we’re going to get it right whereas others just don’t have what it takes. He writes

Today Judaism, Islam and Christianity, especially the more conservative parts of them, have become what they first opposed: narrow, rigid and reactionary. They look back and seek to recapture a fantasy of the past instead of embracing a vision for the future.

Aside from the fact that I am not really sure that all three of these religion “first opposed” narrowness, rigidity, and being reactionary, I feel very uncomfortable with the idea that we are what the world needs – at all – and especially over and against “old religions.”

I am not endorsing a candidate in the election. For me, this isn’t about Peter Morales, but rather about how we envision our faith: are we Unitarian Universalists because it is the context in which we can connect with the divine, become the people we want to be, serve humbly, doing the hard work of love and justice or, are we Unitarian Universalists because we think it is the best religion for our time – because it is what the world needs – what they need. Of course, for me it is the former. Unitarian Universalism is what I need. I think when it becomes the latter we fall prey to the very better-than-thou-ness of other religions who think that they have “it” and others don’t – one of the qualities that so many Unitarian Universalists do not appreciate from other faiths.

I think if we are so worried about growing and being “the religion for our time” we lose sight of the forest for the trees. We are not saving the world. We are not in a contest for the best or fastest growing faith. We fail so often to live up to our visions of our own best selves. Rather, I hope that before we go about telling other people that they need what we have, we take the time to attend to ourselves, our congregations, our hearts, our lives. I think when we do this, we will create healthy congregations and a healthy association that will draw in others who wish to join us on the path.

(Just to clarify, I am not suggesting that we somehow descend into deep navel-gazing. The point is that the outreach work of love and justice grows out of coming to terms with our own lives and grows out of community and spiritual practices that we do in our congregations. It is not the point of our congregations or faith, but some of the the fruit of it.)

Edit: I just want to be really clear here that I am not endorsing – or somehow campaigning against – a particular candidate for the UUA Presidential election. I just don’t know enough about each of them to feel like I can make a good decision – I have been too caught up in pregnancy, birth and raising our new sweet baby to give this election the attention it deserves. There are a lot of issues at hand – many angles to consider – and this is just one of them. For all I know, I have totally misread Morales’s overall thrust and vision – this is just a little sliver of a big and complex picture. If you are going to be voting or endorsing, I encourage you to do  more reading at many different sources and talk to others you trust about this. Peace, E

My Switch from PC to Mac

June 2, 2009

Back in September I wrote about why I was switching from PC to Mac. I got my new MacBook (the newer silver one) in October about a week after they new ones came out. This is a quick and dirty post about the switch, mostly for those who might consider the switch.

Type of user I am: I am just a plain old computer user – I listen to some music on itunes, I email with Thunderbird, use Firefox web browser, download pdfs, watch some streaming video, and type on Microsoft Word. Simple stuff. No gaming. Nothing too fancy. Competent enough, but just enough to get done what I need to get done.

Main point: SO HAPPY WITH THE SWITCH from Windows based PC to Mac. I’ve since convinced my mom to do it and my sister did it on her own after a bad experience with Vista. My partner made the switch three months before me (also due to the hell that is Vista). Everyone is happier. My poor dad didn’t want to switch (understandably, as he is not exactly Mr. Technology), ordered a new computer, and is now stuck with an old clunky Dell computer with Vista. He doesn’t think it is that bad, but the rest of us dread using his computer for anything. It is like going back to the stone age.

Here is why I love the switch.

Computer boots up in about 10 or 20 seconds. Something fast. This is versus minutes (and then more and more minutes as it got older) with my Windows based PCs of which I had five before this Mac. It seems like a small thing but it is so nice for the computer to turn on and work. And, if you close the screen, it goes to sleep and then when you open it, it wakes up. My two previous PCs would never do this or stop doing it soon after I got them. They got confused and would not turn back on, or something would go wrong. I could never shut the cover/screen without turning the whole thing off. It was a hassle.

The computer always works. You turn it on. You do your thing. You turn it off. It just works. Things don’t have to “think” for a long time. They don’t lock up. My screen doesn’t go blank. And it doesn’t seem to me like invisible files are somehow accumulating somewhere that I will have to “clean up” and that slow my computer down. This makes me glad.

I love the integrated camera. Makes skyping so easy and fun.

I had five Windows based PCs before this Mac. Starting in 1997. Two desktops, three laptops. That is a lot of computers and I only replaced when everything got too slow and impossible and unstable that I had to switch. Granted, I use them a lot and lug them around with me everywhere, but if this baby lasts even five years, it is an improvement over my PCs which lasted three years if I was lucky. And they always got so hot. This computer does not get hot when I use it. That is nice.

What can I say. It is just cool. It looks cooler. It feels cooler. I like it.

These don’t seem like huge points, but they really are. You know, especially that the computer consistently works. That is a big one for me.

Slight Things I Don’t Love.

I don’t love the filing system. Maybe it is because I am not very computer literate or there is something I don’t know, but I don’t like how I can’t organize my files like I want and when I put a file in a folder and there is already a file of the same name, it doesn’t tell me the “last modified” date of both files so I know which one I want to keep and which one I want to delete. I just can’t figure out a good way to manage all my files like the explorer thing in Windows did – like where I can put them in order by date modified or date created or alphabetically. There is only the finder thing on my Mac which  doesn’t work nearly as well. But this is a small price to pay. (Quick edit: Is there anyone out there who knows what to do about this? Can’t I download some sort of better filing system?)

I don’t love the mousepad that is both the pad where you move your finger around AND you also click on the whole pad to click. Buttons were better. For one thing, it makes it hard for my dad and mother in law to use the computer because they absolutely cannot figure it out. But, again, small point. (Quick edit, of course you can use a peripheral mouse which might be a good idea anyway if you work at a desk).

I don’t like iphoto. This really refers to point one of what I don’t like because on my old computer I organized my pictures in my file folder system. I liked how that worked – files and folders along the left side, contents of folder on the right side. I could make them thumbnails or bigger pictures so I could see details.

And slight thing which really isn’t the fault of my Mac, but my family tree software doesn’t work on Mac. So I need to buy new family tree software and figure out how to use it on Mac. And import the old stuff from my other software. Which I doubt will be a smooth import. (Quick edit: Any family tree people out there who have good suggestions about family tree software?)

But, don’t let the minor points detract from the main point which is that I love the switch, love my Mac and will never go back to Windows.

And that is the summary.