The Rick Warren Bru-ha-ha

December 20, 2008

I am of two minds on the Rick Warren matter.

My first reaction is to say, “Look, I don’t like the guy either. I don’t agree with his theology. I don’t agree with his politics. But it isn’t like he was chosen to be the minister-in-chief or something. He is giving an invocation. I know it has a lot of symbolic meaning, but it doesn’t have any practical consequences in and of itself. It is a gesture of the president elect to say, ‘I am not a president only to progressives or to liberals, but a president to the whole country.’ And, there are big parts of the country that can identify with Rev. Rick Warren. And, as conservative evangelical pastors go, he is one of the less offensive ones who has at least made some overtures toward changing the tone of the rhetoric. My hope is that it is a gesture that will soften the hearts of those who would tend to be more opposed to Obama and his policies. It will not solve many problems, but it is a gesture of unity, which people are always talking about. You know, one country, working out our differences and that sort of thing. By saying all of this, I don’t mean to say that I don’t understand why people don’t like it. Heck, I don’t like it either. But I see it as a strategic move that may help in the long run with things that matter more than who gives the invocation at the inauguration.” (It is of course another matter whether there should be invocations and benedictions at inaugurations anyway.)

That said, it occurred to me how often discrimination against women or the GLBTQ community can often be chalked up to theology, while few people will stand for discrimination against ethnic minorities chalked up to theology. I try to imagine if someone gave the invocation that said that they still supported slavery based on theology. Or that women should obey thier husbands based on theology (heck, Warren may agree with the second of those statements). What would it mean to have someone give the invocation as a gesture of unity and goodwill who was known to support legalized discrimination against women – that they should get paid less, that rape should be less of a crime, that they should not have inheritance rights? Hmm. No matter how symbolic or strategic that would be, I would be feeling really unhappy about this. So then I started rethinking what I said above.

And now I just don’t know. The thing is, so many of these difficult issues are totally intrackable. “We” dig in our heals. “They” dig in their heels. We write on our blogs about why we are right. We affirm each other at our churches about why we are right. We are smug. We know whose side God is on. And where does this get us? What is the way forward toward better understanding each other, finding common ground to work on together, even, dare I say it, finding areas where compromise makes sense. I am not talking about any particular issue, but rather all of these very intense social and political issues that are so close to our hearts – all of our hearts – and where it seems so difficult to move forward.

I’m guessing having Rick Warren give the invocation at the inauguration isn’t the answer. But I wish we could come up with a better one that just insisting on how right and just we are and getting offended and indignant. Not that I am somehow immune to this. I do it to. But there must be a better way…

Polyamory on Susie Bright’s Blog

January 2, 2008

Susie Bright is known as a sex-positive feminist. I like a lot of the stuff she says and does. Not all of it, mind you, but a lot.

I know polyamory/non-monogamy/having more than one partner (there are varying opinions as to if these are different things and to what extent) is a point of contention in some Unitarian Universalist circles, and I don’t want to reignite some sort of dramatic blogosphere discussion (as happened in July). But I did want to point out a recent posting on Susie Bright’s (possibly not work safe*) blog, “Peppermint, On The Strange Credibility of Polyamory,”* which LINKS TO THIS BLOG. Susie Bright is sort of famous. And her blog links to a posting on polyamory right here on this very blog. This is almost as exciting as being mentioned in UU World!

So, if this is a topic that interests you, I suggest you read the post. And just look around her blog. Remember, I don’t agree with everything she says (please don’t post comments pointing out what you believe to be the problematic things she says and does) and you don’t have to either. But she does say a lot of important, good stuff that we need to hear in a world where sex-negative, embarrassed, sad, and shameful feelings are way too common when it comes to sexuality and our bodies.

Afterthought: While Rev. Debra Haffner (sexologist, minister, and the Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing) and Susie Bright have quite different approaches to promoting healthy attitudes about sexuality, and likely many points of disagreement, I thought that I would point out Rev. Debra Haffner’s blog Sexuality and Religion: What’s the Connection? because Rev. Haffner also strikes me as a very sex-positive person that we are lucky to have as part of Unitarian Universalism. Take a look. Her blog is excellent.

*It really depends on how sensitive your work is about what is “work safe”. Breasts are on the page. But as Susie Bright herself points out in the comments, it isn’t anything more than you would see in Vanity Fair or Vogue.

*Correction: In my excitement about being linked to on Susie Bright’s blog, I failed to read carefully and originally thought Susie Bright wrote the post On the Strange Credibility of Polyamory, but it is in fact a reposting from another blog by another author, PepperMint. Still, it is on her blog and still worth the read.

The Discussion on Polyamory / People With More Than One Romantic Partner

July 8, 2007

So there appears to be quite the discussion in the UU Blogosphere on polyamory – that is, people who are not so much into monogamy (one partner) but feel okay with or pulled toward having more than one romantic partner or loves – poly (many) amory (loves). I posted on this a little while back, but not in the context of the independent affiliates discussion, which you can read about here and here.

The Lively Tradition has been the main poster (here too), with Boy in the Bands, Chalice Chick, Never Say Never to Your Traveling Self, Liberal Faith Development chiming in, and Philocrites referring us some of his older posts.

A lot has been said. I guess I just want to highlight the need for a parsing of two separate issues. One is if Unitarian Universalists should, as a movement, support legal rights for polyamorous folks, and/or should we spend our time and energy thinking and talking about the importance of this as a legal question.

The other issue is if it is possible for consenting adults to love and/or relate intimately to more than one other person at a time with honesty and integrity, and without causing harm to children involved in that relationship, and without somehow threatening the minimal social framework that keeps the universe as stable as it is (which is not very, but it could be worse). You get the idea – is polyamory just weird and bad and something to be avoided, or at the very least kept quiet, or can it be a reasonably normal, okay thing that is certainly not going to become the norm, but isn’t scary or weird or messing up kids.

As you can see, I am trying to move away from an ultra-careful phrasing of this, as so many people have taken a lot of time to do in the comments sections on some of the other postings. I’m trying to de-dramatize this a little bit, I suppose, but also I’ve never been one for treatises arguing super-logically, and rationally on every point because I don’t think this is how most people think.

Anyway, so what I’m trying to say is that I think folks on all sides of this need to be clearer about what they are talking about. The UUPA (Unitarian Universalist for Polyamorous Awareness) claims that their thing is about just that – awareness. The recognition that there are people in partnerships with more than one other person in our congregations, so we need to figure out a way to minister to these folks with love and care. I, naively, often take people at their word, it seems that there is actually a bit of a bigger agenda at least in parts of the UUPA. I am not all that familiar with how this bigger agenda has been communicated, but it seems like a lot of people are aware of it, and it has something to do with sort of taking the marriage/legal rights thing on in a similar way that the UUs did with same-sex marriage. That said, it seems like some who are not so pro-polyamory are conflating the moral/ethical questions related to polyamory automatically with whether or not this should result in legal recognition of marriage and/or whether or not UUs should take this on as a project.

So, in sum, all I am saying at this point is that this is a sticky issue, and it makes a lot of sense for everyone to be clearer about what they are talking about:

1) legal-rights/marriage/UUA-as-a-lobbying-organization/UUism-as-a-platform-for-political causes OR

2) the potential/reality of polyamory/multiple-partner-relationships to be ethical and just (and how, if at all, this relates to theological questions).

To me, these are separate issues because even if you think that poly relationships can be just lovely for all involved, it is another question whether you think that should be a legally recognized entity, and another one whether you think it is wise for our movement to somehow take this on as one of our “things”.

I have opinions on all of this, but I don’t feel like I have the patience to articulate it in a way that would suit anyone. Maybe another time.

I just hope everyone can be respectful and nice about this whole thing. I hate it when people get mean about things like this.

Much peace, Elizabeth

Article on People With More Than One Partner in

June 14, 2007

I know a lot of people freak out about Unitarian Universalists that support/advocate/are okay with relationships that are non-monogamous (often called polyamorists, although I guess I tend to avoid that term since it sounds identity-ish – it isn’t like people in monogamous relationships go around calling themselves monogamists… but I digress). Anyway, I tend to think that all the freaking out or abhorrence or whatever of people who aren’t gung-ho about monogamy is a bit dramatic and not that fair. I’ve been meaning to write a post on marriage/the modern (or post-modern) relationship for a while, so perhaps this is a precursor.

All of this just to point out an article in that does (I think) a decent job of de-dramatizing people with multiple romantic partners in their life (or who are open to such constellations). I also read a good article in Tikkun about it a while back Just so no one overreacts, I am not advocating or coming out with an opinion on this – rather, I guess I just feel like relationships, love, traditional marriage, jealousy, monogamy are things that need to be reflected on and assessed. I feel like the whole get married to one partner and stick with that your whole life and be 100% monogamous just isn’t working on a big scale, as evidenced by adultery and divorce rates. I’m not saying non-monogamy is the answer, but rather that we need to consider the current accepted “right” way to do things. These are two reflection pieces around this idea. (I also reviewed a good book on marriage here a while back, which is also part of this overall conversation.)

Also, a note on the blog. I am realizing that I don’t have as much to say as I thought I would. I considered retiring from Elizabeth’s Little Blog, but every once in a while, I DO have something that seems blog worthy. So perhaps that is being downgraded to an occasional blog. It has been that way for a while now, but I suppose I have yet to acknowledge it – always thinking I would get around to posting more often.