The UUA Presidential Election and The Point of Our Faith

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

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28 Responses to The UUA Presidential Election and The Point of Our Faith

  1. David Keppel says:

    I have to admit I don’t agree with Joel’s statement: “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.”

    It’s by working together with others for a more just and peaceful world that I’m able to feel, and I hope even be, a better person. It’s by opening our church doors, welcoming the stranger, doing the work of social justice, that we dampen the minor frictions that otherwise build up in any human group, including a congregation.

    [Thanks for your comments, David. I agree with what you have written in the preceding two sentences, but I just think there is a huge difference between opening the church doors, welcoming the stranger and doing the work of social justice and making these the main foci of what it is we do. I read Morales’s sermon and Linda Laskowski’s endorsement as being about more than just opening our doors and welcoming strangers, but rather as a call for being more proactive in promoting Unitarian Universalism as a faith because it is the faith that people need in our times – it is saving in a way that other faiths aren’t. -E]

    I honor both candidates and their insights and achievements. In my own life, as a writer, solitude plays an important role. But for me, religion is more than spirituality: it is moving beyond myself to embrace a community — because that community is concerned with more than itself.

    I enthusiastically support Peter Morales for UUA President. His vision is deeply religious. To see what he means by religion, please read: http://www.jeffersonunitarian.org/sermons/morales/pm_religion_wo_belief.html

    [I read this and appreciate you sharing. While I imagine Rev. Morales to be an amazing person in many ways – some people who I respect SO MUCH are endorsing him – at the same time, reading this reinforces to me that I am not comfortable with important parts of his approach, particularly the way he talks in his sermons about other faiths. That said, I can’t say I am all that deeply invested in the election – I think both candidates likely have strengths and weaknesses and given the range of people who think one or the other candidate will do an excellent job, I have no doubt that whoever wins will do and say great things – and likely other things I dislike. I feel glad that both candidates seem quite impressive. -E]

    Finally, please remember that this election isn’t a choice between the personal-pastoral and the social-pastoral in any absolute sense. The question isn’t which is more important in your life, or even which is more important for a minister. It’s which is more important for a UUA President, as the national leader of our free congregations and the representative of our denomination.

    I want a UUA President who will be a public voice for us, who will inspire us to live our values and to work for a better world, and who will be an open and accountable chief executive. For me that leader is Peter.

    Peace,
    David

  2. Chuck B. says:

    I have to agree with David. One of the man big problems with our faith, in my opinion is the prevalence of Libertaian Theology. How self centered it is to use a faith as an excuse to do little or be “left alone”. Also, how silly.

    [Hi Chuck – Thanks for your comment (I think?). I’m going to respond in line – forgive me for the lengthy responses, but I was a little taken aback by the harshness of your response and felt like I needed to do justice to what I read as very harsh criticisms and misunderstandings (and miscommunication, apparently, on my part) of what I meant.]

    Ours is an inclusive faith that, to me at least, has good news for many that we fail to promote. Ours is a faith that celebrates diversity and should be shared with others.

    [I agree that our faith celebrates diversity. I’m not 100% sure that diversity is great in and of itself, although I think it *can* be great. And I think our faith should be shared with others. But there are a range of ways that this can be done, ehh?]

    It is also a faith, not a philosophy. A faith should demand its adherents to go out and do good in its name. How shabby and small to propose something as positiive and expansive as our UUism, a belief of martyrs to civil rights and the Voting Rights act, has no inherent power to move us to be greater than we are as congregations and adherents to our belief.

    [Gosh, this seems a bit harsh if you are suggesting that I am being shabby and small and that I am suggesting that our faith has “no inherent power to move us to be greater than we are as congregations and adherents to our belief.” Did you read my post? I am suggesting, I thought somewhat clearly, that the hard work of love and justice in the world – which I consider to be central to our faith – grows out of coming to terms with our own brokenness, struggles, and shortcomings. I am suggesting that we spend too much time and energy fretting about why more people don’t join up with us, and fretting about how we can grow ourselves and bring our saving message to the world and not enough time doing the hard work that must precede that in our own spiritual journeys and in our congregations.]

    If UUism were truly as small as that. If being a UU really means you do whatever you want and have no impetus by your faith to go out and do good deeds in its name, then it deserves to die a quiet and ignoble death as a faith. For such a belief is not a faith or a religion it is a philosophy made up of a group of self centered isolationists who cannot be bothered by compassion unless its on their own small terms. How sad.

    [I must say I am shocked at the sharpness of your response here and I feel like you may not have read the whole post, or, perhaps I vastly over estimate my own ability to be clear about what I was saying. I don’t think anything in my post would indicate that I think that UUism is about doing whatever you want and having no impetus by our faith to go out and do good deeds in its name, but rather that that is not the point we should focus on as much – rather such good work grows out of having our own spiritual house in order and we must better attend to that if we want to do better at making our faith a place where more people feel drawn to us, welcomed in our communities, and if we want to be the change we wish to see in the world. Not to get overly Gandhi-esqe – and I think the quote is a bit overused – but truly we must live out the change we wish to see in the world – be that change – before we can expect others to do it. I think we come up a little short on this through our emphasis on changing others/the world without adequate attention to changing ourselves.]

    No matter who wins, I, for one, hope our UU breaks from such an embarassing, shoddy, and empty ideology.

    I am better than that, I am bigger than that, so too are my brothers and sisters in the rainbow of my shining, loving, and inclusive, faith.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you David and Chuck for your comments. I will respond to them in-line of your comments (later today) since I have tried to respond in my own comment and it gets terribly cluttered and too long.

    Much peace,
    Elizabeth

  4. Joel Monka says:

    Chuck B, your comment confuses me, because neither Elizabeth nor I said anything remotely like what you’re saying. In my response to Diggitt’s comment on my blog, I said, “My meaning was closer to the warning one receives on an airplane, “Should the oxygen masks deploy, secure your own before attempting to help others.”, and “This doesn’t mean that we stop our social activism; again, look at the African American churches- but it does mean that we have to start addressing personal, spiritual issues if we ever want to be relevant.” Elizabeth wrote, “Just to clarify, I am not suggesting that we descend into deep navel-gazing…” Both of us specifically mentioned social work, and neither of us said the words you put in quotation marks, to be “left alone”.

    I used the oxygen mask metaphor for a reason. When they say, “Secure your own mask first”, they (and I) are *NOT* saying “be self centered and don’t help others”, they are saying “If you don’t secure your mask first, you’ll pass out and not be able to help anybody- indeed, you’ll need help yourself.” But that’s even kind of beside the point- providing services for individuals, helping people on their spiritual problems *IS* social work as well. Reaching out to others must be done both wholesale and retail- and that’s where we are falling down.

    People come to a church for spiritual help. If someone is hurting so badly that they don’t know what is right anymore, it does no good to say, “Hey, it’s a shame you’re depressed- why don’t you help me fax letters to our congressman opposing Justice Alito?” But hey, I could be wrong. Maybe the reason 99.93% of America is ignoring us is because they don’t like our music.

  5. Joel Monka says:

    Elizabeth- thank you for the kind words! I learn a lot from you as well, and probably agree with you more often than you agree with me.

    [Thanks for your response here, Joel, and for your blog. :) – E]

  6. Chuck B. says:

    I appreciate your listening, Joel:

    I also appreciate the tone of your response as I was being very passionate.

    That said:

    I do not believe that your oxygen mask analogy is accurate. It is certainly excellent cover, and a wonderful form of apologizing for isolationist behaviour, but it only begs the question.

    While in most religions the conservatives focus on orthodoxy, in ours it seems the focus in on how to be less actively inclusive.

    In the end, it seems to me the question is whether a person believes ours is a religion that is a universal (small u) positive, inclusive, and outwardly affirming that should be spread and shared, or a small private philosophy that others can find, but congregations are under no requirement to really do more than accept them.

    I reject that UUism is a Philosophy. I reject the Libertarian Theology premise of “conservative” UU’s.

    I have found, particularly in the blogos sphere that many “conservative” UU’s (not all, but many) use the word concervative as a cowardly PC dodge to escape being called out as racist. Much of that racism is hidden under complaints about inclusiveness, anti-racism, or arguments against diversity because they are shocked that they may be confronted with their ignorant bigotry.

    So for all that I truly appreciate your response, I believe on this issue we see our faith as having different putposes. I see it as healing the world NOW, not when I get around to it.

  7. David Keppel says:

    First, I think it is extremely important that throughout this campaign we speak and act with civility, both for the sake of our unity after the election and our clarity of mind (not flooded with anger or fear) as we make this important decision. Elizabeth, I appreciate your gentle and listening attitude. Peter is committed to the candidates’ joint covenant, and I hope those of us who are his supporters will take note of his request that we honor it.

    I think you can be confident that Peter works effectively and respectfully with other faiths. For example, he has worked for social justice with the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and, more recently, with a group of Denver area Latino ministers called “Confianza” (“Trust”).

    It’s also true that Peter is passionate, indeed emphatic, about what Unitarian Universalism as a truly open faith has to offer — if we are committed to live it. There is a very delicate balance between being respectful of the insights in all the great religions, and still grasping the essential difference that comes with one that is truly open to creative uncertainty.

    What’s the right balance between working for social justice and inward development? It will differ for each of us, of course, and we need to respect those differences. For me, it’s not an either-or, because social justice work is also the best personal therapy. Also, I feel our world does not leave us much choice. In so many ways, beginning with the climate crisis, the future truly is in our hands.

    Finally, thank you for clarifying that you were not making an endorsement, still less stating any opposition to Peter. I appreciate your candor about the need you have had for family time. I think, as you suggest is possible, that when you have more time you will find that Peter speaks to all the needs of ministry (his congregation certainly feels so) and that he speak to all of us as the next UUA President.

    With appreciation/ peace,
    David

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments. It made me smile – I thought, ah, what a wonderful faith we have when we can engage, disagree, think together – all because, I think, we care deeply about our world.

    I also really appreciate your statement that the balance between social justice and inward development is not somehow either/or – yes, they are so wrapped up in each other.

    Thank you for your time and attention, David.

    Sincerely,
    Elizabeth

  9. David Keppel says:

    Just a correction of the last paragraph:

    Finally, thank you for clarifying that you were not making an endorsement, still less stating any opposition to Peter. I appreciate your candor about the need you have had for family time. I think, as you suggest is possible, that when you have more time you will find that Peter speaks to all the needs of ministry (his congregation certainly feels so) and that he will speak to all of us as the next UUA President.

    With appreciation/ peace,
    David

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Chuck,

    While I appreciate your passion, I still feel that – for whatever reason – I am not able to adequately clarify and/or you are not able to hear me in the way that I mean to be heard. So I won’t respond anymore to try to clarify further. I’ll leave it up to Joel if and how he wishes to respond. I do hope that we can find ways to read each other and hear each other in a spirit of generosity, now and in the future, and as we go out and do the hard work of love and justice together. I feel like your harsh statements boarder on too unkind and harsh for the tone I wish to keep on this blog, especially about something so important to so many and so close to our hearts, but I will let them stand. I would like to echo David’s call for civility, however, no matter how passionate we feel.

    In peace,
    Elizabeth

  11. Joel Monka says:

    Chuck B,

    I, too, appreciate the tone of your comments, as I know from all too frequent personal experience that passions can cause intemperate language- I have had to apologize enough times to make me wince at the memory.

    I still think you are misunderstanding my message; I fear you are lumping in with others labeled “conservative”, and so mistaking their positions for mine. For example, you said, “I do not believe that your oxygen mask analogy is accurate. It is certainly excellent cover, and a wonderful form of apologizing for isolationist behaviour, but it only begs the question.” I am *NOT* apologizing for isolationist behaviour, because I do *NOT* practice or advocate religious isolationism! Many times in my own blog, and in comments on others, I have called for *MORE* UU participation in social work and public programs. I have called for NEW programs of our own. The one and only thing I have ever asked to be dialed back is partisan political positions- and that’s not isolationist; that’s obeying tax law. And even then, I specifically called for the funds and personnel being used for that to be poured into our social programs!

    Let me draw another analogy that might make my point clearer. Fire Departments do two things: 1) They put out fires. 2) They investigate the causes of fire, they help draft fire safety legislation and lobby for its passage, they create public programs like “Smokey Bear” to get the public involved. Churches also do two things: 1) They help individuals with their spiritual problems, help them become better people. 2) They send these healed people out into the world to help others. The UU Fire Department spends all its effort on 2, and neglects 1. Is it any wonder people aren’t calling that fire department when they have a fire? Is it any wonder they don’t subscribe to it? THAT’S why we aren’t growing. You said, “I believe on this issue we see our faith as having different purposes.” I believe that there are TWO purposes, and you’re seeing only one.

  12. David Keppel says:

    Joel and Chuck,

    Your either/or argument is interesting, but I don’t think it reflects the complexity of these candidates or the choices really facing the UUA. Both are fine ministers. No one, certainly neither Peter nor Laurel, would take a person who was in distress and just tell them to go out and send a political fax.

    I also think the fire department analogy is too simple a view that misses how the best justice work is also personally healing. When our Bloomington church does its prison ministry, those who participate themselves feel healed. When I stand for peace on the town square, my personal problems seem less important and I am sustained by a sense of community. When we make a conscious effort to welcome greater social and racial diversity in our congregations, we discover the rich diversity within ourselves.

    You make a specific point, Joel, about “partisan political positions” and tax law. It’s important to be very clear here. We cannot advocate for a candidate in an election. We can take a position for or against a piece of legislation. Doing so is an important part of our social witness. (It is true that sometimes most Democrats favor, let’s say, a climate protection bill, and many Republicans oppose it. But as long as our position is on the bill, not on the candidate, we are free to act. That is often best done by a church task force, not by the full church.)

    Peace,
    David

  13. Robin Edgar says:

    “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.”

    U*Us can be quite snotty in this attitude too. . . Speaking of UUA Presidential candidates here is how Rev. Peter Morales described Judaism, Christianity and Islam to say nothing of Hinduism, Buddhism and other “old religions” in his “stump speech” announcing his candidacy for President of the UUA –

    According to Rev. Peter Morales they are “old religions” that “lead to tribalism, violence, suspicion, hatred, and oppression”

    and

    “obsolete religions created for another time” that “contribute to the darkness” of “injustice, prejudice, ignorance.”

  14. David Keppel says:

    Well, both the historical record and the newspaper testify to these, at least in the name of religions. Perhaps it is simply the way they have been misused. And it is not to deny that they are also sources of great insight.

    You cannot, of course, make any religion (or other idea) proof from misuse. But you can at least build into it a spark of self-criticism. That’s the genius of the scientific method — although, in that case, it has been somewhat limited because not all physical, even mechanical, phenomena are replicable. I think we in the 21st Century have work to do in forging a better, if always provisional, synthesis.

    Peace,
    David

  15. Diggitt says:

    Elizabeth left a note on Joel’s blog that there’s a good discussion going on here, so I came over to eavesdrop.

    It is sometimes difficult for me to follow arguments that use analogies, because it can be easy to get tangled up with the analogies and not recall what they’re actually attached to. Here we have oxygen masks and fire departments and fax machines and the argument — well, okay, discussion — is somewhere behind them.

    I don’t believe we have to make a choice between a religion that serves each of us individually and a religion that reaches out into the world. Outreach — not social action, but presenting ourselves to people who don’t know we exist — does not have to be a matter of “I have just the thing for you. Here. Take it. No, have some! Seriously, it’s all yours! NOW.” UU can be both. But each of us does not have to be the entirety of UU. We all know that there are reachers out and there are people who just can’t, and they contribute in their own way to our congregations and support those who actually are reachers-out.

    Several years ago I was involved in my congregation’s COA program. We had discussion about whether UUs are atheists, so I proposed a survey. We put an poster in the front hall with XY axes on it and asked each member to locate hirself on it. The X axis was absolutely do believe in God/absolutely do NOT believe in God, and the Y axis was don’t know/don’t care. We kept it up for three Sundays, and the results surprised practically everyone in the congregation. Five people had put themselves beyond each end of the X axis (total of ten). There was a cluster around each end point on the X axis itself, then a scattering going toward the middle. People were at various points in all four quadrants and on the Y axis too. Maybe 75% were somewhere in the area of don’t know, maybe 25% approaching don’t care. The congregation was almost exactly 50/50 on the yes/no God question. Until then, most people thought they were in the minority!

    I’m bringing this up because of that last point: most people had thought they were in the minority, not realizing the congregation was pretty evenly divided. In other words, we’d all been successfully offensive to each other. From this, we learned to be kinder with ourselves and with each other. We realized that we share more than we don’t share. Looking at it another way, the introverts and the extroverts among us are both served by what we do together.

    Since I was brought up a Unitarian and was president of LRY, etc etc, I am UU down to my hair follicles. I consider my search, other people’s acceptance of my search, and my potential ministry as equally valuable. But few UUs are like me. I believe I got a great gift in having a UU family, so a part of my personal UU-ness is spreading the word. Sometimes I retreat into myself and do some intense personal work, then I reach out again. I find it terrible to imagine the childhood of either of my parents, stuck in an orthodoxy neither accepted. That’s why it’s my mission to take the UU word out into the world. Not to preach that the UUs have Truth, but to tell people that we have a place you can come and learn to love yourself and seek answers for ever more questions.

    That’s not angry proselytizing, and that’s the gift I think Peter Morales offers the denomination.

  16. Joel Monka says:

    Consider the church in Peacebang’s latest post: http://www.peacebang.com/2009/06/05/a-recently-resigned-uu-speaks/ I’m sure they do some worthwhile social work, getting out into the community, standing for peace, trying to save the world. But I cannot imagine anyone who was looking for a church finding a home there.

  17. David Keppel says:

    Fine, Joel, but let’s not engage in argument by caricature. This sad example has nothing to do with the way worship is done at Peter’s Jefferson Unitarian Church or many other churches that are active in social witness.

    One thing Peter did as UUA Director of District Services was to encourage congregations to share best practices, and JUC has also partnered with other UU churches in the region. The same has happened with some of our other breakthrough congregations. We can offer struggling congregations, and even ones that aren’t struggling but have untapped potential, better alternatives.

    Peace,
    David

  18. Diggitt says:

    Thanks to David and Joel for your thoughtful responses in just a few hours! Two things before I leavce for work.

    In rereading what I wrote, I realize that my truncated description of UU speaks of self-acceptance and a safe place for searching (so far, describing a therapist’s office) and I left out a third most important element, and that is the search for meaning, and whatever lies this side of it or the other side. [God forbid I use the word God.] That addition is what makes us a religion instead of a T-group.

    David’s comment on sharing best practices is important. Best practices can be a moving target. There are some people who denounce as faddish the spread of the candles-of-joy-and-concern. Our congregations didn’t have them 50 years ago, and they might not in 50 years, but right now they work for us in creating community. As a community, we have decided that community is an essential part of our safety and our search. All the mechanics described in those few sentences are part of our denominational best practices.

  19. Chuck B. says:

    Joel:

    First I did not mean to say that you were apologizing, just as I was not referring to you when I talked about the cowardly PC conservatives who hide behind the Libertarian Theology idea.

    As I said, we are in disagreement. And that’s okay. The Libertarian UUism idea does allow for the choice of going out or doing nothing, because that gives them the choice of doing nothing. The premise of Libertarian Theology is that they get to do nothing unless they get around to it and resent any attempts to make them “do more”.

    While I applaud your personal efforts, those are percisely your personal efforts and to comment on them as dipositive in this instance would be too much like a personal attack.

    Also, Joel, you and I must have a fun no holds barred dust up about religiousity, pollitics, and the right left divide in future. Unfortunately, now is not the time. I do get the point of your efforts and want to explore that…later.

    David, thanks for keeping this on track concerning Rev Morales. Now forgive me as I go off track again:

    I think Diggit had it right, the isolationist ideology I am criticizing is a form of therapy instead of a religion. That wasn’t Diggit’s point, but I believe that is the truth. Talk about some other side only makes it a 12 step model instead of a religious ideology.

    It comes down to whether you support invitation to a faith or just want a place to be alone. A mountain top to sit on with a few others. I propose that those who want that mountain top are not really intersted in a religion but more a philosophy.

    We as a people of faith have much to offer our country. It is not wrong to believe what we have is better than the hateful stuff the other brands are providing: That the point of Belief.

    It is Belief in the idea of our faith. Belief that our liberal theology can free people of modes of thinking that eschew science and support bigotry.

    It is a Belief that UUism respects other cultures but demands human rights.

    It is a Belief that more UU’s in the world would mean more discussion, and less shooting; more diversity and less exclusion; more science, but less inhumanity. That is a world I want for my kids. I will not demand a UU world at gun point, but I will talk a UU world to any I can. I believe in the power of a UU world.

    Such a Belief is scary to some because it actually means you have to have the eggs to not only be a UU but tell others the ought to consider being a UU.

    The very nature of our Faith precludes the hard sell Diggit referred to.

  20. uucamper says:

    I’ve been lurking. I wrote one comment that my computer somehow didn’t send—perhaps in my best interest.

    Like Joel and Elizabeth, I have been uncomfortable with Rev. Morales and didn’t quite know why. Both of their posts helped me clarify my dis-ease with his public statements and the positions I’ve heard.

    In my 20+ years as a UU, I have experienced times when I needed some personal support….and it wasn’t to be found.

    I have done my share of “social work” out in the world. When I am in the midst of problems that overwhelm me, things that are bigger than I know how to handle, there is not much of me available to reach out to others.

    At times, I have used good works to avoid dealing with my own problems, but doubt my efficacy and empathy when working from this place.

    How can my spiritual home be a place where I have to buck up and ignore my own personal struggles so that I can focus on social action? It has to be a place that I can bring my all-too-human self, on good days and bad, to find the community and support I need so that I can “go on”

    A t-group is not spiritual, but emotional. The value of a spiritual community is that emotions are not the focus nor the “way”. We have a spiritual avenue for working through our emotional responses to life.

    I think politics are similar to emotions and that a spiritual community can help us see outside the political viewpoints.

    We attract lots of people to our congregations but they don’t stay. We’re not supporting people in the spiritual work they need/want to do. Until we do, until we tend to our inner spiritual houses better, we probably won’t.

    – Caroline
    raise by a consciousness raised mother so I seek a different way. Breathed Thoreau so I’m probably pretty libertarian and have a deep distrust for “outside” authority.

  21. David Keppel says:

    Caroline,

    Thank you for your concerns. I just don’t see it as an either-or choice. We care for each other, and we care for and about those beyond our walls. Our political engagement — for peace, justice, and human rights — is an expression of our love. It is spiritual.

    Some people are clearly remembering bad experiences they have had in the past at one or another UU church. But they are not the case at Peter’s church and are not the Peter who was a very caring and successful UUA Director of District Services and will be a warm UUA President.

    Peace,
    David

  22. Robin Edgar says:

    Quite evidently Rev. Peter Morales pretty much *had* to portray the three “Abrahamic faiths” (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) to say nothing of other “old religions” in a purely negative and critical light, and even go so far as to write them off as “obsolete religions”, in order to advance his “thesis” and campaign slogan that Unitarian*Universalism “can be the religion of our time.” If one reasonably and rationally considers the possibility that, in spite of their various faults and failings, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and any number of other “old religions” such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism etc. are none-the-less far from being “obsolete religions” (as he would have U*Us believe) Rev. Morales’ presidential campaign slogan comes across as vainglorious and even quite ludicrous, especially in light of the fact that Rev. Morales describes Unitarian*Universalism as being “a tiny, declining, fringe religion” in that very same “stump speech” announcing his candidacy for UUA President. . . I have been making this point for months now and am quite gratified to see Elizabeth so articulately share her concerns about Rev. Peter Morales’ eminently *questionable* campaign rhetoric here in a manner that quite eloquently echoes my own concerns about it. [Just a note from Elizabeth here – just a reminder that I raise concerns about some of the limited sermons I have read from Rev. Morales and I am not (sorry Robin) quite on the same page as Robin when it comes to my concerns about Rev. Morales or Unitarian Universalism. I do not know enough about either candidate to endorse either and I believe that both will serve quite well, I’m sure where I will support many moves and disagree with some others.]

    Months ago I directly challenged Rev. Peter Morales’ about his questionable campaign rhetoric in comments on his apparently moribund ‘Along The Campaign Trail‘ blog*, the YouTube video of his “stump speech” and in various comments on other U*U blogs. To date, Rev. Morales has declined to respond to even a single one of my legitimate questions and critiques. ….[Parts edited out by Elizabeth – I want to keep things relatively civil on this blog but didn’t want to delete the whole comment as I am not a fan of censorship and try to be liberal with my moderating…]….

  23. David Keppel says:

    Peter does extremely effective interfaith work in the Denver area. It’s a bit strange that some of one campaign’s supporters spend their time in negative attacks — accusing a candidate of being negative, no less. Those who remember the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign may be having deja vu.

    Elizabeth, whose blog this is, and I as a Morales supporter, are committed to a constructive, civil exploration. I know that many others are too. I hope they won’t be distracted from what we can achieve together before and after this election.

    Peace,
    David

  24. David Keppel says:

    I wonder whether you make any allowance for the time demands of running for UUA President — without a large staff or deep pockets. I’m not running for anything, but even I can’t keep up with these comments, so I leave them unanswered. I trust that open-minded people will keep their minds open.

    Peace,
    David

  25. Robin Edgar says:

    David,

    My mind is more than open to reasonable and responsible answers from Rev. Peter Morales to the questions and concerns that I have raised. In fact my mind has been open to and waiting for those answers for the better part of a year now. . . Rev. Peter Morales did not answer a single one of *any* of the questions that were posted to his ‘Along The Campaign Trail’ blog. Not one. . . He has had almost a year to get around to doing that but quite evidently chose to do other much more important things. My questions and concerns are legitimate and quite serious and have been echoed by Elizabeth in this thoughtful blog post. I would say that Rev. Peter Morales would be well advised to finally get around to addressing our serious concerns that we have publicly shared with him.

    Regards,

    Robin Edgar

  26. Elizabeth says:

    Hi everyone! While I appreciate all the comments, they have become a little bit much for me to keep up with and monitor so I’m going to need to take some of them down and close comments. I hope you’ll understand – baby to take care of and monitoring comments for civility is just a bit much for right now. Thank you so much for all your care and passion about our world and faith.
    In peace,
    Elizabeth

  27. […] graduate Elizabeth, who is not endorsing a candidate, responds to Monka. She takes issue with Peter Morales’s statement: “The old religions lead to tribalism, violence, suspicion, hatred, and oppression. We need a […]

  28. […] perhaps much more informed and wise than I am about these things. I saw this with my, I thought, somewhat mild post on the UUA presidential election last year. I eventually had to close comments because I just couldn’t moderate all the strong […]

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